Thinking Like a Chief Operating Officer

So how do you feel about your interrupt-driven life? Do you enjoy the steady diet of texts, emails, phone calls, decisions, advertisements, crying children / employees, professional “fire drills,” demanding spouses / bosses / investors, and email newsletters? How well are you able to do what you do best and enjoy most in the face of this unyielding onslaught?

For many business owners (and parents) this only begins to tell the story of their lives. Each day is a whirlwind of demands on their time, often requiring immediate attention to the latest stimuli, crisis, or opportunity. Time to think, write, plan, and get ahead is relegated like a bad English Premier League team to a lower division known as Evenings and Weekends.

[Evenings and Weekends were once the top / preferred division – time for rest, family, friends, prayer, exercise, home care, reading, tv, etc. Now, as my working son out in Silicon Valley tells me, “Sunday is the new Wednesday.” Yee freakin’ haw.]

Believe it or not, there are those among us who are very comfortable living the life of a master juggler or air traffic controller, and every business needs people like this. A COO is one of those folks. For example, here is a typical breakdown of the simultaneous questions I’m working on for a given client:

  1. How well are we using all the Sales & Marketing tools now available?
  2. How do we make product / service Delivery easier and less costly?
  3. How do we transition our Org Structure from all employees wearing many hats to lower cost and higher quality division of labor?
  4. Are we tracking and paying attention to the right financial and operational performance Measurements?
  5. How do we ensure our Culture attracts and retains the right employees, customers, and vendors?
  6. How do we always keep our foot on the Innovation and improvement gas pedal?

Those who start businesses often do so because of subject matter expertise – “technical” product or service design, service delivery, sales, or finance. Each of these disciplines is best performed via focused, extended, and concentrated effort.

These technical types deliver much greater benefit to their company when able to focus, yet they are also responsible for oversight and overall company performance. It makes sense that they’d benefit from someone who could keep them focused on the work they do best and protect them from details that can be handled elsewhere.

If you’re not a natural multitasker, there are many ways to calm the swirling mass of interruptions outside of work too: marry or partner with someone really well organized; don’t enable your kids’ texting capabilities; take the dog out for long walks and forget your cellphone; or just go back to work. No muss, no fuss.

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