Every business gets faced with a crisis, either real or imagined, from time to time. How you deal with it determines the strength of your management, and the long-term future of the company.
I have been recruiting in this industry for more years than I care to remember. Despite a number of false starts, it is only recently that people have started to turn more and more to interim solutions to management problems.Speed - a new manager can be in place within days as opposed to weeks.
Let me explain. When I say false starts, I mean that a number of people have tried to launch interim management services, but this industry has always resisted. As far as I can tell, we are deeply suspicious of anything new, and the idea of letting an outsider take executive control, even on a short-term basis, was simply not a decision many owners were prepared to take.
Other industries have used and benefited from the experience of properly briefed and controlled Interims for decades. It has been seen as an effective way to recycle experience back through organisations that otherwise might get too structured and introverted.
In the face of today's ever-changing market, I can see that our industry is beginning to change, and to change quite quickly. A number of our clients are beginning to see the very real benefits that come from a structured interim management placement.
First of all, why would any company think of an interim management solution? Well simply, you may not have anybody suitable or available for the position. Alternatively a permanent role may be unnecessary or there may be insufficient time to make a permanent appointment.
This is particularly the case when a highly trusted, and normally very experienced lieutenant suddenly leaves the business. It is quite often exacerbated if they go to a competitor just round the corner. To protect your position in the marketplace you probably need to react very quickly.
Perhaps you are planning a merger/acquisition, an MBO/MBI or are selling an operation? Do you need to manage specific business critical projects, or to drive through a major change? Some companies need additional support as they are planning a new launch or targeting an unfamiliar opportunity.
In falling markets in particular, there is simply a need to add extra impetus to a crucial strategy or to employ extra short-term management muscle whilst they face a corporate crisis. Others use interim managers to plug a short-term gap created by an unexpected contract win!
But why an interim? Because you get much more than just a temporary solution to your problem. Because of the way proper interim management services are structured, most Interims are highly experienced, senior managers who specialise in a particular area of the industry.
If the interim management company is doing its job, (and we like to think we do) then these people have probably operated at a level above the one you wish to recruit and can bring a lot of experience and knowledge to bear. They also bring tremendous levels of energy and focus to particular problems, exactly because interim placements are for a defined, short period of time.
By employing a proper interim manager you gain - at very short notice - a high calibre, experienced, all-in-one project manager, consultant and senior executive working at senior level. Someone who can act as a mentor to your management team, bring their years of experience to your situation and provide practical support.
Typically hired for 3 to 9 months they are hand-picked for their relevant industry and issue-specific experience and usually, but not always, occupy positions which command a salary of £75k plus.
And lest you think it is just the motor industry that is waking up to interim managers, demand is growing across all industries, driven by the need for extra, experienced, hands-on support during times of great change, difficulty or opportunity. A recent report estimated that around £75m. was spent on senior level interim management in 1995 -- that figure had risen to £190m. by 2000, and this year it is predicted to exceed £420m.
And in case you need any more convincing, think on the following advantages of this solution:
Commitment - Most Interim Managers are committed to an interim career and take their responsibilities seriously. They are not just waiting for a permanent job. They like different assignments, take great pride in their standards and know that they are only ever as good as their last job.
Objectivity - Coming from outside the organisation, with no pre-conceptions on company processes or staff relationships, Interim Managers provide a fresh perspective and have the freedom to concentrate on what's best for the business.
Experience - Interim Managers will be more than qualified for the position and may well be stepping down in responsibility and have past experience of challenges similar to the ones they face.
Accountability - They are not consultants with purely an advisory role, but rather responsible and accountable line managers who will implement and manage a business or project in their own right.
Effectiveness - Operating at or near board-level gives Interim Managers the authority to effect significant change or transition within a company - unlike a temp, they are not just a 'stand in'.
So if you need to fix a long-term problem, think short term - it could be the best decision you ever made.