Episode 48: Scale A Business With A Fractional Chief Operating Officer

Episode 48: Scale A Business With A Fractional Chief Operating Officer

A client of mine felt really bad about Q1. Had a soft launch, things didn’t go as great as they had expected. I mapped out Q1 from the previous two years and I was like, “You’re actually up like three times as much as 2019 and almost double in 2020,” but she didn’t feel like that. So, we set these scenarios up in our heads and we create these alternate realities that aren’t really true until you see the data. And then, you’re like, “Oh, I’m actually doing well.” And, it totally shifted her mood and shifted her energy level. For some things, we needed her to show up for, in terms of some lives and things and that felt really good for her. So, giving the CEO that boosts that they need also sometimes is part of that job as well. 

Susanne Mariga:Welcome to the Profit Talk Show. In this show, we’re going to explore strategies to help you maximize profits in your business while scaling and creating the lifestyle that you want as an entrepreneur. I am your host, Susanne Mariga. I am a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Profit First Professional, and a Certified Tax Coach. Today, we’re going to talk about strategies to help you maximize profits in your business.
Susanne Mariga:Hello Profit First Entrepreneurs and Thought Leaders. I am so excited. We have a really special guest with us today. Her name is Kiva Slade. Kiva is the CEO and the owner of The 516 Collaborative and Kiva is a change agent at heart. She is a Certified Director of Operations and an Online Business Manager. What she does is, she provides small business CEOs with top-notch strategic growth through a high-level strategy of business planning, team leadership, and operational excellence so that these business owners can really just show up and be in their best selves for their business and personal life. Now, Kiva’s background is, she has a Public Administration degree, she has over 20 years of experience that run the Gamut from being the Legislative Director for a Congress member as well as being the Chief Encouragement Officer for her teenage children. Please join me in welcoming Kiva to the platform. Hi Kiva. How are you today?
Kiva Slade:I’m good. How are you doing?
Susanne Mariga:I’m doing really good. I am so excited about this topic that we’re going to talk about today. 
Kiva Slade: I am, too.
Susanne Mariga:Awesome. Entrepreneurs, what we’re going to talk about today is, we’re going to talk about the elephant room. You guys know, our smallest client has to be half a million dollars and they go up to like 50 million-plus, and one of the problems that happen when they hit that high six-figure mark, the low seven-figure mark is, they really get stuck in themselves. They’ve got a team at this point and they’re really scaling, but they’re having a hard time hitting this hurdle because every time they take a step four, they lose another client because everything is not in sync, but what happens sometimes people don’t realize is that, you’re not actually the person who is going to bring yourself to the next level. Today, I want to talk about a concept that might be new to you. 
Susanne Mariga:That’s what happens if you outsource that role of your Chief Operating Officer, your COO, and this is important because when you’re at that level, you may not be ready to bring in that level person because that level of person is usually high six-figure salary, multi-six figure salary, everything on the company size. And, so, Kiva really helps plug that hole in terms of bringing in that expertise to run your operations. So, Kiva, I’m so excited to talk about this topic today and talk about how to implement this and when are you ready for a COO? 
Kiva Slade:Definitely. Yes. Fractional COOs, we exist everyone. So, it really gets to that point when you find yourself, as you said, you’re hitting that wall, you are hitting it and it’s hurting because you are trying to be the one to manage not only your business but everything that comes with that. Most entrepreneurs didn’t go into business saying, “Hey, I want to manage a team of five, 10, 15, 20 people on a daily basis.” That’s not what you went into business for, but that’s what you find yourself doing, managing people, managing personalities, managing all of the back ends of your business in terms of operations. Do your systems actually work when something breaks? Who fixes it? What happens? Does anyone even know what the process is? Is there a written SOP anywhere in the business whatsoever? So, really looking at that and thinking about that, as well as the rest of your operations, when it becomes that point where it seems like a headache on a daily basis, that’s when it’s time to look and say, “I need somebody else. This is not me. This is not the role that I want to play in my business,” because let’s be honest, most entrepreneurs are visionaries. You do not need to be lost in those weeds that can really come about when you start to dig into the management and operations side of the business. 
Susanne Mariga:I love that. That is awesome. And so, Kiva, first of all, how do you go about working with an outsource COO? What does that relationship look like? What do you do? What tasks can a COO take off your plate? 
