Could You Make Better Use Of Interim Execs?

by Trevor Moulton

When companies need strategic thinking or temporary support, they often turn to the big consultancies for help. But a smarter approach to sourcing talent through interim management is often a better option.

There are some seriously talented people available. Our networks include consultancy partners and senior directors who’ve decided to go it alone and top executives who’ve chosen to progress their careers outside the corporate hierarchy. 

These individuals typically provide the expertise needed to solve a specific problem and have the experience needed to perform strategic roles. They bring all the benefits of a top consultant, such as new ideas, a big-picture view, an independent voice and global availability. But they are likely to be doers as well as strategists, analysts and planners.

They don’t just think, advise and leave. They are often contracted to stay and implement their recommendations. A recent survey from the Institute of Interim Management found that over a third of its members worked on appointments that lasted six months to a year. Another third ran for even longer.

Focusing on the client

The interim executive’s business model is different, too. Someone engaged on an interim management contract is more likely to be focused on their client’s interests, rather than the consulting firm’s profitability.

They won’t have any incentive to sell add-on services that the client doesn’t need. They can take a flexible approach to getting the job done. And they can direct their effort at satisfying their client, not pleasing their senior partner. 

Clarity and control

While consulting firms do clearly employ some very talented people, as a client you have little influence over who actually works on your business. Often, a firm will deploy whoever is “on the bench” and has capacity for a new assignment. If that person needs further support, the firm will add resource depending on who it has available. 

With interim management, the client has the power to build its own project team – choosing from the best people in the market, with full transparency around who is bringing what to the task, how much they cost and whether they are adding value. Again, that kind of clarity and control is hard to get from a consulting firm. 

Lots of benefits, less cost

Cost is an issue, too. A typical day rate for a senior big-firm consultant – a director or partner – can easily be in the £2,500-£5,000 bracket, and that sets the tone for staff down the scale. By contrast, it’s possible to source an interim executive with big-firm or senior corporate experience for closer to £1,500-£2,000 a day.

The big consulting firms can do a superb job. But what they offer is not the best answer to every problem. So before they call in the consultants, companies should look at their business challenge as they would any other human resourcing issue. They should reflect on what they are trying to achieve and identify the talent needed to get the job done.

A consulting firm might be the right answer. But often they’d be better advised to use interim management – whether they need one or two senior individuals, or want to handpick their very own A-Team.