Be an interim executive

Overview

Many companies have a need for expertise in their senior team, but for various reasons, aren’t ready to hire a full-time executive. For these companies, bringing in someone to manage the function on a temporary or interim basis is a perfect solution. And, of course, for executives retiring from a corporate career who want to remain active, serving in an interim role makes perfect sense. As an interim executive you can share your experience, skills and talents without creating a long-term expectation, thereby having more control and flexibility than what comes with a full-time executive position.  Whether you’re considering becoming an interim executive, or have already decided to pursue this direction, the information on these pages will help give you clarity and direction.

Am I right for this?

10 yes/no questions to help you determine if this is a good direction for you

Have I developed a set of best practices from my career that I can leverage?

Do I like to work independently?

Do I enjoy project work?

Am I comfortable joining an existing team?

Am I okay with sharing my expertise and lifelong career knowledge for less than I would be paid in a permanent role?

Am I willing to deal with the political pushback that may come as an interim contributor?

Am I okay taking the heat for implementing unpopular initiatives if that’s what is required?

Am I comfortable working with limited resources?

Am I okay developing solutions that I may not be present to see executed?

Do I have the financial resources to weather the dry spells when the client assignment ends?

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If you answer six or more “yes,” this is probably a good direction to pursue.

Areas companies want help with

A business’s most powerful asset is its people. According to The Predictive Index’s 2021 Annual CEO Benchmarking Report, CEOs are looking for solutions in the following areas:

  • Talent optimization
  • Management
  • Purchasing new software or systems
  • Adopting new processes or playbooks
  • Human resources

Reasons companies turn to interim executives

  • Helping the organization navigate through change
  • Perform the executive function while a successor is being groomed
  • Provide specific expertise and/or resources
  • Manage a specific project

Levels of interim executives

  • CEO
  • CFO
  • COO
  • CIO
  • CMO
  • Director
  • Manager

Skill and functional expertise sought from interim executives

  • Subject matter knowledge (about a particular industry or function)
  • Strategic thinking
  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Processes and systems
  • Communication
  • Quick to assimilate
  • Bias for action
  • Questioning and listening

Q&A

Here are questions and answers that address common issues and concerns for those interested in being an interim executive.

Question

Do I have to specialize in a particular function or skill?

Answer

Most companies seeking an interim executive are looking for specific expertise, albeit at the higher levels, i.e. C-level or SVP.  You will be a more competitive candidate if you position yourself with the expertise you had in your corporate career. At the end of the day an interim executive is providing expertise to help move a company through a transition or execute a specific initiative.

Question

How much do interim execs get paid compared to full-time executives?

Answer

Fee models vary, depending on the nature of the engagement with the client. You can charge by the hour, the project, or based on performance. If your fee is project-based, it’s important to accurately estimate the amount of time and resources it will take to complete the project. If the client requests revisions, and it takes more time to complete than what was originally calculated, you may lose revenue. When establishing your fee structure, it is advisable to determine a model and amount that works for you and your client.

Question

How long do interim assignments last?

Answer

Assignments usually run a few months to more than a year, but it completely depends on the needs of the company. For example, an unexpected executive vacancy could mean an interim is on board six-to-nine months while a permanent search is taking place. A PE firm may want to grow a company to prepare it for sale, which could take two-to-three years. Or a corporation undergoing a technology transformation, may bring on an executive for the project duration.

Question

Do I get benefits when I am in an interim role?

Answer

One of the advantages to a company in bringing in an interim executive rather than a full-time executive is that it does not incur the cost of benefits such as 401k’s, pensions, heath insurance etc. For retired execs who don’t need those perks and want to stay active in a corporate engagement this can be an ideal arrangement.

Question

Is ageism a factor in getting interim assignments like it can be when seeking full time employment?

Answer

The initial business costs as an independent consultant are very low; you are the primary asset and besides your experience, knowledge and insights, you won’t need very much capital. You will want to invest in marketing materials, which can be quite affordable. An optimized LinkedIn profile, a one-sheet describing your services, and a consultant’s resume is all you need to get started. You won’t need an office, unless you can’t work from home or are far more productive in a professional environment.

Question

What is the difference between a fractional executive and an interim executive?

Answer

Fractional executives may work with multiple companies at once and typically are brought in when the company does not need the full-time capacity of an executive and wants expertise for a fraction of the time and cost. The popularity of fractional executives is growing across Europe and the US. It is especially increasing among early-stage companies.

Interim executives typically engage for one month to two years and provide many of the same functions as a fractional exec, although with a slightly different focus – filling a leadership gap. creating an operational roadmap and then execute and implement to ramp up growth.

Question

How do I find interim assignments, and do I need a special resume to be a viable candidate?

Answer

There are a number of interim executive companies and websites where you can make yourself available through a profile or directly with the company leaders, which function much like executive recruiters. You would be advised to have an executive level resume and to emphasize your ability to assimilate quickly, have immediate impact and make a measurable difference to a company or organization.

Option Evaluator

Assess this option against the following eight criteria:

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Additional resources

Next steps:

Step 1

Determine if it makes sense for you to become an interim or fractional executive based on the “Is this Right for Me”section.

Step 2

Optimize or create a LinkedIn profile.

Step 3

Create or revise your resume to position you as a senior executive who makes an immediate and lasting impact.

Step 4

Talk to colleagues or prior business associates about their experience in using interim executives.

Step 5

Identify firms that place interim execs and reach out accordingly.

Step 6

Consider marketing yourself directly to companies.

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Get started

Talk to an expert. Explore the options. Dig a little deeper. See if this is right for you.