The Interim Executive Advantage: Experience, Action, Results

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Despite its popularity in Europe, an Interim Executive is still relatively unknown in North America. After talking with a number of business owners, partners and executives we have put together this paper showing answers to many of the more common questions we have been asked. 

Experienced leadership is one of the most important factors contributing to the success of any business. Despite their enthusiasm, current managers may not have the knowledge or experience to launch new innovations, grow into new markets, adapt new business models, or turnaround difficult situations. As a result, far too many companies stop growing long before they reach their potential value.

Interim Executives provide the leadership needed to lay the groundwork and implement changes that produce immediate and long-term business or practice success. Whether serving as an Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), Chief Financial, Restructuring, Project, Strategy or Marketing Officer (CFO, CRO, CPO, CSO or CMO) or Chief “Whatever” Officer (CXO), they work within the company to bring about fast, long-lasting and positive results.

By reviewing the following list of Frequently Asked Questions you will gain a better understanding of the value our Interim Executive service provides. 

To learn more about how we can partner with you in your situation, contact Paul Brown (Phone: 509-926-6922 or Email: paulb@brownstonebusiness.com).

 

What are Interim Executives?

Interim Executives provide the rapid delivery of experienced ‘hands on’ executives for a defined period of time enabling organizations to implement change, fill unexpected gaps in a company, restructure the organization, turn around underperforming projects or divisions or deliver a critical project. Interim Executive are increasingly acknowledged as one of the most flexible and immediately effective resourcing solutions for instant access to top talent and a powerful alternative to traditional resourcing and consultancy solutions.

Who are Interim Executives?

Interim Executives are experienced, highly qualified, hands-on, pragmatic executives with the skills and abilities to deliver an immediate and lasting impact over a short period of time. They are naturally take the initiative, and have excellent project management and communication skills.

Interim Executives differ from consultants in that they assume executive responsibility with a clear mandate to act on the client’s behalf. They are generally sensibly over-qualified for the assignments they undertake, and have extensive experience. Available immediately, their skills closely match the needs of the client.

What kind of companies would benefit from hiring an Interim Executive?

The simple answer is all companies that need to manage issues outside their current capacity or their capabilities. Demand for Interim Executives is coming from virtually all sectors.

What kind of assistance could an Interim Executive provide?

An Interim Executive could assist in a period of transition or change by temporarily assuming any of the functions that would be the responsibility of Executives or Project/Program Managers. Some examples include:

  • Project Management
    • Implementation of a new technology
    • Implementation of a new strategy
    • Expansion into a new market
    • Introduction of a new product or service
    • Handling of a new activity or an atypical project
  • Gap Management
    • Sudden loss of a senior executive
    • Organizational changes
    • Overstretched Management
    • Managing rapid growth
    • Managing a start-up
  • Change Management
    • Going through a merger, de-merger, or acquisition
    • Integrated a new business model, client service model or systems
    • Downsizing, or restructuring
  • Turnaround Management
    • Manage a crisis or a turnaround
    • Turnaround underperforming businesses or divisions
    • Recover failing projects / programs

What are the main advantages of using an Interim Executive?

The main advantage is the business results brought about by instant access to experienced talent. Clients tell us that an Interim Executive adds value beyond the scope of the assignment.

Why do companies engage an Interim Executive?

Companies facing change must move quickly, but experienced change managers are hard to find, take time to hire and can create a permanent fixed cost to the bottom line. An Interim Executive can usually be on site quickly thereby reducing financial and lost opportunity costs.

Why would an organization retain an Interim Executive rather than hiring additional executives or senior managers?

Long range, companies should consider hiring permanent executives and leaders. An organization however might find itself in a transitional period where there is an immediate need for senior management capabilities but the organization is not ready or not able to fill that need with a permanent position. This could occur, for example during a search for a new Executive Director, during a period of rapid change or a crisis or when the management needs have not yet become clearly defined, etc. Also, an Interim Executive will train designated staff members so that the company continues to benefit from the engagement thereby removing the team to hire another senior executive.

