According to a study from Accenture, the role of the Chief Operating Officer (COO) is one of the most misunderstood in business today.
With many different interpretations of what the role entails, which can encompass everything from strategic vision to hands-on management, it can be a tricky task for COOs to find a successful balance, both on an individual and organisational level.
What’s clear is the varied and evolving role of the COO is a reflection on the challenges and complexities of running a successful global organisation. From helping to build a winning culture for employees to dealing with pressure from investors and staying ahead of the competition, the COO is often the steady hand on the ship, subtly helping to navigate the ever-changing waters of modern business.
COO at Quinyx is Magnus Olausson. Magnus joined Quinyx early in 2015 with his previous role being the Company Operations Director at Spotify. During his seven years at Spotify, Magnus helped take the company from 37 employees and 2000 beta users to 1,600 employees in 30 countries with over 60 million users.
He says the key skills that make a great COO always come back to finding balance and doing it with a healthy dose of curiosity and excellent communication: “The skills that make a great COO are being able to move from vision and strategy down to some level of detail,” he says.
“A COO can’t only be high-flying or too focussed on the details. In order to master this, curiosity and communication are key. When this is coupled with hard work, motivational traits, energy and trust, this is when someone can become a great COO.”
And great COOs are one of the main ingredients in the recipe for continued success, whether that be in a high-growth company or an established business. When it comes to dynamic industries like retail and hospitality, the COO can help set the tone the rest of the organisation will follow.
“The COO can drive the work around company culture, co-operation between teams and scalability,” Magnus says. “Their role is to get the full potential out of the organisation. Furthermore, they can help all employees focus on the company vision by showing or asking how the things done on a daily basis lead up to where the company wants to be and become."
“When it comes to creating a culture, invite all employees, in a smart and efficient way, to set the culture. Culture will never be done, it will always require work. However, when culture is clear enough the COO can act as a role model alongside highlighting the employees who are leading the way when it comes to setting the culture.”
Every business, no matter the industry, will always be seeking their points of difference; what sets them apart from the competition and why customers choose them. This competitive edge often comes from delivering a fantastic service alongside an exceptional product. When this is backed up by customers and employees who are advocates of both the brand and the product, then the core components of a winning formula are in place.
For Magnus, measuring this success as the COO, in its most basic terms, is making sure the company is taking steps in the right direction to achieving its goals.
“Very simply put, what gets the company closer to its vision is a good thing. This often means a mix of creating the best team, making sure the employees and the organisation learn constantly, using data to make the right decisions and ensuring there is operational excellence.”
Summary & Takeaways
If there’s one thing for certain we can draw from the above, it’s that the role of the COO is not an easy one. It’s constantly changing and the demands placed on COOs are always significant.
At Quinyx, we work extensively with business in many industries throughout Europe. When we focus on the challenges facing COOs in the retail, hospitality and healthcare industries specifically, we’ve found the following three elements to be the most useful in overcoming those challenges.
- Invest in workforce management. This is a no brainer for COOs who want to find the balance between vision and strategy while getting down and dirty with the details. Businesses using Quinyx have a complete overview of how they are operating at any given moment in time which can be accessed from anywhere and on any device. From labour costs and budgets through to communication and task management, these are core areas COOs need visibility of. For COOs in retail, hospitality and healthcare, trying to do their job without a great workforce management solution is like trying to do it while blindfolded. Take the blindfold of and be amazed by the picture you see.
- Empower employees. Creating a great culture sets the framework for employees to be successful. The COO should then find ways to empower employees to achieve optimum performance. Whether that’s giving them ownership over their own schedules or helping create a shared desire in the employees to succeed, to enjoy work and to be good at their jobs, the positive impact this has an the employee is directly transferable to the customer.
- Deliver an exceptional experience. The customer always expects more. It’s the experience they receive which will set your business apart from the competition. From memorable hotel stays to the standard of care a patient receives from a healthcare organisation, it’s the experience a customer has (and the operational excellence we mentioned above) which are the critical factors to success.