They are frequently referred to as corporate hatchets people but interim managers argue that they rain experience, perspective and particular skills to organisations especially those going through change. They are also appropriate for delivering particular projects and for providing services on a short-term of freelance basis.
Now, as the economy picks up for many SMEs interim managers are targeting smaller as well as larger businesses. “SME owner/managers have never had it so good in terms of finding people at senior levels to help them in their businesses,” said Charles Russam of Russam GMS, an interim recruitment consultancy. “Significant improvements, though lumpy, in the economy coupled with changing market characteristics are creating new opportunities on both the supply and the demand side.”
He points out that more and more experienced managers are now in position to help companies both large and small on an interim basis. “If you analyse the ONS employment statistics and ask the question ‘What proportion of the UK’s current working population of 30.8m are full-time employees on someone’s payroll?’ you get the answer 53 per cent,” he added. “This is a huge part of the UK’s workforce where senior and knowledgeable business people can be found to help todays SMEs – and it’s here that the interim management market resides and is currently very busy.”
SMEs can lack skills in certain disciplines but may not be able to justify employing someone full time. Interim management opens up opportunities to engage highly experienced people on a part-time basis in a cost-effective way, according to the Interim Management Association.
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Grant Speed, managing director of Odgers Interim, said: “In the past, there was little or no consideration given to interim appointments as a solution to important business challenges. Entrepreneurs, in particular, are realising that the flexibility of an interim solution, combined with the high quality of candidates now offering their services on a temporary basis, can help meet and exceed their objectives.”
“SMEs are often growing at lightning speed and their management teams can become stretched and even feel out of their depth as they expand,” he said. “Demand is increasing for interims, which can bring unique experience and the skills to offer that vital support and help businesses through what can be such a pivotal period in their journey.”
When it comes to SMEs, Speed added: “In 2015, we expect interims to be extremely busy driving transformation, such as exploring new markets, embarking on acquisitive growth, overseeing the overhaul of IT systems, driving technology development and even managing compliance and regulatory demands. Now, as growth ambitions replace survival instincts, interim management will be more critical than ever in delivering game-changing strategic projects.”
Small businesses have more in common with interim managers than they might realise, believes interim recruiter Norrie Johnson – who has a seen a rise in the number of SMEs approaching him for interim managers. “SMEs are run by entrepreneurs who want to be able to quickly respond to opportunities and take big decisions, fast,” he explained. “Interim management is an ideal recruitment solution for such businesses as interims are available immediately and will start delivering results within days. Whereas by the time a permanent employee has served their notice period, they may take many months to be up and running.”
He went on to say: “Many entrepreneurs are also attracted by the fact that interim managers are not planning a long term career in their organisation, so they will not be afraid to be candid – telling the business founder what they need to hear. Big ‘entrepreneurial personalities’ may not be used to this but they do value it.”
“Interims in SMEs are on the rise,” believes Chris Williams of recruitment consultancy Alium Partners. “Thanks in part to the economic recovery and to the flexibility, leadership, and mentorship interims can now afford to businesses of all sizes. I’ve also seen significant demand in the SME community around the sales function as companies seek to improve their performance; but this isn’t just restricted to one sector. Demand from small firms in technology, manufacturing, retail, automotive, telco and software are just some of the diverse requirements I’ve encountered since the beginning of 2014.”
Getting the most from an interim. Top tips for SMEs from Norrie Johnson:
- Be very clear when briefing the interim management agency
- Ensure the interim manager understands your needs from the start
- Agree what you want them to do, with the aims and timescales
- Hold regular reviews during the assignment to ensure things are on track
- Ensure your internal team understands what the interim manager is going to be doing, and why
- Explain that to staff that this is a temporary role, requiring a specific set of skills or experience. It’s someone they can benefit and learn from. This will help ensure staff don’t feel threatened and undermine the interim
- The interim manager will have a wealth of experience and a valuable external perspective – use it
- Ensure the proper transfer of skills and knowledge from the interim manager to your team at the end of the assignment
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