Are you looking to hire a Chief of Staff? In this article Movemeon’s co-founder Rich shed light on how this role can be different depending on the size of your organisation, what salary you need to pay and the most important thing to get right when hiring a Chief of Staff.
Movemeon Co-founder, Rich Rosser
The Chief of Staff role is a perfect fit for the consulting skill set. Beyond strategy & transformation teams, it’s a common home for consultants making their first job move out of consulting and into “industry”. It’s a role that can exist in everything from startups to multinationals to public sector organisations, and it’s very commonplace in Private Equity backed portfolio companies too.
- What alternative job titles are there for a Chief of Staff?
- Startups & scaleups – Why hire a Chief of Staff?
- Startups & scaleups – How much do they pay a Chief of Staff and what experience do they look for in candidates?
- Large organisations – Why do they hire a Chief of Staff?
- Large organisations – How much do they pay a Chief of Staff?
- What’s the most important thing in hiring the right Chief of Staff or accepting this position?
1. What alternative job titles are there for a Chief of Staff?
The job title “Chief of Staff” is enough to put some people off hiring one. Let’s face it: the title is very vague, somewhat grandiose, and conjures up images of the West Wing. That’s why many organisations prefer to use a more descriptive job title, like “Right Hand to the CEO”, for the purpose of marketing this opportunity.
Plenty of larger organisations also have a “Right Hand to” for various senior team members, like the COO, CFO etc. In smaller organisations, the Chief of Staff can be a shared resource for the leadership team (rather than purely for the CEO / Founder).
What alternative job titles are there for a “Chief of Staff” or “Right Hand to”?
Other job titles I’ve seen used include:
- “Strategic Assistant to”
- “CEO’s / Founder’s Associate”
- “CEO Office Lead” / “Head of the CEO’s Office”
Equally, roles such as “Head of Special Projects” or “Head of Strategic Initiatives” tend to have very similar remits. In itself, the “Chief of Staff” job title tends only to be used in larger organisations (including the public sector).
The job title “Chief of Staff” is very vague, that’s why many organisations prefer to use a more descriptive job title, like “Right Hand to the CEO”.
2. Startups & scaleups – Why hire a Chief of Staff?
It has become very commonplace for a growing business to hire a Chief of Staff. In these types of startup businesses, the title “Right Hand to” or “Strategic Assistant to” is more widely used, particularly outside of the US (where Chief of Staff is more usual).
The main reason startups and scaleups hire a Chief of Staff is to give the CEO / Founder and senior leadership team more bandwidth. Typically, these organisations are not yet big enough (e.g, 25-250 people) for a fully-fledged strategy or transformation or special projects team. Therefore, the Chief of Staff fulfills that remit and typically, as the organisation grows, goes on to lead a larger team within a more established / formal organisational structure (commonly COO, Strategy & Innovation Director).
The main responsibility of the Chief of Staff is to take ownership of important projects that the members of the leadership team don’t have capacity to deliver, but are important enough to be on the CEO’s to-do list. These projects can range from researching new market entry, to creating organisational processes, to developing an early insights-type function.
In smaller startups the CEO tends to do multiple roles as the team is not big enough to hire a dedicated COO / CFO / Head of Insight etc, and if there is a Co-Founder, they tend to be technical (i.e, focused on the product). So the Chief of Staff becomes a “mini me”, helping the CEO / Commercially Oriented Founder deliver across all these areas. Simply puts it doubles the CEO’s capacity.
The main reason startups & scaleups hire a Chief of Staff is to give the CEO / Founder and senior leadership team more bandwidth.
3. Startups & scaleups – How much do they pay a Chief of Staff and what experience do they look for in candidates?
Startups favour a more junior hire for Chief of Staff than larger organisations. In our experience of supporting 1,000s of startups hires through Movemeon, someone with ~2-5 years of consulting experience is what startup Founders and CEOs look for.
In joining a startup, consultants are happy to make a sideways (or sometimes slight downwards) move in terms of basic salary. So, in the UK, the basic salary for a startup Chief of Staff is normally between £70,000 – £100,000, depending on the seniority desired.
Equity / options are very much expected for a Chief of Staff and the startups able to recruit the highest potential talent will have these in place. After all, the Chief of Staff often goes on to become a future leader as the business continues to grow (e.g, Commercial Director, Country Manager, Chief Strategy Officer etc).
Startups favour a more junior hire for Chief of Staff than larger organisations. In the UK, the basic salary for a startup Chief of Staff is normally between £70,000 – £100,000, depending on seniority desired.
4. Large organisations – Why do they hire a Chief of Staff?
In larger Private Equity-backed businesses, large domestic corporations and multinationals, the Chief of Staff role is typically aimed at a more senior candidate (although hiring for a more junior “strategic assistant” is not uncommon, perhaps in combination with a true “Chief of Staff”). While an element of “special projects” remains, a larger part of the role is to act on behalf of, or deputise for the CEO. The role involves a lot of stakeholder management of other senior colleagues and, as such, CEOs and other Execs hiring for a Chief of Staff typically seek candidates with ~7-15 years of experience.
In the largest organisations, the Chief of Staff will normally manage a team within the “CEO Office”, including analysts to support project delivery & research (to give the Chief of Staff bandwidth). It’s important to note that the Chief of Staff is not typically in charge of the CEO diary and there would be a separate Executive Assistant in that role (not to be confused with the “Strategic Assistant” – a common job title for a more junior Chief of Staff).
Chief of Staff is normally a stepping stone role performed for 12-24 months before moving into a commercial or operational leadership position. In this way, and similar to how strategy teams can be used for talent acquisition, hiring a Chief of staff every 1-2 years is a way to create a pipeline of high potential “future leader” talent.
In large organisations, the Chief of Staff role is typically aimed at a more senior candidate. Hiring a Chief of staff every 1-2 years is a way to create a pipeline of high potential “future leader” talent.
5. Large organisations – how much do they pay a Chief of Staff?
Chief of Staff is not a role confined to the private sector, as it is also commonplace in other types of large organisations (e.g, government, public & charitable sectors). While pay may be lower within non-private-sector organisations, typically the annual basic salary for a Chief of Staff in the UK is between £120,000-175,000. The Chief of Staff would expect a performance bonus in line with other colleagues at the same seniority and to benefit from a long term incentive plan (as is common for leadership tiers within big businesses).
Typically the annual basic salary for a Chief of Staff in the UK is between £120,000-175,000
6. What’s the most important thing in hiring the right Chief of Staff or accepting this position?
Here at Movemeon we support 100s of organisations in hiring a Chief of Staff or similar. We’re fortunate to have kept in touch with candidates and CEOs after they have started in the role and here’s a great summary from the horse’s mouth of the things to think about when hiring / interviewing.
The piece of advice we are given more than any other is to make sure you get on well with the person you are hiring / CEO you’ll be working with. The nature of the role means that this is a very close working relationship. You’ll be spending lots of time together and in that environment any friction can quickly build into an extremely unhealthy working relationship. So take your time in the interview process, ask lots of questions and make sure you spend some “non interview” time together before making / accepting the job offer.
The nature of the Chief of Staff role means that this is a very close working relationship, make sure you get on well with the person you are hiring
Recruiting? Contact Movemeon for strategy and management professionals