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How and Why I Hired a Fractional COO
Over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of questions from people about how I scaled my business. I often mentioned that hiring a COO was a key element in our scaling, and I promised to write about this someday.
Well, today is that day.
I want to share with you how we hired a fractional COO and what that role means.
In fact, I’m going to introduce you to our fractional COO! Her name is Adi Vaxman, and her agency is called Sheba Consulting.
And no, this is not an affiliate link. I’m sharing it here because Adi is currently open to taking on one or two new clients, and I figured this was a good opportunity to help both her and Yeys readers at the same time.
There is no sign-up form because this isn’t the kind of service you can just sign up for. If you’re at all interested, you’ll need to reach out to her for an initial call, where both parties assess one another to see if it’s a good fit.
If I had to guess, I’d say that for 99% of Yeys readers, hiring a fractional COO is not in the cards. But I hope that you’ll still find the thought process interesting.
I’ll go into more detail in a minute about what a fractional COO does in our small web publishing business, but the bottom line is that it’s only relevant to medium-to-large-scale publishers and, more specifically, those who are looking to grow even more.
Why a COO?
I think that a lot of this is about a mindset of growth.
In many ways, it’s about switching between working in your business and working on your business.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is NOTHING wrong with staying small. Nothing. Many days, I wish we could do just that.
But here’s the thing.
If you do want to grow, you must apply professional management methods and tools.
I’m talking about things such as –
Organizational structures, workflows, procedures and processes, contracts, paperwork, HR, and even the dreaded “office Christmas party.”
These used to sound to me like corporate buzzwords. Things that would only overcomplicate things. And that I would have no chance of managing efficiently.
I found out over time that they all existed for good reasons.
Yes, they’re complicated and – at least for me – boring as heck. But they add value once your organization begins to grow. Without them, growth is bound to be stunted, and/or your risk level goes up.
And managing them effectively is hard for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset but no previous high-level management experience or skills. Yes, I’m describing myself here.
In a nutshell, having a fractional COO helped me bridge that gap, allowing for more growth and stability.
People often ask me – what would be the thing I should have done sooner had I known about it. Hiring a COO is top of my list.
So, What’s A Fractional COO
I had no idea what a Fractional COO was back then. Clearly, a fractional COO is a part-time COO, but what is a COO?
I honestly didn’t have a clue.
I do know the answer today, but that’s from experience. For the sake of this post, I asked my assistant for an explanation, and this is what he came up with –
A COO, or Chief Operating Officer, is a high-ranking executive in a company who is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and administration of the organization.
The COO typically reports directly to the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and is considered the second-in-command within the company hierarchy. Their role often involves managing various departments, such as human resources, finance, production, and marketing, to ensure smooth and efficient operations.
The specific responsibilities of a COO can vary depending on the size and structure of the organization, as well as the industry in which it operates.
By my trusted assistant, GPT4
A fractional COO is someone who does all of that – but on a part-time basis. You’re getting access to a C-level executive, but they also work for other businesses.
Our COO has an internal email with the company, and she signs her emails as the company COO. It’s sort of like a full position within the company, but we share her with other companies.
Why fractional and not full-time?
My company is way too small to afford a full-time COO. This is a top-level role with a top-level salary and added benefits and expenses. We couldn’t afford one, nor do we need that.
But we certainly needed someone to take on the functionality. And to do it very well. And the fractional COO solution was perfect for our needs.
How did I figure out that I needed a COO
I didn’t. As I said, I had no idea what a COO even was, let alone that I needed one.
Here’s how it all started.
Back in early 2021, we wanted to bring on our first employee. Our accountant back then suggested that we use something called a PEO. I had no idea what that was or if we needed one.
I joined a Facebook group of expat entrepreneurs and asked.
That’s how I met Adi Vaxman. She helped me understand what a PEO was. She also told me about her company and her services. I was intrigued, and we scheduled a call.
During that call, I told her about my business, and she explained about her services.
It sounded extremely tempting to have someone take so much off my plate and do it right. But it was also expensive.
A fractional COO costs between $4,000 and $12,000 a month, depending on the services covered and the time invested. Yes, we could afford to hire her, but at the cost of what would have been about 10% of our revenue back then.
Would it be worth it? Couldn’t we handle those things ourselves? After all, we had accountants, lawyers, and now a PEO.
