It’s good to know that companies are seeing performance gains when they bring in the right interim executive with specific goals and expectations. In my experience the testimonials in this video are more the rule than the exception when companies use interim or temporary executives for driving key initiatives.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Management consultants of all stripes should be in the executive’s arsenal of problem-solving weapons. However, before reaching for the phone next time you need objective advice, crisp analysis, extra horsepower, and a fresh dose of best practices I encourage you to consider an alternative to consultants — the interim executive.
Interim executives, temporary executives, fractional executives — whatever term you use — usually offer several advantages to consulting firms if you’re only needing one or two people rather than an entire team.
- Experience. Typically, interim executives have already had stellar careers in industry and have chosen the freelance life style. They have book smarts and street smarts earned over careers spanning 20 or more years.
- Leadership. Temporary executives have led teams, departments, business units and companies. Many have started companies and have taken them through an IPO or M&A process. They literally work shoulder to shoulder with the management team.
- Allegiance. When an interim executive is on board with you they report to you and no one else. They don’t have a senior partner in a tower downtown urging them to increase billable hours.
- Get ‘er done yesterday. Temporary executives are accustomed to stepping into companies, quickly assessing the situation, rolling up their sleeves and making happen whatever needs to happen. By nature they are men and women of action who are self-driven to get results. They specialist in delivering results not reports.
- Cost. As a general rule you’ll get more bang for the buck from an interim executive than you will from a consulting firm. A senior-level consultant working for a firm will easily bill at $2,000 – $4,000 per day. Built into that day rate, of course, is the firm’s overhead and profit. Therefore, you’re not really getting a $2,ooo person, you’re more likely getting an $800 person, who bills at $2,000. When you hire an interim at, say, $2500 per day, you’re bringing on board someone who is really worth $2500 a day to you.
Many of you are in transition now, or looking at the real possibility that you’ll be in transition soon. Or, perhaps after 20 years or so of senior manager experience you are looking for a career change.
Interim management isn’t for everybody, but it can be a great way to leverage your work experience and achieve a level of independence and lifestyle not possible when working as a full time employee.
If you want to research a career in interim management I highly recommend three books. These will give you a good understanding of what it takes to establish an interim management practice–no matter what field you’re in.
All three of these books are available from Amazon, or other online book resellers.
Leadership On Demand: How Smart CEO’s Tap Interim Management to Drive Revenue, by Charles Besondy and Paul Travis. (Yes, I’m plugging my own book, but it is the only book to focus on interim marketing and sales management).
Interim Management, The New Career Choice for Senior Managers by Dennis Russell.
A New Brand of Expertise, How Independent Consultants, Free Agents, and Interim Managers are Transforming The World of Work, but Marion McGovern and Dennis Russell.
These books will help you decide whether or not to take the next step. They are also good if you are a business owner or CEO looking to hire interims.
If you are a senior marketing or sales manager and are seriously considering becoming an interim let me know. I can provide some free advice.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
The newest Manpower employment survey was released on December 9. It revealed that 67% of the companies surveyed planned to hold steady their staff levels in Q1 2009. Caution is in the wind. Most companies are taking a wait and see position and who can blaim them.
For really smart companies this is a great time to sock it to their competition with the help of interim marketing and sales talent, of course.
Taking a “wait and see” attitude doesn’t mean your company should put itself in neutral. It simply means taking a conservative stance in terms of headcount for full time employment. Use interim sales and marketing leadership to help you accomplish those mission-critical initiatives or fill key vacancies for a season. This is an opportune time to gain market share from those competitors who are hiding in their dens afraid the sky is falling.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
For businesses today cash isn’t king, it is king, queen, and the Knights of the Round Table combined. Or, as we say in Texas, it is the whole enchilada.
Select your own metaphor, but cash preservation is top of mind for every board member, CEO and CFO right now. The level of uncertainty is off the charts, too, which adds extra incentive for a cash preservation strategy. What a great time to adopt an interim management strategy throughout the organization, especially in marketing and sales!
Let’s look at a typical example, simplified here for brevity.
