Chief operating officer jobs can vary widely from company to company, as well as between different industries. Generally, when a chief operating officer (COO) is present in the corporate structure, it's his job to deal with the day-to-day operations of the company. The COO often will be the second highest-ranking person in the executive structure, reporting directly to the chief executive officer (CEO) and working within guidelines set down by the CEO. Any company that's organized as a corporation can have a COO, though some will delegate typical COO responsibilities to lower-level executives. In cases such as these, chief operating officer jobs might be performed by a vice president or director of operations.
In a typical corporate structure, the top executives comprise what may be known as the "C-suite." This can include the chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer (CFO) and others, depending on the industry and the particular company. If the CEO is also the chairman of the board of directors, the COO may also have the title and responsibilities of president. It's also possible for a COO to have a dual role and for chief operating officer jobs to include the responsibilities of a CFO, chief technology officer (CTO) or others. Larger corporations may even have more than one COO, with each overseeing a different section or division of the business.
The responsibilities of any particular COO are largely dictated by the industry in which he works. Chief operating officer jobs in sectors such as the manufacturing industry may focus on developing or improving every aspect of the systems involved in producing and delivering the products the company manufactures. In another industry, such as information technology, chief operating officer jobs might be more tailored to focusing the company's limited resources to achieve goals set forth by the CEO.
It's typical for a COO to have intimate knowledge of the industry he works in, and COOs will sometimes be brought over from a different company in the same industry to address a problem a corporation is having. These COOs may be known as "fixers," because their function is to overhaul the operations of the company and fix a problem. It's also typical for a COO to rise through the ranks of a company and then maintain the COO position until the CEO is ready to retire. This can allow a corporation to have a natural successor at CEO and a certain continuity in management.