Interim Management Helps Businesses Plan for Brexit Uncertainty

The UK — and everyone else – are anxiously awaiting March 29 when Article 50 will either be extended or revoked. If neither occurs, the UK must leave, deal or no deal. Only a few weeks away, one thing is certain. Everything will change. Brexit could turn UK trade on its head.

Brexit is forcing organizations to cope with immense uncertainty. How does a business strategically plan with an unknown number of unknowns? The anxiety of Brexit has halted UK companies’ transformative efforts in their tracks.  Many experts are hypothesizing just what consequences will result, from ports unable to process inbound or outbound shipments, to decreased operational inefficiencies, to economic stagnation.

“Scenario planning in today’s 24-hour information culture and the dynamic global nature of business means that CEOs are being pressured by investors, the business media as well as the increasingly influential special public bodies, to explain their strategic direction and the benefits this will bring to customers as well as shareholders. This was challenging before Brexit but is now more so and a lot of CEOs are struggling with this,” explains Gaby Weidlich, a UK-based interim CEO.

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Flying through the Twittersphere and elsewhere was a scathing letter from an American executive in the tire industry to French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg. French daily Les Echos got hold of a copy and published it in all its glory. In sum, he calls the French lazy.

In the letter, dated Feb. 8, Titan International TWI Chairman Maurice Taylor tells the French minister exactly why his company walked away from buying a plant that Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. GT is shuttering in northern France. The French government had apparently contacted Titan in a bid to get Taylor to reconsider.

Here’s one translation, compliments of Bloomberg, of Taylor’s communique to that French minister:

“I have visited the factory several times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told the French union workers this to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!”

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Numbers are a friend of the interim, not only for analyzing a company’s health, but also for assessing the state of the field itself.

The trick is capturing figures from a nebulous population that defies traditional employment counting or data-collecting.

The UK’s Institute for Interim Management annual survey offers one look. It captured data from roughly 2,000 interim managers and executives doing business in the UK this year. The study provides hard data regarding interim engagements in a country that has a strong tradition of engaging interims in both the private and public sectors.

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The U.K. government currently is collecting feedback on a proposed initiative, The Taxation of Controlling Persons, that interim executives say would harm their businesses.

In the name of seeking a simpler and more transparent tax system, the draft legislation seeks to require that individuals who direct the activities of an organisation at the senior level must be taxed as employees.

“This is being done with the best of intentions—that of dealing with the fat cats and tax cheats exposed in the media in recent months, but the rudimentary regulations and tax treatments are catching and threatening the livelihood of professional interim managers and executives….” The UK-based Institute of interim Management stated in its 2012 market survey, released this September.

The threat to interim executives is that the new tax doesn’t take into account their role as in-and-out agents of change.

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While Europe’s economic woes have factored into the fee structures and engagement levels of interim executives in recent years, Europe-based interims are concerned about another force putting pressuring on fees: headhunting firms.

Interims from Europe say the market is awash in placement firms looking to match European interim executives with the companies that need them. Of course, there are reputable placement firms that specialize in placing interim executives, but those firms aren’t the problem.

Fakers and Posers Flood the European Interim Market, Fee Pressure Up

European interims are concerned that many of today’s middlemen promise interim executive placement services, but are muddying the definition of interim and harming a specialty that lives by its promise of top-flight decision-making backed by experienced strategy execution under a fixed timeframe.

For the high rungs of interim executives, that watering down is resulting in lower fee structures.

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