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.
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 more than 500 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.”