In episode five of the Second in Command Podcast Cameron sat down with Joe Esparraguera, COO of Lifematters.
Joe first served in the U.S. Army after graduating from the University of Maryland at College Park. After his service, Joe began his career as a CPA and later worked as CFO for a succession of venture capital-backed startups. He successfully started and was running his own financial consulting firm, JE Consulting, when his previous boss had told him about an interaction he had with the exercise trainer to Scott Thompson, CEO, and founder of Lifematters. They had discussed Lifematters’ need for a new COO and Joe’s name came up. Joe met with Scott for a series of lunches and then met some of the other team members before being brought into the company as the COO.
The Onboarding Process
Coming into a senior role in Lifematters with nearly 600 employees, of which 55 were internal, was a difficult task for Joe to navigate, considering the previous CFO had been dismissed. The goal was to take the company to the next level and Joe was put into the hot spot while making moves to expand and grow the company. Joe is thriving in this position and currently the company has grown to over 750 employees and are worth $27 Million.
Managing Multiple Departments
Coming from a CFO position, Joe realizes that his new role as COO has changed into something that requires more of a servant position. Organizing multiple departments, that have nothing to do with Joe’s background experiences, have proven difficult when making decisions that impact the employees. In this regard, delegating has proven imperative and Joe has been able to step back and entrust employees to handle certain projects and situations. A recent interdepartmental survey was completed and identified that animosity between departments was a big problem. Joe quickly took action and spoke with several employees who were recognized as being problematic. Focusing on changing specific attitudes, that interfere with a friendly work environment, has proven useful for the company.
While Joe was being introduced to the company, he quickly realized that CEO Scott Thompson was not one to give trust quickly. He valued length of time with a person and Joe was concerned that this would prevent a strong relationship from forming. Since Joe had previously run his own consulting firm, he paid attention to what Scott needed and was not afraid to tell him when something would not work, or how it would work better. Spending time together and communicating goals for the company started showing his value and work ethic as a COO at Lifematters.
Advice to COO’s
Joe’s advice to other COO’s is this: “Draw the line as to what you want to do and what they are going to do… In other words, if your CEO wants to set a certain tone within the company, if you’re going to be a good cop/bad cop, that’s okay”. In some ways that’s what Scott and Joe have. Scott is somewhat the good cop, the guy who is always extremely positive. Joe has to to stay realistic and draw lines in communication and strongly believes in the chain of command. As such, he is always quick to support his managers and have direct communications with them before any public announcements are made. A very basic concept but very effective.
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