A fractional chief operating officer (Fractional COO) is an extension of your leadership, but they only work with a business on a part-time basis. Small- and medium-sized companies often choose these professionals over a full-time COO because they:
- Lack the capital to hire a full-time COO or aren’t ready for another employee
- Need assistance with reporting, pricing and delivery strategies
- Require fresh ideas and strategies to meet the business’ vision and initiatives
COOs act as a finisher, helping identify key issues in your operation and developing strategies to improve effectiveness and efficiency.
What is a Fractional COO?
Fractional COOs work with businesses part-time to offer both operational and strategic leadership. The duties of these executives vary based on your business’ needs.
Most CEOs hire a COO when they need to free up their own time so that they can work on more integral tasks.
A COO offers:
- Senior leadership
- Process improvement
- Strategic planning
- Team development
Hiring a COO, either fractional or full-time, is something small- and medium-sized businesses must do on a case-by-case basis. You may or may not benefit from the services of these executives based on your current market position, growth and vision.
When Should Companies Consider a Fractional COO?
Around 40% of the world’s leading companies have a COO. Most companies should consider hiring a fractional COO when:
- Operations are smaller than 100 people, even smaller than 70, and your team lacks experience in operations.
- Scaling operations has proven to be difficult because you do not have the data, systems and reporting in place to scale effectively.
- CEOs or Founders are taking on the burden of a COO without the experience to fill the role or the ability to dedicate their time to core tasks.
- Growth in the business is beginning to stall because executives are wearing “too many hats,” causing the company to struggle in the process.
- Your business is at the point where hiring a full-time COO doesn’t make financial sense, yet a part-time COO would help the company grow and operate more efficiently.
- Employee time would be better spent on completing orders or jobs rather than dealing with keeping operations flowing in an orderly manner.
Hiring a COO in any capacity brings years of experience to your business that eliminates many of the growth hurdles companies face when growing.
CEOs that are stretched too thin and cannot dedicate time to core tasks that help the company grow because they lack time and resources should consider hiring a fractional COO to relieve some of the workload.
What Can a Fractional COO Do?
Fractional chief operating officers tailor their services to meet the needs of their clients. A thorough review of a business’ needs will occur first before rendering services. The COO can act in many capacities, including but not limited to:
Company growth is one of the leading reasons that an outsourced COO is brought on to a team. In this capacity, it’s the executive’s duty to develop:
- Long-term strategies to reach business goals
- Outline strategic goals that need to be met
- Develop objectives that must be hit along the way
As part of strategic development, a fractional COO must also work with the CEO and other senior leaders to refine plans and create a “big picture” for the company. If market risks or opportunities arise, you can expect the COO to provide their unique insight to make better decisions.
Labor productivity is on a decline, falling 2.7% per hour in the first quarter of 2023. A fractional COO may be brought into a business to help with identifying inefficiencies and eliminating any processes seen as “wasteful.”
The COO will work on identifying and putting systems in place to streamline operations.
A full review and potential implementation of the following are common:
- Business processes
- Policies and procedures
- Tech stacks and systems
COOs can drive greater efficiency in core processes, allowing businesses to have an easier time scaling without hiring new staff.
Revenue potential and cost-effectiveness are two areas where COOs excel. These professionals can project ROI, review trends and help you better understand a product’s, service’s or solution’s potential:
- Financial performance
Business projects need a visionary and someone who can oversee a project from start to finish. COOs can step into this role and help with allocating resources, adhering to budgets, managing timelines and ensuring that deadlines are hit.
The right teams help companies reach their goals, while the wrong teams hold businesses back from hitting growth milestones. COOs can come into an organization to:
- Work with team members
- Identify weaknesses
- Fill skill gaps
- Improve performance
COOs are effective at driving efficiency and will work to improve performance from within. They may recommend hiring new training to fill skill gaps or hiring professionals with certain skills to help their employer reach its goals.
Reporting and Data Analysis
Fractional chief operational officers can help businesses make sense of the metrics that they collect. These executives can help create reports on KPIs, profitability, sales, customer satisfaction and even productivity.
Top Fractional Chief Operating Officer Benefits
Fractional COOs can benefit companies in many ways, including but not limited to:
Pros Of Hiring a Fractional COO
“Fractional” means that the executive is hired on a temporary or part-time basis. Hiring a full-time executive is costly, and attracting the best talent means offering top-tier benefits and perks to the employee.
Hiring a part-time COO may cost more on an hourly basis, but it reduces costs in the long-term.
Businesses can free up their cash and invest more money in the business when they hire a fractional COO. Lower financial commitments allow small- and medium-sized entities to funnel the savings to growth initiatives.
Experience in functional areas of a business is learned by going through the trenches over time. Bringing a COO on to the team allows companies to bypass many of their growth pains by having an experienced set of eyes to provide an outside perspective on:
- Processes and procedures
- Operational tasks
- Organizational goals
If a company wants to add deep experience and expertise to its business, a COO can step in and provide insight that comes from years in the industry.
