What Does “Strategy” Really Mean? Move Over Behemoths, The Little Guys Are Coming for You

After a call with a “strategy” director (I hate quotes, but let me do this just once) at a multibillion dollar public company, I couldn’t help but thank Forrest Gump for popularizing the proverb:

Stupid is as stupid does

This company is in a sleepy industry and to continue to grow they must find new ways to innovate. Our conversation circled around a request to help in what would be a major, breathtaking pivot into a completely new sector. To succeed, the company would need more leadership and more firepower than organic growth would provide, meaning they were looking to acquisitions. And we had the perfect target – a fit so good as to be called an epiphany.
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What is an Interim Leader?

An interim leader is an accomplished operating executive, highly skilled from extensive training in corporate or entrepreneurial environments. Interim leaders focus on helping companies through periods of change, transformation, or transition. Assignments can run anywhere from a few months to two years, but the executive is usually focused on helping a company get to the next stage of growth or turnaround.  Examples of when an interim may be brought in include:

  • Turning around a company from decreasing or stagnant revenue
  • Putting processes, systems, controls, and operational improvements in place
  • Ramping up a company’s growth to prepare it for investment or sale
  • Increasing sales, brand positioning and awareness

Interim executives engage around the world with client companies ranging from startup to growth mode, private to public to nonprofit and NGO, multibillion dollar robust multinationals to struggling or failing businesses, products and divisions.
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Seven Signs an Interim Executive Can Help Your Company

Interim executives, or interims, have recently become an important tool that organizations can use to effectively address a variety of pressing needs. Having said that, many companies are either unaware that interims are even available or appropriate for their current situation. The most common understanding of the role of an interim is to fill an immediate need in the executive team caused by a sudden voluntary or involuntary departure. In this case, a seasoned executive can step right in and allow the company to progress unabated. While much of what an interim does is similar to consulting, successful execution is critical and unique to the role of interims. This blog presents seven case studies to help companies better understand other instances where interims can help. There are certainly more examples, but these are representative. While seven represents everything from the apocalypse to luck in gambling, we’ll stick with seven.

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The Three Upgrades Private Equity Make When They Buy a Company

The best private equity funds talk about backing great CEOs, entrepreneurs, and management teams. But in the lower middle market ($2-$15 million in EBITDA), what’s a private equity fund to do when the company they are acquiring lacks resources and the management skills to earn great returns?

What if serious talent doesn’t extend beyond the CEO or founder?

Douglas Song, co-founder of Prodos Capital Management and an investor in lower middle market companies, says that “there’s always a way to think creatively and unlock value in any lower middle market company.” He especially finds common themes among companies where entrepreneurs or families have built a great business over time, but are lacking in certain areas where partnering with additional resources will help them take the business to the next level. Continue reading →

We Fix. We Optimize. We Grow. We Lead.

Interim Execs works with companies, board members, and investors to match them with C-level talent wherever needed. And it’s not just about title – our Rapid Deployment Program looks at where you are at, and where you want to go.

Maybe there is a leadership gap, or maybe you are trying to get the business to the next level – expanding overseas, acquiring and integrating other businesses, transforming technology and operational processes. Maybe you see trouble on the horizon if you don’t make changes fast.

Interim executives specialize in quickly assessing your business, creating a strategy moving forward, and actually executing on it. Yes, that means doing the work. This is not consulting. We don’t deliver long reports that you can’t act on. We fix. We optimize. We grow. We lead.

An Interim Executive’s Approach to Realize the Full Value of a Company’s Investments

Interim executives deliver real results, in real time, real quick. An interim is unique in the depth and breadth of experience they bring to bear. This allows an interim to see hidden value in existing products/processes/systems, implement actionable strategies and gain true alignment necessary to optimize the business. The interim will review the investments the company has made into processes, organizational structure and systems. This will lead to a focus on the areas which can be easily measured and might yield the quickest return on investment such as profits, systems and process efficiency.
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Companies Watch Out for These 5 Fake Interims

Faker
Most executives who approach InterimExecs are not initially qualified for membership on the RED Team. We take a long time – usually years – to get to know great interims as they build their track records of successful engagements and happy clients, teams, customers and investors.

Occasionally someone shows up with zero experience as an interim, convinced they have the same mindset as a battle-tested interim who’s successfully killed it five or ten times before in project, interim or fractional roles. We turn away these executives, along with around 98% of applicants that approach us. Why? Because even accomplished executives can easily trip up if they haven’t been held accountable for high-impact work before, where failure would be at the company owner’s expense.

We often hear of companies bringing in executives disguising themselves as interims, which usually does not have a happy ending.
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All Distressed Businesses Have the Same 3 Problems

I am amazed how boards, when they are hit with a crisis, look for a fix from the guy who has been in the same industry for the last 15 years. While this might be important for a company on a predictable path to growth in a stable industry (something very rare if not extinct these days), it becomes a liability when the industry is being disrupted by substitutes or by an industry cycle (see recent crude oil price crisis).

In my 20 year career as an interim exec, I have worked across many industries: electronics, software, oil refining and distribution, food packaging, retail and most recently agriculture in the jungles of South East Asia. These industries have been scattered across 12 countries on 3 continents. The problems faced by an interim are never the same, but the basics are always the same. It’s always about (in this order):
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Good CEOs Focus on Active Listening

When an interim CEO or CFO parachutes into a company they have first-hand experience of what measurements and benchmarks (analytics) are useful and how to use and prioritize them. There is also solid recognition that data and numbers can eliminate a great deal of negativity and get people focused on solutions. Taking action is key, and that often begins with active listening to quickly figure out the exact condition of the company.

An interim must get the facts by asking people what they see and where their main areas of concern are. It is rare during this initial listening process that someone does not say something like “if we had better lighting in this area quality control would improve!”
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Executive Search May Be Long, But Interim Execs Deploy in 48 Hours

There is no question that the executive search process is long. When a C-level executive bolts or an organization is going through a transformation – acquisition, product launch, market expansion, etc. – the right leadership needs to be in place, and needs to be in place now.

Vision Share, a consortium of eye banks, experienced this firsthand. Their mission, ensuring corneas be sent worldwide for transplant by eye surgeons, was hampered by organizational problems. The board of directors knew a new CEO was needed, but “the permanent search was estimated to be 6-9 months and came with a guarantee of a year’s employment,” Cindy Reed, Board Member at Vision Share said. “We really felt like we needed more than that.”

The board went to the Association of Interim Executives’ Rapid Executive Deployment Program to bring in Gregg Steinberg as Interim CEO to stabilize the organization, achieve immediate growth goals, and prepare them to hire the permanent CEO.
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