The Case for Fractional Executives

It seems like every company owner dreams of achieving major traction in the marketplace. That fast track growth, however, often comes at a cost. Things get taped together. There’s no process to speak of. Systems? Ha. Things go missing, including clients and team members. Lack of resources means that even the crown jewel, the company’s ability to out-innovate, may be put on hold just to keep up.

When a company grows faster than the capabilities of the leadership team, the end result is often a splat: the company hits the wall.

Smart fast-growing companies are combatting this with fractional or part-time executives.

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All companies use information technology to some degree.

Great companies have CIO leadership on the management team to purposefully leverage information technologies in creative and sometimes disruptive ways – to grow business, produce faster than competition, enrich customer experiences, and make business transformation happen.

Many full-time CIOs dedicate their careers to one specific industry, and so their experience is vertically deep. Interim CIOs on the other hand, provide a unique perspective blending innovation and technology transformation across a variety of organizations and industries. They specialize in change, bringing an attractive depth-of-experience from a career of change management, while leveraging ever-evolving technologies. It is this change-leadership experience that is highly valuable to a proactive board or management team facing the challenge of business transformation, especially where information technologies are an enabling and differentiating factor.

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How to Evaluate Executive Candidates

“A man’s got to know his limitations.” Clint Eastwood’s immortal line as San Francisco detective Harry Callahan in the movie Dirty Harry stands true today when board of directors and management teams think about how to evaluate executive candidates. If you have been in management, ownership or board leadership long enough, sooner or later you’ve learned that no one has a perfect track record when it’s come to hiring.

So how do you increase your chances of success?

You’ve already taken the first step – by thinking of interim executives in order to mitigate your risk. You are making sure you have a clear roadmap and understanding of the leadership skillsets needed to get you where you want to go before committing to anything permanent too soon. That’s good.

Whether interim or permanent, there are questions to ask and ways to evaluate your organization’s fit with an executive leader.

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Is an Interim Executive a Fit for Your Company?

When an executive, head of HR, owner, or investor calls us, it’s because the organization is in motion and leadership to drive growth, change, or turnaround is needed…fast.

If you are tasked with bringing in an interim, you’ve probably done your research and read what a true interim executive is, how interims are different from consultants, and how an interim gets compensated.

But still – is this the right move for you and your company? Let’s explore:

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Growth Story: $4B Company Engages Transformational CEO to Spinoff Software Startup

Corporations know that innovation is key to their continued growth, but what happens when serious product or service reengineering is not within the organization’s DNA? What if the company is just too successful or set in their traditional world?

That is exactly what happened when a multi-billion dollar construction company came to us with a software division they had launched internally. While the company was superb at architecting, planning, engineering and building major construction projects, developing software was a new ball game.

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Four Factors That a Predict if a Company Will Fail or Fly High

Companies that have sought out true interims will tell you that during initial conversations, the executive interviewed the company as much as the company interviewed the executive. Having jumped into everything from manufacturing to healthcare, to AI, interims are choosy about the assignments they take on. They are not shy about a challenge, but want to have major impact. The best interim execs have a finely honed internal screening check-list to decide what’s best to parachute into.

Cleve Adams is no stranger to high growth situations, having built a SaaS cyber security software company from pre-revenue to a $1B IPO in three years. As an interim exec and four-time VC-backed CEO, Cleve says there are four vital components to evaluating a company.

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How The Best Company Builders Grow Their Teams

When I started my first company at age 26, I’ll admit, it was lonely. Even though we were only a team of six, there was a clear dividing line between me as founder and CEO, and my staff.

I learned how to pull in expert help, but I had a lingering feeling over the years that I took the business more seriously than anyone else on the team. Especially cash flow. And making payroll. Eventually I built a successful company, but not until hitting every pothole I could find. Hindsight is 20-20, but an executive-level leader alongside me would have spared so much pain.

This was my driving force to becoming an interim executive myself. Helping owners and founders to get over hurdles that, left to their own devices, would take years to master, and in many cases skills they didn’t otherwise need or enjoy. I focused on high growth tech companies, getting them to market and eventually for M&A events that would bring extraordinary returns to investors.

This is still what drives us today at InterimExecs: to empower companies to reach their full potential by building world-class leadership. Whatever it takes to accomplish projects, goals, growth initiatives, or in some cases fixing what’s broken.

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Private Equity Fund In Hot Water Deploys Interim Team

What do you do when your fund does a great job buying 5 divisions of a big publishing company spinning off assets, only to find one of the divisions starts going sideways?

First, you give the division some time to right the ship on their own.

Unfortunately, for one multi-billion dollar private equity fund, this strategy didn’t work… and the fund gave the CEO four years to get it right.

That’s a lot of patience.

Eventually, it came time to make a change, which the managing partner was dreading.

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A New Approach to Executive Search Services for Fast Growing Companies

The project-based executive, also known as an interim executive has been around for 30+ years, having originated in the Netherlands, later expanding to the UK, the rest of Europe and finally reaching America around 2000.

The early model for interim engagements was invariably focused on turnaround and distress situations: an organization in pain would eventually decide they couldn’t solve the problem on their own, and would seek an outside resource, often through executive search firms, where the executive was never a permanent employee.

Interims have played a part since the early days of private equity funds, where fund managers would use executive search services as part and parcel of their post-acquisition ownership strategy. A fund would see big potential in a struggling company, and would realize big returns by bringing in an outside executive to turn the company around. Thus the early version of interim – interim 1.0 – was all about fixing what was broken.

The next phase in interim executive deployment launched in the US, arguably emerging out of the tech community.

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Why an Interim Management Search is Not Like Hiring a Permanent Executive

Many owners and boards are new to the game of hiring an executive specializing in interim management.

As the gig economy has gained momentum, more companies are drawing on executive level resources for specific growth initiatives or to help troubleshoot inefficiencies or problems. Interims come in on a project basis as contractors, therefore not adding to permanent overhead.

Because the majority of companies have never written a contract for an interim, they draw on what they know – the playbook for searching and hiring a full-time exec.

Yet, interim management and permanent employment are two different worlds.

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