The Work of a Fractional COO: Behind the Scenes of Building a Business

In the previous part of this series, we discussed the first two essential aspects to consider as a fractional COO. I’ve shared how I set myself up for a successful day and the decision-making process. 

As promised, in this second part, I will dive deeper into the other significant parts of my work. Whether you are currently working in Operations or an aspiring COO or you are simply seeking ways to optimize your work for performance, this article is for you. 

So let’s continue our journey and explore what else is present in my day to day work as a fractional COO: 

  • Building awesome teams
  • Iterating on the process 
  • Increasing efficiency with technology 
  • Managing the unexpected

Building awesome teams

When it comes to being a COO, building teams aligned with the vision is one of the most important aspects of the job. While some might refer to this as HR, I prefer to think of it as something much bigger than that. It’s about creating a network of talented, motivated people. People who are passionate about their work and who can help drive the business forward.

Here are some of the things I do daily to build such teams:

  1. Connect with people. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the opportunity to meet and speak with hundreds of new people every month. This is about more than just the social aspect, though that can be enjoyable too. It’s about the chance to learn from every person I interact with. I proactively meet with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences.  Hearing their perspectives on work and life  is incredibly enlightening. This is the foundation for making significant decisions when building teams. It comes from all these engaging interactions and lessons learned from thousands of people. 

2. Identify top talent. With so many different people to talk to, I can quickly identify the best talent for each project or business. While data is essential, experience and intuition play a bigger role when dealing with people. After all, building a team of A-players is crucial for small service-based companies. Most cannot afford a high turnover rate or a team lacking ownership and accountability. 

3. Foster a culture of collaboration. To build great teams, creating a culture of collaboration is essential. This means encouraging open communication and building trust. This promotes a sense of ownership and accountability among team members. By fostering this kind of environment, I create a cohesive, high-performing team that can tackle any challenge. 

Building teams is about more than finding talented individuals. As a fractional COO, I work closely with founders and CEOs. The main point is to understand the company’s values and goals. I translate them into actionable strategies that foster a positive and productive work environment. Communication is key to building strong teams. So, I ensure that everyone is aligned and clearly understands their roles and responsibilities.

With these key ingredients in place, I am confident that any project or business will be successful.

Iterate on process 

Iterating on processes is a key component of building scalable companies and is a big focus for me as a fractional COO. Processes are not something you create once and forget about for the next 5 years. Instead, they are living structures that must be regularly revisited, evaluated, and improved upon. This is why a big part of my day-to-day work is building or improving new processes: 

  1. The process is outdated. When working with an entrepreneur or leader, I always listen to their issues and concerns. One of the most common issues I hear is related to irrelevant or outdated processes. If a process doesn’t work for your business is like a car that’s out of gas – it won’t get you where you need to go. This is when I take responsibility to help entrepreneurs and leaders identify and improve their processes.
  2. The process is too complicated. In my experience, simplification is a crucial aspect of process improvement. Many entrepreneurs and leaders tend to complicate things out of fear of the unknown or a desire to appear more sophisticated. However, what I know for sure is that simpler is often better. Simplification declutters your workspace, bringing greater clarity and focus to your objectives. I always look for opportunities to simplify processes and make them easier to follow for everyone, with fewer, more relevant steps. By doing so, I help ensure that processes remain relevant and effective, contributing to the business’ success.
  3. The process is not aligned strategy wise. Another important aspect of iterating on processes is to make sure they align with the company’s overall strategy. It’s easy to get lost in the details of individual processes and lose sight of the bigger picture. As a COO, I support leaders to ensure that operations are efficient and effective and they support the company’s strategic goals.

Iterating on processes doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Small changes can often have a significant impact. In fact, I encourage my teams to make small changes to their processes regularly. This helps us stay agile and adaptable and empowers team members to take ownership of their work and find ways to improve it. 

Ultimately, iterating on processes is a continuous improvement process. It helps us stay ahead of the competition and deliver better results. It also helps create a culture of innovation and growth within the company.