My gut feeling was to go with it. We had been on a crazy growth curve. I knew we needed to add more people and grow the business, but managing the operation was becoming increasingly challenging.
So, we decided to give it a whirl and hired Adi for a period of three months.
The idea was for her to begin with what she called a “gap analysis.”
She was going to start digging in and figure out where our main problems were. She also warned us that she’s the kind of person who jumps in and begins to fix problems as she sees them. And she started working on our operations immediately, proving to be a hands-on problem solver in the best sense of the term.
And we’ve been happily ever after since then.
How Hiring a Fractional COO helped me
If this all sounds vague so far, don’t worry. We felt the same way back then.
As it turns out, there were so many things we didn’t even know our company was missing. Could we have managed with them? Possibly, but it would have stunted our growth, and we have probably made a few costly mistakes.
So, let me tell you how Adi and the Sheba Consulting team help us manage the company on an ongoing – and often daily – basis.
I’ve never been a fan of dealing with HR. But guess who is? Adi, our fractional COO. She’s got it covered. From hiring to firing, she’s on top of it all.
She’s got a team of HR professionals who help her out. They post job ads, screen candidates, and conduct interviews. They save me time and hassle, and let’s face it – they bring a level of professionalism and expertise I just don’t have.
And you know what’s even harder than hiring? Letting someone go. But Adi knows how to handle it professionally. I couldn’t do it without her.
Contracts and Paperwork
Until we hired Adi, we didn’t have contracts in place. I would hire people for tasks and just never got around to anchoring things down from a legal perspective.
That was one of the first things Adi set out to do. And she knows her stuff when it comes to contracts.
Payroll employees or freelancers – she’s got it all covered. She makes sure our contracts protect us from various risks and that we adhere to legal requirements. I can breathe easy knowing she’s got our back.
Financial Management and Accounting Oversight
Adi’s expertise in financial management has been a game-changer for our business.
Yes, we’ve got a team of accountants and a bookkeeper, but guess who hired them? Adi.
We used to be with a different company before that. We weren’t happy with them but couldn’t really put a finger on why. Adi came in, went over the books, and immediately pointed out the problems.
She explained everything to us and worked with that firm to resolve the issues. When things didn’t work out, she was quick to address that, found us better accountants, and facilitated a smooth transition.
And now she’s in touch with the new accountants. She handles our business taxes, making sure we file everything correctly, on time, and with the right authorities. She’s taken a huge weight off my shoulders.
Adi also keeps an eagle eye on our financial performance. She analyzes cashflow, spots trends, and keeps me in the loop. I can focus on growing the business, knowing she’s keeping our finances on track.
That isn’t to say I’m not part of that aspect btw. It’s still my overall responsibility, but having a professional of her caliber walk me through Quickbooks and help me analyze everything is invaluable.
Workflow Optimization and Organizational Structure
I’ve always been into workflows and optimizing our processes, but when Adi joined our team, she added her own magic touch.
With a strong background in management theory and years of experience implementing workflow improvements, Adi has been a fantastic partner in refining our processes.
We’ve been using ClickUp to manage our workflows, and I’ve been pretty proud of the systems I’ve set up. Adi came up with additional internal workflows that complemented what we already had in place.
As we recently pivoted our strategy, Adi and I worked together to adjust our organizational structure. Her expertise in management and experience in adapting to change has been invaluable during this process.
Together, we’ve made our business more efficient and better prepared for future growth. Adi’s management skills and experience have truly enhanced our workflow and organizational structure.
As a business owner, I’ve always known that IT security is essential, but Adi took it to another level for us.
Here’s an example: Secure password management.
Adi made sure that everyone on our team used a secure password management tool (we use RoboForm). Team members are now required to store passwords securely and efficiently, allowing us to securely share some passwords throughout the company.
Adi also introduced 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) across our sites. This added layer of security gives us peace of mind, knowing that our sensitive information is well-protected.
The whole process was a good example of how Adi works. Here’s what she did –
- Identified the need for better security measures
- Found the best solutions, looking into the pros and cons
- Presented her recommendation, and once we approved everything, she
- Implemented them throughout the organization, including purchasing software, managing licenses, training team members, and making sure they used the new tools correctly.
