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.
CEO resignations for the first nine months of 2023 hit 1,425, the highest number since search firm Challenger Gray and Christmas began tracking the data in 2002. That figure is up a whopping 47% from the 969 CEOs who left their jobs in the first nine months of 2022.
That means companies across the US are scrambling to fill a leadership void. 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 look at the most important steps a company should take when there is a vacancy at the top of the leadership team.
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.
Smart fast-growing companies have started looking to 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.
Fractional executives bring the fresh perspective of experienced C-level executives quickly and affordably. With a focus on getting results, companies find that renting the rock star exec outweighs getting 100 percent of the time of a lesser light.
When it’s time for a private company to go public, or the board of directors determines that fundraising is needed on a large scale, an IPO is not the only option. There’s also a less well-known and, until recently, less-well-respected option: a reverse merger into a public shell. It is often called an Alternative Public Offering (APO).
This reverse takeover process, which can be faster and cheaper than a traditional Initial Public Offering, is growing in popularity.
Scott Jordan (no relation to InterimExecs’ CEO Robert Jordan), an investment banker and CFO who spent 30+ years working in biotech, engineered a reverse merger of a biopharma company in 2019. He says that while the coronavirus caused capital flow interruptions, investors in the private markets are still providing capital to companies with novel or scientifically validated biotechnology companies.
That means reverse mergers and PIPEs (Private Investment in a Public Entity) can still raise the money needed to complete their deals. He estimates that about 20 biotech firms debuted in the public markets last year as a result of reverse mergers and the number is on track to repeat in 2020, despite the virus.
How do you know whether an interim executive will be the right fit for your company’s needs? Ultimately, that’s an individual decision that depends on your company. But generally, when we get a call from an executive, head of human resources, small business owner, or private equity investor, it’s because the organization is in motion. Leadership to drive growth, change, or turnaround is needed. And it’s needed fast.
I once took one of those business simulation courses. In it, we were given a computer terminal, an inbox, and a walkie-talkie. Our simulated company, Acme Widget, was said to be in trouble, and the point of the exercise was to evaluate our crisis management skills. There was a team of psychologists who were looking for leadership and other soft skills that might help us do well during a pressure-filled day.
The fellow who had been chosen as simulated CEO of our team was an up-and-coming executive in a Fortune 100 company. He was clearly acting as CEO in the exercise because his company had indicated he had so much potential.
The psychologists asked the “CEO” to give his motivational speech as the simulation began.
The CEO said, “Our job is to grow revenue faster than expense. Now get to work!”
That was it.
Would it surprise you to hear that Acme Widgets did not survive the simulated crisis? The emails flew, the disasters proliferated, and the team fell apart. I thought then, and I still believe, that the CEO’s speech could have made a big difference in how our team performed.
So you’ve made the decision that a change needs to happen at the CEO level, and heaven knows it’s painful! You rely on the CEO as quarterback of the team. It feels like the chief executive is indispensable. But you signed up for service on the board of directors. You know that while corporate governance is a general and varied responsibility, the shareholders trust the board to choose the right CEO. It is, perhaps, the board’s most important decision.
Of course, you’ll go through a permanent search that will be thorough, even if internally focused.
But what happens if you need to fire the CEO and find a new leader right now? Having a CEO exit with no CEO succession plan in place can create a leadership vacuum. The resulting instability within the organization can cause major issues and harm company performance.
The need for a new Chief Executive Officer, the right Chief Executive Officer, is urgent.
After a CEO dismissal, the first thought for many public companies is to look around the boardroom table to see who’s brave enough to be named interim CEO for Sarbanes Oxley compliance.
But, where’s the guts in just appointing a placeholder to keep the seat warm?
The modern world now presents you with a far more robust choice: a true interim CEO. A veteran executive who’s been there, done that. Who is expert at jumping into companies going through points of change. And who is accountable for action and results.
When considering whether to bring on a placeholder versus a true interim CEO until you can hire and onboard a new permanent CEO, here are the questions to ask at your next board meeting.
Millennials and Gen Z employees might get all the press for their “Great Resignation” but they aren’t the only ones who are leaving their jobs in droves. CEOs are too. The Great CEO Turnover, which peaked in 2021 and early 2022, has leveled off a bit. But it certainly doesn’t mean that your CEO is planning to stick around for the long haul.
Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas compiles a monthly report on the CEO turnover rate. The July 2022 report shows that CEO changes at U.S. companies fell to 58 in July, down 45% from the 106 CEO exits recorded in June. It was the lowest monthly total since the early pandemic departures of April 2020.
However, departing CEOs are hardly a thing of the past.
When Deloitte and independent research firm Workplace Intelligence surveyed 2,100 employees and C-level executives in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, they found that an eye-popping 70% of top management are seriously considering quitting for a job that better supports their well-being. And 81% of the top execs say that improving their well-being is more important than advancing their career.
For years, companies have used SaaS – Software-as-a-Service – to solve their technology problems. No more buying expensive software. No more hiring experienced managers to oversee its installation. No more worrying about updates. It’s all handled by the pros and the service lives in the cloud, ready for your people to access the minute the need arises.
Now, companies are discovering that EaaS – Executives-as-a-Service – can just as easily solve their c-level executive challenges.
What is Executive-as-a-Service?
Like SaaS, which is subscription-based on-demand access to digitals tools, EaaS is on-demand access to executive leadership, whether you need the skills of a chief financial officer, chief marketing officer, chief operating officer, chief technology officer, or any other type of “chief.”
EaaS allows you to pay only for the c-level expertise you need and only for as long as you need it. No pricey executive search fees. No hiring bonuses No long-term contracts. No human resources expenses. As a cost-effective alternative to onboarding any type of full-time chief executive, the EaaS model means that even small businesses can afford experienced, effective leadership.
Executive-as-a-Service leaders are interim or fractionalexecutives with a wealth of experience managing companies through big challenges such as rapid growth or decline, mergers or acquisitions, new market demands, and dried up funding.
When teams struggle, it affects their productivity and the company’s bottom line. As part of a research team that evaluated the effects of another “Black Swan” event, Hurricane Katrina, I can draw direct inferences from those effects to the impact of COVID-19 and the time that it will take teams to recover.
We know how important this issue is because we hear the refrain from business owners and executives every day: You’re exhausted. Your teams are exhausted. And you worry that there’s far more under the surface, things your teams are experiencing that they’re just not talking about.
Chances are, you’re right.
Do you know whether your team might be experiencing these effects?
First-year Change Agent members have access to the Interim Institute’s 4 hour audio program on the Fundamentals of Interim Management, and a one-hour strategy session to help jumpstart their interim career.
*$200 additional charge for Accelerator Program only applies for first-year members. After the first year, membership renews at $485/year.
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