A few times in my career I have elevated to the level of Chief Executive Officer or Chief Operating Officer (or similar roles) usually in small to mid-sized companies in the information technology services or media & entertainment industries. What I have learned is the frank reality that, in spite of a founder, or owner, or CEO’s belief that they need senior level expertise inside their company to achieve something they have not achieved on their own, they simply need not absorb all of the risks associated with a full time hire in order to do so.
With evolving realities of an ever-connected global universe, concepts like meritocracy and lean startup have given a voice to outcomes vs pedigrees. The “gig economy” has long established that free markets and remote workforces can, in fact, produce greater efficiencies in flatter, less bureaucratic organizations without compromising quality.
Traditionally, that case has been well argued for creative outsourcing (Fivrr, Envato, Upwork) at the expense of companies like ad agencies, but have also moved upstream towards engineering and product development (Guru, Toptal, oDesk). With the experience and long tail history of success, it is now time to elevate that model even further upstairs to the c-suite.
The average time to hire a senior executive can easily exceed 3 to 6 months. What could you be achieving in that amount of time?
The median COO salary nationwide is $440,000. What could you be investing in with that amount of money?
There is now a lot of talk about digital transformation and IoT and the future of a world where billions of devices are interconnected and the customer experience drives most of the innovation in the applied use of all that technology. Even in B2B business models, leaders are searching for ways to make their customer’s experience better and we are seeing disruption in everything from insurance to payment processing.
Yet, the customer experience for one of the most important decisions a growing organization will ever make has remained largely unimproved and the massive risks loom larger than ever before. Expensive base salaries, lush perks & benefit packages, equity stakes, and golden parachutes are part of a corporate culture that almost incentivizes top leaders to hop from role to role acquiring experience, equity, and cash along the way. They may indeed improve and grow the company – or they may not. But those risks simply aren’t a requirement for growth.
In reality, founders, CEO’s, and their boards are truly only in search of the outcomes that can be delivered by experience and measured in their effectiveness. Perhaps a growing company is looking for a COO to:
- Work with the CEO to Help Shape the Vision
- Optimize Supply Chain Efficiencies
- Establish Corporate Structure (Roles/Responsibilities/Hierarchy)
- Create Interdepartmental Reporting Practices
- Create a Top to Bottom Incentive-Based Corp Culture
- Evaluate and Optimize Talent Pool
- Launch/Monitor a New Line of Business
These are a few common activities of a COO, and some clearly require more hands on than others, but is it possible they could be viewed as outcomes, not responsibilities? Could they all be achieved as a service? Isn’t it really the know-how and experience that is most valuable in achieving those goals?
Another, less complex or controversial example might be that of a CMO who’s role might include:
- Create/Upgrade/Optimize the Company Brand
- Precisely Identify the Ideal Customer Profile(s)
- Create/Upgrade/Optimize Messaging Architecture for Each Customer Segment
- Design/Build/Maintain Digital Footprint Across Social/Web Platforms
- Build Demand/Lead Generation Systems & Processes
- Build/Manage Content Marketing Practice
- Collaborate with Sales to Imbed Customer Feedback in Marcom/Solutions
- Pull Messaging/Creative Through all Collateral Touch Points
Again, those are all specific, measurable (if subjective) outcomes that require know-how, vision, and oversight to achieve. Yes, they are tremendously important. Lead Generation is the the engine that drives growth and if you haven’t figured it out, you likely are having trouble creating that coveted scale and predictable growth every business strives for.
But do the deliverables themselves really require a long term commitment, piece of the company, or severance package to obtain?
C. Rich Wilson