Hiring

What to Look for When Hiring a COO

What to Look for When Hiring a COO
Image credit: Shutterstock

As any entrepreneur will tell you, one of the biggest challenges in growing a business is knowing which responsibilities of the business to hand off, and even more difficult, knowing when to hand off those responsibilities.

This became a challenge for me as Playwire grew into a 70-person company across multiple offices, but I can say for certain that hiring a COO, something I didn’t do until this year, was the best decision I could have made for my business.

At the beginning, with only a few employees onboard, it was manageable to oversee the operations of the business, keep a pulse on my team and do what I do best – go out and close deals. However, as we grew, those operational processes and procedures naturally grew more complicated. Understanding that my people were the company’s most important asset, I had to take a step back from selling in order to make sure people were happy and the business was running smoothly. But something had to give.

I knew that in order for my company to continue growing, I had to spend more time meeting with clients and participating in the sales process. Handing the operational aspect of the business over into someone else’s hands was undoubtedly difficult, but in hindsight, the best thing I could have done.

Related: Do You Need a Chief Operating Officer? 

For other founders facing the same challenge, there were a few things I learned along the way in making the best possible hire for the role of COO.

Experience growing a company

When hiring during a period of high growth, it’s essential to bring on someone who has experience in keeping the momentum going to foster further growth without losing control. It’s not about looking where candidates are coming from but how they got there.

For us, hiring someone with a proven track record for growth was more important than a candidate that was coming from a particular company, no matter how recognizable the name or clout. I needed to know that when I was out meeting with clients, things were still moving forward back at headquarters in a controlled, strategic manner. 

Related: Eight Interview Questions You Need to Ask

Similar management philosophies

During the formative years of Playwire’s growth, I spent as much time selling as I spent making key hires, building a strong team across departments and developing a company philosophy, mission, culture and other intangibles. These things are as core to our business as our products and our customers. No matter a candidate’s track record or pedigree, it’s essential that when building out your executive team, core values and management philosophies are aligned.  

Specialized expertise 

Playwire’s sweet spot lies in gaming and entertainment and it was critical that the person in this role have a thorough knowledge of the space in our core industry. Our COO came from a background of gaming and media, and as such, could hit the ground running – an invaluable asset. I wanted the transition to be as seamless as possible, both for the business and for the staff. For us, a candidate that knew our space and required little onboarding was essential to maintaining our speed of business and rapid growth.

Making the right executive hires can be stressful for any founder, and the wrong decision can be disruptive for the entire company. I found that vetting for the three characteristics outlined above, I was able to make the right hire and transition seamlessly to sales and client interaction, knowing that operations were in good hands. 

Related: 4 Common Traits of the Best Chief Operating Officers