Chief operating officers (COO) plan, coordinate and manage a large company’s day-to-day operations and procedures.
They are one of the highest-ranking executives in a company and are responsible for ensuring that their organisation runs as profitably and efficiently as possible.
This comprehensive guide includes a full COO job description and discusses the average salaries, skills, qualifications, career path and typical employers of a COO.
- Chief operating officer job description
- How much do chief operating officers earn?
- What does a chief operating officer do?
- Requirements, skills and qualifications
- Who employs chief operating officers?
- Which junior jobs progress to chief operating officer roles?
COO job description
Chief operating officer (COO) | Jones Technologies Ltd
About Jones Technologies Ltd
We are a rapidly-expanding, innovative and game-changing IT solutions provider specialising in cyber-security, AI and machine learning. We build customised, client-centric solutions using advanced technologies that take businesses to the next level.
About the role
We’re seeking a passionate and driven chief operations officer to oversee operations and take full responsibility for the overall efficiency and scaling of the business. Reporting to our CEO, this is a challenging yet rewarding role which will be instrumental in achieving continued growth of our company at a critical time.
- Strategy: Working closely with the CEO and C-level executives to direct and implement effective business strategies and organisational structures, playing a fundamental role in shaping the future of the company
- Growth: Collaborating with senior management and key departments on a range of innovative commercial and product solutions, using a data-driven mentality to ensure effective scaling and international growth
- Operations: Achieving operational excellence by overseeing the execution of our functions, systems, processes and procedures and leading corrective measures as necessary
- Management: Coordinating and managing key departments and teams across operations, HR, finance, compliance and legal
- Financial: Working closely with CEO to plan financial milestones, manage budgets, allocate capital and ensure adherence to set targets
- Reporting: Providing reports on financials and growth metrics to CEO
Location & commitments
- Full-time role based in our Greater Manchester head office, with occasional travel required.
- 40 hours per week between Monday and Friday, with regular overtime to be expected.
- Weekend and evening work may occasionally be necessary.
- 10+ years of experience in a senior role within the IT sector, with a thorough understanding of business functions such as operations, HR, marketing and finance
- Demonstrable competency in operations management, strategic planning, business development and change management
- Working knowledge of IT services including cybersecurity, AI and machine learning
- Exceptional negotiation skills and adept in achieving robust financial results
- Proven leader with experience of building, evolving and motivating a high performing and diverse team
- Exceptional communication, interpersonal and public speaking capabilities
- A degree in computer science, software engineering or a business subject is preferred
Contact us to apply
If you’d like to become a key figurehead in a rapidly evolving and innovate IT solutions provider and gain the opportunity to drive our vision and shape our growth, apply today! Send your CV and cover letter to our recruitment manager, Jillian Smith, at firstname.lastname@example.org
How much do chief operating officers earn?
Chief operating officers are generally second-in-command of a company and therefore earn far above the average salary; with the average COO salary in the UK sitting at around £118,000.
Chief operating officer salaries in the UK
- Low: £63,000
- Average: £118,000
- High: £199,000
Chief operating officer salaries can vary hugely depending on:
- The industry of the employer – For example, the financial service, technology, banking and consultancy fields often pay the highest salaries.
- Size and complexity of the company’s operations – Generally speaking the larger the company (number of employees, locations etc.) the more complex their operations will be, and therefore managing those operations is more challenging, and better rewarded in terms of pay.
- General salary factors – As with most jobs, the level of candidate experience and the location of the employer can impact salary.
For example, a highly-experienced COO in a well-funded industry such as banking, is likely to earn more than a newly-promoted COO working for a charity or start-up, where budgets tend to be more limited.
The figures shown above are taken from a range of job advertisement samples and therefore do not include other benefits such as bonuses and commission schemes, or non-financial benefits such as healthcare.
What does a COO do?
Breaking down the job description, the general tasks and duties of a chief operating officer often include:
- Overseeing operations – Taking overall supervisory responsibility for day-to-day operations and ensuring objectives are met
- Devising strategies – Developing effective short and long-term strategies for business growth
- Setting goals – Setting actionable goals for performance and implementing organization-wide goal setting
- Establishing policies and procedures – Planning, directing and implementing operational policies, rules and initiatives
- Managing finances – Compiling budgets, controlling company costs and securing investment capital
- Leading employees – Mentoring staff, including management, and motivating teams to meet operational goals and targets
- Evaluating performance – Carrying out performance reviews and closely monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of company operations
- Improving processes – Identifying areas for process enhancement, establishing corrective measures and managing change
- Liaising with directors – Collaborating with the CEO and company directors to create, implement and roll out procedures and strategies
- Managing partnerships – Building strong relationships with key vendors, clients, business partners and stakeholders
What do COOs (chief operating officers) need?
While there are no set-in-stone requirements or defined career path to becoming a chief operating officer, candidates will need a wide range of skills, experience, knowledge and, sometimes, qualifications in order to carry out the role effectively.
Precise requirements will vary depending on the industry of the employer, but speaking generally, here is what is normally expected:
COO jobs will generally require significant experience in a managerial or supervisory role, with proven expertise of overseeing business operations, leading and scaling organisations and managing and building teams. Additionally, employers normally expect extensive experience with their organisation’s specific sector or industry — for example, a charity may ask for applicants who’ve gained managerial experience in the not-for-profit sector.
