Deep Dive: Chief of Staff to GPs

Max Fleitmann
Founder of VC Stack
Deep Dive: Chief of Staff to GPs
Uma Patel
VC Content Creator

This deep dive was initially published in our VC Stack newsletter. Make sure to subscribe here to not miss any future episodes.

What is a Chief of Staff?

A Chief of Staff is generally defined as an executive-level employee who supports the CEO, president, or department head of a company. Leaders have the flexibility to customize these roles to suit their unique requirements, therefore these positions are often quite dynamic. According to Harvard Business Review, “A CoS’s primary duties make time, information, and decision-making more effective.” Although these positions are often found in corporate teams, their significance can be just as applicable to VC funds.

For GPs, a Chief of Staff can be a valuable addition to a fund in offering both strategic and operational support. The GP can design the role to their needs, in order to address any gaps they may have identified in their daily routine. Whether you’re a solo GP who needs overarching management support or a part of a mid-size fund with a tailored need - a CoS can be the key to maximizing your abilities in managing the day-to-day tasks.

When Should I Hire a CoS?

When considering bringing on a new employee, it's important to evaluate the necessity and the ability of the fund. A CoS is no different but asks the GP to be honest about their time management, workload, and capabilities. These questions were outlined by Harvard Business Review in The Case for a Chief of Staff and offer a great starting point when considering a CoS:

  • Are you spending enough time on the vital A items on your agenda, or are you frustrated by the time spent on B and C items?
  • Do you have enough “white space” in your calendar to consider future opportunities, or is most of your time spent reacting to what has already happened?
  • As you deliberate on the decisions that only you can make, are you getting the best available information? After you’ve made a call, do you get surprised by new information that you should have known?
  • Is it common for you to feel unprepared for important meetings or when making important decisions? Do you get information soon enough for you to think through the consequences before having to act?
  • Are problems identified early enough that action can be taken before they create damage, or is it common for large problems to occur unexpectedly?

How Can A CoS Support the Fund

  • Operational Efficiency. A Chief of Staff can enhance VC fund efficiency by overseeing operations, streamlining processes, and improving communication, allowing investment professionals to focus on their core duties.
  • Strategic Support. The Chief of Staff is a great resource for strategic support in fund management. They can help with research, data gathering, and investment analysis to aid decision-making.
  • Relationship Management. The Chief of Staff may help to maintain connections with LPs, investors, and other stakeholders.
  • Internal Communications. The Chief of Staff is essential for effective internal communication in VC funds. They may coordinate meetings, and conferences to ensure a smooth flow of information between individuals.
  • Fundraising and Investor Relations. A Chief of Staff can also assist partners with fundraising through marketing materials, investor communications, and due diligence.

Building the Role

Here are a few questions you’ll want to answer when building a CoS role for your fund. The ambiguity of this role means there is a lot of room to customize the activities and expectations you’ll have for this team member.

  1. What are the primary responsibilities and goals of the Chief of Staff in our VC fund?
  2. What specific skills and qualifications are we looking for in a Chief of Staff for our VC fund?
  3. What level of experience should the Chief of Staff have in the VC industry or related fields?
  4. How will the Chief of Staff support and collaborate with the senior partners and investment team?
  5. What level of autonomy and decision-making authority will the Chief of Staff have?
  6. Will the Chief of Staff be involved in fundraising activities, and if so, what will be their role?
  7. What measures will be used to evaluate the Chief of Staff's performance and effectiveness?

Where to Recruit Your CoS

Once the fund has built a job description and outlined the expectations for the role - it’s time to start recruiting.

  • VC Job Boards. Make sure the right candidates comes across your CoS role by using VC-related job boards. Post your role on Startup&VC - to access a community of 25k+ people interested in the world of startups and venture capital.
  • Fund Website. Consider publishing the job opening on your fund's website or crafting a brief blog post to notify individuals in your network. This approach will help to share the role with candidates who are already interested in your fund.
  • Check this out → First Round Capital, We’re Looking for a Chief of Staff
  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides an excellent opportunity to spread the word about your new role. Posting about the new position and adding it to your page is a great way to alert your network.
  • Communities. It would be wise to consider recruiting from smaller communities to ensure a good working relationship with the individual. You could explore options such as Slack groups or group chats to directly communicate with candidates and assess their suitability.

Importance of Company Culture

Venture capital firms play a vital role in shaping the world by supporting new businesses. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize culture in the evaluation process. A Chief of Staff can play a crucial role in fostering a strong company culture within a VC fund, emphasizing the significance of both the fund's culture and the culture of the invested companies.

Company culture encompasses shared values and standards that influence day-to-day operations and ultimately reflect the brand of a company. Bretton Putter, an expert in organizational culture development, describes the importance of company culture:

Company culture is often misunderstood, and its significance is often overlooked. When people finally realize its importance, they are amazed they didn't prioritize it earlier. I firmly believe that culture is not only a genuine competitive advantage and a company's greatest asset, but also a critical business function on par with sales, marketing, and finance.

As a result, a Chief of Staff can play a pivotal role in nurturing and aligning the culture within a VC fund, ensuring its success and resonating with the companies it invests in.

Additional Readings

Interested in learning more about the CoS role and company culture? Check out these additional readings!