The chief operating officer, or COO, is a senior-level executive who manages and oversees an organization’s day-to-day operations. This includes making sure the company’s employees and operations are functioning properly and meeting all legal and ethical standards.
COOs typically work directly under the CEO and serve as the second in command. They typically handle both administrative tasks such as budgeting and organizational development, as well as day-to-day operational activities such as hiring new employees, developing marketing strategies, overseeing facilities maintenance, etc.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a COO and what it takes to become one yourself.
Chief Operating Officer Job Duties
The Chief Operating Officer (COO) position is responsible for high-level duties including the following:
- Leading and managing a company’s operations, planning for future growth, and increasing market share
- Helping to develop the strategic plan for the company, aligning organizational strategies with business plans
- Meeting with top executives from other companies to identify potential investment opportunities or joint ventures that could add value to the company
- Managing company finances, including making forecasts about cash flow, working capital needs, and long-term capital requirements
- Developing acquisition strategies to strengthen areas in which the company has been struggling
- Overseeing an organization’s human resources department, including hiring employees who can help grow revenues in specific departments or geographic regions
- Reviewing data related to the performance of specific business segments or divisions within a company in order to make adjustments when necessary
Chief Operating Officer Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for chief operating officers is $158,826. Those earning higher wages tend to work in the manufacturing industry. The top earner of the profession makes over $313,000 per year.
The employment of chief operating officers in the United States is expected to decline over the next decade. This is due to an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions, which will lead to fewer positions in this field. However, positions will open up for those who are willing to relocate.
Chief Operating Officer Job Requirements
The requirements for a chief operating officer are as follows:
Education: A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education requirement for this job. The specific degree needed varies based on the industry. Many companies also prefer candidates with a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) or another relevant field.
Experience: The amount of experience required varies depending on the size of the company. Most employers look for several years of experience in senior management roles. A typical COO has at least 10 years of experience in a managerial role.
Certifications & Licenses: Chief operating officers do not need a specific certification to get a job in their field. However, they may be required to earn a certification specific to their line of work or industry.
Chief Operating Officer Skills
In addition to relevant experience and education, a chief operating officer must have the following skills:
Business acumen skills: The COO must have a good understanding of business in order to make sound decisions for the company. Good COOs understand the financials of the business.
Leadership skills: The COO must be able to lead and oversee people and projects. COOs need strong leadership skills to motivate and inspire others towards the company’s shared goals.
Industry knowledge: Chief operating officers require industry-specific knowledge relating to the quality standards, norms, and compliance as they are responsible for ensuring the company’s operations meet these.
Communication skills: Strong interpersonal and communication skills are essential in order to lead effectively. A COO should be able to clearly articulate their operational vision for the company, as well as give clear guidance and feedback to managers.
Problem-solving skills: A COO must be able to recognize problems and develop solutions to them. COOs must be able to make difficult decisions and think quickly on their feet. Strong analytical skills are therefore important.
Chief Operating Officer Work Environment
Chief operating officers typically work in an office environment, usually for large organizations. They spend much of their time meeting with others to discuss company goals and how to accomplish them. COOs also spend a lot of time on the phone or in meetings with employees, vendors, and customers to ensure that the products and services the company offers meet the needs of its customers.
The job can be very stressful as COOs must make difficult decisions every day. They often work long hours and have high expectations placed on them by their employers. However, they receive many benefits for this type of work, including good salaries and bonuses.
Chief Operating Officer Career Advancement
COOs, like most CEOs, have the freedom to pursue a variety of career paths. One path many take is to become an entrepreneur and start their own business. Building a business from the ground up is both rewarding and challenging, but it is one way you can grow your experience in executive leadership and management.
Another path that COOs often take is to stay at the same company and climb the corporate ladder up to the ranks of CEO or President. This requires you to learn new skills and add value in different ways. For example, you might add more people to your team, change departments within the organization, or expand your responsibilities in another capacity.
Chief Operating Officer Trends
Here are three trends influencing how chief operating officers work. Chief operating officers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Expanding Global Market
As the global market expands, COOs are playing an increasingly important role in terms of both domestic and international business.
This is due to the fact that more businesses are looking to expand into overseas markets, but don’t have enough experience or know-how to navigate complex foreign laws and regulations—which makes COOs an invaluable resource for international growth.
Growing Importance of Virtual Teams
Virtual teams are growing in popularity among executives who want to build teams with individuals located across the globe.
Virtual team members can have great success when they are able to collaborate online, through tools like Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365, but it is important for business leaders to have realistic expectations about the challenges that can arise when there is no face-to-face interaction.
Adoption of Lean Six Sigma Techniques
Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a process improvement method that was originally developed by the Motorola corporation in the 1980s to help improve manufacturing efficiency. Since then, it has been adopted by many other industries and functions, including service and administrative roles.
In recent years, LSS has been integrated into executive training programs for CEOs and COOs to help them make their companies more profitable. This can be done through the strategic use of data-driven insights from metrics such as return on investment.
How to Become a Chief Operating Officer
1. Planning Your Career Path
The chief operating officer (COO) is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a company. If you want to become a COO, it’s important to understand that this position requires experience and commitment.
To become a COO, you will need to demonstrate leadership abilities as well as management skills. Many executives take on an apprenticeship under another COO before moving into the role themselves; others spend time working in different departments within their organization to gain a better understanding of how all aspects of the business work together.
2. Writing a Resume
COO resumes should emphasize the ability to successfully run an organization. When creating your resume, include any applicable skills that can be applied to this position. If you have experience handling projects of similar size and scope, be sure to mention it on your resume. Highlight accomplishments rather than just write a list of jobs held. A COO needs to be someone who can help a company reach its goals and continue to succeed, so potential employers will want to see what you have done in the past.
You should also be sure to highlight any educational accomplishments or certifications that you have earned. This includes both industry-specific certifications and designations, as well as advanced degrees in business administration or other relevant fields. The more highly educated you are, the more qualified you will seem for this position.
3. Applying for Jobs
The best way to find a job as a COO is to get your name out there. Attend networking events, get involved in the community, and meet people in the industry. You can also start building your professional network by reaching out to recruiters, especially if you are looking for a position at a larger company. They can be helpful in pointing you in the right direction for companies that may be hiring. Also, consider signing up for executive coaching, which can help you build leadership skills and better communicate with potential employers.
Once you’ve found some listings that interest you, reach out to people who work there to see if they know of any openings. Research the company to get a sense of their culture and where they are headed.
4. Ace the Interview
A candidate for a chief operating officer position will need to know all the ins and outs of running a business. During an interview, you will want to talk about what you’ve done to increase revenue, reduce costs, and how you handle tough decisions. Also, demonstrate your ability to create and maintain a strong team by talking about your leadership skills. When you’re preparing for an interview, think about some of the challenges that this company faces and how you would handle them. Think about how you would communicate with the board of directors and work with other high-level executives.