Networking Tips for Interim Executives

Posted on April 19, 2010. Filed under: interim executive, interim management | Tags: , , , |

Persistent networking online and off. Good tips for interim executives .

I like how this article in Washington Post encourages one to have a specific networking plan and goals that involve in-person networking and social media. Good advice for interims looking for their next gig, or for folks looking for a full-time job.

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Can Interim Management be Cure for Brain Drain?

Posted on February 3, 2009. Filed under: alternative staffing, interim management, temporary management | Tags: , , , , , |

For any company in an economic downturn, after slashing  employees to reduce their overhead there follows a sobering moment of clarity.  “How is the work going to get done? We just let go the only people that really knew how to do this (whatever “this” is) really well!”

I propose that interim management is an excellent solution, especially when the new gap is in a highly-skilled management role (as opposed to a low-skilled bureaucratic role).

So, the company can’t afford a FTE as head of marketing. Fine. Bring in a perfectly suited interim marketing executive for a couple days a week.

I had coffee with a former client last week. He had just been laid off.  The company he had worked for needed to slash overhead due to the rapid economic decline. They let go the head of marketing and the product manager, electing to leave untouched a small department of marketing specialists. Who is managing this group, you might ask? They now report to a director of business development with no marketing experience whatsoever.

Cut backs are agonizing decisions and I’m not second-guessing the decision to swing the axe at the higher salaried managers first. However, what is to become of this very effective marketing group without skilled leadership? Imagine what just two days a week of expert marketing leadership could provide.

Something tells me this story is being repeated again and again all around the world. Interim managers, let us put on our capes and save the day.

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“Interim” Isn’t a Nasty Word

Posted on June 11, 2008. Filed under: interim management | Tags: , , , |

Unfortunately, in the U.S. there is a certain minority of executives and investors who believe that when a company engages with an “interim manager” it is a sign of trouble for the company. This is odd thinking considering their reaction should be one of admiration that the company is shrewd enough to fill gaps with interim leadership before the gaps start dragging down the company’s performance.

I think the negative perception stems from the belief that interims are only used in emergency turnaround situations. We’re all too familiar with the corporate announcement of an interim-CEO or interim-CFO that usually portends a serious management issue. The logic goes that where there’s smoke there’s fire.

Yes, some interims specialize in turnaround situations. Yes, that can be a signal that not all is well in the executive suite. However, the vast majority of interim assignments, especially in Marketing or Sales, are not in turnaround situations (thus far, I’ve never had an engagement in a turnaround). The presence of interim leadership is not an indication that a company is experiencing difficulties. It simply means that the company knew it had a temporary gap in leadership, skills, or resource bandwidth and elected to fill that gap with an on-demand leader.

“Interim” isn’t a nasty word, or a signal that there’s trouble in the castle. There are thousands of interims at work in the U.S. and I assure you they’re not all at work in turnaround or at-risk companies.

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The Interim Manager as Coach

Posted on May 18, 2008. Filed under: interim management | Tags: , , , , |

There is an ancillary benefit to the use of interim managers in marketing and sales functions. The on-demand executive is often in a position to provide coaching to less experienced managers in the company.  So, while the interim conducts his/her specific duties formal or informal advice and mentoring can occur.

Small and mid-market companies that have a philosophy of hiring and developing managers for the long term are well-suited to leverage the “seasoned” nature of interims.  Larg companies, the Fortune 500-type, have large enough management hierarchies to support internal mentoring programs, but smaller companies don’t. The experience and depth of the organization chart doesn’t support such programs.

The coaching can be up or down the management food chain. For instance, an interim that is engaged to be CMO for a season is frequently on a peer level–in terms of experience– with the CEO of a small or mid-market company. The intermim CMO can provide invaluable advice and coaching to the CEO.  And the CEO can listen knowing that the advice is untainted by internal politics and bias.

