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Published on May 5th, 2014 | by Chris Williams


SMEs and Interims – On the Increase

Interims in small, medium enterprises (SMEs) are on the rise.  Thanks in part to the economic recovery and to the flexibility, leadership, and mentorship interims can afford to businesses of all sizes.  In this post I explore why interims in SMEs are in demand and why they are a success.

Having been with Alium for nearly two years now, I have seen how interim management can be used by a whole variety of organisations, both in the private and public sectors. However, since the recovery has taken full grip, nowhere has this demand become more prevalent than in the SME community.  The question is why are interims in SMEs in such high demand?

Funding for Interims in SMEs

The most common trend I am hearing amongst our growing SME client base is that, after a long period of indecision and stagnation, they are now achieving the funding they need from owners and backers as confidence returns to the marketplace. These funds facilitate the demand for interim recruitment because of rapid business growth, or for recruitment to achieve such business growth.  Either way it is a much more positive story for these small and medium businesses.

Sales in Several Sectors

Breaking it down to a granular level of detail, I have also seen significant demand in the SME community around the sales function as companies seek to improve their performance; but this isn’t just restricted to one sector. Demand from small firms in technology, manufacturing, retail, automotive, telco and software are just some of the diverse requirements I’ve encountered since the beginning of 2014. Interims in SMEs are not restricted to one industry sector.

Maximising Potential of Interims in SMEs

But how do smaller organisations use interims to their advantage? From my experience I suggest there are several stages:

  • Mature and develop – set a sensible pace for your company growth and maintain it.
  • Layer market share – ensure you are suitably active in your intended markets.
  • New products/services – enter new markets by all means, but not without the appropriate research and support – the kind that can be provided by specialist interims.
  • New geographies – similar to the above, if you believe there is an opportunity in a new geography then ensure you have the infrastructure and data to support the investment.

There are also more subtle ways interims are helping small business.

Cultural Understanding

Interims, whether working as individuals or part of a larger team, need to be able to understand the organisational culture if they are to succeed – no matter how small the business may be. Leading, mentoring, and coaching are now expected as part of the interim management experience. As the business environment has changed from one of cost cutting to that of growth in SMEs and the wider market, this cultural element is a critical piece that must be understood. Interims in SMEs provide this cultural element.

Education on Interims

From the conversations I am having in the marketplace, it is clear that an interims ability to provide leadership, growth and stability, whether as an individual or part of an interim team are the most valued. But for all the above positive trends and market conversations that I am seeing around SMEs and the interim, there are still a few salient points that need repeating if the small business sector are to really reap the rewards. Namely what interims are and are not.

It is important to remember that interims are an agile, flexible resource, with the knowledge and experience to support your business, whatever the size. Interims are not management consultants who may tell you the best growth strategy for a high price, but then fail to implement it and depart.  Interims in SMEs are here to implement as well as come up with strategy.  This is a key factor for SMEs using interims that must not be forgotten.

In short, in what is now a very fast moving market, interim management can help you steal a march on your competition and take the lead – even if you are an SME.

If you are a small or medium business owner, do you use interims in your management structure?  How has your business benefited from using interims?  Please share your experience of using interims in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Violetkaipa

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About the Author

Along with the rest of the team, as a Resourcer, Chris performs invaluable market research for the team, speaking to and meeting with both clients and interims and working closely with the heads of practice to ensure the best result.

  • J Stark

    Excellent article.

  • J Woolmore

    I was interested to read that SME’s demand for interims is on the increase. I have worked in SME’s for over 40 years and I have to say that my take from a finance interim perspective is that the SME interim market is still depressed. My contacts advise that times are still tough for SMEs financially. They are still unwilling to incur the costs of an interim. However I have noted that the number of pseudo interim roles ie leading to permanent positions has increased dramatically. Maybe the discrepancy is explained by looking at the various disciplines involved?

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