We are working in interesting times in the south west! The Coalition Government’s Emergency Budget last week revealed mixed omens for SMEs to add to the news that the SWRDA will be scrapped (to be replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships). In the short term, we know that business support funding is highly likely to be reduced (Plymouth Herald’s article Cable repeats his budget cut threat).
Plus population estimate figures published on 24 June 2010 by the Office for National Statistics state that the South West region grew by only 0.4% in the year to mid-2009 (well below the UK average) with annual net migration for the country now in the negative (ie more people are leaving the UK than arriving). Here at Pragmatic Performance Group, we have been having lots of conversations with SMEs about how they can find the resource (human and financial!) to stand on their own two feet. As a business acceleration consultancy, we recognise that the key issue post-recession for successful and sustainable growth is operational capacity. To survive and thrive in a recession, businesses have cut back to the bone. Their frustration is that they know what needs to be done – but they simply don’t have the space capacity.
Which is why we are having a lot of conversations with businesses about our Specialists on Tap™ Interim Managers offering. So for businesses thinking about what support would be best for them, we thought it might be useful to explain what Interim Managers are – and how they differ from Management Consultants or Temp Employees.
How do Interim Managers differ from Consultants? They have a lot in common – up to date skills and knowledge that can be used at both strategic and operational levels, whilst maintaining an independent, objective view. But the Consultant’s focus tends to be more about guidance and support. Typically it is an intermittent intervention – mentoring, motivating and action planning before giving the business the time and space to implement before coming back in to evaluate success. Often when I am in consultant mode, I will complete the initial assignment (the short term activities that needed to be done) and then get asked by the client to maintain a strategic function only. This gives me permission (usually on a quarterly basis) to pull the business owner away from the day-to-day operations to review and evaluate progress against the strategy to see how the business is keeping on track against the long term objectives.
In contrast, Interim Managers roll up their sleeves and get on with the operational aspects as well as the strategic planning. Typically they will be working at the client premises either full-time or regular part-time (eg 2 days a week) – their role is to provide the client with the additional resource needed to achieve quick results. Unlike temporary managers who cover for a specific employee, Interim Managers are an ‘over qualified’ resource who integrate their additional consultancy, project & change management skills into their functional role. Interims can work for a business on short term assignments (eg 1-3 months) or for more major projects, their role can be fixed to a client business for 2-3 years.
Research by the Interim Management Association suggests that in the first quarter of 2010, the most popular reason for assignments was Programme/Project Management (37% of all interim executives hired), followed by Gap Management (26%), Business Improvement (16%), Change/Transition Management (13%), Turnaround (3%), Crisis Management (2%), Rapid Growth (2%), Non-specified (1%). But if you know what you want them for, what are the key attributes that mark out a good interim? BIE who provide interims for senior- level roles suggest that businesses should look for the following to get the right interim:
- Have Board Level experience that has been gained with a range of companies, either as the CEO/MD or with a functional expertise (Marketing Director, Technical Director etc)
- Can demonstrate hands-on Project expertise, eg turnarounds, restructurings, acquisition integration, heavily backed start-ups etc
- Be Results orientated, preferring the hands-on approach to make things happen
- Be Flexible and Pragmatic, comfortable operating at both strategic and operational levels
PPG’s Interim Managers (our Specialists on Tap™) typically work on-site at the client’s business so they are available ‘on tap’ immediately to provide the additional functional capacity exactly where it is needed most. Every specialist has a great depth of practical experience combined with up to date knowledge, so they can also use their expertise to coach/train/advise individuals within the business as part of their role, ensuring the company absorbs the operational effectiveness it needs to continue once the interim moves on.
Interim Managers are not just for the large corporates – our Specialists on Tap™ are well versed in working with and in SMEs so they understand the wide range of functions that typically need to be covered. Another major advantage of interims over consultants is their lower day rate! As they are much more closely aligned to the client business, the retainer style of assignment will have a lower day-rate than the short/sharp intervention of a consultant.
Interims are certainly on the increase as businesses look to accelerate themselves out of the recession’s survival focus. If you want to know more about the differences between consultants and interims, or are interested in hearing what our Specialists on Tap™ could do for your business, contact us for an informal conversation.