My experience is this: number one, a CFO is different than a COO.
A CFO is not a glorified bookkeeper. A CFO is in charge of thinking about money… if you can find someone who is ready to think about money and rationalize the money, you do that first. It’s much easier to hire a part time CFO. It’s much easier to say, “Ok, now the money is taken care of.”
Then you can go find a COO and say to that person, “The money is taken care of. The marketing is my job. Your job is using the money you’ve got and the promises I’m making — make the promises come true.”
Then you say to that person, “I work for you.” — Meaning if I made promises you can’t keep, you need to be able to tell me I can’t do that. And if you need more resources to keep the promises I’m making, you need to tell me that you’re taking the resources.” That’s the only way they can have the ‘C’ in COO, otherwise they’re just going to become your admin.
At first they will not be one tenth as good at this as you are. They will not understand the smart shortcuts. They will not understand the right quality choices. Everything they make will cost more then you think it should. But if you’re serious about getting rid of this stuff and you want them to run the army while you figure out the strategy, you’re going to have to do that.
And the first person, the second person, and the third person might not be the right one which is why a part time project manager might be exactly what you want. You say to this project manager, “This one client is yours. Tell me the resources you need. You’re the Chief Project Manager for this client.”
If they nail it, you give them a second one and a third one. You keep giving them new clients until they’re full and they will have worked their way up and you will develop the shorthand.
I had one woman who worked for me as a COO and then I made her the president of Yoyodyne and it was fabulous. The first month I felt like one of those trust exercises where you lean back and there was no one there. And I just kept leaning back and I just let projects fail and I said, “I mean it – GO [and take the lead]!”
After two or three weeks she just ran. The last two months before we sold the company no one woke me up in the middle of the night and things worked better than I ever could have. It was because I said, “I’m not in that business anymore, you’re in that business. They work for you. Figure it out. And I know it’s going to cost more. I know it’s going to take longer, but soon you’ll be better at it than me.”
And it’s usually the entrepreneur who sabotages it by hiring the wrong person or by not giving them the trust that they need.Seth Godin – Startup School, Ep. 13: Building the Truth [via Kevin Evans’ fantastic transcript – here]