Interim Executive Best Practices: Trends in Short-Term Leadership Roles

Why should a business use an interim executive?

It can be a great way to bridge the gap between full-time hires, give a potential long-term hire a “tryout,” train up less experienced candidates, guide a company through a crisis or even prepare a business for sale.

Whatever the case, interim CFOs, CMOs, CHROs, COOs and the like can be money well invested.

To get the most out of these temporary executives, though, businesses need to have a plan.

BluWave’s Richmond Donnelly discussed the best practices of using interim C-suite talent on a webinar with Mark Steenhoek, Managing Director, Operations, of The Stephens Group and Bryan West, Managing Director, Talent at Resurgens Technology Partners.

Here are some of the actionable insights you can apply to your business’s interim executive strategy.

A diverse group of business leaders dressed in suits looking at papers around a table in a conference room. The room is also well-lit.

When, How To Work with Interim Executives

While there are many situations in which an interim executive might be a good fit, the panelists outlined the most common ones their firms face.

“There’s good reasons and bad reasons that we would hire. I’d say that we find ourselves more in the camp with the bad reasons, and I’d describe those as two,” Steenhoek said. “It’s a crisis situation. Somebody leaves…or it’s a situation where we started looking in this a little bit more post-COVID in that we would have an open CFO role and then it takes nine to 12 months to fill it just because the market was so tight and difficult to find that perfect fit.”

West added that he is a big fan of the “try before you buy” approach. He said he’s encouraged by the number of his peers who are like-minded.

“That was actually reassuring,” he said. “That’s a great way to build a relationship and we’re always open to that.”

Top Interim CXO Use Cases

Whatever the use case, interim leadership is consistently one of the most-used services in the Business Builders’ Network, according to BluWave’s quarterly insights.

Based on the proprietary data collected from working with hundreds of private equity firms and thousands of leading businesses, the two most-used interim executives are CFOs and CHROs.

Read more about how each of these crucial roles is used:

Based on a live poll of webinar attendees, most PE firms fill multiple interim executive roles per year, taking 3-6 months to do so.

At BluWave, however, we connect you with a short list of exact-fit candidates within a single business day of your initial scoping call.

Why Hire an Interim Executive?

Beyond broader use cases, PE firms and their businesses usually have a specific set of tasks they need this temporary hire to complete.

“We’re able to go in and very specifically orient to on a project basis like, ‘Hey, does this person have experience or the skills to knock out kind of a more tactical list of things?’” West said.

He said that while the overall goal may be the same as when you bring in a full-time C-suite hire, the selection criteria is “quite different” based on what needs to get done.

Echoing BluWave data, Steenhoek said interim CFOs are their most common interim executive hires. The tasks each one is expected to accomplish tend to be the same, with variations depending on the company’s industry.

Interim Executive Criteria, Selection

Moving beyond the to-do list of items to accomplish, what is it that the world’s top PE firms and businesses look for in interim executives themselves?

West said that having done so many hirings in the past makes it easier to pick up on red flags in candidates. Beyond that, he relies on experience to choose the right person.

“We need somebody that’s been there, done that,” he said. “We don’t want to burn six months of time or three to six months of time on building a function.”

Steenhoek agreed, saying that is his top priority, too.

“I think the second would be, especially if it’s a leadership thing…radical transparency,” he said. “You’re just going to be able to really work together hand-in-hand, which equates to low-ego. They know what they’re there for.”

Setting Interim Executives Up for Success

Once someone is in the seat, the team that hired the individual plays a significant role in their success. How do these leaders set their interim hires up to get the job done?

“There is the team integration and the business integration [and] the CEO is the primary quarterback there, assuming it’s a direct report to the CEO,” he said. “But as far as project-managing the task list…that more often than not happens at our level.”

Steenhoek added two things that he believes are essential in these situations.

“I think really clear communication around what you need and alignment that they’re oriented and really focused on what you tasked them to do,” Steenhoek said. “The second is just being really clear on alignment related to, Are they interim? Are they permanent?”

