The past 12+ months we have noticed a distinct trend across the Canadian technology landscape: a rise in client discussions we are having about Chief Operating Officers.

If you look across the span of some of the most promising Canadian technology companies, many either have, or are in the process of recruiting, experienced executives as Chief Operating Officers.  In fact, the COO is viewed more and more by Boards and CEOs as a lynch-pin to achieving their scale-up goals.

In the past, this person may have been viewed as ‘the adult in the room’, a counter balance to a young founder CEO and leadership team; however today, the role has much more depth and importance. What does this increasingly important COO look like?

Today’s technology COO helps the organization achieve specific short term and long term needs and goals.

In the short term, the COO acts as the ‘right hand’ to the CEO. These companies are moving at lightning speed in order to seize new opportunities in highly competitive global markets. Organizations recognize the need to hire an experienced executive as COO to lead most aspects of the businesses day-to-day operations, freeing up the CEO to focus their efforts on the strategic elements of the business.

In short, the COO frees up the CEO to do what a CEO should be doing – driving strategy & growth and seizing opportunities.

Let’s face it, most organizations are not great at succession planning – this is especially true of the CEO role – so in the longer term, CEOs and boards increasingly view the hiring of a COO as a means to develop an internal CEO successor candidate, where typically none exist.

While profiles of the ideal COO may differ we do see two common characteristics in most of their backgrounds:

  1. They are experienced business leaders whom have successfully led a relevant/related high-growth business. They bring a level of experience (been there, done that – perhaps several times) not seen in other members of the executive team.
  2. They possess strong commercial leadership experience. In many instances, this person was a sales leader, whom has evolved to a true P&L executive, leading a business unit – or may even be a former President & CEO looking for their next challenge.

No longer riding shotgun, today’s Tech COO is one of the key drivers to a company’s long term success.

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A Partner within Boyden’s Technology Practice, Ian Collyer’s expertise is helping high-growth organizations build outstanding leadership teams as they look to rapidly scale their business. When he is not doing this, he loves spending time with his family and running – everywhere!

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