As startups strive to scale and capture new opportunities, they must strike a delicate balance between innovation and operational excellence. The entrepreneurial spirit fuels innovation and creativity. But it can also lead to a whirlwind of tasks and responsibilities that demand constant attention. This is where the concept of a Fractional Chief of Staff (FCoS) comes into play.
In this guest post by Latrice Barnett, we will explore three key signs that indicate your startup may be in need of a Fractional Chief of Staff. We’ll also look at how a FCoS can help startups unlock their full potential and achieve sustainable growth.
Latrice Barnett, principal and founder of Seattle-based consulting firm Barnett 360, is a former Chief of Staff and ex-Salesforce alliances leader with 10+ years’ experience shaping Sales and Partnership ecosystem workflows.
The Fractional Chief of Staff specializes in providing strategic guidance and support to startup founders when they need it most. Whether you’re a fledgling company with grand ambitions or a well-established startup seeking to optimize operations, understanding the value of an FCoS can be a game-changer on your journey to success.
The Fractional Chief of Staff is a Value-Add to Your Company
With recent changes in the macro environment impacting tech (layoffs, reduced and slowed VC funding, push to reduce operating costs while driving up ARR per employee, etc.), a need is quickly emerging for a new role: Fractional Chief of Staff. A part-time or time-bound role, the FCoS provides strategic guidance and support to executives on an as-needed basis. They focus on high-level planning, cross-functional coordination, and project management.
As a uniquely cost-effective way to augment finite resources, an experienced FCoS can test out a revenue-driving hypothesis before hiring full time staff, or open up precious CEO bandwidth by handling repeatable functions like Board letters and preparation. For example, with funding rounds significantly reduced and slowing, startup leaders need to be able to
- do more with less headcount;
- balance the competing priorities – and egos – across the leadership team to maximize throughput and efficiency without falling into common political patterns;
- identify and safeguard against internal blindspots while continuing to grow the business.
3 Signs Your Company Needs a Fractional Chief of Staff:
So what are the top signs that your company may benefit from a FCoS? There are a few, including but not limited to the ones below:
- Executive Limits and/or Overload: Executives are increasingly burdened with administrative tasks and need strategic assistance. They may also be unable to take on additional ad-hoc responsibilities for a specific period of time, or if a colleague is out for personal reasons.
- Managing Change and Uncertainty: Teams often require additional support during transitional periods or industry disruptions.
- Operational Efficiency and Optimization: Executives can benefit from assistance and a top-line perspective when it comes to streamlining processes and resource allocation.
Leaders must also keep an eye out for gaps in communication and coordination between teams and departments; this can indicate a need to re-evaluate internal communications processes. And countless Boards of Directors have recommended a Chief of Staff once they catch wind of a team challenged by executing strategic plans. Smart leaders can get ahead of this by observing early and responding in a swift and cost-effective way.
How to Leverage a Fractional Chief of Staff by Company Stage
A company’s stage can also guide the best ways to leverage a FCoS, as different stages can surface specific needs and priorities. Below is a short list of how a FCoS can help a company succeed, based on what stage it is in:
- Seed Stage: Assist founders in strategic planning, fundraising efforts, and operational setup.
- Series A: Support growth strategies, fundraising efforts, and provide leadership support.
- Series B: Help develop the leadership team and implement performance metrics.
- Series C: Aid in market expansion, M&A activities, and internal communications.
- Series D+: Focus on operational efficiency, new revenue streams, and corporate governance.
- Public Company: Support Chief of Staff Center of Excellence, investor relations, and department-focused special projects.
Conclusion & Additional Resources
Leveraging a Fractional Chief of Staff is a strategic move for companies of all stages, providing specialized expertise when and where needed. Identify the signs that your company needs a FCoS and get one step closer to optimizing your company’s operational efficiency and growth.
I’d like to hear from you: have you used any of these strategies to drive efficiencies with a FCoS? Leave a comment and let me know.
- Barnett 360, a consultancy that specializes in Fractional Chief of Staff offerings for companies through Series C.
- The Case for a Chief of Staff, Harvard Business Review (May–June 2020)
- How C-Suites Can Leverage The New Wave Of Fractional Leaders (Forbes, February 2023)
- Why Fractional Executives Are the Best Investment For Your Business (Entrepreneur, June 2022)