Increase efficiency with technology

Technology is an integral part of my daily work. I am always on the lookout for the best technology to implement in alignment with the nature of the business and its objectives.  Technology advancements happen overnight. The implementation cost goes down just as fast, allowing businesses to do more with fewer resources.

Here’s why I rely heavily on technology in my work:

  1. Lower costs due to automation. Many tools can do the same work as humans but much faster and with a fraction of the cost. This leads to increased efficiency, higher productivity, and cost reduction.
  2. Higher accuracy of work. Removing human error from the equation is ideal for all business owners. Technology does that, ensuring every task is completed accurately and consistently.
  3. Keeping everyone on the same page. I prefer utilizing technology at its full potential instead of countless meetings. This makes communication and assignments more efficient and transparent for the entire team. It equals more streamlined communication, increased accountability, and more time for deep work.

When it comes to technology, my work is divided into two main categories:

  • Implementing new technology for the business and setting up an optimal workflow. Every technology implementation is tailored to the specific business’s needs and objectives.
  • Looking for better tools periodically. The goal is to always lower costs and increase efficiency. This involves periodically evaluating current technology and analyzing efficiency gains. 

I am a strong believer that by optimally implementing an appropriate tech stack any business can continuously improve efficiency and stay competitive. The possibilities are endless and my job is to assess them and come up with the best solution for each situation. 

Managing the unexpected 

As a fractional COO, one of the most important skills I bring to the table is the ability to manage unexpected situations. Where it is a business crisis, conflict or a different outcome than expected, I am there to solve it in the most beneficial way for the business. 

No matter how well-structured a business is, there will always be difficult situations that require immediate attention. It is my responsibility to ensure that the company is able to handle any issue that may arise. To be able to do so I remind myself the following: 

  1. Build a strong foundation. To prepare for unexpected events, I focus heavily on building a solid foundation for the business. This means establishing clear processes, utilizing the best technology, and building strong teams. Having these foundational elements in place allows businesses to overcome issues with less negative impact.
  2. Resilience is generated by difficulty. It is important to note that unexpected events are not always negative. In fact, they are often opportunities for growth and improvement. By handling unexpected situations effectively, we can uncover failure points in our systems and work to improve them. This ultimately leads to a stronger, more resilient business.

As someone who enjoys problem-solving, I thrive in challenging situations. I like to joke and say this is my adrenaline and what keeps me on my toes at work. I prioritize finding solutions quickly and efficiently. I do this while ensuring that the impact on the business is minimal. 

It is important to be realistic about the inevitability of unexpected events. It is impossible to prevent all issues from arising, but it is possible to be prepared for them. If you operate 80% of the time based on a clear structure, you can deal with the unexpected 20% of the time.

Final thoughts on my day-to-day as a fractional COO

When I started to work on this article I really wanted you to see the core of my work as a fractional COO. If I shared too many ideas here is a short recap:

  1. In this job, every day brings unique challenges. This is why it’s crucial to start the day off on the right foot. The first point I made in part I of this article was about the impact of setting myself up for a successful day. I do this by prioritizing my tasks and making a to-do list for the day. This helps me stay focused on what matters most..
  2. I like to rely on a combination of data and intuition when it comes to decision-making. While data can provide valuable insights, sometimes gut instinct is necessary to make the best decisions. It’s essential to develop a good decision making sense  and strike a balance between data and past experience.
  3. Building a team of talented, motivated individuals and fostering a culture of collaboration is crucial to scalable companies. I do it by proactively connecting with interesting people I can learn from.
  4. I work to create and improve processes regularly. I simplify them when possible and ensure they align with the company’s overall strategy. 
  5. I fully embrace technology to help increase efficiency. I believe those who do this will stay ahead of the competition.
  6. I operate at least 80% of the time based on a clear structure. This allows me to deal with the unexpected during the remaining 20% of the time. 

If you are curious to learn more about what I do and how I do it, the best way to get it all summarized is my monthly newsletter for fearless leaders. There I talk about 3-4 topics along the lines of building scalable and profitable businesses and I always share specific frameworks and tools I use in my work. I hope to see you there!

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