Let me tell you a story about how I made the decision 15 years ago to become an interim CEO, solely based on a chance conversation with someone I didn’t know very well — an acquaintance named Philip Monego.

Philip and I occasionally ran into each other at conferences for online companies. On one particular occasion, I saw Philip approaching and holding out a new business card. I tried to make a wiseass joke, asking: “Can’t you hold down a job?”

Maybe not the best line, but he smiled and said, “Bob, you don’t understand VC here in Silicon Valley. They won’t just give a rookie engineer a check for $5 million.” He went on to explain that back in 1987 based on the advice of one of the investors in his first startup, he formed Technology Perspectives Partners, LLC (TPP), an interim management consulting practice. He had developed a team of professionals who could parachute into a new company to help the founders, alongside the VC fund’s check.

Then he handed me his new business card. It read:

Philip Monego
Interim CEO
Yahoo

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PRESS RELEASE (view original)

15-November-2012 –Interim executives wage a covert war against corporate inefficiency and underperformance. Today’s launch of the Association of Interim Executives (interimexecs.com) marks a new day for interim executives and the companies that need them.

Go ahead and think of an interim executive as the James Bond of the executive suite: a nimble operator who brings the precise tools to get the job done. Now, an association has his back.
The association’s select membership includes champion business leaders who’ve already been doing the behind-the-scenes engagements, empowering them with new alliances to help increase their businesses, while promoting their specialty to companies that could benefit, from start-ups to distressed turnarounds.

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Experienced management is one of the most important factors behind the success of any business. Many managers have ample enthusiasm and energy, but often lack the knowledge and experience needed to sidestep easily avoided mistakes. As a result, far too many companies get into trouble and can die before ever reaching their potential market value.

If you have an extraordinary innovation, opportunity, or even a unique situation an interim executive can help launch, grow, or turnaround your venture by temporarily filling one or more key management roles in your company. Whether they serve as your interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Selling Officer (CSO), Chief Manufacturing Officer (CMO), Chief Whichever Officer (CXO), General Counsel, or in some other senior executive role, they can stand by your side as an experienced executive with a vested interest in your long-term success.

Interim C-level executives are experienced managers who have launched and grown successful ventures. As your partner, they roll up their sleeves and work towards laying the groundwork for a successful venture. They work hard, because they succeed only if you succeed.

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Interim executives, like the temporary workforce, take assignments for limited terms and can help decrease a company’s expenses. But that’s pretty much where the comparison ends.

The specialty isn’t about filling slots temporarily — although interims can and do step in when a member of the executive suite steps down unexpectedly — but about bringing in highly experienced experts who come equipped to solve whatever challenging situation a company is experiencing.

In fact, think of it as exactly the opposite of seat-filling. It’s all about bringing dramatic results by expert hands under a tight deadline. Often, the situation is critical, like in the following example.

Motorola Mobility, the cellphone maker purchased by Google last May, recently announced a turnaround effort is underway. Interestingly, inside the company’s innovation wing, the demanding principles that guide the interim executive world are being put to use.

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Interim executives are hired for the experience and judgment they bring to the table. In the topsy-turvy world of a turnaround or start-up, unique and perplexing scenarios inevitably arise. And interims, by definition, will likely face a wider variety of challenges over the course of time than their stay-put senior executive counterparts.

But, as the saying goes, it can be lonely at the top whether you’re a solo practitioner or even in a partnership.

Ernie Beal knows the pressure of being an interim CEO. With many states having vended out inmate health services to private enterprises, Ernie is running a new project for Corizon Health, a firm that operates clinics and hospital beds for inmates. One of Beal’s big challenges with this project is the need for tight security.

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According to ManpowerGroup’s 2011 labor-shortage study, 52% of U.S employers surveyed said that a shortage of talent was keeping them from hiring more robustly.

“We know employers are struggling to fill open positions that require specialized and technical skills,” according to the staffing group’s survey. Management/executive positions made it into the study’s top-ten list of the hardest jobs for U.S. employers to fill.

Maybe those companies aren’t looking in the right places.

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In business, everybody wants to be the cheetah: nimble, quick, flexible, and able to respond rapidly to twists and turns in the business cycle.

But even cheetahs band together when necessary, finding value in shared resources. The following story illustrates how well that can work.

Nick Clementi’s interim firm was created as a partnership of six executives who’d just gone through transactions as part of PE-owned ventures. They’d created liquidity events, he said, and found themselves sitting with cash but finished with their previous engagements.

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What is an interim? Though the specialty of highly talented interim executives is quickly growing, many companies remain unaware of this critical resource. And despite Europe’s head-start in using interim executive labor, lack of clarity exists on both sides of the Atlantic as well as the rest of the globe.

Interim executives and consultants share traits. But consulting tends to be built around producing analysis and delivering a thought product. The definition of interim is different. An interim remains to get the grease on his or her hands as a company implements change. While analysis is a fundamental tool in the executive interim’s toolbox, the ability to implement and execute defines the interim. They can be essential during critical periods of a company’s life, including the stages of start-up, turnaround, or internal change.

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A tendency among interim executives is to go single-shingle: the practice revolves around you alone. That strategy is often misguided. Don’t miss out on the advantages of a partnership.

Interim CEOs in particular must realize that just because you have a good strategy doesn’t mean you can execute it, according to Shankar Ramamurthy, an experienced interim who specializes in the technology industry. He has served as chairman at outside firms as well as his own start-ups.

Ramamurthy said having experienced interims within grasp eliminates the risk that he, as CEO, would have to rush to identify an unknown to join him in a particular engagement. “You want to bring in people you’ve worked with before and who are capable of developing” your strategy, he said.

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Some interim executives enter their engagements amid the glare of the spotlight. Like the Mick Jaggers of the world, they are in high demand, and unlikely to receive an anonymous entry onstage or exit offstage.

High profile interim gigs not only offer inspiration, they showcase the benefits of bringing in an interim executive.

Britain’s Ron Sandler has rock star status. Born in Zimbabwe and a citizen of Germany, Sandler represents the ability of interims to seamlessly enter where they’re needed. Sandler was called in by the U.K. government to help save Northern Rock bank during the early days of the 2009-2010 global recession.

An Echo of the Great Depression

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