What are differences between an Interim Executive and a Management Consultant?

There are several differences between the two:

  1. Management consultants advise and recommend. Interim Executives advise, recommend and An Interim Executive will take “ownership” of the results, not the recommendations.

 

2. Consultants are usually employed by large consulting organizations with inflexible methodologies, large overheads and rigid                          assessment procedures. A considerable amount of time is spent analysing the situation. Interim Executives “hit the ground running.”            They have the experience to move the organization, division or department quickly toward its intended solution

 

  1. However closely they work with the client – management consultants are ultimately responsible and accountable to their consulting firm. An Interim Executive becomes a full member of the leadership team of the client company for the duration of the Interim Executive assignment. As an independent expert, they operate as part of the team, rather than as an employee of an external organization.

 

  1. The costs to engage an Interim Executives is far less expensive than the cost of engaging a consulting company since they do not require the numerous levels of supervision and overhead. This is backed by research which shows that the costs for Interim Executives are recovered at least threefold on average, making them a very cost-effective option.

Are Interim Executives sometimes offered a permanent contract once the interim engagement is completed?

In a word, yes. Interim Executives are very results-driven and often deliver benefits beyond the initial scope of engagement. Also, by working at an executive level employees throughout the organization learn to trust them.

The advantage to the client is that they would end up hiring an Executive after “testing” him effectively, therefore minimizing any risk of getting the wrong person on board. The advantage to the Executive is that they too, are able to go through a period of “testing” to minimize the risk of taking the wrong position.

How are Interim Executives paid?

Interim Executives are paid either a daily rate or monthly retainer, which includes full telephone and other continuing support. This differs from most management consultants who charge by the hour and add time for telephone, email or other activities. In our experience the monthly retainer provides clients with the best experience and value.

Is engaging an Interim Executive cost effective?

Yes, both with regard to costs and with time.

Investment return. Research shows that the costs for Interim Executives are recovered at least threefold on average, making them a very cost-effective option. A recent survey of clients suggests that the vast majority of users will use Interim Executives again.

Time return. Using an Interim Executive is a confirmed strategy for achieving success. A study by the Institute for Project Strategy in Business has suggested Interim Executives tend to complete projects twenty-five per cent (25%) faster than internal managers. Their projects also tend to be completed on time with a seventy-two per cent (72%) record of on time delivery.

How do the long-term costs of an Interim Executive compare with a permanent manager with employee status?

The total costs are significantly less! An Interim Executive charges an agreed upon fee covering the entire engagement. Other than out of pocket expenses, there are no additional costs. In addition to their salaries, employers also pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, unemployment taxes, worker’s compensation, insurance, 401(k) or other retirement, holiday pay, vacation pay, sick days, training, stock options and other benefits.

Is the Interim Executive an employee or self-employed?

When engaged the Interim Executive works internally, as an integral part of the client’s executive team and is retained on an agreed upon fee schedule. The client is not responsible benefits, insurance, taxes, etc.

How long is an average Interim Executive assignment?

The typical engagement starts at three months. Depending on the situation, the client’s need, the progress made and the relationship, this can be extended for as long as three (3) years. Occasionally a shorter engagement may be the best solution for the client.

How long will it take for an Interim Executive to become effective?

Interim Executives make an immediate impact on the organization. Prior to the start of the engagement, the Interim Executive begins to gather background information, engage in conversations and review materials during a “preparation period.” During this time clients will begin to work with the Interim Executive and will benefit from the experience.

Is it possible to engage an Interim Executive on a part-time basis?

Yes, this often suits both parties. In fact, depending on the scope of the engagement, the Interim Executive may be engaged more fully during the initial month(s) to create momentum. After that, the situation may change thereby allowing the Interim Executive to spend less time “on-site” as employees and staff learn how to manage the changes put in place.

How does the presence of an Interim Executive impact client organization’s permanent staff?

