Hiring a Second-in-Command

Hiring a Chief Operating Officer to help you grow your small business

A second-in-command is essential to any growing business (or successful leader). Where would Batman be without Robin? When recruiting your second-in-command – or Chief Operating Officer (COO) – remember you want someone who will share in the management responsibilities, allowing you the time to focus on company growth, someone who will support your vision, and yet is not an exact clone of yourself, and someone who will bring new insight and enthusiasm to the company. The top three things you need to know:
1) Your second-in-command will be a person with whom you must have absolute trust, so be honest and forthright from the first communication with that person.
2) Trust your instincts about someone you interview. If the candidate looks good on paper but your personalities don’t mesh, or something about him makes you uneasy, then he’s probably not the person for the job of your right-hand-man (or woman).
3) Your second-in-command will only be as effective as you allow her to be. You must grant her true authority and decision-making rights (within reason), while ensuring that she supports your vision for your company.

Write an accurate job description

The job of a second-in-command, by its nature, is probably a little bit of everything. But, the more accurate your job description is, the more likely you find the right candidate for the job, and the more accountable you can hold him. If numbers aren’t your strong point, then a strong finance background should be in the COO’s job description. If you need someone to help grow the company through strategic marketing, then say so!

Hire a professional recruiting firm

Now that it’s time to hire someone for a position so influential to your company’s success, you might want to bring in the professionals to recruit, screen, and assist you in finding that second-in-command material.

Consult someone who’s been there and done that

Who better to advise you on what to look for, and what to look OUT for, than a former executive himself?

Pay a fair salary

Don’t think that just because you’re a small business, you can get by with paying your top person peanuts. The old adage “You get what you pay for” is no more appropriate than when hiring your employees.

Provide priceless opportunities and flexibility

The small business might not be able to compete salary-wise with the deep pockets of the corporate giants, but think in terms of the value you can offer: the freedom to do some things his own way, and flexible hours, policies, and atmosphere are incredibly attractive to today’s executive.
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for a variety of free courses for your new COO (and you!).
  • Communicate: Want a great COO who supports your vision? Then you have to tell her what, exactly, that vision is.
  • Be clear from the start: A COO isn’t a mind reader, so unless the person you hire has a degree in ESP, it’s up to you to spell out what you expect from her.
  • Give him a chance: Allow your COO the opportunity to handle projects on his own, take training courses, and build his skills, and you’ll be rewarded by his loyalty to you and the company.
  • Let your money do the talking: It’s not unusual for a high-level exec to receive a sign-on bonus. Bonuses give potential employees added incentive to accept the job, while demonstrating through actions that you’re confident and serious about them working for you.