Who Is Your Second in Command?

Hi guys, Diane here.

I was actually in Boston last week working with my coach and visiting some friends, many of which are a bit further ahead either in their corporate careers or with their businesses. One of the notable things we got to talking about was having a second-in-command.

In other words, who’s that second person in your business that’s an extension of you? We also eventually started talking about the COO role and its function within a business because, more often than not, the COO ends up being the second in command to the CEO.

That being said, there’s a lot of confusion around what the COO actually does – because the COO role will vary based on where the company is, what the company does, where it’s going, the CEO and how that person wants to work with their second in command.

What does the COO role mean for you?

This has implications for you whether you’re a small business owner, or you’re running a relatively successful online business, or simply building a small team for your business. Just as the CEO role is one that applies to businesses of all sizes, so is the COO role.

The COO role has an integral part to play within small businesses because they allow you, as the CEO/owner, to leverage your time and do more within your business.

COOs appear in small businesses and the corporate landscape in three main ways; knowing this should ultimately help you decide whether or not you need a second person in command.

The first way that a COO shows up is as the ally – the partner to the CEO – because it is impossible to do it all yourself. In business, it becomes vital to have someone at your side who can complement your skillset and oversee your vision on a day-to-day basis. This is a relationship where the CEO functions and shows up to really work closely with you, the CEO and founder of the business, with a complementary skill set that fills in the gaps so that as a duo, you’re able to do more and as the business owner, able to leverage more of yourself to handle higher-level activities, i.e., bigger opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to handle if you didn’t have a partner executing at your side.

I know it can be a subtle difference to make with your team members. For example, let’s say you’re a business owner and you’re not interested in managing your team. In other words, you’re not interested in hiring, in interviewing and onboarding, in training – it’s just not your area of expertise.

That means you’re not interested in being a manager. You don’t want to be the one that the team comes to with questions. You don’t want to be the one checking everyone’s work and you’re ready to just move on, move fast and do what you’re best at. On top of that, you may also lose your patience with your team members. You might become irritated with the training process and decide that delegating is more trouble than it’s worth as a result.

The COO, or the second in command, that you bring into your business is someone who can help manage the operations and oversee the team – the partner that can fill the gaps that don’t interest you.

In this case, the COO would be the team’s resource and key person, making sure that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing. This then frees you up as the CEO to focus on what you enjoy doing the best (i.e., where you’re most valuable).

The second way a COO shows up is when you bring them on solely for execution – someone who executes your strategies, builds your products, launches your stores, courses, and any other service lines or businesses you may want to go into. Then, as the person solely responsible for the execution, they’re also there to take on the responsibility of the results and performance of the business and its overall strategies. An execution-focused COO comes into place when the owner or the CEO is mostly vision-focused (taking on big visions, ideas, and catapulting the business forward).

For example, the owner of a law firm or an accounting practice would probably want a COO who is execution-focused, because often these owners have built their businesses on their knowledge and skills. And they know that through that specialized knowledge is where they add the most value to the business, or even through the creation of grander ideas that lack the details needed for proper execution. This is where an execution-based COO could be incredibly useful: handling the day-to-day operations of it all.

The third way I usually see COOs come up in businesses is as trusted advisors. Someone who has expertise in the areas that the CEO does not and is brought on board for their perspective and ability to give feedback based on their experience in the industry. I’ve seen this kind of relationship often with startup founders who are looking for capital, or with business owners who have deep knowledge and skills around their business service, but not necessarily the expertise of running an actual business: all of the administrative, marketing, sales, and delivery tasks that go into running a business.

So bringing on a second in command who is highly skilled in those areas makes the most sense, especially if they’re interested in raising capital, looking for investments, and other things along those lines.

In sum, these are the three ways that I typically see COOs show up in small businesses, and especially in online businesses.

I’m curious – what profile fits your business’s second in command? Or what profile will they fill when you bring one on board?

Drop me a line and let me know what you think about needing a COO, I love hearing from you guys.

Until next time,


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