What is a fractional Chief Operating Officer (COO)?

Working in partnership with CEOs and founders

A fractional Chief Operating Officer is a senior executive who works closely with a CEO or founder to deliver their vision for the business. A fractional leader simultaneously holds part-time leadership roles across several companies.

They give part of their professional attention, effort and expertise to a business, but it’s not only about time. A fractional COO’s contribution is measured primarily on value, impact, or results.

A fractional Chief Operating Officer brings real-world experience and expertise, working as both a subject matter expert and an executor of the COO role within the business.

The fractional Chief Operating Officer is like glue for the organisation, holding everything together, providing organisational cadence, relentlessly executing a business plan and holding leadership teams to account.

Fractional COO responsibilities

The responsibilities of fractional Chief Operating Officers vary widely depending on the needs of the business.

Some fractional COOs run entire businesses or significant parts of them, taking full accountability for P&L. This common in later stage scale-ups and more mature businesses.

Other fractional COOs roles operate with less direct line responsibility. Instead they focus on troubleshooting and problem solving as an extension of the CEO’s role remit. This type of fractional COO role is seen more in start-ups and early stage scale-ups.

Fractional COO as a generalist

The dynamic and pivotal role that the fractional Chief Operating Officer plays in leading a business demands a wide set of skills.

Fractional COOs are often strong generalists who have worked in leadership roles spanning core disciplines such as growth, delivery, customer, product and engineering.

A good fractional COO is able to build relationships with leaders from across the business, articulating the CEO’s vision and making it relevant and accessible for every part of the organisation.

CEO and COO in partnership

The partnership between the CEO and the fractional COO sets the tone for the wider leadership group and is at the heart of growth.

A strong, supportive and trusting relationship enables the business to grow at pace. The fractional COO operationalises the CEO’s vision for the business and becomes their trusted confidante.

Scaling businesses pay close attention to the design of the CEO and fractional COO roles to ensure there’s a clear and distinct set of accountabilities for each.

Fractional or consultant?

Consultants usually tell you what to do. A fractional COO joins you in getting stuff done – it’s hands-on and delivery-focussed.

A fractional COO generates significant value and leverage for the time invested. They’re not afraid to integrate with a team and get their hands dirty.

The fractional Chief Operating Officer role is ideal for businesses that have product/market fit and have funding to scale. It’s often a stepping stone to making the first full-time COO hire, without the risk, timescale and cost of bringing a full timer in early.

I work as fractional or interim Chief Operating Officer (COO)

I work with founders, leaders and investors to help them grow and lead sustainable technology-centric businesses.