The Interim Executive Director – What, Why and How

The concept of an Interim Executive Director (ED) isn’t well known in the nonprofit arena…yet. But, it’s becoming more mainstream and for many good business reasons.

Did you know?  On average, it takes a Board of Directors 9 months to recruit a new Executive Director. By the time they are on-boarded and contributing, a year may have passed since the departure of their prior leader. While Board members may step up to “mind the gap”, the truth is that employees, partners and funders can lose confidence in your organization during this leadership transition and key employees may leave. Just organizing payroll, developing a budget and/or supervising the employees may keep the lights on, but without professional leadership, your organization can be harmed and stymied while the Board should be focused on finding your next leader.

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Decoding Executive Titles: The Difference Between Interim, Fractional, Project & Part-Time Executives

Interim, acting, project, contract, fractional. The array of titles can make your head spin, but they all point to a specialized type of executive that companies call on when they are going through transformation. So let’s break it down:

Interim Executive: Interim executives typically engage for 1 month to 2 years. This title can cover a lot of use cases, but in all cases, the company needs some kind of change or upgrade. The organization may have a leadership gap. Maybe they are not sure if they are on the right track, and they need an executive to create an operational roadmap and then execute and implement to ramp up growth. Maybe its technology or security issues; or an effective leader to reposition the company, update brand and build out a best-practices sales team to bring them into the new digital era. In all cases, executives across the C-suite can be drawn on for these types of assignments: CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CMO, CSO.

Acting Executive: Acting executive is another word for interim, though typically points to a time frame where an executive is stepping into a role for a short time while the permanent search takes place.

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Why HR Departments Are Changing How They Approach Executive Search

Most HR execs have been trained to look for candidates who have a track record sticking with companies for long periods of time. For many companies going through upheaval, rapid growth, or dramatic changes in their markets, that long-term permanent employee mindset may actually be more detrimental. When a company must evolve quickly, an executive hired on full-time may not be the right leader nine months or a year down the road.

The speed at which companies move in today’s world to stay relevant has paved the way for the new specialty of interim management, which includes executives focused on operations to finance, technology, sales and marketing. Interims are skilled operators who run, build, grow, and fix businesses. They take on accountability in C-level roles making decisions, reporting to the board, and being held responsible for the results.

Unlike executives who choose long-term, permanent jobs, interims are wired for transformation and usually are called in when companies need a leadership boost to get them on the right path. Once an interim brings an organization, division, or department to a better state of affairs, that new-found clarity and direction gives the HR team a cleaner slate by which to recruit and hire the next permanent person in the role.

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Assess Marketing Performance to Meet Revenue Goals

The truism that every business needs marketing cannot be denied, even by businesses that owe the majority of their growth to word-of-mouth referrals. However, confusion arises when businesses mistake marketing for sales. In simple terms, marketing builds demand, sales closes the deal.

The goal of marketing is to increase sales and, by perforce, grow revenue. The trick is in measuring the success of your marketing efforts. What metrics do you use to measure marketing effectiveness? Although profit is the ultimate goal, it’s not the sole measurement of success. Other benchmarks along the way indicate the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

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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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How Much Does An Interim Executive Cost?

Once owners, board members and investors figure out exactly what an interim is and how an interim can help them, the next question is invariably, how much does an interim executive cost?

The short answer is: there is no off the shelf rate card for interim execs. Or more precisely, it doesn’t exist for the best interims in the world. There are a couple reasons rate cards don’t exist, at least not amongst our RED Team, an elite group of interim, project and fractional executives who have been selected because of their track records creating incredible results in companies.

Company Situations Vary Greatly, So Scope of Work is Always Unique
Your company is your baby and your baby isn’t like anyone else’s in the world. As such, the caliber of leader you need and the process and deliverables necessary to achieve the best outcome is a tailor-made solution – not an off the rack, one size fits all experience.

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May 2nd 2017 marked the third annual meeting for the InterimExecs RED Team (Rapid Executive Deployment). Top interim executives from Manchester to Hamburg, San Francisco to New York and beyond met at William Blair’s offices in Chicago for RED3.

The event kicked off the night before at Pinstripes with cocktails and killer Bocce ball. Who knew the French were so good at petanque?

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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.

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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Private Equity Investors Tap Interim Executives to Transform Portfolio Companies

“No duty the executive had to perform was so trying as to put the right man in the right place.” -Thomas Jefferson

Private equity fund managers aren’t in the caretaking business. They are in the business of sparking change within companies that can be grown or turned around to produce big returns for their institutional investors. And that change can’t be just incremental. Fund managers strive to be in the business of transformation.

Sometimes, along with capital, transformation means bringing in solid, experienced leadership to help take a company to the next level.

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