The Interim Executive: a New Shot of Corporate Adrenaline

The average term of a CEO has declined to about 6 years recently, illustrating the changing nature of the workplace.

Remember when your nattily-attired mother or father went to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week at the same office they’d been going to for 20 years?  Your kids won’t likely have the same memories.

The new world features increased efficiency, flexibility, collaboration and mobility – ideal circumstances for an interim executive to thrive.

“There is no doubt about it….The contract is changing between employers and employees,” said Neil Kane, an interim executive who’s founded several start-ups by transferring technology out of research labs and universities into new ventures. The interim position allows an executive to commit to an engagement without attaching a permanent tie and, in exchange for security, get multiple engagements to exercise his or her skills as well as the flexibility to pursue simultaneous pursuits, he said.

Of course, companies themselves benefit significantly, or this approach wouldn’t be happening. Companies today clearly are hesitant to loosen the purse strings or to bring on more overhead. Hiring an interim executive allows companies to bring in a driver for change who has a proven track record getting things done. And having people who can fill in the gaps during times of continued corporate readjustments to the changing economy is critical.

“It’s a whole new way of the working world,” said Liz Harvey, an interim executive specializing in business strategies and marketing solutions who worked for several large consumer goods entities before transitioning to the interim world. “I think it’s a leading edge trend,” she said. Harvey pointed out that many of the clients her firm works with ask for a CMO or project manager for around a 6-month period of engagement.

“Companies are looking to do things in a more innovative way. It’s really expensive to get senior executives if it takes 20 years to grow them,” she said.

Her first interim experience came when an international firm needed help setting up operations stateside. She had decided she wanted something more entrepreneurial and flexible than the fulltime job; she wanted a career where she could contribute to many different organizations. “They didn’t need me to be there for 5 years,” she noted. Likewise, she didn’t want that long of an engagement. “More companies are seeing the opportunity to bring in talent like that,” she said.