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What Is a COO?

A COO's primary responsibility is to run a company's day-to-day operations. The COO is a member of the top level of executives, which is sometimes called the c-suite. As a senior executive in a company, a COO works closely with the CEO.

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Key Takeaways

  • The COO is the second person in the chain of command of a company, below the CEO.
  • The COO has the job of making sure that the business operations are running smoothly.
  • The other executives in the c-suite are the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), the CFO (Chief Financial Officer), and sometimes others.

Understanding COOs

COO is an abbreviation for Chief Operating Officer or Chief Operations Officer. The COO can also sometimes be called the Director of Operations. The COO is the corporate officer who is second in command of a company. They report to the CEO, who is first in command.

There are important differences between CEO and COO roles. The CEO is the highest-ranking executive with the top decision-making authority. They make big-picture decisions and plans for a company and have the final say on those matters. The CEO does this while also attempting to avoid future risks. They are responsible to the board of directors, who are elected by the shareholders.

It is often the role of the COO, however, to act on the CEO's decisions. This is especially important in very large companies. In large companies, the CEO may be too busy to take a hands-on role in implementing their vision.

However, in smaller companies, there might not be a COO position at all. For example, in a startup company, the CEO may take a more hands-on role in the day-to-day operational problems that pop up. So, they may not need a COO until the business grows. When the business grows, the CEO's duties may become more complicated. They may then need a COO to help implement the CEO's vision.

Chief Operating Officer Roles and Responsibilities

The COO's responsibilities typically involve running the business's day-to-day operations and acting on the CEO's plans.

The COO is the "right hand" person for the CEO and needs to work well with them. It is up to the CEO to decide what the COO's duties might specifically include. This will depend on the size of the business, the CEO's workload, and the CEO's preferences.

The COO often needs to manage different departments and troubleshoot problems. This may involve bringing the management teams of the departments together if they are not collaborating well.

A company may bring in a specific person as COO because they have a certain skill set to grow or change the business.

Sometimes the COO might be the heir apparent to the CEO. During their time as COO, they will learn about the big picture issues that the company faces. This can prepare a COO to seamlessly take over when the CEO retires or moves on.

Although the COO position is second in line to the CEO, they work closely with their superior to implement their vision. Therefore, the CEO and COO need to have a good and trusting working relationship and complementary areas of expertise.

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