BluWave is here to connect you with best-in-class, niche-specific interim executives to help with crisis management, leadership transitions, “try before you buy” and other relevant scenarios.

“Reach out to us at any point if we can ever be supportive with anything you all need,” Donnelly said. “We’re here to help you win.”

Contact our research and operations team to scope your needs and get quickly connected with the service provider you need in less than one business day.

How To Raise Prices Strategically with Sales Team Buy-In

When input costs increase, businesses must adjust their pricing strategy accordingly. But it’s not as simple as passing along those costs to the consumer.

First, the sales team must buy in to the new strategy. (This can be particularly challenging for private equity firms and their portfolio companies.) Secondly, you must do so in a way that doesn’t scare off the customer.

But as BluWave CEO and founder Sean Mooney discussed with ParkerGale’s Cici Zheng on the Karma School of Business podcast, those fears are often unfounded when you dig a little deeper.

Let’s learn more from these two about how to strategically raise prices, whatever business and industry you’re in.

Business, Technology, Internet and network concept. Young businessman shows the word on the virtual display of the future: Pricing strategy

Challenges of Raising Prices

Sales Team Buy-In

“I think our portfolio companies might be hesitant to think about price increases or think about value-based pricing,” Zheng said.

Mooney agreed, calling it the “number one area that’s underutilized” by private equity firms that BluWave supports.

“In part because it gets the most resistance from the portfolio companies, particularly from sales leadership,” he added. “Because it’s really scary if you’re a head of sales and you say you got to raise price.”

Zheng said this is best overcome by generating belief in the company’s products or services.

READ MORE: Sales Pipeline Funnel: Methodology for Businesses

“If you think about the amount of investment that we’re putting in, in an ideal world, your best-fit customers are also valuing what that is and you’re able to get a value-based price for it,” Zheng said. “At the end of the day, it comes back to, if we really feel [that] the types of companies we invest in have great products, great NPS scores, great retention scores.”

Retaining Customers

Related to resistance from the sales team is often a fear that customers will be scared off by a higher price point. And the thought of being the one to share that increase can be daunting.

But once again, belief in the product is a great weapon in this situation.

“What are our product managers and heads of engineering and engineering talent doing? They’re continuing to invest in that product,” Zheng said. “Hopefully we’re able to convey this to the sales team who have to be at the front line to convey it to the customer of like these are not price increases for the sake of price increases.”

Value-Based Pricing

The beauty of value-based pricing is that businesses attract customers who are willing to pay for a superior product. Portfolio companies owned by ParkerGale and like-minded private equity firms aren’t courting bargain hunters anyway.

Zheng said that this high-quality approach “justifies what we think this product actually provides to you. And if you were really looking for the cheapest price, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation because that’s usually not the positioning that we have.”

After all, if the business is working so hard to create a quality product or service, why wouldn’t they expect customers to be willing to pay more?

“We’re going and improving the products and updating the modules and features and all these things,” Zheng said. “Are we on the flip side also making sure we’re getting that value-based pricing from our customers?”

Knowing that pricing isn’t the top priority for their target customers gives portfolio companies more flexibility, dousing the fear of scaring them off.

Data-Driven Pricing Strategies

No matter how much a business believes in its products and services, it can’t blindly adjust its prices and hope for the best. They must make data-based decisions.

One way to do this is by paying close attention to macroeconomic factors.

“We’re thinking a lot more intentionally about pricing and making sure that we’re not just staying flat, we’re looking at what’s going on in the market,” Zheng said.

There are other metrics that can influence a pricing strategy, though. According to Zheng, NPS scores and retention data are strong indicators of whether a business has a “very solid product.”

READ MORE: How To Analyze Sales Data: Tools, Examples, KPIs

For private equity firms, much of this crucial research can be done before a company is ever acquired.

Zheng said that during the commercial due diligence phase, ParkerGale often deploys voice of customer studies to learn what are customers’ top three key purchase criteria. Pricing seldom makes the list.