For 2009 XYZ Corp had planned and budgeted to add two headcount in marketing and sales—a senior marketing person and a senior sales operations person. Both positions were in the same pay grade with a mid-range base salary of $140k. Fully burdened each position would cost XYZ $190k per year; $225k for each position in the first year when recruitment cost was included.
So XYZ was looking at a $450k investment in two key players in 2009. The CEO believed both positions were critical to the company achieving its revenue goals, but that was the problem. Confidence in the revenue target was shaky.
The company needed the two contributors on board ASAP, but frankly the CEO was concerned about making a $450k commitment when it was unclear what the revenue picture was going to be in the second half of 2009. Heck, the first half was foggy enough.
The CEO and CFO weighed their options.
1. Cut the two positions from the budget until revenue stream was more certain.
2. Cut one of the two positions until revenue stream was more certain.
3. Fill both positions and pray.
4. Fill both positions with interim managers.
What would you do? Would you elect options 1 or 2 and effectively fold your tent? What would the opportunity cost be? Would you choose option 3 and swing for the fences even though there was a stiff wind blowing into your face from the outfield?
With option 4 XYZ could fill the two positions and preserve cash. Let’s look at the math.
Assuming tightly scoped and highly prioritized engagements, XYZ could rapidly put seasoned interim managers into both positions for 6 months for about $250k. It’s a sound compromise that would see the highest priority tasks accomplished for 44% less.
A typical contract for each of the interims might look like this: 3 days per week at $1750/day for 6 months. Each interim contract is $126k, or $252k for the pair for the six months.
During the six months the critical aspects of each position will be accomplished, helping XYZ to reach its revenue target, but if business should suddenly worsen requiring staffing cuts the interims can be cut loose without any severance or HR issues.
Furthermore, mid-year the company still has the option of recruiting for FTEs, extending the interim contracts, or living without managers in those positions for the remainder of the year.
The interim management solution gets the job done, keeps XYZ’s options open throughout the year, and preserves $198k in the bank.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It’s the annual planning season for many. Oh, what fun! Business planning is particularly challenging this year because all of us just had to throw out the crystal ball we’ve been using for the past five years—it doesn’t work anymore. In fact I bet many of my CEO readers have just in the past few days asked their department heads to completely revise their plans in light of reassessed revenue targets for 2009.
Who knows how long this downturn will last or how severe it will be? Keeping fixed costs low while maintaining a high degree of flexibility will be the wise choice until the fog clears and the horizon comes into focus.
There is a way to strike a near-perfect balance between having the right marketing and sales talent you need without stretching the operating budget. It’s a matter of extreme focus, prioritization, and smart resource allocation. Here’s how.
In tough, uncertain times keep permanent staffing to a bare minimum and augment it with interim managers. This strategy holds for your leadership positions in marketing and sales, too—yes those director-, vp-, and c-level positions can be filled for a season by interim leaders. Interim management enables you to apply exactly the right quality and quantity of skills to an initiative; no more, no less. As one of my former colleagues was found of saying, “Let’s put the right amount of wood behind the arrow tip.”
Performance is everything, so find the perfect interim managers and focus them like a laser on what absolutely needs to be accomplished. In most cases you’ll have on your team an interim marketing or sales leader who is a peer to you and others in the C-suite.
Less is more when it comes to the smart use of interim leadership.
(For more tips on using interim managers in marketing and sales read “Leadership On Demand: How Smart CEO’s Tap Interim Management to Drive Revenue” by Charles Besondy and Paul Travis.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
When I was in school there was no such thing as “the short bus”. Kids with special needs got on the same bus as the rest of us. I recall this situation worked fine for everyone, but I probably wasn’t paying attention.
At some point after I left the K-12 school system, districts started providing separate transportation for kids with special needs–those with learning disabilities and physical disabilities. Then the term “short bus” was born because the buses were smaller. If you rode that bus you were branded by your classmates as not being as smart or as capable as they were. Yep, kids are cruel. “And the point is?” you ask.
