There are very few books entirely dedicated to the role of a Chief Operating Officer, and all of them are focused on corporates, not startups. We’re on a mission to share with you the world’s first-ever book for startup COOs, by startup COOs. Stay tuned as we drop chapters throughout 2023.
There are hundreds of books and articles written for CEOs, but very few designed for the second-in-command.
This book is for COOs, written by COOs who have walked in your footsteps and are passionate about sharing some of our key learnings and war wounds in hopes that they will help you become and remain healthy and successful (however you define success) as an individual leader.
What this book is intended to be:
- A resource for aspiring or first-time startup COOs to get a better sense of what the ever-difficult-to-define role of the Chief Operating Officer is and can be, and to help set you up for success in your new position.
- A resource for COOs already in the thick of your roles to address some of the common challenges we face as COOs.
What this book is not intended to be:
- An end-all-be-all guide to how to be a great COO - it is a unique journey that is a choose-your-own-adventure book. Only you can determine your style of leadership and how you will make decisions on the path to taking your company from startup to scaleup.
- To all the amazing contributors who laid the initial groundwork for this book over the past couple of years: Kat Neureiter, Liz Mercer, Kalie Gold, Theodore Sutherland, and Meredith Karazin
- To our Copywriter and Editor Simon Rodrigues
- To all the aspiring and first-time COOs in the Operations Nation community who inspired us to write this book in the first place - this is dedicated to you. 💜
COO Survival Guide Chapters
What IS a startup COO: Decide your specific role type
Produced by Kalie Gold (COO at Jacaranda Health), with contributions from Dan Blake (COO at Florence), Kristen Shannon (Former COO of Oxford Ionics and General System), Tom Foster-Carter (Former COO at Monzo Bank), Phill Burton (COO at Bloom & Wild), Rona Ruthen (Ex-Monzo), and Yumika Brewster (COO at Finimize). 🙌
Read this to learn more about the 5️⃣ Archetypes of a Startup COO:
- The Gap Filler: The firefighter who does what’s necessary to keep operations running, often as the first (and only) person covering a function when there isn’t resource to do so
- The Team Builder: Decides how a team (or teams) should be structured, and finds a path to create and sustain a happy, high-functioning unit
- The Systems Architect: Designs a startup’s how by creating and implementing systems and processes that enable a company to scale
- The One Who Steadies the Ship: Parachutes into a challenging situation, solves critical problems, and keeps a cool head to navigate through crises and mini-crises
- The Reality Checker: Learns about the true state of affairs, warts and all, and communicates difficult truths in the interest of realistic, high-quality execution
How do I become a startup COO: Get the role
Produced by Paul David Mather (Ex-Deliveroo Operations Consultant), and Riley McGhee (COO at PVL), with real-world vignettes from Linda Blank (COO at Feedr), Uzo Okoro (COO at Fincra), Adam Thompson-Smith (Director of Operations at Zava), Sarah Touzani (former COO at Creditspring), and Christopher Varin (COO at Car & Classic). 🙌
For those of you who are interested in becoming a COO, this is a must-read that is structured as:
The Five Competencies of a Startup COO:
- People Leadership
- Functional Management
- Generalist ‘Glue’
- Expert Communication
- Problem Solving
... and the Three Journeys into the COO Role:
- Target an Existing COO Vacancy
- Create a COO Role for Yourself
- Work Up the Startup Ladder
How to Spend Your First 90 days as a Startup COO: Set yourself up for success
Produced by Uzo Okoro (COO at Fincra), Ajay Palekar (Former COO at WorkClub) and James da Costa (Co-Founder and COO at Fingo).
Quotes from Tolani Balogun (COO at Quidax), Kalie Gold (COO at Jacaranda Maternity), Jens Christenhuß (COO at Pokercode), Sarah Touzani (Former COO at Creditspring), Charlene Chen (Former COO at Lantum), Lorin Despiegelaere (COO at Klea), Deepa Shekar (COO at Maisha Meds), Jeff Courtney (Former COO at Wiserfunding), and Linda Blank (COO at Feedr).
For those of you who are about to start your first COO journey, these are the six steps to set yourself up for success:
- Building a Relationship with the CEO
- Clarifying the COO Role
- Defining Success in the First 90 Days
- Gaining Context on the Company
- Delivering Value and Managing Expectations
- Going Slow to Go Fast
How to Position Yourself in a Team: Taking radical accountability to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts
For those of you who are about to start your first COO journey, this chapter will teach you how to:
- Understand the challenge of expanding your influence beyond your authority
- Cultivate a mindset of radical accountability for yourself – and others
- Become a trusted partner to your peers, direct reports, and frontline team members
- Embrace conflict effectively to overcome obstacles
- Drive accountability throughout the company
Chapter 5: Strategic and Operational Planning: How to translate your company strategy into a realistic operational plan
Chapter 6: Organisational Performance and Analytics: How to aggregate, report upon, and influence the cross-functional metrics that matter most
Chapter 7: Fundraising and Budgeting: How to help your CEO and CFO raise and manage financial resources
Chapter 8: Organisational Design: How to help shape your org chart/accountabilities as the company grows and scales
Chapter 9: Internal Communications: How to communicate from All-Hands Meetings to Cross-Functional Projects
Chapter 10: External Communications: How to manage and communicate to Board Members and Investors
Chapter 11: Your Role on the Exec Team: How to Communicate and Influence Laterally
Chapter 12: Your Role with respect to the CEO: How to Navigate the Politics of Managing Upwards
If you have any questions about the Survival Guide for Startup COOs or if you’d like to contribute to writing it, get in touch, and let’s chat! You’ll find us at email@example.com.