In most cases the coaching is down stream. An interim VP of Sales with 20 years of enterprise sales experience can be an extremely valuable coach to the less experienced sales managers in a company trying to sell into the enterprise market. While the interim VP of Sales is implementing processes, realigning the sales organization and its commission structure, she can also be  coaching key sales managers that the company has identified as having long-term potential with the organization.

Many executives pay big bucks for coaches. How sweet it is when an on-demand executive can provide that service and fill a leadership gap at the company, too.

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Vitamins for Wounded Ducks

Posted on December 4, 2007. Filed under: alternative staffing, interim executive, interim management, On demand executives | Tags: , , , |

I was having coffee and discussing interim management with a well-respected business adviser and investor the other day. He pointed out an opportunity for interim marketing and interim sales that I hadn’t thought of before.

He correctly observed that nearly every venture capital and private equity firm has within their portfolio at least one company that has been in the portfolio for seven years or so and is struggling to reach the point where an equity event (IPO, M&A) is feasible. The investors want a return. Their management fees may be declining. He called these portfolio companies “wounded ducks”.

A change of management isn’t likely in the cards. A sharp candidate is going to see that the situation is extremely risky. Besides, the recruitment process would eat up too much valuable time. However, a breath of fresh perspective and vitality from an interim manager just might do the trick.

In these situations, why not bring in an interim sales and/or interim marketing manager with the right combination of domain/process expertise to make an all-out push for an agreed upon outcome? It’d be a mini-turnaround of sorts over a period of 3-9 months.

A solid idea worth considering.

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Is Domain Expertise Overrated? Who Wants More Kool-Aid?

Posted on October 21, 2007. Filed under: alternative staffing, Executive staffing, interim management, marketing resource management, On demand executives | Tags: , , , , |

Allow me to share a bit of introspection. In my long career as a marketer I’ve worked for eight companies as an employee, but I’ve provided services to over 55 different companies as a consultant or interim manager. Nearly all my employers and clients were in different industry segments or product categories.

So, when I see bios of executives who have for 25 years worked for three companies all in the same industry I’m astonished at their dedication to one industry. I can’t help but wonder if they didn’t get really bored though.

As you can imagine this introspective glance at my career got me to thinking (once again) about the relative value of domain expertise versus process expertise for an interim manager.

I can see the value of having experience within an industry sector or product category if one is attempting to work for another company in the same field. Really, I can. However, I think domain expertise is overrated. I believe more companies when hiring a permanent or interim executive in marketing should put more weight on the leader’s process skills and relationship skills.

One of the biggest values an IM in marketing can bring to the organization is objectivity. If the person doesn’t have in-depth industry experience they will question everything and ensure that customer data and market trends are significant factors in strategic and tactical marketing decisions. This objectivity and current market insight is absolutely critical to off-set the tendency for companies to drink their own Kool-Aid to the point of extreme myopia.

A person who has been in the industry for a time is likely to believe they know it all and be eager to show the client that they do. They will also be very tempted to rely on “what worked for them at ABC Company.” In both cases objective, market-centric thinking can take a back seat when someone wants to showboat. Professional marketers won’t do this. No matter how experienced they are in a category they’ll insist on the latest customer data, competitive analysis, and market trends to help steer their decisions.

If you’re considering interim management to fill a gap in the ranks, to shore up skill levels temporarily, or to add one-time bandwidth look first at the individuals who have a track record of applying proven processes and marketing instincts to their assignments. It’s hard to go wrong with that type of experience.

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    A Discussion of Interim Management for Marketing and Sales Functions by Charles Besondy


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  • About this Blog

    This blog is devoted to the topic of interim management for marketing functions within large and small corporations. Interim management as a staffing concept is well-understood and widely utilized in Europe. However, here in the colonies we are just beginning to open our eyes to the business benefits of being flexible and nimble when it comes to staffing senior-level marketers. (c) 2006 - 2012 Charles Besondy
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