Is an Interim Executive a Fit for Your Company?

Is an Interim Executive a Fit for Your Company?

When an executive, head of HR, owner, or investor calls us, it’s because the organization is in motion and leadership to drive growth, change, or turnaround is needed…fast.

If you are tasked with bringing in an interim, you’ve probably done your research and read what a true interim executive is, how interims are different from consultants, and how an interim gets compensated.

But still – is this the right move for you and your company? Let’s explore:

Interim Does Not Equal Permanent

You don’t walk into a burger shop to order great tacos. And firms that focus on permanent search or consulting just don’t pump out great interims. When you seek out great interim, project, or fractional executives, you can’t use the same mindset as with permanent hires. Headhunter work is one and done: source a candidate and get them hired, or move on to the next candidate. InterimExecs has a much different mindset and approach, working only with executives who have dedicated their careers to project or fractional leadership roles where they have a track record of transforming or growing many different organizations.

We recently got a call from a company that said they brought in an “interim” from a search firm. They called us because this person had jumped ship after only one month in the role. The person left to take a permanent job…leaving the company high and dry. For us this is high treason – the height of unprofessional work on the part of the search firm, let alone the job-seeker faking his way into a vital interim role.

Ten years’ focus on interims has afforded us an opportunity to develop a unique process that looks not just at resumes or backgrounds, but dives into the unique mindset of an interim from their style to system to approach, so we can have confidence in their ability to bring positive results to companies again and again.

By rigorously screening executives, we were able to concentrate on just the top 2% of leaders – what we call the RED Team (rapid executive deployment). The RED Team is a select group of executives with experience across specialties (CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CTO) and industries (manufacturing, services, healthcare, technology) that can be deployed individually or as a team.

So how do you know if your best route is interim versus a permanent search?

Ask Yourself the Tough Questions (Sorry!)

Sometimes the toughest thing to do is look in the mirror and assess: Where are you at as an organization? Where are the gaps? Where does your leadership team need a boost? The Rapid Deployment Program begins with a conversation to explore your starting point, where you want to go, and what kind of leadership will get you there. Ask yourself:

•How does current leadership match up with what’s needed for future progress?
•Does your management team have the bandwidth to take advantage of untapped opportunities for growth?
•Is your plan clear, and is the team aligned?
•Do you have a clear handle on challenges in operations, finance, technology, sales and marketing?
•When you look back on the past year – was there good execution on goals?
•Are you happy with your progress?

If you feel any aspect came up short, maybe we should talk? Often when organizations have “what-ifs” or when it’s not clear if they are fully on the right track, an experienced operating executive can bring a no-nonsense, cut to the chase outside perspective.

Evaluate Your Goals and Project List

In some situations, bringing in an interim may be driven by a specific project or initiative where additional resources are needed. The interim could serve as an extension of the current management team. The interim assignment may consist of one executive engaged on one specific project, or could involve a team engaged on a multifaceted complex project or set of deliverables. Examples of projects may include:

• Turnaround when a company or division is in distress, losing money or slipping in market share or revenue decline
• Liquidation when assets are being repurposed, recapped, spun off or sold off
• Operational improvement requiring new process, systems, controls
• Preparing a company or division for a transformative event, including spinoff, carve out, investment, sale, merger, IPO
• Revenue enhancement, including sales and marketing system upgrades, training, hiring, new business development
• New market creation, including new product development and design, international expansion planning and execution, brand positioning, social media and awareness

Determine if You are Ready for Change

You have to be selective about who you bring into your organization – and so do we. We have to be very picky about which clients we choose to work with. Beyond determining if an organization is honest and forthcoming about the situation, we want to know if there is serious intent to take on the organization’s challenges and opportunities.

Not that the interim will expect everyone to be on board or ready for change. Things may be tense or fragile depending on how deep the issues or challenges run. This is where we can say with confidence: do not fear – it’s the job of the operating executive to learn fast, listen well, assess with accuracy, work to gain trust with the team, communicate clearly, develop a clear vision and work to align the team.

The challenge comes with companies that set a great path forward, then become paralyzed.

Remember Circuit City? Or Blockbuster? The writing was on the wall. Evolution and innovation needed to happen to survive, yet these big brands like many organizations got stuck, seemingly with no way out. And yet with interims, the definition of change agents, rarely is that the case. There is always a way. The first step is acknowledging that what worked in the past won’t necessarily take you into the future.

Interims drive transformation, change, and improvement. Even if it’s a short-term assignment lasting only until the permanent executive is brought in, a true interim executive seeks to leave the organization and team in a better place than when they walked in the door.

Still serious about making an impact in your organization? Let’s talk. As owners ourselves, when we brainstorm with you, we treat each request as if it was our own sacred trust. Margaret Mead got it right: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Its time for your leadership and team to change the world.