Second in Command: The Misunderstood Role of the Chief Operating Officer

02-mad-men-2.w1200.h630When Larry Ellison, founder and CEO of Oracle, and his chief operating officer, Ray Lane, parted ways in 2000, the event inspired the kind of breathless reporting usually reserved for celebrity divorces. reporter David Einstein wondered in print, “Did Lane quit or was he fired?” and wished he had “a clue as to why Ellison’s second banana for the past eight years suddenly was cleaning out his office.” Soon afterwards, CNET weighed in with this: “The story of Lane’s plight at one of the most powerful companies in technology is one of hubris, greed, betrayal and personal epiphany…” Readers were left with two puzzles to sort out. First: why Lane was leaving his position, given what seemed to be an unbroken string of admirable achievements. And second: why the event was wrapped in such drama. Executives change posts all the time, yet the story, with its hints of palace intrigue and titanic clashes, was inherently captivating. For us, it was another example suggesting that the role of the COO is, well, different. Our research since then has put a finer point on the difference. Through in-depth conversations with dozens of executives who have held the position and with CEOs who have worked with COOs, we’ve gained insight into a subject that has been largely neglected by organizational scholars. Our discoveries shed light not only on the dramatic executive breakups that intermittently make headlines but also on the successful experiences of many unsung COOs. In this article, we share the success and failure factors we’ve identified, as well as our analysis of such related questions as: Are there circumstances in which a number two role is particularly useful? Are there situations when it will inevitably produce tension and discord? Understanding what makes for a successful chief operating officer is vital because the effectiveness of COOs (or ranking operations executives by whatever name they are called) is critical to the fortunes of many companies—and could be to many more. As we will suggest, the second-in-command executive is a role that by rights should become increasingly prevalent. It is prevented from doing so, perhaps, because it is so misunderstood. A Unique Point of Reference When you start to examine COOs as a class, one thing immediately becomes clear: There are almost no constants. People with very different backgrounds ascend to the role and succeed in it. This variability makes the job difficult to study; it’s hard to know whether you are making proper inferences when comparing one COO with another.

Source: Second in Command: The Misunderstood Role of the Chief Operating Officer

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Interim COO – Chief Operating Officer | Association of Interim Executives


Interim COO Spotlight: Winning in the First Days Interim executives are all about hitting the ground running. Day one isn’t about getting training or organizing a comfy corporate office, it’s about using every minute of a limited time frame to dig in to existing corporate issues and propel the company forward. While the line between being an interim COO and CEO can blur, the former requires more micro management, and the latter more macro. While CEOs tend to mention communication of a clear mission as a first objective, the interim COO tends to focus straightaway on aligning assets to get that mission accomplished. The priority list of an interim chief operating officer of course depends upon company stage and circumstances. And no matter the stage, an asset that demands priority is the workforce, particularly in a turnaround situation. LEVERAGING TALENT IN A TURNAROUND In the end, it’s always about the talent you either have in place or don’t have in place, according to Frances Scovil, an interim COO with extensive interim history, particularly with technology manufacturing companies. “It’s often about the previous mismanagement of that talent,” Scovil said. She prioritizes identifying the strengths within the talent base and leveraging that talent in view of specific operational demands. Sometimes, that ultimately involves process redesign, and the employee base is the best source of that information, Scovil said. She sets a culture to let that information float to the top. “If I come in, I’m never going to even begin to know the job and industry as well as the folks that have been living and breathing it for 10 to 15 years,” she said. “You’ve got to set a participatory culture.” STARTING WITH A BLANK SLATE Erik Van Rompay, based in France, has taken on various executive roles, including several as an interim COO. One of his engagements was particularly conflict-prone from the start. His priority was to find out from employees what wasn’t working properly, and learning what each department thought other departments should be doing. Absent any need for kissing-up to company executives, it was easier for Van Rompay to identify the truths of the situation and create an action plan during his early days on the assignment. “What made it work was being external and having a clean sheet,” Van Rompay said. Putting some sweat into an engagement is not just figurative speech for Van Rompay. Once he found himself unloading product at the end of the day in a t-shirt. He wanted employees to think, “He’s there to help us, not just in his office,” Van Rompay said. “The first thing for an interim COO is high engagement.”

Source: Interim COO – Chief Operating Officer | Association of Interim Executives

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Why Every CEO Should Have at Least One Trusted Advisor | Chief Executive magazine

Business confrontation. Two mature men in formalwear arguing while sitting together at the table

Business confrontation. Two mature men in formalwear arguing while sitting together at the table

