When to hire a chief of staff?

Rajinder Balaraman
MANAGING DIRECTOR
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What does a 'chief of staff' role entail, and when is the right time to hire one? Startup India's C-suite has increasingly been hiring for this role - but what is the definition of a 'chief of staff' and when should you hire one? A few thoughts from Avnish Bajaj & Rajinder Balaraman on the 'chief of staff' role, and what the benchmark of this role is across the various stages of a company. Tune in.

Rajinder:

What exactly is a chief of staff role and when do I need it?

Avnish:

So I hadn’t heard of this term for companies, obviously all of us have heard it in the context of the U.S president and watching some of those shows. And then heard about it may be 2-3 years ago. And we need to define it and it is very different from an EA, the Executive Assistant.

Who is sometimes more—may be executive assistance in the US context may be a little bit like that, but in India, secretaires are also called that.

So I would say when you realize, and my benchmark will be the following. So chief of staff should spend time on managing tactical coordination for you, which across functions, which depends on the stage of the company.

So my benchmark will be, assuming you have 6 /7/ 8 direct reports and you have certain scale of a company. And setting up meetings and all of that is a secretary’s job, but interfunctional coordination, if you find your time going into that, you need a chief of staff.

Inter-disciplinary coordination, which does become an issue right? It could be that you know, this guy will just bundle up a bunch of decisions and bring to you and khat, khat, khat, you go through that and its done. It could be the follow ups, it could be getting people more aligned. it could be getting things done which in your presence just creates a bar a little bit higher.

Rajinder:

Alignment also.

Avnish:

Alignment, so I think chief of staff is an administrative role but the best one’s, so it sounds more tactical. But the best ones can be very strategic. And if you hire somebody, I would say and again we should share some links on this, because I think the information out there is better than what we can provide.

The best one’s are people who would, if they had more experience, they would actually be in your senior management. Be a L – 1, and in some cases the chief of staff transition into that role, they can go and run a new business. So that’s the caliber, starts off more with tactical but can be very strategic in longer term if used well.

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