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Beyond CEO, CFO, and COO: The Rise of Specialized C-Suite Positions

Beyond CEO, CFO, and COO: The Rise of Specialized C-Suite Positions

Even companies that pride themselves on innovation usually put a high premium on stability at the top. But the simple truth is that too many C-suites aren’t keeping pace with the rapid changes in today’s business world. CEOs who worry that shaking up their C-suite might project weakness — or challenge their own authority — are risking stagnation on the most important floor of the company. And, sooner or later, inefficiencies at the leadership level seep into the rest of the business.

Here’s a quick overview of how to upgrade your C-suite, designate key tasks, and empower your top people to Make BIG Happen.

1. Refining Your Essentials

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Before you start adding chairs to your c-suite, sit down with your CEO coach and review your current executive structure:

Chief Executive Officer: Vision

Have you turned yourself into your company’s AI expert?

Do you coordinate with other executives on achieving revenue goals?

Have you redesigned your company’s website to create an effortless customer experience?

If you answered “Yes!” to any of these questions, then you’re not doing your job.

The CEO is responsible for setting a BIG vision, establishing measurable, actionable short-term and long-term steps towards that vision, and delegating the management of those tasks to the absolute best people. Period.

Yes, that vision needs to be BIG enough to take in the latest developments in tech, global finance, and customer behavior. And yes, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the company has the Cash, People, Relationships, and Knowledge necessary to realize your Vision. But if you’re spending too much of your day on the ground floor keeping the gears from grinding, then you’re either not delegating effectively, or you haven’t hired the best people. Until you’ve worked out a Stop Doing List and clarified the best use of your time, you can’t determine how the rest of your c-suite should be using theirs.

Chief Operating Officer: Efficient Execution

In most organizations, the COO is, essentially, second-in-command, tasked with executing the CEO’s vision. But COO is also the c-suite role that can vary the most from one company to the next. Administration, IT, HR, customer service, supply chain management, and cash flow might all fall under the COO’s purview. The COO also typically manages the rest of the executive team, meaning that it might be the COO’s responsibility to define new C-suite positions and keep the company’s leaders on the same page. The COO should have the technical skill to get into the weeds on things like AI and customer experience, as well as excellent communication skills so that other executives understand how each department’s efforts are working together towards BIG.

Chief Financial Officer: Fiscal Alignment

The CFO still has to make sure that the company is in the black by analyzing budgets and balance sheets. But reporting numbers isn’t enough anymore. A modern CFO also has to be able to analyze the numbers to help the CEO anticipate key trends (sales, supply chain issues, M&A opportunities) so that every dollar spent drives up KPIs and leads to sustainable growth.

2. Emerging C-Suite Roles

Often the most powerful question a CEO can ask is: Why?

Adding a new executive position to your C-suite will require a significant investment of time, manpower, and capital. The ROI on that hire has to be tied to specific goals that are essential to realizing your BIG vision.

Here are three of the more common emerging c-suite roles and the milestones that they can help the CEO reach.

Chief Revenue Officer

Why: Reach and sustain a new revenue threshold.

A CRO will work with your CFO to drive revenue growth across the organization. If the CFO is more focused on the numbers, the CRO takes a wider, more holistic view of your cash flow, aligning sales, marketing, and customer services initiatives around the CEO’s revenue goals. The CRO will also look for ways to break down some of the traditional silos between departments, creating synergies that drive revenue and, potentially, eliminate redundant expenses.

Chief Experience Officer

Why: Broaden customer base and improve employee retention.

Some companies are folding traditional Chief Marketing Officer responsibilities into a CXO position. This represents a rethinking of the experience that the company delivers to include both internal and external stakeholders. For example, a redesigned digital storefront shouldn’t just make it easier for customers to shop, it should also make it easier for your customer service and salespeople to do their jobs as well. A new marketing campaign focused on a charitable mission should appeal to new customers, but it should also help employees connect their work to a greater good beyond profit. And, much like the new holistic approach to revenue, the company “experience” should create strong new connections between marketing, personnel, and achieving KPI targets.

Chief AI Officer

Why: Improve specific technical competencies.

For most companies, hiring a CAIO should be a bold-faced action item near the top of their AI Roadmaps. The CEO and the CAIO can work together to identify new AI integrations with the highest potential upside in the long term, and to leverage existing technologies to grab some quick wins in things like hiring and content creation.

3. Managing Your New C-Suite

A high-performing c-suite can still contain a volatile mix of expertise and ego. The CEO has to make sure that adding another driven personality to the mix doesn’t raise the temperature higher than the company’s ceiling. Be prepared to take an active role in identifying and managing these common conflicts:

Boundaries and Hierarchy
If you’re adding a C-suite position without eliminating another, there’s probably going to be some overlap. It’s the CEO’s responsibility to establish who is responsible for what, and, if necessary, who reports to whom. Reassigning responsibilities in phases can be a good way to ease the transitions for all parties.

Culture Shock
Even if you’ve prioritized culture fit during the hiring process, expect an adjustment period as your c-suite reorients itself around the company’s goals, and as direct reports adjust to the company’s new hierarchy. Legacy employees also might bristle at change. Some CEOs utilize a Chief People Officer (CPO) to focus on maintaining harmony between the company’s talent and its culture.

Budget Constraints
New executive-level initiatives are going to put higher demands on the company’s finances, starting with a BIG new salary on the books. The CEO should direct the CFO to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis at every level of the organization before new resources are allocated. Stop firing test bullets that aren’t paying off. Develop new KPIs to measure how your new executives are driving growth. And make sure every leader has the resources he or she needs to achieve their targets.

Is a BIGGER C-Suite Better?

Plenty of mediocre companies are going to rearrange the chairs in their C-suites this year because they think that’s what everyone else is doing. Others will create new positions that create more problems than they solve.

Your vision of a future org chart should be more defined than that. If you can’t see the team you need to execute your vision, try another set of eyes: a mentor, a consultant, or your CEO coach. Making a bad hire can be a costly mistake, especially in the C-suite. But identifying talent that upgrades your leadership structure might be a crucial step towards Making BIG Happen.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 53.5% during their time as a client, more than three times the U.S. average, and a revenue CAGR of 26.2%, nearly twice the U.S. average.

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