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C-Suite Making Room for Chief Commercial Officers

The chief commercial officer follows other newer titles in the C-suite, such as chief talent officer and chief marketing officer. The position is emerging amid the recession, when companies are scrambling to increase revenue.

August 7, 2009
Related Topics: Career Development, Employee Career Development, Latest News
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There’s a new kid on the executive block.

A growing number of organizations are designating a chief commercial officer, who oversees growth and commercial success. The number of “CCO” appointments globally has risen from five in 2001 to 56 last year, with 36 in just the first half of this year, according to a new report from executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles.

“The role of the right hand to the CEO has begun to morph and move away from ownership of the operations—i.e., the chief operating officer—and more toward ownership of the customer and the customer interface. This is the gap that the CCO is coming in to fill,” John Abele, global managing partner of Heidrick & Struggles, said in a statement.

The chief commercial officer follows other newer titles in the C-suite, such as chief talent officer and chief marketing officer. The position is emerging amid the recession, when companies are scrambling to increase revenue.

The CCO role also has something to do with the complex ways firms are relating to customers today, Abele argues.

“The explosion of many divergent sales channels, especially the digital channel, has forced companies to think differently about their customers and how they interact with them,” Abele said in a statement.

Among the new cadre of chief commercial officers is Chris Kendrick-Parker of Madison, Wisconsin-based biotech firm Cellular Dynamics International.

Kendrick-Parker has held his post since late 2007, when the 65-person stem cell technologies company created the role. His duties include business development, investor relations and product development. He also works to convince the CEO and CFO of the wisest uses of the firm’s money.

“It’s herding cats,” Kendrick-Parker said of his post.

Another company with a CCO is JFK IAT, a private firm that operates Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

In February 2008, JFK IAT promoted Janice Holden to chief commercial officer in charge of the firm’s newly created Commercial Department. Holden’s duties include securing new airline partners, working with retail partners and handling other revenue-generating business such as advertising, film shoots and events.

Rob Wiener, managing partner of the Los Angeles office of executive recruiting firm Lucas Group, said he hasn’t heard of chief commercial officer openings. But in keeping with the CCO focus on growth, Wiener notices recruiting activity for jobs that spur new sales. These include positions in e-commerce that combine analytic skill with sales and marketing chops.

“There’s more of a reach for revenue-generating professionals than I’ve seen in the past,” Wiener said.

Dave Barnes, senior client partner at search firm Korn/Ferry International, said he hasn’t seen the chief commercial officer title in the consumer products field. A more common role, he said, is “chief customer officer”—someone who helps a consumer products manufacturer coordinate its relationships with major retailers like Wal-Mart or CVS.

In recent years, such positions have taken on profit-and-loss responsibilities to give them some “teeth” and make them more attractive to candidates, Barnes said.

—Ed Frauenheim

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