Why We’re All Ready for a CRO or COO Earlier These Days

I used to think CROs and COOs were made up titles until “Late Stage” or so, and in startups, a bit of a sign of weakness.  Giving away a fancy title to someone that wasn’t really willing to do the work.  I used to think there’s no way a SaaS startup needs a “CRO” or “COO” or other C-level Officers Without a Clear, Single Functional Area to Own Until $40m-50m+ in ARR.

But … like many things … my views have evolved ?

Three trends have fueled the rise of hiring COOs and CROs closer to $10m ARR than $50M ARR:

  • Faster Growth. If you are growing 40% at $10m in ARR, a COO may be a luxury. If you are growing 150%, it may be a necessity to get help in ASAP to run a material part of the business.
  • Specialization. As we’ve all gotten more experienced in we’ve specialized more. If your VP of Sales is your closer, you have a VP of Accounts, and a VP of CS … who is going to manage them all? CRO. You want each revenue leader doing what they do best. Not trying to manage departments they have less passion for and/or that distract from their core goals.
  • Veterans. We now have a lot, lot more veterans in SaaS than we did 5–10 years ago. A great VP of Sales who took a company from $1m to $50m may want to try CRO now. Similarly, a VP of Product might want to own more as COO. If you get a great veteran that really has passion for a startup, and you are at $5m-$10m+ ARR … maybe carve out a portion of the company for her to run. COO or CRO are too good ways to do this.

Nowadays, I like to see the conversation start as you approach $10m ARR, especially if you are growing quickly (>100% YoY). I still think a COO or CRO title at $2m is a sign of weakness in your org.

But at $5m-$10m ARR? Maybe let’s do it.  Is there a great #2 you could bring in? If so — let’s go find her!

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