Kiva Slade:Yes. It’s such a relationship of trust I tell all of my clients because you have to believe that, obviously, that person like myself is there with the best interest of the business in mind, as well as the CEO. That’s not going to be a yes person, it’s going to be someone who, there’s going to be pushback some days, there’s going to be some challenges some days, there’s going to be questions some days that, “Hey, I know you were thinking A, but it’s actually better if we do B, and this is why, this is how it’s gonna impact our team, this is how it’s going to impact our bottom line. So, I think we should do it this way.” And so, it’s very important that there’s an understanding that this is a really good partnership and there’s that understanding from the beginning that, “Hey, we’re coming in, we’re here to work together and really move this business forward by also taking those things off your plate.” 
Kiva Slade:So it’s those initial relationships of trust. And it really comes down to getting to know each other, like my weekly meetings with my clients is where I think all of the juiciness happens because it’s a strategy part, but it’s also a part like, “let’s offload those things,” and, in a lot of cases, the strategy is what they’re looking for because entrepreneurship can be lonely. And, you’re wanting someone to speak to that understands what you’re saying, where you’re going, what the heartaches are, what the woes are, what the joys are. So, really, working with them in that way, coming in to really take over the team meeting, lay the groundwork, how do we deal with our teams, how are we interacting with them? One team that I’m on and I serve in this capacity, it’s been really light and easy, I guess, is what I’ll call it. 
Kiva Slade:That worked really well for the business, but now that there are teammates in different time zones and things of that sort, and the team has grown relatively quickly, it’s important to start to have a level of structure and the CEO, that’s just not where her focus is, at all. So, really coming into the team, leading the team meetings, having the one-on-one with the team every single team member I meet with at least once a month to find out what’s going on with them, find out what’s working, what’s not working, that’s the time that a CEO has and once of spend necessarily, or should spend in trying to get to know where those team members are and why things may not be kind of flowing like they should. And, my job really is to service that kind of barrier between the CEO and the rest of the team because not everything needs to fall on the CEO’s plate. 
Kiva Slade:A lot of it is what I wind up taking care of getting done and out of the way that it never makes it to the CEO’s desk. So, it’s been handled, whether that’s determining we have a product coming out and so like, “Hey, what about this part?” So, “Hey, everybody, let’s take the time out.” Think through all of the moving parts and say, “Okay, this is how we’re going to map this out. This is who you’re going to handle this part of it. You’re handling this part, you’re handling this part.” So, really staying on top of everyone to make sure, “Hey, did this get done?” And that allows the CEOs to really close those tabs in their brain because we don’t always think about it, but the mental load, when you’re having all of these things that are spinning in your head and you’re like, “Did this get done?”
Kiva Slade:It keeps people up at night. It impacts their health and things beyond their business, if that has physical implications. So, really being able to say, “Oh, wait, I cannot think about that. Kiva has that under control. She’s already given me an update on it. It’s already in progress. I can close that tab in my head. And, now, I’m enjoying the time I am spending with my family. I’m enjoying dinner. And, instead of being on my phone, I’m showing up as my best self for my child’s recital. I’m not distracted, whatever that might be for that particular CEO is a win for them. That’s what we come in and allow things to happen that you can close those mental tabs, make those things take place that really don’t need to be in your plate or in your wheelhouse, but you still are aware of what’s taking place because you’ve been kept in the loop to the extent that you’ve asked to be. 
Kiva Slade:So, I think like in terms of teams, that’s a really big way to come in and do that. Financial is another way. It’s sometimes I know you know this as a CPA, not everyone knows their numbers, and sometimes they need the visual. So, using Google data studio and things of that sort to really give the visuals of, “This is where the company is right now. This is what we’re tracking as a KPI. This is how that’s doing.” Whatever we’ve determined are, those metrics are performing. A lot of times it’s no one wants to be the one to kind of dig through those numbers and figure it all out. So, coming in and saying, “Hey, no, this is it. Look, this is where you’re going.” A client of mine felt really bad about Q1. Had a soft launch. Things didn’t go as great as they had expected. I mapped out Q1 from the previous two years and I was like, “you’re actually up, like three times as much as 2019 and almost double in 2020,” but she didn’t feel like that. So, we set these scenarios up in our head and we create these alternate realities that aren’t really true until you see the data. And then you’re like, “Oh, I’m actually doing well.” And it totally shifted her mood and shifted her energy level. For some things, we needed her to show up for, in terms of some lives and things. And that felt really good for her. So, giving that CEO that boost that they need also sometimes is part of that job as well. 
