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Do you need a university degree to become a COO? (How I became a COO without a university degree)

As a COO mentor, I often get asked what qualifications and experience are needed to become a COO.


And to be honest, there's no straightforward answer. The path to becoming a COO is different for everyone, and there's no one size fits all approach. However, based on my own experiences and observations, I can offer some guidance for those who aspire to become a COO. First and foremost, a COO needs to have a strong understanding of business operations as a whole.


This includes knowledge of finance, marketing, human resources, supply chain management, and other key areas of running a business. While a degree in business or a related field can definitely be helpful, it's not necessarily a requirement. Many successful COOs have come from diverse backgrounds and fields of study.


In addition to having a solid understanding of business operations, a COO needs to have excellent leadership skills. This includes the ability to motivate and inspire others, as well as the ability to communicate effectively with all levels of the organization. A COO must also be able to make difficult decisions and take calculated risks when necessary.


Experience is also an important factor in becoming a COO. Many COOs have worked their way up through the ranks of a company, gaining experience in various departments and roles along the way. This hands-on experience can provide valuable insights into the inner workings of a business and can help a COO make informed decisions.


However, it is important to note that not all COOs have followed this traditional career path. Some, like me, have started their own businesses or have worked in a variety of industries before becoming a COO. What is most important is having a broad range of experience and a willingness to learn and adapt.


Finally, a COO must be passionate about the company's mission and values. This passion can help drive the organization forward and inspire others to do their best work. A COO who is invested in the success of the company and its employees is more likely to be effective in their role. I'll share my own background and story of how I became a COO.


I was a high school dropout. I was brought up by a single mother and at 16 years old if I wanted nice things, I needed to go out and buy them myself. A couple of months into my year 11, I went into a secretarial college. After a year, I landed my first job as a bookkeeper for an accounting and financial planning firm, where I caught the entrepreneurial bug.


To be fair, I probably had the bug before then, selling my toys or flowers on the side of the road as a kid. And I continued my formal education outside of work hours and achieved my diploma in business. Next, I was married young at 21 years old and convinced my husband to start a graphic design business together with me.


I didn't have a clue about marketing, but I did know finance and what I knew from my diploma. So the next 10 years were spent growing our graphic design business. Pivoting into a web design business, then web development, and was largely a learn-on-the-go experience. Next, we decided our family was meant to go on another adventure.


We packed up our kids, our lives, sold our business and moved overseas to the UK. About this time, I had been building a coaching business on the side, firstly focused on how to create financial systems for businesses with unpredictable income, but then found myself obsessed with more than what the numbers meant.


What the symptoms were showing me and how to drill down and fix these problems even further. I started diving into inefficiencies, bottlenecks and operational improvements. This is when I discovered the book Clockwork by Mike Mikalowics. Decided to reach out to see if I could join the Run Like Clockwork team.


To my luck, they accepted my application and I became a coach with them for 18 months. During that 18 months, I was part of an $800,000 launch and the CEO had six weeks of maternity leave off and left the team to run things without her, including even making a new hire. After my 18 months as an operational efficiency coach, I decided it was time for me to spread my wings and fly.


This was when I had the biggest mindset shift in my career. I was doing some guest coaching and at this time it led to me making some fantastic connections and I started applying for COO roles and getting interviews. My first COO role outside of my own web development agency was a temporary position, which started in February 2021 for five months when the former COO was on maternity leave.


After that, I found two more clients. One was another COO role for an online dental educator, and also a CFO role for another web designer. During this time, I'd been itching to still have my own product or service. I still had this passion for helping entrepreneurs create a bigger impact in their businesses by...


Releasing tasks off their plates through delegation, automation, and focus, so they could have more time to spend with their families, their health, or even on their bigger vision and leverage their talents while still watching their business grow and thrive. So in February. 2023. I launched my own COO mentoring business, so I could help train a crew of COOs to help me turn my vision into a mission.


I also needed more time. So I finished up with one of my COO clients, and handed over the reins to one of my mentees and pivoted my attention. Now I host a 10-week COO mentoring accelerator three times a year. I also have my main web designer client who I do COO and CFO work with. And I also do one-off project work, helping entrepreneurs get the ball rolling to help delegate, automate and focus their strategy.


In summary, that's my story. Becoming a COO requires a combination of knowledge, experience, leadership skills, and passion. While there's no one size fits all approach, those who are committed to learning and growing and who are passionate about their work can achieve success as a COO.


If you're interested in becoming a COO yourself and would like personalized mentoring from yours truly to give you the support and confidence you need to make that next step, then my small group Digital COO Accelerator program might be the right container for you to increase your confidence, grow your skills, and become indispensable to your team.


Until then have a productive day.



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