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May 7, 201501:38 PMMad @ Mgmt

with Walter Simson

Interim executives are in!

(page 1 of 2)

When you set yourself up in the holy orders of the advice-giving business, there are usually three types of engagements:

  1. A client says they have a problem. Can you help analyze the complexities and present a conclusion suitably backed up with data?
  2. The client says they’ve analyzed the problem. Now they wonder, are you available to help implement the solution?
  3. The executive who was supposed to lead the implementation has quit! Are you available as an interim executive?

Traditionally, these engagements came in a sort of progression. After all, no one would ask you to solve a problem that hadn’t been analyzed yet. So the logic pretty much flowed from analysis, to helping out, to an occasional stint in the executive ranks.

But no longer. Now, middle-market companies are going directly to the interim solution when there is a gap in their executive ranks. Some of my recent experiences:

  • A private equity firm hires an interim CFO for an industrial manufacturer. The company desperately needs a budget, a new banking relationship is being negotiated, and a big four audit is due in April. The headhunters are looking for the perfect fit, but the PE firm doesn’t have time for that. Solution? An interim.
  • An Inc. 500 company’s growth has outstripped its financial resources. Again, a budget is obviously required. At the same time, hard choices are needed in capital allocation and financing. The company has a competent controller. Could an interim CFO get them through the crisis period and then leave them better off than before?
  • A late-stage start-up has caught the interest of a venture investor. Can the books and records be set up, and a business plan published, in record time while other executives work on a product launch? Hire a professional temp.

So this has been a welcome addition to my professional toolkit — especially since my prior experience as a CFO would otherwise have gone relatively unused. I haven’t been marketing as an interim, but the demand has been coming my way. And as far as I can tell, that demand seems to be enabled by technology, where companies are using LinkedIn or other tools to find specialized experts.


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