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?
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Today companies operate in a complex global economy which is more diverse, connected by the Internet, and not very predictable. Many companies still pursue classic business approaches (inside-the-box thinking) with a focus on short-term results. Failure to focus on business improvement and adapting to the new business environment can cause many issues and eventually lead to delisting from a stock exchange, bankruptcy, or liquidation. How many of 1960’s “Fortune 500” companies still exist today?
In a recent NPR story about the rising demand for interim executives, Association of Interim Executives CEO, Robert Jordan shares that a temporary CEO is not a babysitter, but rather a specialized surgeon. “It creates a bias in favor of action and against playing politics,” Robert said, then commenting that Interim CEOs are “trying to solve a problem and work themselves out of the job.”
Association RED Team Member and Interim CEO, Richard Lindenmuth, is also interviewed sharing about his turnaround of Styrotek, an agricultural packaging company in California that contacted the Association in the midst of a 3-month drought and big financial losses. Dick was able to parachute in as Interim CEO and get the company quickly back to profitability. He says “you really have to listen – the solutions are generally within the company.”
I’ve done it for three decades, turning around companies from agriculture (such as Styrotek) to telecommunications giants (such as ITT). As interim leader, I have to parachute in, quickly gain trust and respect from all levels, determine a course of action, and unite everyone to stay that course—all within a limited timeframe.
It takes leadership strategies far beyond business and managerial chops, though certainly those are necessary. You can’t lead effectively without a connection to the people in the company; emotional intelligence is a must. Think of it as ‘strategic empathy’—being sincerely focused on the individual, but always with the big picture top of mind.
Whether you are an interim or a permanent CEO, these 7 tips for using strategic empathy bear relevance for anyone in a leading role.
Association of Interim Executives member, Yoav Cohen, is an interim executive who has successfully helped turn around many struggling companies. In a recent interview with MeetAdvisors, Yoav shares his experiences, and the warning signs owners should look for if trouble’s coming.
“Many people who run companies get comfortable with the familiar and are not managing the changes demanded by the market,” Cohen said.
Many companies are starved for effective leadership, and as a result the demand for great interim executives who will come in and do the work is increasing. Consider this passage from the book Traction:
The inability to make a business vision a reality is epidemic. Consider it a new take on an old quote: Vision without traction is merely hallucination. All over the world, business consultants frequently conduct multiple-day strategic planning sessions and charge tens of thousands of dollars for teaching what is theoretically great material. The downside is that after making you feel warm and fuzzy about your direction, these same consultants rarely teach you how to bring your vision down to the ground and make it work in the real world.
First-year Change Agent members have access to the Interim Institute’s 4 hour audio program on the Fundamentals of Interim Management, and a one-hour strategy session to help jumpstart their interim career.
*$200 additional charge for Accelerator Program only applies for first-year members. After the first year, membership renews at $485/year.