What Is an Interim Executive & Is It the Right Answer for Your Company?

What Is an Interim Executive & Is It the Right Answer for Your Company?

What is an interim executive? It’s a highly knowledgeable and deeply experienced C-suite executive ready to step into a company in need of superior leadership.

As veterans of the interim business, we know that pairing the right interim executive with the right company is a delicate balance. After all, private equity funds or venture capital funds get one use of their dollar. Just one. Fund managers have a sacred charge of evaluating opportunities and investing the funds they’ve been entrusted with by their limited partners in hopes of maximum returns.

Likewise, we get one chance to make a great match. We must identify the interim executive with the right skills and experience and catch that executive during the brief period of time they are in between assignments assessing the next opportunity they want to take on.

So how do we best deploy genius leadership when we only get one chance every day to maximize everyone’s time, unique skillset, and results? We start by being selective about our clients.

There are simply no shortcuts here. Our process for getting to know executives spans months and years. We want to make sure we are aligned on our core values of integrity, action, communication, and accountability. And we want to ensure we have confidence that the people we work with will produce impeccable, great results, for our clients – without fail.

To have great impact, we are extremely selective about the executives we work with; we must expect the same set of core values from the companies that approach us with talent needs.

We use three tests to assess client accountability and fit.

Test #1: Does Your Company Operate With Integrity?

At one point, we were approached by a public company with listed shares that faced delisting. As the board member explained, they had been in R&D mode for several years and had yet to launch or commercialize. They believed an executive would get them back on track to profitability.

On the surface it appeared to be a good fit for an interim – an engineering team reached a ceiling in growth and needed some outside business expertise and leadership to take them to the next level. Upon digging a little deeper it seemed like we had not been told the whole story. It turned out that millions of dollars had been squandered or simply put into the founder’s pockets; conflicts of interest were multiple; lawsuits and unpaid vendors threatened to shut the company down. But the board member mentioned none of this.

We rejected the client, not because of the problems – great interims tackle and solve problems all day long – but because the client had zero integrity and was not upfront with us about the status of the company.

Test #2: Is Your Company Ready for Change?

Let’s face it: No one calls us because everything’s under control. The value of high-powered leadership is in quickly fixing, improving, building, and transforming – not in maintaining the status quo. A young company founder reported in after the first couple weeks working with one of our interim execs, saying “He’s great – and I can’t keep up with him!” We insist on a bias for action in the interim execs we work with. But if the company is not willing to take action and overcome barriers to change, then it could be a waste of everyone’s time.

When you go to the doctor, it’s likely you will walk away with a prescription or an order to eat healthier or exercise more. But if you aren’t committed to following that action plan then you won’t see results. So when we talk to a company, we always check to see if they are committed to improvement.

Interims don’t just give advice – they execute and implement a plan, but they must be given the power to make decisions, motivate those around them and make moves that will bring you the results that you seek.

Test #3: Is There Opportunity for Great Impact?

We deploy great leadership so that companies, communities, and the world will be made better by our efforts. Is the client presenting us with a transformational moment – an opportunity where leadership will have major impact within the organization? If not, we pass. If a company is just looking for someone to stay quiet and make no moves toward improvement, keeping the seat warm until the next body gets plugged in, it’s probably not a good fit. We have no interest in squandering great talent.

If the need is real and the executive’s results could make a better, stronger organization, helping fulfill a mission that makes for a better world – sign us up.