Chief Operating Officer  What They Do

Insider Info

dotA 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.

dotRather 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.

dotThe 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 dealings.

dotChief 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.

dotDepending on the size and the nature of the company, COOs may manage one department or an entire company.

dotCOOs must be knowledgeable about regulations, policies and laws governing their industry. This means networking with government officials, other business leaders and important community figures.

dotIn 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.

dotAs 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.

dotThis 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.

dotYou 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.

dotThe 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.

At a Glance

Direct the day-to-day operations of an organization

  • Networking is a major part of the job
  • This is one job you need to work your way up to!
  • There's lots of responsibility and stress


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General and Operations Managers