One of the things I like about being an interim marketing executive is the variety of assignments I am fortunate to work on each year. Not only do I work with a wide range of companies in different industries, but I’m asked to take on projects as well as interim assignments. In fact during the past few years my project to interim assignment ratio is about 2:1.
It’s not uncommon for an on-demand executive to be involved in an interim gig for one company a few days a week, and run a project for another company that occupies a day or so per week.
For the client the advantages of using an interim leader for certain project work is very clear. Interim executives are very experienced leaders with 20 years or so of duty in the field running sales or marketing organizations. They’ve been building a track record of achievement in the real world for 20 years, not holed up in a business school library.
The on-demand leader that takes on a project is a senior-level person, not a junior associate. He or she will most likely be over-qualified for the task. So what? That means its going to be done right and with a level of insight and objectivity that’s hard to find.
So, for your next important project in marketing or sales that requires some outside assistance, ask an interim manager for a proposal and see how it compares to the usual suspects you ordinarily use.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Charles Besondy
Every CEO I know can be described with one or more of these labels:
- Orchestra conductor
- Chess master
- Pied piper
- Puppet master
Try it. Think of the CEOs you know (perhaps yourself even). Pin the label on the CEO. It’s fun. While personalities and leadership techniques vary, CEOs all have one thing in common—they manage resources to drive results. More specifically, the CEO blends and directs the talent, infrastructure and finances at his/her fingertips. When he gets the combination right success usually is the outcome.
However, if it was easy to get the right combination every company would be widely successful. More often than not, the limitations of the talent, infrastructure, finances, or time (our number one enemy), muck up the works and restrict success.
Interim management should be the CEO’s best friend and secret weapon (or favorite ingredient if you prefer the chef label more than the general label). By relying on interim managers in the marketing function, the CEO can apply exactly the right marketing skills and experience to an initiative for exactly the right amount of time—all while working with variable budget dollars rather than fixed budget dollars.
This ability to augment the CEOs arsenal with the right talent at the right time can be a major competitive advantage in that it enables business agility.
- The company can jump on market opportunities or react to competitive moves swiftly and adeptly. It takes far less time to locate and retain an interim manager than to recruit a full-time senior manager (even if there is headcount in the budget).
- Existing teams aren’t whip-sawed from one initiative to another. A high degree of focus can be maintained on existing business, while teams enhanced with interim marketing talent chase new opportunities.
- The initiative’s requirements can be matched to an interim’s domain and process expertise; very few compromises necessary. The CEO can select the optimum weapon for the job.
As a CEO do you see yourself selecting weapons, moving chessmen, orchestrating a team, or creating a world-class stew? Whatever metaphor you select, consider that interim management for the marketing function stands ready to help drive business and revenue growth.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Charles Besondy
The BizLaunch Blog reports that one of the top-20 book downloads from Work.com is on the topic of hiring temporary executives. I think this is a positive indicator that smart entrepreneurs are thinking about how to retain the flexibility of their organizations by bringing in seasoned executives on a temporary basis, rather than full-time employees.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
By Charles Besondy
The famous recorded message (“mind the gap”) one hears before de-boarding or boarding a train in London’s Tube is actually darn good advice for any company. Just like the message warns passengers to be careful of the dangerous gap between the train and platform, I’m warning companies to be mindful of gaps in their marketing resources.
The gaps I’m referring to are formed during periods of transition when the human resources in product marketing, strategic marketing, marketing communications, channel marketing, etc. are inadequate in terms of head count, experience, or skills.
This inadequacy or void sucks momentum out of the organization and invariably leads to missed goals, overly stressed employees, and a decline of morale.
Here are six situations where dangerous gaps frequently appear in which interim management is ideally suited to step in and maintain momentum and focus.
- Early-Stage Start-Up. Any start-up, particularly a high-tech start up, needs seasoned marketing talent in the early days to drive marketing requirements, conduct research, develop a positioning strategy, analyze competition, etc. The early stage company working on Series-A funding is seldom in a financial position to attract a full-time CMO, or to lure one away from an established company. An interim executive is an ideal solution.
- Maternity/Paternity Leave. A 2-3 month maternity leave can cause havoc in a marketing organization that is already thinly staffed. Fill the gap with an interim manager.
- Leave of Absence. Whether it be for a sabbatical or medical leave of absence, the vacancy is always a challenge for the organization to manage.
- Unexpected Termination. When a key manager is terminated or resigns unexpectedly the company has to scramble to either reorganize or fill the position. While the recruitment process is underway why not bring an interim manager in to keep the ball moving up the field?
