A COO is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a business. They
work very closely with the chief executive officer (CEO). They are the strategists
who plan the future direction of the organization.
Rather than being directly responsible for the operations of the organization,
the COO delegates responsibility.
For example, if the COO has decided that a product needs a new advertising
campaign, they may assign a marketing survey to one department. Individuals
in another department may be asked to find a suitable advertising firm; still
others may be responsible for the advertising budget; and it goes on.
The strategies and programs implemented by a COO ensure that the objectives
of the organization are met. For businesses, the fundamental objective is
to turn a profit or, in corporations, increase shareholder value. As part
of their plan to do this, chief operating officers facilitate the introduction
of new product lines, marketing or advertising campaigns or customer services.
They may organize mergers or acquisitions, as well as other types of business
Chief operating officers with nonprofit organizations and government agencies
manage programs that further their policies within strict budgetary constraints.
These programs include everything from fund-raising events to political campaigns
to member services.
Depending on the size and the nature of the company, COOs may manage one
department or an entire company.
COOs must be knowledgeable about regulations, policies and laws governing
their industry. This means networking with government officials, other business
leaders and important community figures.
In the last 10 years, trends within the business community have been towards
widespread globalization. With the introduction of the Internet and other
forms of electronic communication, even the smallest business happenings in
the most remote corners of the globe have taken on new significance.
COOs must keep a watchful eye on current events, economic trends and business
news. The business section of major newspapers can give you a taste of the
world of a COO.
As members of the upper executive ranks, COOs are responsible for much
of the direction that company takes. Good leadership skills are essential.
The COO needs to have a good grasp on the vision of a company -- its long-term
goals and its core values. They must also be able to communicate that vision
to other employees and to the external world.
An analytical mind, able to quickly assess large amounts of information
and data, is very important, as is the ability to consider and evaluate the
interrelationships of numerous factors.
This isn't an entry-level position. Most COOs tend to be older, with extensive
experience. There are many steps and positions along the way the top. It may
take 20 or 30 years to achieve the title COO, although it is possible to reach
it within five.
You won't find a COO living in a remote area. They have to be near the
pulse of the corporate world -- in major business centers, working out of
head offices. They may spend a considerable amount of time traveling to branches
across the country and meeting with clients.
The hours are long. It's not unusual for a chief operating officer to be
in the office for 11 to 12 hours a day.
"I usually work from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.," says Jeff Carney, chief operating
officer of a financial services company.