Co-COOs in practice. Making it work
How are the responsibilities split?
Rick says it was a deliberate choice not to split responsibilities by department but along lines that reflected his and Sarah’s expertise. Sarah is the people person, Rick’s focus is process oriented, analytical and financial. Every aspect of the operation is covered by that simple distinction, and it’s how they make the final call if ever they disagree.
Are there disagreements?
Sometimes, but less often than you might expect. Rick points out that the way responsibilities are split can cause some intense situations, but as Sarah says, they find ways to make it work. If they can’t agree, there’s a right to veto decisions based on the people, process, or finance split.
Would Rick and Sarah recommend this approach?
Sarah answered this with a resounding YES – her capitals – and pointed out that other organisations are choosing this model. While not the norm, it’s a practice that’s gaining traction. As Sarah says, it’s hard to find one individual with all the qualities needed in a COO. Naturally people are stronger in some areas than others, but their weaknesses could leave an organisation exposed.
Rick agreed but added, ‘Having a sparring partner with a different view is the most valuable thing I can have. It opens my eyes to a lot of things.’
And if they moved on From Workspace 365, would they choose to manage this way again? For Rick, it’s a definite yes. Sarah is slightly more cautious, but as she says, right now, it’s early days.
How does it work day to day?
Rick summed this up in just four words: we discuss a lot.
In practical terms that can mean calls at the start and end of every day. They share information, talk about actions required and reflect on what could have been done differently. Rick was keen to stress that they don’t simply natter away but keep things productive. Even when there’s a big topic requiring their joint attention, they use their time efficiently.
How is this model helping the scale-up?
Both Rick and Sarah answered with a variation of the adage that many hands make light work. It’s a fast-moving scale-up with multiple tasks and challenges. Often there’s no current ‘standard’ and one must be developed as quickly as possible. The workload is demanding but having two pairs of hands helps conserve energy.
Rick believes the way he and Sarah are working is evolving. At first they were keen to make sure they were on the same page with every step. Now, as their trust and understanding has grown, remaining on the same page has become more organic. It’s allowing the scale-up to progress even faster.