- Temporary Workload Increase. Product launches or major initiatives can pull resources away from important day-to-day business. An interim manager can run the day-to-day activities, or assist with the special project. Either way, momentum is maintained.
- Waiting for Godot. We’ve all seen it. The company has created a spec for a key marketing role, but recruitment is taking forever as the hunt for the perfect candidate runs its course. An interim manager can step in and, even if not perfectly suited for the job, handle many of the duties. This keeps the company moving forward and reduces the pain associated with a lengthy recruitment period.
Mind your gaps. Look to interim management within the marketing function to keep your organization on the fast track.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Charles Besondy
Many early stage companies are learning that competent marketing executives with the right domain expertise and marketing process skill-set are darn hard to hire. They can be found alright, but convincing them to leave an established company (one with market traction and revenue) for an unproven start-up is not as easy as it once was. Then there’s the question of compensation. A start-up with say $1-$2 million in angel funding to build its product and prepare for launch is not in a good position to offer a star anything near what they are currently pulling down.
However, every start-up company desparately needs an experienced, level-headed marketing presence during the first year or so. Markets have to be sized, competitors analyzed, market requirements written, launch plans formulated, positioning and messaging drafted, etc. Above all, a marketing person needs to be present on the management team to be the voice of the company’s future customers. This mindset is not always present within the engineering deparment or finance office.
So the conundrum is how can a start-up put heavy-duty marketing expertise on the team, when the ideal candidate is not ready to be reeled in?
Enter the interim executive. This is a perfect situation for an interim marketing executive to step in and provide the marketing expertise and extra bandwidth needed. The interim exec can steer the marketing ship until such time as the company has navigated important milestones and is ready to obtain Series B funding (and hire the marketing VP with the midas touch).
I’ve know some start-ups who decide to hire a junior level marketing person, or a marcom specialist thinking that will meet the company’s requirements. This is generally a mistake. The role needs to be filled by a seasoned, utility player; a player-coach who can think strategically and be tactical, too.
Yes, some start-ups are fortunate to have a marketing guru as one of the founders, but for most companies the interim executive is the best choice for the first 12-18 months even if the company can only afford to have one 3 days a week.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Charles Besondy
I was with several well-to-do entrepreneurs and investors last month when the conversation turned to fractional jet ownership. These individuals traveled frequently and were bemoaning the time they wasted at airport security checks, the lack of convenient flight schedules, and of course the “joys” of traveling with the general public.
They admitted an interest in the concept of fractional jet ownership. This is the concept made popular by companies such as NetJets where you purchase a fraction of a business jet—actually a number of flight hours per year—for a flat fee. The jet is made available when you want it and where you want it. For that flight it’s all yours. You have all the benefits of a private business jet for your travels, plus you know exactly how much it’s going to cost. You have no worries about maintenance, fuel costs, insurance, hangar rental, or pilot scheduling. As a bonus, you avoid all the check-in hassles of the public terminals, and you can take on board as many liquids and nail cutters as you can hold.
I enjoyed this conversation of the rich and famous for a while, but soon my mind switched to my favorite business topic, interim management. While these wealthy individuals were talking about Cessna, Citation, and Gulfstream jets, I saw similarities in interim management, or a term I just coined, “fractional management.”
Using Fractional Management for your company’s marketing functions you can arrange to have a senior marketing executive on board for a set number of weeks, or months in a year. You can get exactly the set of skills and domain experience that you need, but you’re not saddled with the high price of “ownership.”
Like the fractional jet, the fractional manager is there when you need him/her. You know exactly what the fractional manager is going to cost you. You’re saving about 25% on benefits, and another 30% on recruitment fees. Stock options and club memberships? Forget about it.
I see many companies who believe they are trapped in a no-man’s land. They desperately need senior marketing talent, but they can’t afford that level of person. So, they comprise on someone they can afford. Generally a year later they’re back looking again because “it didn’t work out.”
The companies should have evaluated the option of fractional management. For example, let’s say the market-based salary for the level of marketer a company needs is $150,000 a year, plus benefits ($180K total for sake of this example), but their budget can only handle $100,000. What they should have done was sign on a fractional manager for the marketing function. Negotiate a contract paying the fractional manager $100,000 for, say, seven months over a year’s time. They’ll have the skills, process knowledge, and domain knowledge they need, without blowing out their budget.