Fractional COOs can come into a business on-demand, allowing them to work around your schedule. If scaling is your company’s goal, a COO can help. These execs can assist with:
- Filling skill gaps
- Team development
- Revenue and profitability reports
The insight of an on-demand executive allows companies to scale their operations.
Cons Of Hiring a Fractional COO
Hiring a COO, even on a fractional capacity, has a few drawbacks that management must consider.
- Executives may not fit into a company’s culture or share the vision of the company. In this scenario, you’ll need to spend time and resources to find an exec who will fit into this role.
- CEOs and other executives will give up some control and must transition out of some of their roles to allow a COO to thrive. If a CEO disagrees with the COO, it can cause conflict if they don’t work together to resolve their issues.
Finding the right COO can help alleviate many of these concerns.
What To Look for in a Fractional COO Hire
You’ve weighed the pros and cons of a fractional COO, and you’ve decided that it’s in your best interest to hire one.
Where do you start? What should you look for when hiring a fractional chief operating officer?
Here are a few essential things to consider.
One of the first things to look for is experience. An experienced fractional COO will be able to step in with minimal hand-holding and get right to work. They can anticipate challenges and proactively work to ensure everyone on the team is moving in the same direction.
Along with experience, it’s important to consider the fractional COO’s expertise. Do they have experience working with businesses similar to yours? Do they have industry experience?
Fractional COOs that bring both experience and industry expertise will help increase growth. They’ll also know how to overcome challenges you may face and will have the tools and knowledge to push your company in the direction you want to go.
A good fractional COO will have excellent leadership skills. After all, their job is a leadership role. They must be able to engage and connect with your team and:
- Provide clarity
- Set expectations
- Communicate changes clearly
It is essential for a fractional COO to have strong leadership skills and to feel comfortable and confident in this role.
Fractional COOs should also have excellent interpersonal skills. These professionals often engage in team building, which means they will be working closely with employees.
Having excellent interpersonal skills will ensure that the fractional COO can work with employees on a more personal level and find agreeable solutions when problems arise.
Naturally, you want a fractional COO who has great communication skills. Their job is to refine processes, help with team building, assist with project management and more. All of these tasks require one important thing: communication.
Your fractional COO should be able to communicate their ideas and plans clearly and in a way that everyone can understand.
Fractional Chief Operating Officer Impact
Talented, experienced and motivated fractional COOs can have a major impact on a business and its operations. They can assist with team management, strategic planning and other vital aspects of operations.
Here’s what a fractional COO can do for your business.
Direction for Your Team
For a business to grow and thrive, everyone on the team must be on the same page and moving in the same direction. A fractional COO can help ensure that this happens.
They can also help with decision-making and ensure the right questions are being asked when operational changes are being made.
Fractional COOs bring clarity to the team and ensure that plans are designed to help team members navigate the changes.
When the plan is clear and the team has a roadmap to the finish line, they can focus on the most crucial thing: executing the plan.
Providing clear direction for your team can help your business grow and reach its goals faster.
A fractional COO’s work can help enable growth in many ways.
- They free up the CEO’s time to focus on more critical initiatives
- They provide leadership without the commitment to a full-time hire
- They can translate visions into actionable plans
- They can help prioritize and allocate resources in strategic, intelligent ways
When a business is just starting or looking to scale, spending must be reined in. A fractional COO will ensure the company has the executive leadership it needs without having to take on the time and expense of hiring full-time.
Why Startups and SMBs Should Consider a Fractional COO
Startups and SMBs have many reasons to consider hiring a fractional COO, especially in their early days of operation. These reasons include:
Fractional COOs are Cheaper and Faster
Hiring a full-time COO takes time. It also comes with all of the added expenses of hiring a new employee.
If you hire a full-time COO, it can easily take a year or more to find the right candidate for your team. And if that candidate doesn’t turn out to be the right person for your team, you must go through the entire hiring process again.
A fractional COO, on the other hand, will be much cheaper and faster. They work on a fractional and contractual basis, which minimizes risk. They can step in when needed, so there’s no waiting period. And if they don’t turn out to be a good fit for your team, you can simply hire a different fractional COO.
A COO Will Free Up the CEO’s Time
CEOs have a lot on their plates. A fractional COO can step in to do some of the heavy lifting, freeing up the CEO’s time to focus on more important things.
A fractional COO can oversee HR and other tasks that keep the CEO from dedicating their time to core initiatives.
COOs Can Accelerate Growth
There’s a lot of growth work to be done in a startup or SMB. A fractional COO can step in to help accelerate this growth by ensuring operations are:
Fractional COOs can also provide valuable support and guidance when it comes to strategic planning and management. They can also serve as coaches to help manage the team on a daily basis.
When you feel that your team has enough training and processes can be carried out independently, you can decide to end the COO’s contractor or scale down their services to stay lean.
With a fractional COO, you have more flexibility and the ability to better support your growth.
Fractional COOs can serve as the CEO’s right hand, offering guidance, support and management that can help accelerate growth. And because they work on a fractional basis, fractional COOs eliminate the time and expense of hiring a full-time employee. Businesses that are looking to expand their leadership without the commitment of taking on a new team member can benefit from hiring a fractional COO.
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