There is a big difference between being a CEO and a COO. I know, because I’ve been both.
At my first startup company I didn’t have a COO and, while the company was a success, it wasn’t until I learned to let go of certain tasks that the company flourished. Entrepreneurs, almost by definition have a vision of how things should be and how their company should be run, but first time entrepreneurs, myself included, often spend too much time on internal details which can be crippling to a startup venture.
My first job out of college was a corporate engineering position with a $3B multinational aluminum and chemical corporation.* My branch of engineering was highly specialized so, as a 22 year old, I was able to pick and chose which of several dozen multi-million dollar projects I wanted to work on at any of the company’s manufacturing facilities worldwide. My list of projects was a mile long with some involving serious health and safety concerns of employees. Every project required reconciling the production and financial needs of plant managers with the demands of corporate execs to maintain control over disparate operations. For a foot loose young man with an unlimited travel budget, I needed to balance my responsibilities with a desire to see the world.
You see, if you’re 22 years old and can choose between working in a can factory supplying a major European brewery with access to all the beer you can drink for free, or standing next to an 1,100 degree extrusion furnace on a 107 degree July day in the panhandle of Texas which would you choose?
Well… not so fast.