Great post by Mark Suster about Why Your Startup Doesn’t Need a COO
I have always had a COO in any of my companies, when I had no means to pay for one it was my wife, Geraldine, and she still is the COO of LeWeb and err… more generally the COO of my life. I worked for many years in Europe with Olivier Creiche that was the COO of my web agency and then my blogging company, I would work with him in a heartbeat, again. That posted started a conversation between my long time and fantastic COO and friend Bastien Vidal. I thought he was thinking about the “coup d’etat” that Mark is talking about, but no, Bastien actually agrees with me about our two roles being very different, as Mark says:
When should a company get a COO then?
I’ve had this debate with some very successful VCs who are pro COO. They talk about freeing up the time of the CEO to think bigger picture and plan for the long haul. They talk about the need of the CEO to be chief evangelist, speak at conference, lead executive recruiting, etc. They say that having a COO allows the CEO to remover herself from the continual politics and personnel management that can be a drag on management time. I know this one as I’ve often said, the main job of a CEO is chief psychologist.
It works well for us, and it works well with Geraldine for LeWeb. Geraldine runs the business and I do the program (and help some more), I would not be as good as she is running the business and same with Bastien. It works well because I know my strengths and weaknesses, being the face of the company and public appearances help, but they are not enough. Mark raises good points about the risks though, of some CEOs completely disconnected from the business, I try to not fall in that category and I am pretty close to everything happening in my companies.
Of course it’s challenging for early stage as it’s difficult to fit two salaries, but there are many excellent execs bored at large companies that would accept a big pay cut for good stock in a cool startup. I guess it’s a question of preference.