So you want to be an Independant Interim Executive?

With over twenty years experience as an Independent Interim Executive, I am often asked by for some tips by new entrants to the industry.

I would probably ask four searching questions:

1. “Why do you want to be an Independent Interim Executive?”

I would expect the prospective candidate to be able to articulate the reasons clearly for at least ten to fifteen minutes. Anybody, who feels that it is a useful “stop-gap” until a permanent role comes along is likely to be a non-starter – prospective clients and intermediaries will want assurances and will quickly see through any “smokescreen” answers.

2. “What makes you think that you will be successful as an “Independent Interim Executive?”

Again the prospective candidate will need to have marshalled his/her argument carefully. Critical points will be: stamina, aptitude and discipline to be self-employed; risk aversion; preferably a clear marketing proposition, including branding, web-site, online presence etc., ideally embracing LinkedIn, Twitter and a Blog; proven capacity to sell oneself, hardened and resilient; either a sizeable existing network or a clear plan to acquire and leverage a new network quickly.

3. “How many months can you survive without bringing in an income?”

In the old days when Interim Management and the wider economy was growing rapidly, I would have expected a financial buffer of at least twelve months. In times of recession and a tight interim market, I would counsel for two years plus of financial resources. Key points would be: size of monthly outgoing and especially covering a large mortgage; second income of a partner in the family; dependent children; life style; private incomes; other investments/redundancy settlements etc; pensions in draw-down etc.

4. “What do you know about the interim market?”

I would expect the prospective candidate to have done some serious desk research, talked to a number of existing Independent Interim Executives, and perhaps already had some exploratory conversations with some interim intermediaries (agencies).

As a point of reference, I would probably direct the prospective interim to the Association of Professional Interims for reference:

In my experience, most prospective interims would struggle to give four robust answers, and I would encourage them to reflect very carefully, do their homework, refine their proposition and plans, talk to some intermediaries, and finally suggest reviewing the subject again a month.

Depending upon the robustness of the candidate, I would probably talk about the extreme competitiveness in the market, with enormous over-supply of resource, and uncertain or weak demand in many sectors.

At the end of the day, the decision to enter the Independent Executive Interim market is down to the individual in consultation with his or her family, and my role would remain that of Coach or Mentor.