Lessons from a Cheetah: How Interim Execs Band Together to Create More Business

In business, everybody wants to be the cheetah: nimble, quick, flexible, and able to respond rapidly to twists and turns in the business cycle.

But even cheetahs band together when necessary, finding value in shared resources. The following story illustrates how well that can work.

Nick Clementi’s interim firm was created as a partnership of six executives who’d just gone through transactions as part of PE-owned ventures. They’d created liquidity events, he said, and found themselves sitting with cash but finished with their previous engagements.

Joining Forces is Powerful

In 1999 they decided to band together as a management group, Sandhill Consulting, limited to senior executives. The original six were committed to both interim and consulting work, as well as to partnering and co-investing alongside private equity sponsors to run businesses, he said.

They generally spend about 3-7 years with a given company before it comes to maturity, Clementi said. The partnership of six has now grown into a team of 17, and Clementi said the team approach has proven beneficial.

One Executive Leads to Another

Here’s an example of how it’s worked for Clementi’s firm: a PE fund recently asked Sandhill to provide an interim CFO for a 90-day assignment. They provided that CFO, and also identified the need for an interim purchasing officer and interim controller. All three executives ended up working together on the assignment.

So what about the natural instinct of the cheetah to carve out and protect territory? Nobody really wants to share a piece of the antelope, right? According to Clementi, that’s exactly the wrong approach.

“We have not had a single situation” of a team member losing out on an assignment due to competition within the firm. “It’s the exact opposite,” Clementi, who has worked as both an interim CEO and an interim CMO, said.

Benefit from Being a Resource

He recounted a similar incident when he called on a PE fund, but learned they needed someone with a different expertise than his. He suggested a colleague within his firm, and Sandhill ended up getting the assignment. “Now, that PE fund views me as a resource,” Clementi said.

Sandhill’s engagement at InnoWare Paper Products also illustrates the benefit of combining resources. Sandhill co-invested in the company with a PE fund, and Innoware’s loss of key management led to interim engagements for several Sandhill partners, Clementi said, including an HR executive who was called in to manage a labor dispute.

Last year, InnoWare was purchased by Solo Cup Company.

Clementi said traveling as a team to corporate events attracts an audience and offers expertise that a solo practitioner can’t hope to draw. Clementi thinks it’s the only way to go.