Collecting Senior Executive Brainpower: When Interims Collaborate

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.

Here’s the scope of the project: close an existing facility, move it 45 miles across Arkansas, take possession of a new 280-bed hospital facility and staff it. “When you’re talking about a specialized facility like this there are complex layers of security issues,” he said.

Although Beal has worked as part of an interim team in the past, this time he’s called himself a “team of one.”

Beal said having a forum to speak with other interim executives who’ve faced similar challenges would be priceless. Although Beal has a wealth of experience in managing this type of project, interim executives in general don’t have the luxury of admitting that certain aspects of a project might be intimidating, and can’t look to answers from the staff or firm that hired them, he said.

Liz Harvey, an interim from Phoenix, agrees. As an interim, your neck is on the line for immediate results. You’ve got to make sense of the project quickly because you have a short amount of time to make it work, she said. Liz recently spent 6 months as president of an Arizona-based start-up direct sales company.

She said that having a network where seasoned professionals who’ve encountered similar situations have a forum to lend expertise, as well as having a place to brainstorm with other interims on more general topics, would be useful.

That ability to stay in the loop of the interim world is even more critical for interim executives who might move temporarily to the location of their latest engagement.

The expression “staying in the loop” has always had positive connotations, and can be a critical objective for the successful interim executive.

If everything you do is solo – how do you stay in the loop?