Confessions of a CEO: Why It’s Time to Hire a COO


A new shift is upon us...


“At the moment, I feel like I am completely losing myself. I am far from the very best version of myself.”

These are the words I shared with my executive team in an afternoon of pure authenticity and rawness a few weeks ago. And I meant every one of them.

I came up with the vision for Collective Hub four-and-a-half years ago and a year later, without a hint of magazine experience to my name, put a glossy magazine onto consumer shelves in over 30 countries around the world.

And while publishing a magazine was a completely new thing to me, business certainly wasn’t. I started my first business 15 years ago with a huge vision, bucket loads of enthusiasm, a clear purpose and a fire in my belly like never before.

It has been the most exciting, passion-fuelled years of my life to date and, in all honestly, I have loved every second of the journey – until now.

I always say that “even when I hate it, I love it” but all of a sudden, a few weeks ago, I couldn’t say that with true authenticity any more. All of I sudden, “when I hated it, I actually, really… hated it.”

Businesses go through different incarnations and for the first few years what kept me awake at night was the question of whether or not I was living on purpose. Then it was, how could I get clients and keep them happy? Then, when I started Collective Hub, the questions were about cashflow and keeping this baby alive in its infancy.

But more recently, there’s been a new shift. All of a sudden, we’d reached a stage where staff numbers had doubled, we’d outgrown our offices, the magazine was distributed in 37 countries, we were running events all over the country and had a social media community and digital platform growing exponentially by the day. And with this growth came a new set of challenges for the team and I to face. Suddenly, it felt like the very lifeblood of who I am – as a visionary, creative and pioneer – had been sucked out of me.

How? The day-to-day reality of running a fast-paced, high-growth business had hit with its suffocating, back-to-back meetings about everything from employee troubles to KPIs, negotiations, inter-departmental issues, product stuff-ups or simply discussing how big the office boardroom should be. It would start before I even stepped into the office and as soon as one meeting was over, staff members would be huddled outside to grab me for “just two secs”, which of course would turn into 20 minutes or more over and over again.

Pulled. In. A. Million. Directions.

Every single day.

Struggling to catch my breath.

Stuck in the grind.

Working in the business instead of on it. How did I get here?

It seems to be a common phase in start-ups; I feel like I’m living out my own version of The Intern right now – when you hit a personal tipping point and need to make a serious self-adjustment so the business can push through to the next incredible phase. For me, it’s been a very individual decision where I’ve had to get real and honest with myself about why I’m in business and how I want to be in business for the long term. I had to acknowledge that I couldn’t do the big, top-level stuff on my own anymore – or that I even wanted to.

The truth is that I haven’t been operating in my sweet spot for a while – where ideas are birthed, innovations manifest, rules are (wonderfully) broken and where wins are most definitely had. That is the stuff I’m made of and ultimately, what has got us here thus far.

Instead, sucked into the nitty gritty of each day, I felt as though I’d fallen into a big, foggy haze of spreadsheets and emails (oh, the emails!), being everything to everyone (where my calendar wasn’t even my own anymore) and where I didn’t even know which direction to step towards next.

So, living my life out loud as I have always vowed to do, I wanted to write this post to say that I’m on the lookout for a Chief Operating Officer. But more than that, I’m on the lookout for the next wonderful step in business life. I fully admit that this role – with all its operational and number-crunching duties – is definitely not for me. Some might see it as an admission of failure, but I certainly don’t. I have always believed in “hiring to your weakness” and getting the absolute best people around you to help you rise. Sometimes you know more than your staff, but better still if they know more (about just about everything) than you.

What an injection of joy it was to my soul as I began to share this realisation with my exec team. I could almost feel the passion pouring back in with every word. The only way to help it grow is… to let it go.

As a CEO, I think it’s easier to let go of the smaller things – like hiring a videographer or the receptionist – but not so much in the space that you once personally filled. A COO is your right-hand person, until now it has been my person – it has been me. And for some CEOs, it will be the most difficult decision of all.

I’m great at the vision, the strategy, the big ideas, the negotiations, the influencing, the collaborations with extraordinary like-minded business leaders, being the face of the business, engaging with our community, speaking at events, writing books and having FUN with the team. THIS is what I LOVE.

I need someone to come in and work alongside me to navigate this new growth phase – and the many more to come; someone who is focused on commercials, who makes data-fuelled decisions, a strong implementer, who can run fast and has serious business acumen. They will hit the ground running with me to oversee everything and ensure the company is performing at its peak.

I know we are sitting on the cusp of something exceptional in the world, to help change the way people see themselves and the world – and ultimately, to do business for good. But I certainly can’t do it on my own – and have also decided, I certainly don’t want to.

If you are interested in this role, or know someone who is… find out more here.


Lisa Messenger



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