Her IT security and digital protection expertise have made our business safer and more secure.
Risk Management and Compliance
Navigating the insurance and risk management world can be overwhelming, but Adi has been a lifesaver in this area. And I thought this could serve as another example of what she does for us, and how.
Again, she began by identifying our needs. During our gap analysis, Adi brought up insurance. As it happened, I had already purchased a policy, but Adi wondered if it was good enough for our needs.
So, she contacted a lawyer specializing in our industry and arranged a call. We discussed the risks we face and decided together on the level of coverage that I’m comfortable with.
Once we determined our insurance needs, Adi set out to find the right policies for us. She compared prices and offers and brought us the bottom line.
With our approval, Adi went ahead and put everything in place. She ensured that our policies were set up correctly and that our business was protected.
That’s one more aspect where her expertise meant a lot of work was being taken off my plate – and done much better.
Adi is pretty much my second in command. While she’s not an expert on creating content, generating traffic, or any other web publishing aspect, she knows enough about our business to jump right in where necessary.
She represents the company when it comes to legal and financial matters, which means she can contact the bank, and other companies and authorities and handle everything.
And she does that FAST.
And that is a huge relief for me, especially when we have an emergency. Server down? Site hacked? Credit card issues? I can email, call or text Adi, any day of the week – and weekends, too – and she’s always there for us.
This July, I’ll be heading out on a month-long road trip. While I will go online every day to see how the business does, I know I have Adi covering for me. And that makes things so much easier.
It’s About The How
Going beyond the list of responsibilities, having a COO is also about how things are done.
Now, I have a fantastic team of employees. We are incredibly lucky to have developed a small team of very dedicated people who are a joy to work with. I’ve trained them, and together we carved – and keep carving – circles of expertise for each one.
Adi is a different story. I don’t train her to do anything. She knows her stuff much better than I do, and if anything, she teaches me new things.
The practical implication is that Adi offers me a “launch and forget” capability. For example, our server admin noted that it’s time for us to upgrade servers. Normally, I would have to compare offers, decide, schedule, and monitor everything. Instead, I just delegated the whole thing to Adi, and it’s off my mind.
How does this work in practice
While we hired her as a fractional COO, Adi is a full team member in our organization. She has a company email and uses it to represent the company as our COO.
Once a week, I have a call with Adi. We have a weekly clickup task for that, where both of us jot down agenda items for the call.
Come Tuesday, we meet on Zoom and go over everything. Adi typically reports progress on her projects, and I fill her in on how things are progressing on other fronts.
Once a month we have a full company-wide meeting with all key team members. Adi is there, sharing updates and discussing operational issues with the entire team. She’s also in close contact with them, and they know to approach her directly on everything HR, IT, Finance, and operations.
Our relationship allows for a full day a week of “Adi time,” but in practice, she’s available all week long. And if something urgent comes up, she’s also there for us on weekends.
It’s not just her. Adi brings an entire back office team with her, and we often work with her people as well (typically on recruitment and other HR tasks.)
What a Fractional COO Doesn’t Do
In case you’re considering contacting Adi, I think it’s important to realize what a COO won’t do for you.
My COO can’t replace me when it comes to web publishing. Content creation, traffic generation, and monetization strategies are entirely my domain.
Adi is a high-skilled professional who can focus on the day-to-day operations and management of the business. Yes, by now, she knows a lot about web publishing – making her a great partner for strategy discussion – but in the end, my experience and approach lead the way.
In fact, this is exactly what’s so great about having a COO. She takes care of the business’s nitty-gritty, and I get to focus on the bigger picture and steer the company toward our goals.
And in case you’re interested
Here’s the link to the Sheba Consulting website. You can read more there about Adi and her awesome team. In case you want to read more about her approach, Adi also has guest columns on Forbes and Entrepreneur. In fact, she just published a Forbes article about The Role of the COO.
And again, this is not a good fit for most web publishers. But in case you think your business may be a good fit, and you’d like to explore investing in taking it to the next level, I can highly recommend Adi and Sheba Consulting.
And if you’re not there yet, I hope you still found this post helpful. It’s something I wish someone would have told me about years ago. Having it there as an option would have removed some of my fears about business growth.
Loved it Anna… Really helps to hire C level executives in this manner.
Thanks, Sharif. I think so too!