The Six Times PE Funds Use Interim Executives

Many private equity funds hear the words “interim executive” and think the only application is an Interim CEO or CFO for turnaround or short-term fill-in of a portfolio company. But PE funds seeking a great return look to interims for their unique abilities to build and transform companies.

An Interim CEO brought on to lead a recently acquired private equity portfolio company, for example, may match the hold period of the fund. That could mean several years of working to build, grow, and ultimately exit the company, hitting big returns for everyone involved.

Here are six major use cases for an Interim CEO, Interim CFO, or other interim executive in PE-backed portfolio companies:

1. Interim Executives in Diligence

Most funds hope to spread their wings and work beyond industries where they’ve already had success. In looking at new industries where acquisitions may cost less and produce higher returns, a little more diligence is often needed. The further afield a fund goes, the more they need expert leadership removed from prior operating teams.

We recently matched a $5B+ fund with an Interim CEO expert in e-commerce and consumer goods to help determine if a potential acquisition made sense. While the fund had deep experience in the manufacturing space, understanding the current challenges and opportunities to expand go-to-market strategy was essential. Once the deal closed, the executive transitioned into an ongoing advisor role to ensure the acquisition would be a success.

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FAQs: Is an Interim or Fractional CEO a Good Fit for My Company?

When we started matching companies in need with skilled interim executives 15 years ago, the main question people asked was: Why would an executive choose this career path? There’s absolutely no job stability. 

Fast forward 15 years. Now we’re in a gig economy. The idea that you can get specialized expertise for what you need right now is expected and common.

Despite that, questions remain. In this interactive webinar, InterimExecs CEO Robert Jordan and President Olivia Wagner go through the most frequently asked questions they hear from company owners, directors, investors, and managers. Or, if you prefer, scroll down for a written summary.

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When the CEO Quits: How to Prepare and Respond

A record 1,914 CEOs left their jobs in 2023, a whopping 55 percent increase from the previous year, according to a report conducted by Challenger, Gray, and Christmas. That figure far surpasses the previous record of 1,640 CEO exits in 2019. And the trend isn’t abating. In January 2024, another 194 CEOs said goodbye, up 73 percent from the number who left their posts in January 2023.

That means companies across the US are scrambling to fill a leadership void when a CEO leaves or unexpectedly resigns. And if the trend continues, it means that every company should be preparing for the sudden need to find a new chief executive.

Here, we outline the most important steps a company should take when the CEO quits.

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The Case for Hiring Part-Time or Fractional Executives

Every business owner dreams of gaining major traction in the marketplace. Fast-track growth, however, often comes at a cost. Things get taped together. There’s no process to speak of. Systems? Ha. Things go missing, including clients and team members. Lack of resources means that even the crown jewel – the company’s ability to out-innovate — may be put on hold just to keep up.

When a company grows faster than the capabilities of the leadership team, the company can hit the wall.

One of the hottest trends in business today is bringing part-time or fractional executives to provide C-suite leadership, mentorship, and the operational upgrades needed to help a company break through the ceiling to growth.

In this webinar, InterimExecs CEO Robert Jordan takes a deep dive into the question of when choosing a part-time or fractional executive is the best choice for a company:

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Succession Conflict in Family Business: Pain is Unavoidable. Suffering is Optional.

When it comes to family business succession, pain is unavoidable. Even in the happiest, most loving families, there will be moments of disagreement and dissension. It’s unavoidable. That’s because the goal of a family is a loving relationship. But in business, goals must always include results, even if hard-fought. 

So the acknowledgement implicit in family business is: there will be pain. But suffering is optional.

That is the key message InterimExecs CEO Robert Jordan sends in this lively 7-minute video about family business succession conflict:

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Family Business Succession Planning Checklist: 6 Important Questions to Ask

Nearly all (98%) US companies that responded to PwC’s 11th Global Family Business Survey say they have some form of governance policy in place. But, just what “governance policy” means varies widely. It could be anything from a shareholders agreement (75%) to conflict resolution mechanisms (22%).

In addition, the survey found that 78% of respondents say that protecting the business as the most important family asset is their top goal for the next five years and 72% want to ensure the business stays in the family. Despite that, in 2021, only 34% said they had a robust, documented, and communicated succession plan in place.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising that so many family-owned businesses lack a formal plan. Creating a succession plan requires having difficult discussions around emotionally fraught family dynamics:

  • Should your son or daughter be groomed to take over the helm, or should it be a non-family member?
  • Should you just sell and split the proceeds?
  • What if the company you founded and devoted your life to building goes in a different direction once you retire?

Despite widely quoted statistics that say that only 30 percent of family businesses successfully transition to the second generation and only 13 percent survive through the third generation, a Harvard Business Review report says that is not true.

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Business Exit Strategy Guide for Owners: Intro

When you were growing your business, filled with an overriding sense of potential, did you also start thinking about your exit plan?

Likely not. And with good reason. Entrepreneurs, business owners, and boards of directors are enthusiastic about their potential for success. They aren’t thinking about that moment when they are ready to retire. Or move on to a different business challenge. Or want to while away the days on a desert isle, sipping margaritas and reflecting upon their many successes.

But that day has come for you, which is why you’re in need of an exit strategy for your business.

We’re here to help.

Our six-part Business Exit Guide for Business Owners is the place to start your journey to the next chapter of your life and business.

Here’s what we will cover:

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Quality of Earnings Report: The Secret Weapon Buyers Won’t Tell Owners About

Are you planning to sell your company in the next year or two? 

If so, think about commissioning your own Quality of Earnings report — BEFORE you go to market. Why? Because your buyer will commission one. And it could mean you’ll be leaving money on the table.

A QOE is the business valuation standard prospective buyers use to determine a final purchase price for target companies. If you haven’t commissioned your own, you’ll by necessity be relying on the one your acquirer commissions.

As InterimExecs CEO Robert Jordan said in a recent webinar (scroll down to watch the 8-minute video), consider a middle market business owner who has signed a letter of intent agreeing to sell the company to a private equity fund for 10 times earnings. He believes EBITDA to be $10 million and expects to close for $100 million.

Then the acquirer commissions a QOE to ensure this is a solid investment decision. The report comes back with an adjusted EBITDA of $9.5 million. BAM! The closing price just dropped by $5 million.

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The 6 Biggest Business Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Interim executives, by definition, come into difficult situations, assess them quickly, and create a plan for success. That means they have a front-row seat to the most common business mistakes companies make in the areas of leadership, operations, human capital, strategy, business finances, and change initiatives.

Focusing on these fundamental business needs is a good starting point for any struggling business.

Case Study: AHIMA-HCPro Acquisition and the Crucial Role Played by a Team of Interim Executives

AHIMA, a nonprofit whose mission is to ensure that health information is accurate, complete, and available to patients and providers, had a big idea: To expand by buying a for-profit business.

The acquisition target, HCPro, was an industry leader in integrated information, education, training, and consulting products and services in healthcare compliance and revenue cycle management.

The combination, AHIMA CEO Amy Mosser believed, would broaden the reach of both organizations.

But, first came the challenge of the acquisition process – performing due diligence, planning for the integration, and setting a course for the future.

To do that, she needed help in three key areas: financial due diligence, workforce integration planning, and content licensing.

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