Updated: Sep 9
Setting your company department structure is a personal preference.
In this post, I would like to discuss my journey of starting companies and how my thought process evolved on the company structure and what I have settled on at this point. Just a note, that my structure is used for a two-year company cycle, where the companies are formed in the junior year (all junior cohort) and run a two-year cycle, expiring in at the end of the senior year with that cohort. In addition, my company classes sizes typically run from 27-36 students.
When I first started I followed the traditional company structure of having a CEO, CFO, VP of Administration, VP of Sales & Marketing, VP of HR, and VP of IT. In this model, the VP of Administration responsibilities covered public relations and company organizational responsibilities that included. Under the VP of Sales & Marketing were the had responsibilities of all aspects of the sales process, marketing plan, preparing for trade show event booths, fundraising and art/graphics. I tested this structure for a few years and kept getting students who wanted to step down from their leadership positions after one year because of burnout. This created a problem and issues with continuity of leadership. After interviewing the kids about what needed to change, I started to adjust the company structure to try to eliminate the burn-out.
The first change that was made was to add a chief operations officer. The CEO burnout was the highest among all my leader positions and they just were overwhelmed with the having to run all the departments and write the business plan. When I added the COO position, it meant that the company now was lead by two leaders, each with specific areas of responsibility. The chief officer position allowed me to divide the company responsibilities in half and that made all the difference in the world. The CEO was responsible for the externally focused departments; Sales, Marketing, and IT. While the COO covered the internal departments of HR, Administration, and Accounting. This allowed the chief officers to have a partnership in leading the company and allowed them to share and divide up the business and meeting responsibilities. This change has made a huge difference and reduced burnout to almost zero.
Having solved the issue with the chief officers, the other area that had high burnout was VP of Sales & Marketing. The job covered so many areas and spread the leader so thin that they could not keep up with the workload. I tried to have directors of Sales, Marketing and Art, but the stress of the VP of Marketing position and lack of level leadership for the director kept all the weight on the VP of Marketing. The marketing department was always so behind in work and had a very high leader burnout rate. After talking with the students, the issue was resolved by splitting the department into three separate departments. So this evolved through the creation of marketing, sales, and art & publications departments. Each had their own leader and each required different specific skill sets and each had a seat at the leadership table to help direct company decisions. This made a huge difference for my companies. It allowed for more opportunity for students to step into a lead role, gave more students access the decision making within the company and reduced the stress for each leader.
The last change in the company structure, not because of burnout, but was precipitated by the changes in our society. Having started VE in the early 2000s, the business world was very different. The past 5 years or so the emergence of social media started creeping into the business environment, I felt that the area needed to be added to the company structure. With two chief officer positions in place, the VP of Administration had a diminished role and I decided to dissolve that position and add VP of Communications. Their role was a blend of the old administration position and the new aspects of social media. This became a very popular position and now is one of the leader positions under the COO.
To see my current company leadership structure you can click on the Student Leadership tab in the navigation bar where you can see the positions that I use and have access details of what each department leader does and is responsible for.