Susanne Mariga:I love that Kiva. That is amazing. They say that only 4% of companies that start ever hit a million dollars. One of the biggest reasons that they don’t have a million dollars in revenue is because they never learned to let go. They are still in the trenches. They’re the one that’s responsible for sales. They’re responsible for marketing. They’re responsible for fulfillment and they never learned to leverage the power of the team. And really, it’s about not having everyone report to you. It’s not having that decentralized organization where marketing is reporting to you. Sales is reporting to you. Fulfillment is reporting to you. You cannot manage having everybody report to you. You cannot be the one that answers everything. But, to have that person that’s responsible for operations, that COO side, having that person responsible for finances, that’s separate from you, it allows you to run a smaller organization in the midst of growing and larger organization. So, that is exactly right. So, Kiva, tell me about this. What type of organization best works with a fractional COO? What is the best ideal situation for that? How do you know when you are ready? And, what’s the best type of organization that works for that? 
Kiva Slade:That’s a good question. I think it depends on looking at the team and looking at the CEO. There are obviously some CEOs where this may not always feel like the best fit because they’re like, “Hey, I’m able to handle this,’” Or, “it works well for me.” When you’re thinking about those businesses, obviously, a lot of online based businesses, this works well, and that’s a space that I like to hang out in because a lot of times you have teams that are all over the place at different parts of the business. It feels like an octopus that you’re trying to wrinkle and bring in with all eight limbs. So, online based businesses work extremely well, but a lot of brick and mortar businesses that really focus on service-based industries really work well with this as well because a lot of times you have that CEO who is an idea generator.
Kiva Slade:Like that’s their happy place. That’s where they love to show up as themselves. That’s where they want to serve their communities. That’s where they want to just run parts of their business, but not have to deal with other parts. So, it’s not always industry specific. I think it really comes down to your personality and understanding that, “I’m at a point where I want to have someone else come in and help narrow it down for me. Where should I focus this week? Because there’s a lot of things that are out there.” So, being able to have someone come in and say, “This week, this is where your energy needs to be. I’m taking over all of these things,’ and someone’s like, ‘yes, that’s exactly what I need.” And, that’s what my clients look for me like, “Where do I need to focus this week for this business?” Because it’s just mental overload. They don’t know where to put their energy to move their business forward because they are feeling stuck with all of the things. So, not sure if it’s fall on industry specific, but it’s definitely at a point where the frustration is becoming too much, the point where you’re just not happy, even showing up for your own business. That’s a bad place to be. 
Susanne Mariga:I love that. That is so true. I love how you said it’s the match of personalities, too. So, have someone that is highly creative, who is more of an innovator to have an implementer behind them to make sure the ideas actually happen. That is a critical moment. Now, Kiva, how do teams adjust to having a new fractional COO? Because I imagine, part of being a COO is having to give feedback, having to correct things that are broken, sometimes even dismiss people. So, how do teams adjust to this new person in charge coming in out of nowhere?  
Kiva Slade:Well, we’re absolutely honest. So, really, the CEO has to be the one that sets the tone as to what, that’s ‘lay the groundwork for what’s about to take place.’ But then, it’s so important for a fractional COO to have those meetings one-on-one. Team meetings are great, but having that one-on-one so then that person, whoever the team member, they know that you are there not to micromanage, not to start a little set in to make their life harder, but really to support them, to be that person who is also like, “Hey, look, I know I’m new to this,” coming in with maybe some ideas that not everyone’s going to immediately buy into. Let’s be honest. And, laying that foundation through those personal meetings that it’s like, “I’m also here to support you because I know that there are probably ways that things can be done. Maybe quicker, maybe faster, maybe there’s UN software or something that you’ve been dying to have to make life easier, but it’s been hard to make the case for that. Talk to me about it. Well, let’s brainstorm, how would that actually improve things?” And then, taking that information saying, “Look, we can increase productivity by 30%. If we actually purchased this, it makes it a lot easier to sell.”
Kiva Slade:So, really having those meetings with the team is super important and really starting to connect. One of my teams, there’s someone who’s been with the CEO since the beginning. So, she has seen that business through various iterations. And, Sheila, she’s told me, she’s like, “Look, I’m not always going to be enthusiastic about what you say because I’m jaded.” But it was through our general conversations, like having meetings one-on-one that she finally felt comfortable to say. It’s not what she said to me in the beginning. 