Urgent optimism is the singular critical trait I believe all CEOs share. It’s more than glass half full, it’s more than seeing the world in a positive context. There is momentum, a drive to make an impact and to make that impact now. AddThis Sharing Buttons Posted by: Cindy Wahler August 7, 2015 But there is also a risk that this optimism could inadvertently turn into tunnel vision. It’s like getting caught in a vortex of fast spinning energy. You may steamroll ahead, make quick decisions without considering factors such as determining risks, employing the right metrics, ascertaining whether the market wants what you’re selling, identifying top talent, correctly evaluating the necessary capital, and a host of other potential liabilities. “Get outside of yourself, no matter how smart, savvy and prescient you think you are.” So what is the right equation? It’s normal to feel that time is of the essence to get ahead of the competition. Like all sprinters who are racing to the finish line, however, you need to understand what it takes to keep you in peak performance. This means you must get outside of yourself no matter how smart, savvy and prescient you think you are. The best way to do this is to find an advisor, coach or mentor—someone you respect, someone who has a great track record of not just success, but enduring tough times. You may want to surround yourself with heroes, but you need heroes who have made mistakes. It’s the only way you will be guided with real wisdom. When seeking an advisor you might want to consider these 4 attributes:

1. Business leaders all have different types of success. Some are great at maintaining the status quo, others increase market cap and achieve profitable growth. Be clear on your goals for your organization and ensure your advisor’s expertise is aligned with your objectives.

2. Don’t be dazzled by a high profile business leader. Does your potential advisor have expertise in your business’s core competencies? Do your homework. An advisor must have knowledge and direct experience with your industry. They must also understand the market, potential threats and possess a strategic mindset to help get you to where you want to go with your business.

3. Is your advisor well networked? Obtaining outside opinion, counsel and most importantly  a network that can help leverage your business is paramount.

4. Trust is critical. Can you share your anxieties, fears in an open manner and rather than feel judged have constructive dialogue that allows you to move forward with traction.

Having a trusted advisor eliminates the risks associated with working in isolation or at warp speed. To accept the advice of your advisor, however, you must have a sense of humility. You must accept that you could be wrong, you might require course correction or you might even have to start all over again. So being open to feedback from those who care and have domain expertise is invaluable. If you regard yourself as an eternal student along with being an innovator, then you will attract the right resources.

I strongly believe in surrounding myself with benevolent experts and sage advisors. They’ve got the right mojo and have worked hard to set me straight. They could do the same for you.

Source: Why Every CEO Should Have at Least One Trusted Advisor | Chief Executive magazine

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The Startup Advisor Cheat Sheet – DZone Agile

All startup teams need help. The good news is that there is no shortage of “startup mentors” out there. The bad news is that there is no shortage of “startup mentors” out there. How you recruit and work with your advisors is critical as the right advisors managed properly can really have a powerful impact on your business. Many startups that I work with like to build as impressive a list of advisors as they can. When talking with founders about advisors, I usually focus on two things: Making sure the advisors augment the skills lacking in the current team Formalize the relationship with the advisor and compensate them according to an objective standard The Team’s Needs Look at the needs of your business over the next six months to a year and then look at the skills of your team. You will have a lot of gaps. Start to think how an advisor can fill some of those gaps. Some teams will need help figuring out BizDev or do pricing of their products. Some will need help with higher level technology decisions-or someone to interview a CTO candidate/co-founder. Some teams have all the necessary parts but lack a little “gray hair” or folks with the battle scars of doing business a long time. Some teams lack the network to raise money and some teams lack domain experience. (Which I question why are you in that business in the first place.) You need to find advisors who can augment your team with skills, experience, and connections. If you are all PhDs in astrophysics and are building a related startup, you don’t need the head of your University’s Physics department or even a Nobel winning Physics on your advisory team. You will need some people with business and fundraising experience. Also, don’t try to go get famous people to be an advisor; I know that Mark Zuckerberg is not meeting with you monthly and won’t add much value except for the coolness factor.

Source: The Startup Advisor Cheat Sheet – DZone Agile

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Sports Colab Accelerating Startups and Innovation at the Intersection of Sports + Technology

3173733_origSports Colab is an accelerator, fund and community connecting startups, investors, entrepreneurs, accelerators, mentors, advisors, coaches, athletes, venues, teams, leagues, tech, brands, sponsors and venues across diverse areas of #sportstech, including sports, media, entertainment, health, fitness, mobile, social, apps, wearables, internet of things, sensors, drones, data, analytics, stats, fantasy sports, streaming, 360 cameras, video, virtual reality, augmented reality, eSports, gaming, e-commerce, ticketing, marketplaces, smart clothing, fan experience, venue tech and more.

Thier team and advisors include experience in tech, sports, media, entertainment, health, funds, accelerators, business, marketing, design, storytelling, strategy, partnerships and more.

Startups and Entrepreneurs

At the heart of our community are today’s startups and entrepreneurs, the future success stories, solutions and talent for everyone else.

Investors and Funds

We connect investors, funds with innovative startups and technologies that are changing the game in sports, media and entertainment.

Mentors and Advisors

Our team of advisors and mentors includes a cross-section of experts from Silicon Valley and technology to the business of sports, media and entertainment to help startups win.

Accelerator and Incubator Partners

We collaborate with the leading accelerators and incubators in Silicon Valley and across the world, in general or specialized areas to help our or their startups succeed and change the game.