My point is I believe most C-level execs think the people in their marketing department get off the short bus every morning. They don’t hold their marketing people in high regard. Marketers are seen as a necessary business expense and not a strategic contributor to the organization. They aren’t viewed as people who “understand the business”. Unfortunately, in too many companies they are right.
This can be explained in three parts. First, a lack of marketing leadership has not adequately defined the role of the marketing function within the organization. Second, there isn’t the right business acumen in the department to deliver on any mission higher than worrying about the font size on the company website. Third, the top execs in the company don’t have a clue about what marketing’s true value should be.
I see the caliber of people who are in most marketing positions today and I shudder. I’m not saying that marketing people are stupid. That’s not the case. I see way too many who are mis-informed, mis-guided, and ill-prepared to do much more for the business than make the logo look good.
SMB companies, in particular, are struggling to get high value from their investment in the marketing function, but are stuck in a no-man’s land. They generally can’t afford to hire a seasoned marketing executive who can both train and lead the marketing department to new heights.
Company after company makes the mistake of thinking they can solve their sales and marketing leadership problems by paying big bucks for a VP of Sales & Marketing. Wrong! Any person with sales in their title will devote 95% of their time and energy to making their revenue target. Five percent of time and energy for marketing leadership doesn”t cut it.
Enter the interim marketing executive. A SMB company may not be able to afford a permanent CMO, but they can certainly justify an interim CMO engagement, properly scoped to lead, install best practices, and train the marketing staff. The right interim executive can transform an entire marketing department in less than six months.
Put your marketing team back on the long bus where they belong. Talk with an interim marketing executive today ( I know a few) about what they can do to boost marketing’s performance to a new level.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
The cover story of the March issue of Inc Magazine was about Zipcar, an innovative company that specializes in renting cars by the hour to its members. It’s a very attractive concept for city dwellers and students who don’t need a car every day and may not have a safe and affordable place to park a car even if they had one.
When you need a car to run errands or for a day-trip to the country just reserve a Zipcar. Pay for what you use. Transportation on demand.
In the same week that I read this article I spoke with a company, eVapt, that has developed a better way to meter software as a service (SaaS). The growth curve of Saas applications is impressive. No wonder. The technology allows companies to pay for how much they use of a particular software application. Use a lot, pay more; use infrequently, pay less. Makes sense. Software on demand.
So, when a company looks at its marketing and sales resources and sees that there are a few gaps why aren’t those gaps being immediately filled with managers on demand?
Too often I see companies let a vacancy in a key position go unfilled for months while the recruiting process grinds along. The smart move is to put an interim executive in the position and keep the momentum going until the perm hire can step in.
Then there’s the case of the gap in critical skills or bandwidth for a mission-critical initiative. Why aren’t more companies being honest with themselves about what their current staff can and can’t do during the time period? And we wonder why product launch dates are missed or compromised. Evaluate where special skills and experience are needed and add a seasoned interim manager to the team.
Using interim management resources today seldom is an indication that a company is in trouble. It means companies are being really smart about resource allocation. Alas, old perceptions are slow to change.
We look at customers who use Zipcar and say, “Good thinking. Use a car whenever you need it, but only pay for what you use.” We see companies that save millions of dollars a year by adopting SaaS instead of traditional software licensing. We think, “Wow, those guys are really using their cash wisely.”
What do you think when a company, perhaps your own, considers an interim management solution?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Charles Besondy
Depending on the political slant of your favorite news source the U.S. is either falling into recession or experiencing a mere speed bump. Everyone can agree the economy has taken it on the chin lately. The undertow caused by defaults of sub prime mortgages is still threatening to pull some financial companies under. The record high price of oil is having an inflationary impact on nearly everything we buy. The value of the dollar is at record low levels compared to the Euro. Swings of 100-200 points a day on the NYSE is common place. Unemployment is still relatively low, however, and inflation is in check (at least for now).
These are unnerving times for executives responsible for driving their business plans forward no matter the head wind. Revenue forecasting, always a challenge, is made more difficult by the economic factors in play (not to mention a Presidential election). When there’s less confidence in the revenue forecast executives are loath to add to their fixed costs, such as payroll. It is common in times like these for companies to become very cautious about filling vacant positions, or adding head count.
