Decoding Executive Titles: The Difference Between Interim, Project, Part-Time & Fractional Executives

Decoding Executive Titles: The Difference Between Interim, Project, Part-Time & Fractional Executives

Interim, acting, project, contract, fractional, part-time. The array of executive titles can make your head spin. But they all point to a specialized type of executive that companies call on when they are going through transformation.

What is an interim executive and how does that differ from a part-time executive, a project executive, or fractional executive?

Let’s break it down.

What is an Interim Executive?

Interim executives are highly-skilled, experienced C-level executives who typically contract to work for a company for a defined period, versus full-time executives who are hired by the company. The defined period can be as little as one month or last as long as two years.

There are highly qualified interim CEOs, interim CFOs, interim COOs, interim CIOs, interim CMOs and CSOs ready to step into a position.

Why would a company choose an interim executive over a full-time executive?

There are many possible reasons, but in all cases, the company needs some kind of change or upgrade.

For example, the organization may have a leadership gap. Maybe the organization is on the wrong track and losing market share. It needs an executive to create an operational roadmap and then execute and implement to ramp up growth.

Maybe it’s a technology or security issue or there’s a need for an effective leader to reposition the company, update the brand, and build out a best-practices sales team to bring it into the new digital era.

In all cases, executives across the C-suite can be drawn on for these types of assignments. There are interim CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIOs, CMOs, and CSOs.

Acting vs. Interim Executive

Acting and interim can be used interchangeably to describe an executive who is stepping into a role for a short time while the company searches for a full-time executive to hire.

In some cases, however, “acting” refers to an employee who gets a promotion on a temporary basis to fill in for an executive on short-term leave. If that executive does not return, the acting executive could be promoted to the position.

Conversely, an interim is always interim. There is no scenario in which the interim would become a full-time employee. Rather, the interim is there until a new executive is hired.

What is a Fractional Executive?

A fractional executive is a skilled leader who contracts to work part-time over a long period.

Fractional executives may work in C-level roles with two or three different companies at the same time. These executives typically are brought in when the company does not need the full-time capacity of an executive.

This title is especially popular in C-level roles such as CFO, CIO, and CMO.

In many cases, investors such as venture funds will insist that an early-stage company that still isn’t booking significant revenue retain a fractional CFO. Even if it’s only for a few hours a month, the fractional CFO can have a huge impact on strategy. And the fractional executive can oversee the work of a controller, bookkeeper, or other financial staff engaged in day-to-day accounting and financial tasks.

Why would a company choose a fractional executive over a full-time executive?

Contracting with a fractional executive allows companies to get serious firepower for a fraction of the cost.

The popularity of fractional executives is increasing as early-stage companies realize hiring a fractional executive allows them to afford an experienced, outstanding executive without having to pay for a full-time executive, or pay benefits or other costs associated with full-time permanent hires.

Here, InterimExecs CEO Robert Jordan takes a look at the 5 times when it makes the most sense for a company to contract with a fractional executive:

Part-Time vs. Fractional Executive

Part-time executive is another label for fractional executives.

Executives who prefer part-time or fractional work typically have multiple clients at once. In all cases, they are serving in C-level roles with decision-making authority. This is not the same as consulting!

What is a Project Executive?

In many cases, interims (which still is the catch-all phrase for the specialty), will go into a company on a project basis. They are there for a very specific reason with very clear deliverables and, therefore, an end date.

Some examples when a part-time executive is the right answer:

  • A company opens a new division overseas and brings on a project-based interim COO to set up a manufacturing facility and hire the staff.
  • An organization going through a merger brings on an interim executive on a project basis to help with merger integration.
  • An interim CIO is hired to complete an ERP implementation, an outsourcing effort, or another technology upgrade.

Job title doesn’t always matter with a project executive. In many cases, they work alongside an owner or the permanent executive team to accomplish a project or goal. Often that means the executive is stepping into a new role versus filling an open job in the company. This usually comes into play during one-time events. A full-time executive replacement may not even be needed once the project executive exits the company.

These assignments have very clear deliverables and therefore an end date.

Which Type of Interim Does Your Company Need?

Reach out to us and let us help you decide whether an interim, fractional, or project-based executive is the solution your organization needs.