Ask the MLM Expert:

Hello Terrel,

We have received interest from a viable COO candidate and I was wondering if you had some criteria for me to use to compare his past experience.

If he seems as good as I think he is, would you suggest setting up a conference call so that you can interview him with me after I speak with him first?

Thanks, Duke

Successful businessman sit at his desk while talking on mobile i

Hi Duke,

It’s an important hire.  As a general rule, I’m always inclined to start the search for and MLM Operations executive at an Operations Director level, and with someone who is hungry and eager to get out of bed early in the morning and work all day.  Many COO candidates in MLM have “been there, done that” and will thus prefer to have someone working in the mud and blood of the business.

I wanted to put that out there, with the caveat that the tradeoff is the risk of substandard operations practices and standards that the right COO will bring.

The main criteria I will personally demand is that they don’t have an office to sit in, and that they have a finger on the pulse of the business and how every single transaction and touch point and behind-the-scenes process or system is impacting the individual distributor.  They will have very little time to sit, although a conference room with a huge whiteboard is an excellent venue, and it can provide privacy when it’s needed. It’s a different mindset for most COOs I have either worked with or hired, and some simply don’t see themselves signing up for an hour weekly on the phones taking distributor service calls, for example.  That’s the real test.

The right person will not only say that this is important to them, but they will demonstrate it from the very first day (and even in their interview).  And, they will need to be accountable to the Chief Experience Officer (whatever title you assign that person, or in your case, that could very well be you).  Recall from our discussions that the CXO (Chief Experience Officer) is the most powerful position in the company, since it is there job to craft and protect the distributor experience.  The distributor service group should report to this officer, and the COO will be constantly asking, “How can I improve operations to meet with your expectations?”  

They must be a “servant leader” who is devoted to the notion that their purpose is to serve and clear a path for each person on their team who reports into the COO office.  It’s usually viewed the other way (deep, deep down), and I’ve separated myself from companies that take the traditional “cushy position” for their CHIEF officers.  CHIEF means that they have the authority, smarts, and experience to know exactly how their organization thinks and how they can best help each individual and team in the organization.  They clear hurdles, they serve as mentors, they are coaches when they need to be, and above all, they are serving from early morning until end of day.  Not vice versa.

The rest of it is detail — fulfillment, supply chain, quality assurance, technology, purchasing, inventory, forecasting, supporting the distributor service group, root cause analysis, warehouse and logistics, bills of materials, receiving, invoicing, bar-coding, pick systems, working conditions in the warehouse, morale, and on and on and on.

My questions will follow an internal “compass” that I have learned to listen to when I interview.  For instance, I might start by asking “what is your view of a distributor.”  It’s a vague question, and they will fumble around to understand what I am asking.  The nature of their questions back to me will reveal quite a bit about how important the distributor will be to them.  Listen carefully and you will see what I mean.

Obviously a strong bias and views, that these create fast-growth, highly successful MLM and Home Party companies.

Take care, Terrel

Terrel Transtrum is an advisor, consultant, and training expert serving MLM and Home Party Companies worldwide.  He is the CEO of ServiceQuest, a 25-year-old company that specializes in growth strategies for MLM and Home Party Companies.  He is the author of “Hearts and Smarts” and “Launch Smart!” Contact Terrel at or call him on his cell 208-520-3895. 

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