Experienced Interim Executives have the ability to easily integrate themselves within the organization. Interim Executives generally have excellent social and leadership skills and experience. Also, since the assignment is temporary (interim) they are not considered as a threat. In that context, it is very important for clients to clearly explain the purpose of the Interim Executive assignment to the organization, as well as the responsibilities, scope of work and authority that has been given to complete the assignment.

How is the Interim Executive introduced to staff?

The first day is important in the Interim Executive engagement. While the schedule may vary, typically the Interim Executive will meet with the owner (partners, board, etc.) early on to clarify the information reviewed during the preparation period and to solidify the client’s expectations for the assignment. This meeting is usually followed by a staff (department, division, etc.) meeting to introduce the Interim Executive, the reason for the engagement and the goals that have been agreed. In the afternoon the Interim Executive will meet with staff (either in individual meetings or group meetings) to ask questions, bring assurance and begin relationships.

Who does the Interim Executive report to?

The Interim Executive reports directly to the owner, CEO, board, or someone with similar authority. The relationship is collaborative, with the Interim Executive working with (as requested) and communicating with (as agreed) the senior most executive, partner or board member to develop the structures and systems needed to complete the objective, and to create the reporting “dashboards” needed to bring accountability.

What happens if the scope of an Interim Executive assignment changes mid-stream?

The Interim Executive and the Interim Executive model are highly flexible and adaptable. All changes are handled, managed and communicated to ensure clarity for all stakeholders. If there is an impact on the original project period, this is easily addressed through revisions.

How does an Interim Executive transition out at the end of the assignment?

In instances where there is a permanent job at the end of the assignment, the Interim Executive acts as a mentor/coach in transferring what has been learned to the permanent executive and turning over an action plan and reporting methods that will assure that momentum is not lost and an orderly transition will take place. As requested and needed, the Interim Executive will provide detailed documentation and other supporting materials to the client.

What happens when the job is completed?

The Interim Executive will generally provide sufficient documentation and personal handover to their permanent replacement to enable the new incumbent to get off to a good start and to sustain the progress made. If required, the Interim Executive will help the client define or redefine the role and help find a suitable person to fill the position. As the project comes to an end and there are no termination costs. The Interim Executive is always available to provide on-going monitoring on an “as and when” required basis as requested.

How does an Interim Executive compare to an executive search firm?

As you can see from the table below, Interim Executives operate under a different business model than do executive search firms or management consultants.

INTERIM EXECUTIVE EXECUTIVE SEARCH MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS
Starts within Preparation period starts now Several months One to four weeks
Mission Implement change Find best candidate Analyse needs
Outcome Solution in place Permanent hire on board Recommended solution
Experience Well qualified for project Searches for qualified applicant Utilizes new consultants – OJT
Accountability Full responsibility/ownership Success dependent on client Relies on client to implement
Objectivity What is best for the client Needs a new hire to get paid Answers to consulting firm
Time-line Defined and maintained Open ended Depends on client
Value to Client From day one When candidate is hired Project completion
Effectiveness Strong due to Executive level Advisory. Usually not applicable Advisory

 

What’s the “punch line?”

An Interim Executive provides a cost effective solution that helps clients through periods where they need a particular expertise for a limited amount of time. Unlike management consulting, the Interim Executive becomes a recognized member of the organization’s leadership, and – as a part of the engagement – has been authorized to manage staff, conduct appraisals, plan and deliver projects, produce and maintain budgets, communicate and monitor progress, etc.

Rather than simply producing reports, Interim Executives “do it,” implementing the changes needed to meet the client’s objectives and goals, create and implement the systems and processes that will maintain the progress that has been made, and transfer the learning to the client’s staff through training and other support.

As a part of the company’s leadership, the Interim Executive is given both the responsibility and the authority to produce measurable results benefiting the client. Consequently they work with a significant degree of ownership for the project and for the positive impact it will have throughout the organization.

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