Fractional jets are easily justified by many executives; likewise, fractional managers are an attractive option for many companies large and small.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
By Charles Besondy
I recently concluded a fascinating engagement as an interim marketing director for a professional sports team. I’m the first to admit that at the beginning of the engagement I knew next to nothing about sports marketing (and I’m no expert after three months), but I soon saw multiple areas in which my B2B marketing skills could apply.
My two primary areas of focus were the creation of a marketing plan for season ticket sales, and a second plan for the sale of sponsorship packages.
I built the season ticket plan on principles of database marketing, lead generation, outbound telesales–all of which I was very familiar with from years of B2B experience.
The sponsorship marketing plan was built on first sizing the total available market and then defining opportunity pipeline, including specific stages of the sales process and estimated conversions from stage to stage. This provided a model on which to base the plan and measure progress. Again, this is familiar ground for any B2B marketer worth their salt.
I’m not implying that there aren’t important differences between B2B marketing and B2C marketing. However, my experience this year has shown me that there are major areas where B2B can be applied to B2C. I’m less certain about B2C being applied to B2B, however.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
By Charles Besondy
It is not unusual for a company to seek an interim executive for a temporary role as CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, or even CMO. Awarness of this option seems to be wide spread. But, why is the idea sound for C-level position but less so at VP or Director levels where the real work tends to get done?
The concept, benenefits and philosophy of an interim manager is just as strong for mid-management as it is for upper management. Yet, most people I’ve talked to in the past three months just don’t think of interim managment as an option for Director-level or VP-level positions. Don’t read this wrong. The people I’ve talked to admitted that interim management makes sense at mid-management level, it’s just they hadn’t ever considered it before I mentioned the idea to them. Perhaps this is just a U.S. thing. I suspect that interim managment in Europe is more evenly accepted up and down the management food chain.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
By Charles Besondy
The value of domain expertise
When a consultant or interim manager has worked within an industry or product category for a period of time they gain through osmosis a knowledge of the competitive landscape, the technologies, the players, the trends, and often possess a PDA chock full of relevant contacts. In short, with domain expertise an interim manager should be able to “connect the dots” more readily, resulting in more targeted strategies, more insightful decisions, and a bit more respect within the client organization.
However, often clients put too much weight on domain expertise without evaluating what the interim manager can do with that experience. Sure, they may be able to talk a good game; drop all the right names in a conversation, etc., but can they make things happen with what they know?
Just because I may have owned and driven BMWs for years, doesn’t mean I know how to tune the engine. My knowledge of BMW cars allows me to talk for hours about the engineering features, the factories in Germany and the U.S, and maybe even my lunch with the company’s lead designer, but open the hood and hand me a wrench and I’m not only lost, I’m dangerous!
The value of process expertise
An interim manager or consultant with deep process expertise knows how to produce outcomes with a degree of certainty. This is a very valuable asset!
If the BMW needs a tune-up, I could care less if the mechanic has toured the factories, knows key executives in Germany, and has friends at Audi and Porsche. Does he or she have the tools, information, and knowledge to efficiently make the engine run better? Does he or she have a record of tuning engines effectively?
In most cases an interim marketing manager or consultant is engaged to achieve a certain outcome for an organization usually in collaboration with an internal team.
Here’s a typical scenario. An interim manager is retained for six months to run a 10-person marketing department who has just lost their VP or Director. During these six months it is common for marketing plans to have to be produced, market requirements researched, lead generation programs created, new products launched, etc. An interim manager who brings best practices for these things into the organization and knows how to best support business goals with Marketing initiatives is going to add tremendous value. The knowledge transferred during the interim manager’s gig will benefit the company long after he is gone.
Not every marketing department needs new processes, of course. This type of individual will be able to readily assess if the client’s existing marketing processes are getting the job done, or if he needs to instill different processes that have proven effective in a variety of companies and product categories. This type of interim manager isn’t going to just manage the status quo if the status quo is inadequate. He is going to recommend prudent changes and help his team through the transition. The end-result is the Marketing function actually improves and sprints forward during the six month period, rather than jog in place.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
By Charles Besondy
The following excerpt from a Department of Labor report points to the trend for non-traditional employment in the U.S. The report deals with the topic in general and doesn’t focus on interim management or temporary executives.
“According to one national study, 65 percent of employers believed that, in the future, firms would increase their use of flexible staffing arrangements. The use of nontraditional workers fits with the evolving perceptions of employers regarding labor costs, competition, changing obligations, and potential litigation. “Just in time” workers mirror the successful industrial model of “just in time” inventories.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )