“For private equity funds, the clock starts ticking the second you sign, the second you own your new portfolio company. So the Holy Grail is: how do you add superior value?” That’s how InterimExecs CEO Robert Jordan helped kick-off a recent panel about adding value to portfolio companies. Sponsored by InterimExecs and hosted by Private Equity Career News publisher David Toll and John McNulty’s Private Equity Professional, panel experts shared best practices for value creation.
On the panel were Jordan, Micah Dawson, vice president of Portfolio Support at Trivest Partners; Pericles Mazarakis, managing partner of TriSpan; and Mike Zawalski, an InterimExecs RED Team member who serves in executive chairman roles with PE backed portfolio companies. Here, we round up the top insights from the panelists, everything from the importance of monthly operation reports to establishing trust with the business owner and investing in human capital.
Having a qualified and competent executive management team is integral to the success of any organization. Problems arise, however, when an executive suddenly vacates a position or there is a mismatch between the internal capabilities of a leadership team and the actual skillsets needed for a specific stage of a company’s growth.
Red flags may start to arise in an organization whether it be a lack of a clear vision, high team turnover, stagnant sales, missing innovation, or breakdowns in communication. The knee-jerk reaction of many companies is to look at a leadership change via a full-time executive search, which can take 6-9 months and include long-term contracts with added costs of perks like severance and benefits.
The world of interim management, a specialty that has grown significantly through the years, has offered an alternative route for companies wanting to maintain forward motion while re-evaluating what is needed to take them into the future. As opposed to a full-time executive search, interims can be on board in a matter of days and come with flexible contracts and pricing models.
Executives who specialize in interim management have track records building, fixing, stabilizing, and growing companies around the globe. In an executive-as-a-service model, companies can bring in an executive to temporarily fill a specific role – CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, etc. – or to serve alongside the current management team to execute on a big initiative where clear vision, leadership, and even mentorship is needed.
The only certainty in business is change. But change is accelerating, less predictable, and increasingly, beyond the control of organizations. As technology and unforeseen events continue to drive exponential change, businesses that can’t keep up risk being left behind.
Companies struggling to generate growth and stay relevant amid rapid transformation often look to new leadership. A growing number of companies are also looking to a different kind of leader—one who specializes in change and embraces the challenge of helping companies solve their biggest issues. Enter the interim executive, a new breed of on-demand leadership that brings outside perspective, cutting-edge thinking, veteran experience, and a laser focus on results.
Uncertainty is growing in the US with coronavirus cases
mounting. California, Illinois, Michigan, and other states have taken serious
actions with shelter-in-place orders, leaving many people wondering how this
will impact them personally as well as their companies and the economy as a
At the same time, we’re reflecting on how much there is to
be grateful for, including the strong relationships we’ve built over 10+ years
with inspiring leaders. These are women and men who focus their careers on running
into the burning building – the company in trouble – learning fast,
listening, assembling resources, providing fresh and objective insights,
developing new plans and actions for survival and ultimately blueprints for a
We recently convened a call with some RED Team execs who shared how they are adapting to new ways to work. Many executives shared experiences on the front lines figuring out how to help combat the virus and also help people work smarter and safer:
Friends, we are kicking off 2020 energized by all the big wins to come after completing an excellent 2019 adventure. Ok, ok, 2019 is seeming a bit passé now that we’re in a brand new shiny decade (still letting that set in), but before we get into upcoming plans, will still need a quick recap and note of appreciation for your hard work and support.
First, a big thanks to our team of elite executives we call RED Team Ready, who performed in amazing engagements throughout 2019 in the US and Europe. We are nothing without your trust, your encouragement, and your daily support. Truly.
With a go-to team of brilliant leaders eager to jump in at a moment’s notice, we have an unmatched capability that makes up the essence of RED, Rapid Executive Deployment. While you hail from around the world and your skills and abilities are each unique, we can sum up your excellence with a common and shared passion and unstoppable energy to give your best in everything you do. We know you love the people and organizations you lead, and cannot say thank you enough for teaming up with us.
At the beginning of my career, I was involved in a lot of startups. I was starting with nothing – zero, zilch — so I’ve always had a lot of respect for entrepreneurs because you start from an idea and not much else. To be honest, in the beginning, I somewhat discounted my friends who were inheriting family businesses. When they’ve been at it for generations, I thought ‘well, how hard can this be?’
Thing is, the older I get, the more I’ve gotten to know various family offices and family run businesses and now, I’ve come to realize that running a family business is harder. Much harder. It’s a legacy that in some ways can be so overwhelming to continue to build, and not screw up, whereas with startups you have the luxury of low or no expectations.
Compare that with the legacy/obligation/burden handed to the second, third, or fourth generation, and there can be incredible pressure on the business and family to do well. And it’s even harder now, when no business – no sector – is immune to the kind of disruption, to the kind of disintermediation that technology has introduced into every industry and market. Nothing can be taken for granted, regardless of longevity.
“CFOs are retiring at the fastest pace in at least a decade,” reports a Wall Street Journal article citing that the increasing complexity of the role and for public CFOs, the lure to cash out shares in a hot stock market, make it even more attractive to make the change. An analysis of 12 years of regulatory filings by Audit Analytics for The Wall Street Journal showed that “one in six executives who left the CFO position at a U.S. public company in 2018 did so to retire, the highest share since at least 2007.”
In addition to many baby boomers simply being of retirement age, CFOs are facing new demands professionally. Historically, a CFO’s workload was focused on compliance, best accounting practices, and financial reporting. As the financial world grapples to evolve at an accelerated rate with the onslaught of digital transformation, so does a CFO’s job description. Today CFOs are faced with even more complex responsibilities that include making strategic decisions about investments, understanding and leveraging technology to streamline accounting practices, and developing financial disaster recovery plans to deter risk and cybercrime.
As an executive who has spent his career growing companies, taking companies public, and successfully selling businesses, Charlie Shalvoy says the first thing he does when he parachutes into a company is begin with an assessment. Whether the company is venture-capital backed or private, or in manufacturing, energy, semiconductors, or industrial equipment, figuring out the current state of operations is always the first step. Charlie divides the stages an interim executive goes through in taking action in a new company into four phases:
Phase 1: Taking Hold (90 Days)
When a company seeks to expand into new markets or scale operations to support current and future growth, Charlie takes on a role ranging from Interim CEO to Executive Chairman, where he coaches and serves alongside the CEO and management team. He describes that in the taking hold phase, an interim executive identifies what’s broken – even fast growing companies need repairs. What is getting in the way? What is causing distress?
It is likely that every organization will reach a crossroads where they must decide to grow, transform, or stagnate. No business opts to stand idle but by default, many do. In fact, when it comes to achieving sustainable growth, only 20% of organizations find success. How do organizations find themselves in a standstill? Usually, leadership has their hands tied — whether they are at a loss as to which direction the organization should go, are bound by layers of bureaucracy, or do not have the capacity to drive much-needed organizational change.
“How many businesses find their data to be a complete mess?” Christie Kelly, former CFO of JLL Real Estate questioned as she and a panel of high-profile CFOs discussed the changing landscape for financial leaders at an event held by the National Association of Corporate Directors.
In today’s world every business now seems to be in the game of being a technology business. That means that a new importance is placed on data, especially for CFOs.
“How do we transition to turn it (data) into insights, and how does that change finance to have more technology, process, and Six Sigma?” Kelly said.
The role of the CFO has evolved, due to the accelerated pace of the digital age. How? A strategic CFO drives transformational change. A CFO must not only understand a business from start to finish to provide financial excellence, but also must predict what is coming from a strategic standpoint and be ready to evolve.