What’s Your Story? How a Mentor Led Me to an Interim Career

Let me tell you a story about how I made the decision 15 years ago to become an interim CEO, solely based on a chance conversation with someone I didn’t know very well — an acquaintance named Philip Monego.

Philip and I occasionally ran into each other at conferences for online companies. On one particular occasion, I saw Philip approaching and holding out a new business card. I tried to make a wiseass joke, asking: “Can’t you hold down a job?”

Maybe not the best line, but he smiled and said, “Bob, you don’t understand VC here in Silicon Valley. They won’t just give a rookie engineer a check for $5 million.” He went on to explain that back in 1987 based on the advice of one of the investors in his first startup, he formed Technology Perspectives Partners, LLC (TPP), an interim management consulting practice. He had developed a team of professionals who could parachute into a new company to help the founders, alongside the VC fund’s check.

Then he handed me his new business card. It read:

Philip Monego
Interim CEO

That was my wakeup call. I knew Yahoo was going to have an IPO soon despite very small revenues. Now Philip had my full attention, and right there, on the spot I decided to form a new company called interimCEO. I didn’t know much, but I already had the experience of launching and growing an Inc. 500 company, and so I decided to dive in.

Fast forward 15 years and Philip graciously agreed to share the full story on Yahoo.

It turns out that just as I had a chance encounter with Philip, he had a chance encounter of his own with Yahoo’s founders. A former colleague of Philip’s saw a 3×5 index card on a bulletin board on Stanford’s campus requesting CEO help. No details beyond that. The friend called Philip, who then met with Yahoo founders Jerry Yang and David Filo. They hit it off and a VC was then happy to invest. Philip joined Yahoo and immediately brought in a CFO and VP of Marketing from TPP. Yahoo now had a “new team” and Jerry and David were free to do what they did best. Philip moved to incorporate the company, locate and build out office space, outline a business plan, identify and secure new business and investment partners (including Softbank and Reuters) and then recruit his replacement, the first permanent CEO.

And his exit? Well I don’t want to pry, but he is listed in Yahoo’s prospectus, so my guess is that it was substantial. For a less-than-six-month engagement. And as Philip is quick to point out, this assignment lead to increased recognition for TPP which would keep the practice engaged in many new assignments for years to come.

A lot of interim assignments are high risk, high reward. And the payoff should be big for such a unique skillset as ours. So how can you be more powerful to achieve these results?

Philip’s Best Advice

The best advice I ever got from Philip was this: “You will be stronger when you can go in as a team.” He was not only right in my own career, but was the inspiration for the Association of Interim Executives.

Welcome to the launch.

Why an association? Because:

• Together we can learn from each other, avoid problems and advance our careers.

• Together we can tell the world that we are a part of a distinct, highly skilled specialty that can help companies everywhere.

• Together we can make referrals when conflicted because of client entanglements or previous commitments.

• Together we can pool expert content and be part of an ecosystem of executives, PE, VC, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals who are all intensely involved in transactions and high-stakes, high value companies and assets.

• Together we can prosper, if we set membership standards and promote quality and integrity.

We are entering a new and powerful phase with an entirely reconfigured website and specific association model to propel us forward. I truly believe we are on the right path for creating a more prosperous future. So what’s your story? How did you decide to start taking on interim assignments?

About the Author

Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan Robert Jordan has been launching and growing companies and helping other entrepreneurs do the same for 20 years. His first company, Online Access, put him on Inc. magazine’s Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies. Online Access, the first Internet-coverage magazine in the world, ran for 10 years and after its sale Jordan launched two companies: RedFlash, a project implementation team (www.RedFlash.com); and interimCEOinterimCFO, a worldwide network of interim, contract and project executives (www.interimCEO.com).