Kiva Slade:But it was like, after a few months, she said, “I’m just going to tell you, that’s where I am. So, it’s also about how I present things to the team.” So, it’s an understanding that they’re valued. They are appreciated. We’re not trying to make changes for change’s sake, trying to really put in place changes that will make the business environment better, will make everybody’s work better, and will help us all flow a lot better. Cause a lot of times, there’s people doing things that they probably shouldn’t be doing, but they might’ve started doing those things and they have hated the task for the last umpteen years. And you’re like, “So, let’s talk through that and look at this from an organizational design perspective. How about if we took this and moved it over here to Sally?” and they’re like, “Hallelujah, I’ve been waiting for that to take place in my life for so long.” 
Kiva Slade:But sometimes they don’t feel empowered. They don’t feel that they have a voice. There’s so many different things that could be at play. But, you also sometimes have to say, “We’ve talked to you about this issue. You’ve had 30 days to get it together. It still hasn’t happened. So, we’re going to have to let you go.” Maybe you’ve liked the person, it’s like, “I know she’s really nice.” We’re just like, we love everyone to be nice, but we also sometimes have to look at obviously other factors in terms of that productivity as well and what their contributions are. There’s also those times where you have to really start to let people go. And, when you come onto a team though, maybe there’s nothing in place about that. 
Kiva Slade:How do we handle those employment processes and policies? We need to get them in place and then share them with the team. So that there’s that buy-in, so that when it comes the time for that to happen, everybody knows what the steps are, what has been laid out because it’s very difficult if there isn’t anything in place to say all of a sudden, “Hey, we’re going to have to let you go.” And, they’re like, “What did I do? No one’s ever said anything to me. There’s been no feedback.” So, I think, really also understanding the importance of feedback and making sure that’s 360, really saying, “How am I doing? I really want you to be candid with me. Is this working? What have you found that I’ve done has just been really grading on your nerves?” I get that. I asked that of my CEOs. I asked that of teams because I think that we have to be open to receive that feedback, but also ask the right questions so that we are receiving and creating an environment that’s allowed.
Susanne Mariga:I love that, Kiva. That is a key point especially when there’s a new entrepreneur, a lot of times when they haven’t managed people, a lot of times, they’re quick to pull the draw. This person’s just broken. They’re not made for this job. But, what a lot of people don’t realize is that, no employee comes in perfect for the job. It is to get them where you want them to be, because most of the ways, first of all, when they join your company, they want to do a good job, nobody takes a job because they want to fail, they want to be there long term and part of the responsibility as a manager is to groom and to put in procedures and policies to help that person be successful. In addition to that, making sure we hire right in the first time.
Kiva Slade:Hiring right is so important. It’s so quickly overlooked. And, I feel it’s even more so in this online space in particular. I just helped someone hire an operations manager. Really being clear, what are your mission, vision, and values for your company so that when that job description goes out, you attract who aligns with that. And, you are repelling people who are saying, “I don’t want any parts of that.” You want that to be the case because those are the people that are saying, “Look, I’m already buying in. I’m loving what you’re putting out. I really want to be a part of this,” but when you just kind of say, “Oh, I’m looking for someone to do X,” and your friend Joe says, “Oh, I have somebody for that.” And then you’re like, “This is the worst person ever. I can’t believe I’ve hired this.”
Kiva Slade:Because we didn’t do the initial due diligence. And we kind of went off that recommendation or something else that’s where they only understood a fraction of what we were looking for and not the entire whole enchilada of what we were looking for. And so therefore it’s like, “Why am I now stuck with this person? And like you said, ”It’s either they’re broken,” How do I get rid of them? Oh, that feels uncomfortable. We’ll just let them stay. Just not give them any work and or circumvent them in every way and you’re just like, “Why am I here? I’m trying to be a contribution to the business and I’m not able to do that.” So just to avoid a lot of that frustration, like you said, there’s importance of hiring right on the front end and then actually grooming, nurturing, and having a good onboarding for your employees.
Kiva Slade:What does it mean to come into this organization? What is your mission? Did you tell me more about the CEO? Like literally creating an onboarding process for your employees so they understand how we even out at this point. What it is that I’m going to be doing, introducing them to everyone else and bringing them on in such a way that they’re like, “Wow, this is such a team. I am so ready to be a part of this,” because no one wants to come on and just be the loser in the group, and I’m like, “Oh, I’m just here to show up.” That’s not anyone’s intention. It’s so important to nurture, groom in, and really support that growth in terms of every employee, independent contractor, teammate that you have on a team. 