“Especially when we’re selling enterprise software, these are mission-critical tools and products,” Zheng said. “The customer is not looking for the cheapest one.”

READ MORE: What is Commercial Due Diligence?

In-depth analysis can also help companies learn when they have taken their increases too far, allowing them to adjust back down.

“I would argue if you’re never losing on price, then you’re priced too low. You should be losing a certain percentage of your deals on price,” Zheng said. “But if you can collect the data on the other side, if you’re doing win-loss analysis and calls like that, then you should be able to say, ‘OK, we are hearing now that we have enough actual data, not anecdata, to say we are actually losing on price too much, and so therefore we need to adjust.’”

READ MORE: Voice of Customer Metrics, KPIs, Analytics

Benefits of Pricing Consultants

As meticulous as private equity firms and other top business leaders are about their companies, a world-class pricing strategy often requires world-class help.

Mooney mentioned how underutilized pricing resources are, but that’s not because they’re in short supply.

The Business Builders’ Network is full of pricing experts who work on an industry-specific basis. They know the questions to ask, the data to analyze and the levers to pull to make sure you’re setting prices with confidence.

“We’re in contact with the service providers in our network nearly every day,” Co-Head of Research and Operations Keenan Kolinsky said. “Before clients even reach out, we already know which providers will likely be best suited for their pricing project. That way, we can hit the ground running as soon as we scope a client’s need.”

These third-party resources are experts in segmenting customers, identifying value drivers, developing measurement tools and pricing structures, conducting sensitivity analyses and more.

They’re on standby to help you determine your target customer base’s key decision factors, willingness to pay, preferences and perceptions.

Lastly, they’ll present this information – with speed and accuracy – in a way that’s actionable for your business.

Contact our research and operations team today, and tap into the same invite-only network that the world’s best PE firms – from ParkerGale and beyond – use to set their pricing strategies.

Within a single business day, you’ll be connected to a shortlist of options that will be chosen for your exact situation and vertical.

Manufacturing Momentum: Challenges, Opportunities in the Modern Landscape

Manufacturing businesses are faced with evolving challenges, especially amid an uncertain economy, constantly pressured from different angles by policy decisions and global events. BluWave sees this every day in the projects it supports for hundreds of private equity firms and thousands of businesses.

Whether in human capital, operations, growth strategy or technology, today’s business leaders have their hands full.

In a recent webinar, Co-Head of Research and Operations Keenan Kolinsky discussed with Product Manager Ryan Perkins the challenges and opportunities in this industry.

An man in a hardhat stands facing yellow industrial equipment, like backhoes, in a warehouse.

The Rising Importance of Human Capital in Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector was once driven primarily by machinery and raw materials. But now it’s recognizing the importance of its most valuable asset: people.

In fact, 74 percent of manufacturers say that “attracting and retaining a quality workforce” is a top challenge, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAoM).

Interim executives have emerged as a pivotal solution in this landscape. These temporary business leaders bridge critical leadership gaps, ensuring that companies don’t lose momentum during transitions.

“Interim executives can help businesses keep their foot on the value creation pedal,” Kolinsky says.

Their role is especially crucial in a volatile economic environment where leadership vacancies can’t be left open for extended periods.

But it’s not just about filling gaps. The recruitment process itself is undergoing a transformation. The emphasis is shifting from generalist recruitment approaches to specialized, industry-specific strategies. Manufacturers are realizing that to drive growth and innovation, they need the right people in the right roles, making executive searches a top priority, too.

Operational Excellence: The Backbone of Manufacturing Success

Turning toward a more traditional problem, nearly half of manufacturers identified supply chain issues as a top challenge, per the NAoM. Even with the peak of the COVID pandemic disruption behind us, this issue persists.

“With manufacturers…experiencing a variety of economic and even geopolitical pressures, manufacturing operations and supply chains simply have to be tighter than ever to achieve desired margins and outcomes,” Kolinsky said.

