Sara Blakely’s Secret to Success – Hiring Her Weakness
There are often auspicious signs, I find that they signal your business is entering a new stage. This new stage, most notably, can lead to more substantial sales and profits. But beyond the numbers, this new stage means that you will need to bring on more help and your talents are not enough.
When doing, so I’ve found it helpful to consider hiring a chief operating officer (“COO”). A business advisor or friend may also recommend that you hire a COO.
However, you may be asking yourself, “What is a COO?” Moreover, “What does a COO actually do?”
It is worth taking the time to address these questions. By doing so, you will likely come to realize that hiring a COO is one of the best decisions you can make as your business grows.
Why Does Sara Blakely Recommend Hiring your Weakness?
I recently had the opportunity to watch a live interview with Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, at the Synapse Summit in Tampa, FL. In her interview, Blakely indicated that reaching the scale to hire her weakness was an essential step in Spanx’s and her success in attaining unicorn status. She made the observation that no one knows everything about a business, and often operations, standards, communication, and process implementations are weaknesses for founders or CEOs.
The natural question from this discussion, however, is when you should hire your weakness. This situation depends on several factors, including your business’s financial circumstances and the nature of your work. If your business is achieving substantial growth (as explained above), to hire your weakness can be a great idea, as was the case with Sara Blakely. Nonetheless, a good proxy is asking yourself whether you are spending too much time on things that bring you frustration instead of those things that feed your passion.
As I learned from my personal experience, the founder or CEO is required to be a visionary and evangelist. As you are struggling to find the time to focus on execution, customer support, and the long-term vision of your business, you may want to think about hiring a COO because they are often what makes up your weakness.
Hiring your Weakness Just may be Hiring a COO
To answer your question of “what is a COO,” we have to analyze how business owners allocate responsibilities in the beginning stages of a company. Most often, I find the early days involve the founder or founding team, putting out as many fires as quickly as possible. While this may work in the short-term, this approach toward allocating work may cause inefficiencies and missed opportunities in the long-run.
This finding your weakness often applies to the allocation of work. An area where hiring a COO can create immense value. An experienced COO is essentially second-in-command to the company’s founder or CEO and handles the day-to-day administration and operation of the business. COO responsibilities will vary depending on the nature of the company. Still, they can include things like executing strategies developed by the board or top management team, leading specific initiatives that are critical to the organization, improving communication throughout the business, process standardization, and more.
One of the most prominent examples of a COO is Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. While Mark Zuckerberg focuses on product vision and acquisitions, Sandberg is his confidant and run’s the business, overseeing the social network’s significant ad-sales operation. To call this union a success is a significant understatement. Since her hiring in 2008, revenue has gone from $272 million without turning a profit to $55 billion in FY2019 — while posting a $22 billion profit.
Even with that clear example, some of the confusion about COOs can come from the fact that their role is somewhat amorphous. This confusion is part of the reason why Harvard Business Review once said that the COO has a “misunderstood role.” There aren’t many constants. For instance, employees with many different backgrounds ascend to the COO role and thrive in it.
With this ambiguity, however, comes opportunity. One of the most significant opportunities I find with having a COO is that you can craft his or her role as you see fit. Because there is no agreed-upon description, you, as the founder or CEO has the power to delegate virtually any task or responsibility. Or as Sara Blakely indicated, hiring your weakness. These responsibilities can be everything from delegating responsibility for broad areas of operations (like research and development or sales and marketing) or a specific business need.
The Power of Hiring a COO and Hiring Your Weakness
An experienced COO myself, I see the role of a trusted friend, fierce advocate, and chief organizer of your business, and that is why it may equate to hiring your weakness. Especially as your young company is growing, the COO can focus on the details so that you can spend more time on strategic matters.
I have found that one of the most beneficial ways to get this talent is to bring in a fractional or interim COO, who can work with you temporarily. Whatever the case may be, you have plenty of options at your fingertips. Just ensure that your soon-to-be COO is driven, intelligent, and has strong chemistry with you. Because hiring your weakness means hiring a leader who complements your skill-set.
In sum, hiring a COO is often a terrific investment. It can not only propel your business towards its goals, but it can make life substantially more manageable for you.
If you would like to take advantage of the capabilities of an experienced COO without the associated risk and overheads, speak to me or a member of the OVESTO team today. We hand-vet our interim and fractional COOs to ensure they are the best of the best when it comes to delivering targeted talent outcomes.
JOHN R. MILES
John R. Miles is the founder and CEO of OVESTO, the leading provider of on-demand executive staffing. OVESTO provides transformational leaders for fractional, interim or project assignments. Miles is widely viewed as an expert on digital disruption, problem-solving, and business transformation. He is a highly sought after speaker, consultant, and writer. Miles has significant business experience as a Fortune 50 CIO, ASX 10 CISO, and seasoned private equity leader in CEO and COO roles across several diverse industries.
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