Just because the economy is sputtering doesn’t mean that companies are putting key initiatives on the back burner, or hunkering down in a bunker mentality. It simply means they are looking for ways to maintain momentum while mitigating financial risks. Interim managers or on-demand leaders in Marketing and Sales can play invaluable roles for companies during uncertain economic times by achieving the necessary results without adding to fixed payroll costs.
Q2 Employment Outlook Softening
ManPower, Inc, the $21 billion employment services company, just released its Manpower Employment Outlook Survey for Q2 2008. It clearly reflects a softer jobs market for the quarter ending June 2008.
ManPower’s CEO and Chairman, Jeffrey A. Joerres summarizes the report’s findings, “The important change we are seeing is not about reductions in workforces, like we would typically expect in a recessionary period, but rather an increase in the percentages of employers who are planning to put a hold on hiring and forge ahead with the people they already have. This is definitely a ‘wait and see’ approach as they evaluate where their economies are headed, rather than a panic attack at this point.”
In the survey “a quarter-over-quarter comparison shows the weakest employment prospects since Quarter 1 2004. According to seasonally adjusted survey results, employers in nine of the 10 industry sectors expect the hiring pace to remain stable or decline during Quarter 2 2008. Of the 10 industry sectors surveyed, only Transportation/Public Utilities employers anticipate improved conditions for job seekers in the coming quarter versus Quarter 1 2008.”
As you’d expect the figures vary by region and by industry sector. The report can be downloaded from ManPower’s Website.
Damn the Torpedoes and Full Speed Ahead
Any experienced business leader will tell you the keys to achieving results during periods of uncertainty are to mitigate the financial risks but keep charging forward. The use of interim managers is a smart way to achieve much-needed flexibility and results during unnerving times. Here’s why.
- You can quickly apply the right talent to achieve the necessary results. Hiring an interim is much faster and easier than is recruiting someone for a senior-level permanent position. Less valuable time is lost.
- You can focus entirely on the skills you need for the short term without complicating the picture with concerns about future requirements. You don’t have to find the marketing or sales leader who is perfect for this quarter as well as next year and beyond. You can focus like a laser on meeting the short term requirements.
- Interim managers are the utilities of management talent. You only pay for what you use. This is an enormous benefit during uneven economic conditions because you can adjust the volume of service you need very easily and quickly. To use interim talent you’re making short-term financial commitments with variable dollars, rather than long term, fixed cost commitments.
- Interim manages can deliver results for less. When the total cost of recruiting and employing a permanent executive or senior manager is compared to an interim’s fees the cost advantage can be significant.
- Interim managers often provide a more practical and cost-effective solution than management consultants. Usually you can bring in the same level of talent, one with both strategic and operational credentials, who can be a member of your team for less than management consultants with bureaucracies and fancy offices to support.
Don’t let the next months of economic uncertainty prevent you from keeping your customers satisfied and your competitors on their heels. Maintain fiscal flexibility and generate results through the use of interim management for filling gaps and driving forward key initiatives.
For a more in-depth look at how to successfully utilize interim management strategies check out these sources:
- Leadership On Demand: How Smart CEO’s Tap Interim Management to Drive Revenue, available from Amazon.com
According to Manpower’s 2007 Talent Shortage Survey, “Management/Executive” is the 5th toughest job category for employers to fill right now due to a shortage of qualified candidates. Forty-one percent of the U.S. companies that Manpower surveyed reported having difficulty filling management positions.
Certainly baby boomer retirements are having an impact here. Furthermore, I suspect some industries have lost their luster and are having difficulty attracting younger managers. This is a problem that doesn’t need to exist.
When it comes to filling management-level positions too many companies are failing to consider interim executives or on-demand executives. There is a rich pool of senior managers and executives ready to step into any position and achieve results. What’s more, these on-demand execs bring a healthy objectivity to the role that is an added benefit.
I’m willing to bet that half of the open management positions could be filled with qualified managers within 30 days if the companies just shook off their old tired hiring practices.
Any company that limps along for more than two months without filling a key position has only itself to blame.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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