Published March 8, 2022 at 10:46 amUpdated April 5, 2022, 4:52 pm
In the Parisian premises of Evaneos, a travel start-up, four are seated around the table. On the agenda: crisis management. For ten days these budding “cabinet heads” undergo training, the first of its kind, to learn how this still little-known profession works. “You will be the first people to know about the whole crisis, you will be the best at arranging information. You’ll have to go fast “warns Grégoire Kopp, former chief of staff of Octave Klaba (OVH), who introduces the training he co-founded with the organization Seven.
Students navigate from start-up to start-up, those hosting the training, and meet the various heads of staff, with theoretical courses and practical cases on how to interact with employees, manage conflicts, become negotiation experts, lead the project management, etc. That day, we simulated a cyber attack with a gradual increase. It is up to the Chief of Staff, a true Swiss Army knife who is the eyes and ears of the CEO, to manage the crisis in coordination with the various internal teams.
Present at this edition are entrepreneurs, job seekers or heads of cabinet who will soon come into operation, such as Romane Abbou, at HDB Solutions. In the marketing department for three and a half years, at the age of 29 she became the first of her kind in her company.
Recent boom in the profession in France
In good French, this job title could be translated by the equally obscure “right hand man of the CEO” or the very institutional “chief of staff”. Very popular in the United States, the function is experiencing a recent boom in France, especially within tech companies. “Of the 40 companies in the Next 40, 28 have a cabinet chief. There are currently 122 job vacancies in France. I am regularly in contact with headhunters who are looking for them “testifies Grégoire Kopp “Required every two or three days” from CEOs who want advice on hiring their chief of staff. A request linked to an ecosystem that is being structured and to investment funds that increasingly advise founders to hire a right arm, he assures us.
In concrete terms, the chief of staff is a kind of orchestra man or woman on functional matters. Depending on the position, he coordinates the preparation of the management committees (board), executive committee and management committee, sorts the matters to be sent to the CEO, takes care of internal and external communication, has a duty of representativeness of his manager, and creates links with other managers in the company.
“It’s the best MBA possible”
“If his job hurts, it can be seen as a hindrance when part of his role is to create new processes and make exchanges more fluid. Done well, he is a precious facilitator “, explains Hedi Mestiri, who occupies this position in Seven, the training company. And underline the importance of “soft skills”, in particular relational and networking.
Depending on the needs of the company, this profile, often of the Grandes Ecoles, can be mobilized for a particular function: recruitment, fundraising, communication, strategy / growth. “It helps the CEO connect his vision with execution and allows him to preserve his time. The bosses are overworked, even if they do not need to intervene on at least one third of the subjects “sums up Xavier Monty, chief of staff of Cegid, a company of 3,600 employees, who has acquired Talentsoft, a scale-up of the technology in which he already exercised this function.
Coordinates the preparation of board meetings with shareholders, as well as with the management committee. He is also responsible for the CEO’s internal and external communication aspects, from public relations to lobbying. A transversal function closer to management. “It’s the best MBA possible”smiles Xavier Monty.
The reliable person
“Indeed, it is a position in which one is at the center of strategic issues for the company, with great visibility, many opportunities, autonomy, flexibility and a great duty of confidentiality. You are also your manager’s trusted person “, Smahane El Arouni, chief of staff with Floor Bleeker, Accor’s chief technology officer (CTO) abounds. After working in the consulting world and graduating from HEC, the 27-year-old has been in the role for a year.
“Right now I am preparing a presentation for my CTO for the CFO. Two weeks ago, I organized a virtual reality session in the metaverse with other colleagues for the management committee. I also organize internal committees in the various departments managed by my manager, I choose the most relevant subjects. Finally, strategic initiatives can be proposed and launched “lists the young woman, who was not expecting a job “so rich” at the time of taking office.
From 40,000 to 250,000 euros gross per year
This work differs greatly depending on the companies and their size. It is not uncommon to see “CEO’s right hand” internship offers in small facilities. “Often, these ads try to attract clicks or candidates, but they are overused.”, Xavier Monty believes. According to him, a certain maturity is needed to exercise this position, and often, to be already in the company.
As proof if it were necessary that the profession is still poorly defined, the average salary is indefinable. It is also difficult to evoke a range, which oscillates between 40,000 and 250,000 euros gross per year.
Giving some structure to the profession is the ambition of the training launched by Grégoire Kopp. “The idea of this program is to recognize this position in France and to delimit its field of action”, adds the one who held the position for two years. Furthermore, few chiefs of staff remain for more than five years. Their position is rather a springboard to evolve within other business units of the company, integrate Comex or even start a start-up.
For ten days of training, the introductory price is 2,500 euros. Then it will be 3,900 euros. The founders hope to train between 70 and 120 people per year and eventually offer hybrid, part-time or full-time formats.