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.

3 responses

  1. Dr Alf is right to counsel for a 12 to 24 month financial buffer for a would be interim but given that 80% of bank account holders in the UK have less than £500 gbp in them at any one time most people would fall at the first hurdle.
    If I was counselling one of these prospective interims I would want to be assured that they had a fat address book,contacts willing to give them assignments and that they knew how to sell.
    Many prospective interims imagine that because they were wizards in corporate life,that the world will recognise their brilliance and beat a path to their door.
    They imagine that interim providers who have up to 250,000 people on their books down to as few as 5000 will provide them with work.
    This when just 30% of assignments come from interim providers and then only to a charmed minority of favoured people.
    For those without an alumnus,a fat address book,connections through golf,fraternal organisations,the pub or former regiments,schools and interest groups the future is neither bright nor orange.
    They have to learn how to sell,learn how to network,write letters to interim providers,promote themselves,write “pain letters” and “hunt kill and eat their own prey” either alone or with others.
    That process can be exhausting so elderly interims need to keep in shape,develop Stoicism,take vitamins,exercise,eat well and keep up to date.
    Gaps between assignments have to be explained and the would be interim has to be constantly learning and developing additional income streams so that when an assignment emerges they look and sound the part.
    Too many interims imagine that they have the luxury of turning up in the same suit as if they had the sort of money that Branson,Bill Gates,Bezos and Sir Martin Sorrell has.
    They can get away with it whereas an aspirining interim has to drive the right car and exude an air of success and quiet competence that says the job will get done efficiently and on time without any doubt about delivery/benefits realisation.

  2. Pingback: Interim Management: Seven Key Trends | Dr Alf's Weekly Blog

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