Events, Media and Community

From our own series of events, meetups, talks, conferences and media posts, podcasts and videos, we collaborate with partners to connect the sportstech community across the world.

Technology Partners

From apps, analytics, social to sensors, wearables to VR, big data to fitness, the world’s leading technology companies overlap with #sportstech.

Sports Partners

From teams, leagues, events, broadcasters, venues, we provide high-quality startups and technologies to innovate and solve challenges.

Athletes and Coaches

We’re connecting athletes and coaches who understand the game on and off-the-field to the success of startups in sportstech and bringing solutions from startups that change the game.

Academic and University Partners

Talent, ideas and expertise originates from the academic environment, so we work closely with multiple partners to turn concepts and prototypes into success stories.

Sponsors, Partners and Brands

From tech companies, service providers, brands, sponsors, we work with our sponsors to provide value to our startups, sportstech community and to provide our partners with access and value.

They are based in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Source: Sports Colab

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McKenzie Slaughter | CEO Spotlight

McKenzie is the Founder & CEO of Prohaus VC, a women-led global venture collective that supports the next generation of impactful innovation founders, investors, and advisors. We invest, train, and support startups who leverage neoteric, high-growth technologies and innovative models that contribute to the well being of individuals, economies and enterprises. Industries we have a special interest in are fintech, health & wellness, media, mediatech, agriculture, smart cities, shared economy, and cultural transformation. Our 10 global hubs help facilitate the full entrepreneurial experience at seed and early stages with InnovatetheNext Foundation – our acceleration and personal development programs; Prohaus Venture Network – connecting founders to investors and advisors; and Cowork Global – offering a network of coworking and workcations. She has a background in finance and technology, and a passion for pioneering new funding models and startup ecosystems throughout the Caribbean and worldwide. McKenzie got her start in building startup ecosystems as former COO and advisor at MD Idea Lab, a Boston-based accelerator for digital healthcare startups. She is now hub advisor for the World Bank’s Caribbean Mobile Innovation Project, mentor for the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, and founding member of InnovatetheNext Foundation. McKenzie has also founded and seeded several fintech companies including Beauty & The Bull, Mindful Society, Socredly and Osusu Labs. McKenzie has been recognized as a Black Tech Titan by Black Enterprise and featured in Forbes and Bloomberg. Prior to starting Prohaus, she specialized in brand capital for global consumer and technology brands. McKenzie led brand strategy for post M&A transactions for Thomson Reuters and for a variety of financial and retail portfolio companies for OMERS Private Equity and Bain Capital. Her experience in brand capital helped transform her career into alternative investment consulting. McKenzie has held executive roles in hedge fund due diligence and private equity real estate firms. To date, McKenzie has successfully raised $50 million for private companies. McKenzie received an M.B.A. in Finance from Hofstra University and Bachelors of Science in Mathematics and Computer Science from Hampton University where at the age of 18 started programming at NASA Langley as a SEMS scholar (funded by the U.S. Navy), competed in competitions and published several research papers on Aerothermodynamics and Biofiltration.

Source: McKenzie Slaughter | Wonder Women Tech

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What Is An Entrepreneur-In-Residence? – Forbes

entrepreneur_in_residenceI’ve held the title of entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) at four different organizations, so I get asked this question frequently. There’s no unambiguous answer because the job has to fit the priorities of the institution. Still, I can shed some light. [Disclosure: I have an ownership position in the companies mentioned in this article.] Each time I’ve been EIR, it’s been a newly created position. I’ve never had a predecessor, and in each instance I wrote my own job description. Despite the name of the position being the same, the duties, responsibilities and compensation were different. Traditionally, an EIR is a position at a venture capital firm. Usually the EIR is an accomplished executive whom the firm is willing to back financially. Often, an EIR is between stints running a company or is someone who just exited from one of the portfolio companies of the firm. An EIR typically gets office space, some administrative support, a business card and maybe even a stipend. It is not meant to be a high paying job nor a permanent position. The goal is for the EIR to create the next company that the VC firm will fund. Typically VC firms evaluate deals that come their way and then decide if the management team is strong enough to justify an investment. With an EIR it’s inverted—they already like the management. They just need to find the right investment vehicle. An EIR may get asked to help out on due diligence and/or provide operational assistance to existing portfolio companies. The goal, however, remains:  to develop a fundable concept that the VC firm can seed and which the EIR can run (or at least be co-founder). There are many variations on this theme, such as investing in an existing company, doing a roll-up or buying a distressed company. Another way in which an EIR might help a VC firm is if they are a fundable executive but also have deep domain expertise in an area of thematic interest to the firm. For example, a VC firm might say to themselves, “We believe that distributed energy generation is going to be a megatrend, and we really need to understand the opportunity in the space and develop our investment strategy.” They might hire an EIR with the right skills to research the market, develop an investment thesis and then either find a deal or write a business plan for a new company. The best VC firms see these trends emerging long before most people—and are exiting their investments just as the masses are rushing in.

Source: What Is An Entrepreneur-In-Residence? – Forbes

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