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Interims – Like a Guest Chefs – Can do more than a quick snack

Interims are like guest chefs: able to do more than make you a quick snack

The short term financial benefits of an interim are well documented – quick to start earning their keep and no ‘extras’ to the salary such as perks, pension, holiday or sick pay. But there’s more to it than cheap labour – interims are like guest chefs: able to do more than make you a quick snack.

The skilled interim can offer an organisation powerful – and longer term – benefits over a defined period of time. Let’s look at 2 interim models:

1. The traditional role of filling an existing temporary vacancy, for example during a sabbatical or maternity/paternity leave.
2. The concentrated (and psychological) value of a specialist taking on a one-off position in the firm: the Limited Edition Interim

1. An interim filling an existing temporary vacancy
Whatever the size of organisation, losing someone in a key role – be it sales, marketing, operations or finance – can be difficult to manage whether it’s planned or not. ‘Muddling through’ is an option chosen by some companies in the mistaken belief that the most economic route is not to fill a temporary role because the team will take up the slack (and, eventually, the role may be forgotten). Losing business is often the consequence of this route, whereas a capable interim filling an existing vacancy can achieve many things:

a. Service continuity means ‘business as usual’
Don’t give your customers a reason to look elsewhere. Everyone has staffing issues from time to time – August has just demonstrated that very ably, from a lack of dentist appointments to long checkout queues. Service continuity means ‘business as usual’ to a customer so how you manage short-mid term vacancies is the key to encouraging loyalty. It’s very obvious when a team is covering for, or suffering from, a lack of supervision and direction. It’s also a frightening reality that a relationship taking months to nurture into place, can take a matter of days to destroy.

b. An interim can help you manage and motivate a team
Not having someone ‘qualified’ in a senior role causes all sorts of issues internally: a lack of motivation, performance slow-down, mistakes and misjudgments of varying levels of seriousness. It can sometimes lead to staff jumping ship to the competition taking rumors with them. I don’t want to over-egg this but leadership – even at middle management level – is important. Hiring an interim can help you manage and motivate a team, and reduce the risk of starting a decline that could be difficult to halt.

c. An interim is the difference between pause and fast-forward
The above 2 arguments for hiring an interim relate to damage limitation. A more positive reason for an interim is to enable the company to move forward with its plans. Just because you have a vacancy – whether planned or not – in a key part of the organisation shouldn’t mean progress is paused. For sure it might mean you re-think your team – as in a review of other key people and their roles – but then that might unleash new thinking and a necessary impetus to your plans. Your interim manager, unfettered by the politics of the organisation, will be focused, single-minded and able to drive the project forward. An interim is the difference between pause and fast-forward for your company.
Example:
The client was struggling to turnaround his sales performance, as well as was having issues in the operation- this impacted number of key areas of the business, such as
Top line sales order
Delivery – OTD
Excess Inventory
Operating profit
By focusing on process, people and developing a clearly defined strategy/goals enabled to deliver major improvements in terms of:

Sales growth: Q3 – 32% v PY. Q4 – 45% v PY. Overall delivered 21% growth v PY
Introduced NPD process launched 3 new products over a period of 12
Reduced: operating cost by 10%,
Reduced Inventory by 10%,
Reduced Cost of material by 25%,
Improved WCT by 2
Improved Margin by 12%
d. Hiring an interim is like an injection of fresh ideas
Not being an ‘insider’ gives the interim the excuse to suggest things that others might hold back – hiring an interim is an injection of fresh ideas. The interim practices mindfulness – using their own experiences to ensure success without being burdened by the culture of an organisation that does things a certain way just ‘because it always has’.

This means the organisation can take advantage of the interim’s ideas and new approach freshly imported from the outside world. People, customers, projects – the board even – are exposed to the kind of rare objectivity which can influence the future of an organisation in a positive way.

That’s the traditional way of using an interim. But today’s flexible labour market encourages companies to use interims differently:

2. Limited Edition Interim
The ‘limited edition’ interim fulfills a temporary role of a different nature. It’s an opportunity for an organisation to take some calculated risks: think (and then do) the unthinkable / scary / ambitious. This kind of role gives companies a catalyst to shake things (and people) up. From helping you discover and open up new opportunities, to turning round fortunes and modernising processes and people.

This role is a mix of adviser and project manager – someone who can pinpoint a problem, draw up strategy to address the issue, AND actually carry it out. For example, about a year
ago, the MD of a medium-sized engineering firm hired me for 6 months to help them understand what was behind their declining fortunes – and then actually fix it for them.

The problem was both the product range and the customer profile in that the fit just wasn’t right; both were off course. My strategy for reversing my client’s fortunes, included the following 3 key tasks:

1. Based on their cores competencies, identifying where 80% of their business was likely to come (including adjacent or related markets) and carrying out a thorough segmentation analysis.
2. Using a range of tools and processes, I monitored their competitors and created a side-by-side comparison, breaking down each element and component into finite detail.
3. The above 2 helped me identify unmet needs and, using a Cost vs Performance Matrix, work out how my client could improve their customers’ own performance through the careful development of valuable products and services.

Although I came up with some uncomfortable findings and conclusions, I also devised a clear plan to address them, including a product road map to ensure a clear focus within the business, and detailed processes for individual teams to follow.

Fresh ideas and new approaches are key attributes of the interim but so too are traditional hands-on capabilities. Rather than some abstract or theoretical exercise, the limited edition interim is there to lead transformation and change, and get projects in place, rolling out processes as they go. In the above example, the MD used my objective ‘outsider’ status to encourage the board and middle management to be less defensive, more open-minded and positive about how to change their fortunes round.

Ultimately, I helped my client manage the risk of change rather than sitting back and awaiting the possibility of getting left behind. How could an interim help your company?

• Fix problems
• Manage transformations
• Encouraging open communication, to accelerate the delivery of key business goals/objectives
• Coach staff into being leaders
• Undertake due diligence and post-merger integrations
• Roll up their sleeves and deliver change through the client’s staff

Interim – Can do much more for you

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