In response, many manufacturers are turning to expert third-party resources to optimize their supply chains. From right-sizing inventory to reducing lead times and optimizing supplier networks, the focus is on efficiency, cost savings and performance.

Beyond the supply chain, there’s a broader push toward operational excellence. Lean Six Sigma principles, rooted in the Toyota production system, are being adopted to streamline processes, identify bottlenecks and drive efficiency. The goal? Faster, more efficient production with greater precision.

Strategizing for Growth in a Competitive Landscape

A weaker domestic economy can poses unique challenges. During those times, growth strategy becomes the north star guiding manufacturers. But how do they chart a course for growth amid such turbulence? The answer is data-driven strategies.

“Markets shift often and they shift quickly,” said Kolinsky, who emphasized the importance of real-time insights. “Base your strategy or plan for growth on current market data and dynamics.”

READ MORE: Analytics, Data & AI Resources

By leveraging data analytics and visualization tools, manufacturers can gain actionable insights, track KPIs and make informed business decisions.

With the advent of more accessible artificial intelligence tools, many businesses in the manufacturing industry and beyond have been focusing on essential pre-cursor activities focused on data hygiene. These will lay the groundwork for a more seamless integration once they’re ready to use AI to accelerate growth.

Embracing Technology: The Future of Manufacturing

The digital revolution is reshaping the manufacturing landscape.

According to Alithya, 43 percent of manufacturers came into 2023 planning to increase their year-over-year spending on technology. it’s clear that the industry is gearing up for a tech-driven future.

“The manufacturing industry is really digitizing rapidly and in more ways than one,” Kolinsky said.

From IT strategy to system selection and implementation, manufacturers are recognizing the need to align their technology tools with broader business objectives.

But it’s not just about adopting the latest tech solutions. Effective change management is crucial. As manufacturers transition to modern systems, they must ensure that their teams are well-equipped and trained to leverage these tools to their fullest potential.

BluWave is here to help you connect with best-in-class, niche-specific manufacturing resources to help with human capital, operational excellence, growth strategies, technology and more.

Contact our research and operations team to scope your need and get quickly connected with  the service provider you need in less than one business day.

Interim CFO Elevates Real Estate Search Engine’s Financial Strategy

Industry: Technology – Software

Service Area: Human Capital

Client Type: Portfolio Company – Real Estate Search Engine

Service Provider Type: Interim CFO

The Need
Navigating Financial Transitions

A leading online real estate marketplace specializing in age-restricted communities was at a crossroads. With revenue of $15MM and a team of 50 employees and 20 contractors, they were gearing up to revamp their business model and set their annual budget. The challenges brought on by the pandemic had altered their sales funnel dynamics, and their existing financial model was due for an overhaul. Amid these shifts, the need for an interim CFO to steer them through this period became evident.

The Challenge
LeadGen Expert with Industry Experience

Operating as a unique platform in the real estate sector, the ideal candidate would be familiar with online lead generation. Real estate experience would be a significant advantage, too. Furthermore, understanding the intricacies of the company’s in-house developed front and back-end systems was crucial. With an ongoing annual audit and the recent onboarding of a new FP&A manager, the interim CFO’s role was to ensure a seamless transition without any operational disruptions.

How BluWave Helped
The Right Solution, Fast

BluWave swiftly grasped the distinct needs of the real estate marketplace. Tapping into its extensive network, BluWave introduced the company to a short list of seasoned interim CFOs. After introductions were made, the portco zeroed in on the candidate that brought to the table a rich experience in online lead generation and a profound understanding of financial modeling and budget building. The temporary executive was not only equipped to oversee the annual audit but also possessed the strategic vision required to reshape the business model in alignment with the company’s objectives.

The Result
Strategic Financial Revamp, Strong Foundation for Future

The interim CFO, integrated effortlessly into the team. In the initial phase, they prioritized ensuring the smooth operation of the company’s financial functions. As the engagement evolved, the CFO transitioned from a full-time role to a part-time strategic advisor, offering the company the flexibility it sought. Under the interim CFO’s guidance, the company successfully overhauled its financial model, laying a robust foundation for stability and growth.

