Biz Doc: It Has Come To This

Top 5 Mistakes When Hiring a COO

August 2014

I recently read an article by Debbie Millin the President & CEO of UpperLevel Solutions, a professional firm that offers COO services to companies looking to fill a skills gap on an interim basis. Debbie indicated that these are the top-5 mistakes that can be made when hiring a COO (summarizing the longer blog article she wrote):

1. Candidates are not senior enough.

You start out thinking you want an executive role, but during your search process you scale it back to something at a lower level because (a) you can’t afford an executive level person – or at least you think you can’t, (b) you don’t want to upset your existing senior managers by bringing in someone above them, or (c) both.  

2.  Candidates are too senior.

You find someone with fantastic experience at Fortune 100 companies coupled with every certification and degree on the planet and naturally assume this person must be brilliant and will lead your company to greatness.  9 times out of 10 this person is trouble to a growing company (culture misfit).

3. You don’t listen to your existing management team.

You have hired your current management team for their skills and knowledge.  They may have some insights you don’t, or they may not be able to articulate anything but a gut feel.  Don’t dismiss that.  You may need to sort through any politics that are feeding into their thought process. Listen to them.

4. You limit your search to candidates within your industry.

This is often a very big mistake.  Of course there are some specific industries that require very specific experience, but that is the exception not the rule.  Don’t limit yourself.  Find a good, smart ops person and they will learn your industry quicker than you think.

5. You are only looking for local, full-time candidates.

Many employees only visit an office a couple of times a week, if at all.  If someone has a computer and phone – and the right background – they can get the job done for you. Think about what’s right for your culture.  You might truly need a COO-level person, but only need them part-time.  

Shrewd advice!

Debbie can be found at:


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