Alongside the sector-specific hard skills and knowledge unique to each role, chief operating officers need a highly refined set of soft skills and traits in order to be successful in their role. These include:
- Communication: Communicating with directors, executives, key stakeholders, staff, partners and sometimes the media in a clear, accurate and confident manner
- Financial: A good head for figures knowledge of financial reporting standards
- Interpersonal: Building strong, trusting relationships amongst colleagues and with partners
- Leadership: Leading, supervising and motivating teams to success
- Decision making: Evaluating options and deciding the best course of action for business success
- Process: A sound understanding of efficient process creation and process change within business
- Attention to detail: Noticing small issues and errors in detail and being thorough in completing all work tasks
- Problem solving: Dealing with complex problems calmly, swiftly and professionally
- Strategic mindset: Thinking strategically to determine profitable new operations, processes and procedures
- Results focused: Focusing on the end result and the steps needed to be taken to achieve them
There are no predefined qualification requirements for COO roles as a whole. When hiring for a chief operating officer, employers generally value relevant industry, managerial and leadership experience over qualifications.
However, the majority of employers do expect a good standard of education, normally to degree level or higher. Additionally, further study can help current and future COOs to develop their management skills and bolster their performance.
University educated COOs typically have a 2:1 or above bachelor’s or master’s degree in a business, management or industry-related subject. Typical choices of study include, but are not limited to:
- Business management
- Business administration
- Operations management
- International business
- Accounting and finance
- Information systems
Some companies prefer to take on candidates with postgraduate and masters qualifications specifically, especially those with a management specialisation.
However, it is possible for candidates to work their way up within a company and achieve the role of COO without a degree.
Institute of leadership and management
The ILM are the UK’s top leadership and management qualifications provider, offering a range of sector and skill-specific qualifications and courses. Their Level 7 vocational course is ideal for aspiring or established chief operating officers looking to optimise their performance and take their leadership skills to the next level.
Subject matter qualifications
It can be beneficial for chief operating officers to hold qualifications that are relevant to the industry they’ll be working in — for example, a manufacturing firm may appreciate candidates with engineering qualifications, while a pharmaceutical company may seek candidates with a science degree.
What is expected of chief operating officers?
COOs are typically expected to commit to the following:
- Full-time hours – Contracted working hours are generally 9-5 and between 35 and 40 hours per week
- Regular overtime – COOs tend to work as many hours as is needed to keep the business operating effectively, meaning regular overtime may be expected outside of core business hours
- Location – Normally based at the employer’s office
- Regular travel – Depending on the type of business, regular travel to different branches, offices, sites and client’s offices may be required
Chief operating officers benefits
As chief operating officers are second-in-command and often work for large organisations, they usually receive a good benefits package. These often include:
- Bonuses – Based on company performance
- Equity/profit sharing
- Pension scheme
- Private healthcare
- Company car or car allowance
- Corporate discounts
Who employs chief operating officers?
Chief operating officers are needed in large businesses and organisations across every sector and industry, in both the public and private sector.
COO jobs can be hard to come by. This is simply because there are fewer seats at the top of any company, meaning candidates are normally working with a very small pool of roles. Additionally, research shows that the number of chief operating officer roles has been in decline since 2007.
Opportunities are available at businesses across the UK, though jobs are generally more widely available in London and other big cities.
Typical COO employers include companies within:
- Financial services
- Utility services
- Health services
- Oil and gas
Which junior jobs progress to COO roles?
The journey to gaining a chief operating officer isn’t an overnight process. COOs typically have significant managerial experience within their specific sector or niche. This can take several years (often over a decade) of hard work.
The career path to COO is diverse and varied, though the majority post holders move in directly from senior operations and management roles, such as:
Operations managers direct the day-to-day functions of a business, such as process improvement, budgeting, planning and headcount. They ensure that things run efficiently, whilst ensuring profitability is maximised. As operations managers build a solid combination of managerial experience and company knowledge, they make great candidates for internal COO jobs.
Project managers plan and oversee the execution of projects, ensuring all work is completed to a high standard, on time and within the correct budget. Established project managers with significant experience tend to hold the transferable skills and experience required to move smoothly into a COO role.
General managers handle the overall operations of a company, or a department within a company. This might include managing staff, budgets and marketing strategies. General managers often manage a team of lower-level managers, but are generally ranked below C-level executives. Due to managerial skills gained, they have the potential to progress into a COO role over time.
Which senior jobs do COOs progress to?
A job as a chief operating officer is one of the highest positions available within a company, with very few roles above it in the hierarchy.
For this reason, promotion can be limited — though some COOs may seek to gain a position onto the board of directors, into the role of CEO, or even set up their own company.
Chief operations officer job description – conclusion
A job as a COO can be challenging and stressful yet rewarding, giving post holders the opportunity to truly shape and drive the vision of an organisation.
Opportunities are available across the country within a huge range of industries and sectors, though roles of this seniority can be hard to come by.
Pay is far above the national average, with basic salaries often reaching the 6-figure mark and further opportunity to gain income via profit sharing, bonuses and commission schemes.
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