The interim executive you selected for us did great work. We would rate her as great overall.

-CEO of Portfolio Company

Targeted Market Research for a Software Technology Company

Industry: Technology – Software

Service Area: Voice of the Customer

Client Type: Portfolio Company – B2B Data Management

Service Provider Type: Market Research Firm

The Need
Specialized Market Research for Master Data Management

A B2B data management portfolio company sought a market research firm to conduct an in-depth survey. Their objective was to delve into market awareness, trends in Master Data Management (MDM) and the perception of various brands in the software industry. With MDM being a pivotal enterprise software tool, understanding its market positioning was paramount.

The Challenge
Quality Insights Within Budgetary Limits

Having previously approached another market research firm, the company found their offerings too costly for the intended survey. The challenge lay in identifying a service provider with profound knowledge of MDM and the capability to target specific roles such as IT, Data Architecture Management and Data Cleaning, all while staying within the budget.

How BluWave Helped
Bridging the Gap with Expert Market Research

BluWave swiftly navigated its vast network to pinpoint a market research firm that not only had a deep-rooted understanding of MDM but also boasted expertise in conducting brand-centric surveys. The chosen firm’s proficiency in targeting the desired roles ensured the survey would resonate with the right audience, making them an ideal match for the portfolio company’s requirements.

The Result
‘Good Partner’ for Great Value

With the support of the handpicked service provider, the portfolio company executed a survey that furnished them with invaluable insights into market awareness, MDM trends and brand evaluations. The research was not only enlightening but also adhered to the company’s budgetary constraints, providing optimal value.

The service provider you selected was both affordable and a good partner for our portfolio company.

-Partner at PE Firm

Manufacturing in the Modern Age: Data-Driven Insights into Challenges, Solutions

The manufacturing sector, historically a cornerstone of economic prosperity, is going through a transformation. As we navigate the intricacies of this evolution, data is our compass.

Industry professionals grapple with sourcing specialized talent, particularly on a geography-specific basis. They’re also navigating complex supply chain dynamics, which require both regional and global considerations, and are affected by disruptions and economic fluctuations.

There’s also a pressing need to balance operational challenges with long-term strategic growth, all while integrating technological advancements and ensuring optimal production processes.

Since 2021, BluWave has seen an increase from 61.3 percent of manufacturing activity in value creation (versus due diligence) to 78.6 percent – the highest it’s been since 2017.

Let’s dive into some of the trends driving this and other changes.

The Talent Conundrum in Manufacturing

The manufacturing landscape is shifting, and with it, the demand for specialized talent. A staggering 74 percent of manufacturers cite “attracting and retaining a quality workforce” as a top challenge, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. As the manufacturing sector becomes more specialized, the demand for niche talent has skyrocketed.

Human capital activity is at an all-time high within the manufacturing activity index, accounting for 45.5 percent of all industry projects in 2023. That’s a more-than 500 percent increase since 2017, due to use cases like interim executive searches and specialized recruiters.

Beyond the numbers, there’s a qualitative challenge, too. It’s not just about filling positions but hiring visionaries who can lead in an era of rapid change while balancing granular details with a broader strategic perspective.

In the face of these challenges, manufacturers are seeking partnerships with specialized firms, emphasizing the importance of regional expertise and industry-specific knowledge. The goal is to secure leaders who can drive innovation and navigate the complexities of the modern manufacturing world.

Navigating the Supply Chain Labyrinth

Supply chain disruptions have become the bane of the manufacturing sector, with 45 percent of professionals identifying it as a top challenge, per NAM. The intricate dance of sourcing raw materials, managing inventory and ensuring timely deliveries has become even more complex.

Supply chain management is one of the top use cases BluWave sees within manufacturing operations, with make up more than 18 percent of industry activity.

Effective supply chain management is no longer just about logistics; it’s about ensuring a seamless flow of materials, information and services, all while mitigating risks.