Susanne Mariga:That is awesome that you say that. I had to chuckle when you gave an example about the employer that says, “Okay. I don’t want to fire that person. I don’t have a heart. So, we’re just going to take away job responsibilities until they have nothing to do.” When I was a new employer, I have to admit I was guilty of that. Having people that, as Dave Ramsey calls “Not wanting to shoot my sacred cow” eventually that person looked around, like, “I have nothing to do. I have the perfect job.” And then, it’s costing me like three of you to equal one of you. So, you’re absolutely right. When you say that, that’s a really great observation about making sure that we have limits in terms of time of how long it’s going to take to develop that person and to who they need to be in that 30 days probation and feedback is super important because we don’t want to be paying three times the cost equal one person. That’s not profit first. So, we don’t want to do it at all.
Kiva Slade:Not at all. And really setting up like 30, 60, 90 day metrics, that’s what we do. And, you’re signing off on those. We’re signing off, you’re signing off. Everybody’s on the same page. This is what we’re looking for the first 30 days, 60 days, 90 days so that you’re going into this because that’s another aspect of it. As a team member, you’re like, “I’m here, I’m doing work, but is what I’m doing meeting the standard or am I hitting the mark?” You’re not told what the mark is. You don’t know if you’re hitting the mark, but when you get that 30, 60, 90 day metrics, you’re like, “Okay, in this first 30 days, I need to hit these particular marks and in order to know for my personal self whether or not that’s being effective in the organization and for the organization to know that I’m being effective.” So, laying that out in the beginning, super crucial.
Susanne Mariga:It sounds like a business in a box hiring a fractional COO. Can I get one of those businesses in a box? That is like amazing being able to just let somebody else run with that so you can just focus on your zone of genius. That is amazing. So Kiva, as we wrap up today, I love to ask our guests, if you could leave our viewers and our listeners with one piece of advice and it can be business related, it can be personal related, it can be anything that would improve them significantly. What would that piece of advice be?
Kiva Slade:Always be open to feedback, no matter what level you find yourself in the organization because feedback is what helps us grow. 
Susanne Mariga:I love that. And, that comes in all directions. It comes from your team telling you what you can improve even when you’re the boss, your clients, family. I love that. Just being open to feedback. That is really, really amazing advice. And then Kiva, in terms of being able to contact you to work with you, how can our viewers and listeners find you? What is the best way to reach out to you? 
Kiva Slade:Yeah, definitely. On my website, the516collaborative.com. That’s the best way to reach me. hello@the516collaborative.com if you want to shoot me an email. I do have a presence on social media. You’ll find me on LinkedIn a lot. You can find me on Facebook as well as Instagram.
Susanne Mariga:I love that. Absolutely. And what I’m going to do for you guys is, I’m going to put Kiva’s contact information in the show notes so that you can reach out to her to contact her work with her. Amazing COO. I love the business in the box concept. It’s an amazing bridge between, when that point when you’re ready to hire your own multi-six figure COO and really that middle layer where you’re scaling and you can no longer do everything because you need people that can really be responsible for making sure operations stay afloat while you’re working on scaling your business. This is a great direction to go in  and really get the help that you need. Plus, when you get someone experienced like Kiva, who used to be the legislative director for a Congressman. That’s a significant experience, just having that leadership experience and that business experience to really drive your business, that’s exactly what you’re needing.
Kiva Slade:Thanks so much, Susanne. This has been absolutely wonderful and I’m excited. So, when anyone wants to chit chat, we can definitely do that. But yes, it’s important. We cannot do all of the things in our business and do them all well. So, reach out for others and take that support where you need it in order to make sure that you achieve your goals.
Susanne Mariga:Exactly. Join that 4% and to join that 4% that makes it to a million, you can’t do it alone. Thank you, Kiva.
Kiva Slade:Thank you.
Susanne Mariga:I want you to have your most profitable year ever. Yes, no matter what’s going on in the economy, no matter what’s going on in the world, you can have your best year ever. And, I want to show you how. Join me in our private Facebook group where I will be hosting our Free, Yes, I said FREE Profit First Masterclass on Facebook. Please join the Profit First Master Class with Susanne Mariga. Again, I look forward to seeing you there and watching you have your best year ever.

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