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Interim Management

Published on November 5th, 2014 | by Mike Campbell


From Engineering To Airports – How To Achieve Interim Success

Interim Transformational Change Director Mike Campbell talks about his experience of becoming an interim manager, discussing the benefits, challenges and his top tips for interim success. 

Having started my professional career in manufacturing and engineering, you may not think that interim management was an obvious option. However, with over 20 years as a Managing Director for both an international management consultancy and also a PE firm, it was my experience and results that helped me gain that somewhat-elusive first interim role in 2009. But why go interim?

Why Interim Management?

For me, the flexible nature of the work is what really appeals. If you have the skills and experience, you are able to pick and choose the work you do. Yes, there are the obvious financial benefits, but the constant new challenges and professional stimulation are the most appealing features. The ultimate objective is to achieve the work/life balance you need – but finding that work can sometimes be the biggest challenge!

Getting Into Interim

The decision to become an interim manager can often be a difficult transition as there can be a lot of uncertainty and difficulty accessing the decision factors, even if you have the experience needed. However, as many do nowadays, I happily stumbled across interim. With my extensive General Management/MD/C-level experience, I was initially offered a permanent role at a government regional development agency (South East of England Development Agency - SEEDA) that had a high need for change. Subsequent restructures meant that after six months I was offered an interim director position, which I was happy to take on. Over the next two years, the turnaround of the agency was completed with stunning results. But political changes and decisions meant that while I also oversaw record performance and investment for SEEDA, I also had to oversee the TUPE transfer of staff as the agency and all RDAs were closed. An unfortunate ending – but a valuable first experience of complete turnaround and transformation too.

Consolidating Experience

Now that I had gained (and enjoyed) that first crucial interim role – even in a somewhat unconventional sense, I had to consider the practicalities. Setting up a limited company, IR35 etc. and – crucially – what would my USP be?

After a few months break, I then started my next interim role back in the manufacturing world working on international technology licensing. Again, this included using my interim and permanent experience, plus my relevant commercial background, to review, tighten up and deliver refreshed processes, procedures and performance – a real positive story.

Interim CEO

Just a month after this, I started my first interim CEO role at an international research and consulting firm, to help completely change and restructure the electronics and digital media specialists. As an Interim CEO reporting to the Board of Directors, it was important that I was completely clear and transparent about the challenges the firm faced so I could deliver the strategy and improvement needed.  As an interim, you must be able to show tangible results – whether that is profitability, cost savings or successful growth into new markets. Doing this will put you in a strong position for your next role and I know that having this sort of professional evidence certainly helped take me to my most recent, challenging and high profile interim role to date – at Heathrow Airport.

Interim high flyer

After taking a few well-earned months off in the summer of 2013, I was given the fantastic opportunity to get involved with the rebuild of Heathrow Terminal 2. This project and programme role was focussed around assurance of full operational capability of the £2.5bn terminal. My track record in delivering projects on budget and on time with effective stakeholder management meant I was able to use my skills and experience to deliver this extensive change successfully – and in a completely different industry too. I immensely enjoyed the role and fully handed it over to the team in June 2014.

Top Tips For Interim Success

As you can see, the last five years have been a rollercoaster of new experiences and skills as I built my interim portfolio. Drawing on my assignments, I think there are several facts that you need if you are going to succeed:

  1. Focus on delivery – what are the results that you are expected to achieve and how are you going to achieve them in the timescales?
  2. Have confidence – remember the experience you have so far will give you the confidence you need to meet any challenges head on. Don’t panic and remember to talk to you team.
  3. Be practical – you cannot just jump into interim. Consider the practicalities – is interim the right professional and lifestyle choice for you and your family?
  4. Networking – as I am sure you will have been told, using your own professional network is absolutely key to gain that next (or first) assignment. Interim managers can go through deep periods of uncertainty in-between roles, so use your contacts of other professionals and providers to the maximum.

What is your experience of being an interim manager? What do you think are the key things to remember to achieve interim success? Share your comments below.

If you are just starting out on your interim journey we have the perfect eBook for you! How To Become A Successful Interim Manager covers everything you need to know about getting started as an interim today. To download your free copy, click here.

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About the Author

Managing Director of Campbell Ventures - an interim management and consulting company that specialises in delivering transformational change in businesses. The firm specialises in the electronic technology, precision engineering, manufacturing, professional services, cleantech, aviation, venture capital and private equity sectors.

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