Supply chains have evolved into intricate global networks. Data indicates that disruptions, whether due to geopolitical tensions or unforeseen global events, can have cascading effects. Manufacturers are now tasked with not just managing but optimizing these complex systems, ensuring resilience and adaptability.

The emphasis is shifting from reactive measures to proactive strategies. By leveraging data analytics and predictive modeling, manufacturers can anticipate disruptions, adjust in real-time and ensure that the supply chain remains a strength rather than a vulnerability.

Economic Realities: The Balancing Act

In a world where 56 percent of manufacturers (per NAM) are wary of a “weaker domestic economy,” economic agility is paramount. Manufacturers must be adept at navigating economic headwinds while capitalizing on opportunities. The insights from BluWave’s client interactions reveal concerns ranging from revenue challenges to market dynamics.

That makes agility paramount. With fluctuating markets and the ever-present specter of global events, manufacturers are in a constant state of adaptation.

By understanding market trends and leveraging data-driven insights, manufacturers can identify growth areas, optimize production and ensure they remain at the forefront of industry innovation.

READ MORE: Industrial Pricing: Strategies for Manufacturing Businesses

The Digital Transformation: Beyond the Buzz

The future is digital. A significant 43 percent of manufacturers planned to ramp up their technology spending in 2023, according to Alithya. From optimizing operations to strategic decision-making, technology is reshaping the manufacturing landscape. The emphasis on IT strategy and diligence in client interactions underscores the sector’s tech-driven trajectory. Manufacturers that fail to embrace this digital shift risk being left behind.

Among the top technology-related manufacturing use cases we’re seeing are system selection & implementation, and IT strategy and diligence.

Successful digital transformation, however, requires a holistic approach. It’s not just about technology but about aligning organizational goals, processes and culture with these digital initiatives. Manufacturers must ensure that their teams are equipped with the skills and knowledge to leverage these tools effectively, driving both efficiency and innovation.

READ MORE: Manufacturing Equipment Financing: Machine Loans, Leases

Growth in the Face of Uncertainty

Growth remains a top priority for manufacturers, but it’s a goal fraught with challenges. Data highlights the importance of strategic expansion, ensuring that growth is sustainable and aligned with broader market trends. In an era of uncertainty, it’s not just about growing but growing smartly.

Strategic partnerships play a crucial role in this growth narrative. By collaborating with experts, whether in technology, supply chain management, or market research, manufacturers can tap into specialized knowledge, ensuring their growth strategies are both data-driven and future-focused.

The manufacturing sector is at a crossroads, shaped by technological innovations, economic challenges, and global trends. But with challenges come opportunities. By leveraging data-driven insights and forging strategic partnerships, manufacturers can navigate this complex landscape, driving growth and innovation.

For a deeper exploration of how data-driven insights can shape your manufacturing journey, reach out to our team.

VP of Services Recruitment for Roofing Expansion

Service Area: Executive Search

Client Type: Portfolio Company

Service Provider Type: Specialized Recruiter – Sales

Industry: Construction – Roofing

The Need
Propelling Growth in Roofing Services

A prominent portfolio company in the roofing industry sought rapid expansion after acquiring three roofing firms, pushing their collective revenue to $50 million. To fuel this growth, they needed a visionary VP of Services who could lead their service business, enhance their commercial roofing endeavors and expand their service offerings.

The Challenge
Finding Industry-Savvy Leadership

The portco struggled to find a candidate with a deep understanding of the roofing industry. They wanted someone with a background in their same business with the ability to scale services. This leader also needed to contribute strategically to open new markets and fuel business growth.

How BluWave Helped
Strategic VP Recruitment

BluWave connected the portfolio company with a short list of exact-match candidates in the Business Builders’ Network. From those, the company chose a VP of Services with a proven track record in roofing operations and expansion.

The Result
Strengthening Business Expansion

The client secured a VP of Services with a strong industry-relevant background who also had experience with market expansion. This leader injected new energy into the roofing services business, fortifying existing operations and paving the way for successful expansion into untapped markets.