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Know Your C-Suite: The Chief Operations Officer

COO working

Much attention in our industry is paid to the CEO or CFO, whose decision-making authority is viewed as reigning supreme within the board room. But one should not underestimate the influence of the COO for site location decisions, as it is often the operations chief who translates a company’s vision into process and efficiency.

We’re beginning a new series on “executive personas” with the least discussed of the C-suite power trio: the Chief Operations Officer. The COO has a unique relationship with the CEO—because the strategic vision of the company is driven heavily by operations, they work hand in hand with each other to drive overall company performance. The COO may not always be the primary person at the negotiating table, but there’s likely to be an operations executive at least lurking in the background having influence on a site selection decision.

Pain Points

Organization and productivity are driving concerns for COOs. To them, waste of any kind—money, time, space, product, process—is an opportunity for bottom line growth. The job is about understanding how departments are connected and, most importantly, ensuring the successful execution of a company’s various mechanisms. Thus, inefficiency across customer service, IT, financial reporting and supply chains are top concerns, and he or she is open to new technology, strategic relocations and innovative practices if it is driving value to the company vision.

Decisions facing an operations chief might include:

  • the need for outsourcing versus handling functions in-house;
  • managing a global supply chain, from sourcing to manufacturing to distribution;
  • service and product delivery to the end consumer;
  • evaluating the benefits of expansion versus consolidation, and establishing a company’s priorities as a part of any expansion.

Reporting to the COO

Those reporting to senior executives like the COO can be considered influencers in their own right, as the top executives will often rely heavily on their VP-level staffs for insights and recommendations. Unfortunately, there isn’t a consistent set of titles that report to the COO. Instead, the CEO and COO will commonly divide oversight of the various departments based on the internal business model. As a result, everyone from marketing, sales and operations to legal, product and IT may report to one or the other.

Operations or Operating?

Our research didn’t indicate a strong divergence in roles between the Chief Operations and Chief Operating Officer. Some companies may have both, while others have neither. The title appears to be relative to the business and its direct needs.

More Resources

For more resources on the COO position, we recommend EY’s The DNA of the COO; Investopedia; and The Bridgespan Groups’ COO Roles and Structures: Stories from the Field.

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