by Abigail Vickers0
How High-Performing Business Leaders Use Interims
In recent years interims have been in more demand than they were before the recession. In our interim surveys, we have found that over 45% of interims were in assignments during three of four quarters in 2015, which is up 2% on 2014 figures. We have also witnessed a similar uptick for the first few months of 2016.
Speaking to clients, there are clear levels of high demand from finance (40%), public sector organisations (32%) and IT/software companies (31%), with as many enquiries from new clients as those we have worked with for years.
Despite the recent fallout from Brexit, the reasons behind the use of interims remain largely unchanged. Businesses are still more focused on transformation and growth than making short-term, responsive decisions from positions of weaknesses.
It is also worth noting that more interims than ever (72%) are having assignments extended – with 27% of those working an extra six months on the initial brief. Another positive indication that senior interims are valuable resources for business leaders looking to increase revenue growth and implement transformation programs that have been delayed until now.
3 Compelling Reasons For Using Interim Managers
Let’s take a look in more detail why business leaders work with interims.
According to our 2015 Business Opinion and Satisfactory Survey (BOSS), growth is one of the main challenges that leaders bring interims into solve (46%). This means focusing on performance and quality improvements (43%) and new projects (42%).
More recent survey responses from our interim community indicate that transformation and turnaround are the most common reasons business leaders work with interims. Addressing internal change is also a popular reason, with 37% of interims brought in to work on projects that streamline processes and enable companies to grow more effectively.
In some cases, reactive projects – reacting to market forces, external conditions, and regulatory changes – see organisations working with interims. Many that lack the internal knowledge turn to outsiders with experience under challenging circumstances, whereas other assignments are a consequence of companies being in a position where they can proactively implement policies of renewal and change.
For some, this means launching new divisions, products, services, entering new markets/territories, or dealing with new threats, such as the impact of Airbnb and other so-called ‘sharing economy’ startups in the hotels and leisure sector.
#2: Business Development
Organisations that focus on growth need more support with business development. We are seeing a trend whereby companies are no longer working with external training providers or consultants, instead 33% are bringing interims into the sales teams to ensure revenue upticks are more sustainable.
Consequently, we are working with more interims with senior sales backgrounds than ever before. This is happening in companies of all sizes, from SME’s to multinationals; a sign that those that are serious about growth are no longer willing to settle with practices that don’t generate enough of a return. It isn’t just about getting an outside perspective and expertise anymore; real change can only happen when those ideas, insights and learnings can be embedded within an organisation.
Interims are more equipped than most to make those types of changes, which is perhaps why 40% of businesses leaders we spoke to said they would make greater use of them next year. Clearly, a sign that interims are having a positive impact on the organisations they are working with.
#3: Project Programme Management
Project management is high on the agenda of business leaders when they engage interim executives. From those we’ve spoken to in organisations of all sizes, in dozens of sectors, 32% work with interims for their project programme management expertise (PPM). After transformation and turnaround, PPM is the third most popular reason business leaders require interims for assignments.
Often this involves multiple interims since projects that have been delayed for some time are usually implemented alongside other projects, which means teams of interims are needed to ensure different business areas work smoothly together.
This is where interims prove their value, given many have experience across a wide range of sectors and functions, they can act as operational Swiss army knives and change agents. Connecting, building bridges and making changes that would normally be too difficult or challenging for permanent staff, especially when projects are integrated with functional departments, divisions and processes.
Businesses leaders are refusing to settle for slow growth or poor performance. That’s the message we are getting from speaking to clients and interims. Despite short-term uncertainty, most business leaders are confident growth will continue.
The difference, compared to other times of relative stability and economic prosperity, is the recession is still in everyone’s rearview mirror. No one is willing to simply hope for the best. Complacency isn’t an option anymore. Now is the perfect time to implement policies and practices that will not only safeguard organisations from any potential slowdown but ensure growth is sustainable.
High performing business leaders are no longer willing to keep doing things how they’ve always done. Interims provide a fresh perspective, along with the expertise and experience necessary to implement change, transformation and turnaround projects that have lasting impacts on business operations. Hence, more organisations than ever using them and interims taking more assignments for longer than we have seen in recent years.
We believe that many business leaders have an immediate requirement for senior level interims following the EU referendum vote. Those that are already engaging interims to help navigate this new post-Brexit landscape are creating a competitive and strategic advantage over those that have not.
We have created a checklist of actions Senior Interim Directors recommend to manage post-Brexit threats and seize the opportunities that this vote presents. Click on the link below for your copy.