The words "interim manager" conjures up a variety of colourful images. A down-on-his-luck 50 something executive who has just been made redundant, a swashbuckling Troubleshooter in the mould of Sir John Harvey-Jones, or even a wide-boy Football Manager parachuted in to perform mission impossible with a Premier league football team 9 points adrift at the bottom of the league.
Interim managers themselves do not recognise such caricatures, they see themselves as an essential business resource who work to a set brief to deliver an agreed outcome, before moving on to their next assignment. They will usually be engaged for periods of between 3 months – 12 months and undertake diverse tasks including: Strategy, Leadership, Change & Transformation, Operations, Functional Management.
In the UK, interim management has developed from a small-scale industry 25 years ago, to an essential business sector that generates annual fees of around £1 billion. The theory that a typical interim either works in IT or has fallen into interim management through necessity rather than desire is simply not true, with interim management now viewed as the career of choice for those professionals with niche expertise or skill-sets that is difficult to source.
The market for Interim Managers in Europe is also sizable, with steady growth in demand for Interim managers in the Netherlands where the phenomenon of interim management began, and also solid demand in Belgium and Scandinavia. Eastern European markets such as Poland and Hungary are seeing a strong rate of adoption of interim managers and are bringing in skills from western Europe to cover interim assignments in sectors such as Technology and precision Manufacturing where they lack home grown skills.
Whereas some European countries such as the UK and the Netherlands use interim management both strategically and reactionary, in markets such as France, interim management is generally used as a knee-jerk reaction to an issue that needs solving, where an interim manager is needed right away. The Italian market for interim management is still in its infancy and away from the largest cities the interim concept has not been fully adopted. Interim Management is broadly used in Northern European countries across both the Public and Private sector, although in Belgium it is generally the preserve of the private sector.
One consequence of engaging an interim manager is the skills legacy they leave behind as an interim will typically impart knowledge to existing employees which adds to the business's know-how. With increased volatility in global markets throughout 2018 and into 2019, employers are looking for talent but do not want to increase fixed cost and headcount. Interims are therefore being used for more strategic projects such as: new market entry, soft product launch, integration of a merger or acquisition.
Availability of interim managers does affect the day rates interims can earn. Availability can be dictated by where we are in the economic cycle; When the economy is doing well and there is a lot of business activity and investment, interim managers benefit and only see short gaps between assignments. However, when there is a downturn in the economy, there can be a glut of interim managers on the market and this puts downward pressure on day rates and makes it more difficult to identify assignments, particularly as there is a section of the interim management community who will succumb to pressure and cut their day rates out of necessity, undercutting their peers.
During a downturn however, certain skills are still in high demand, such as: Turnaround, Transformation, Change Management, Divestiture, Retrenchment, Asset Disposal. The interim managers who tend to suffer the most during periods of economic downturn are those without niche expertise, those who are Functional Heads such: as Interim Finance Directors, Interim Operations Directors, Interim HR Directors, Interim Commercial Directors.
Interim day rates at the top-end of the interim management profession are typically £2000 a day. This would be for an Interim CEO or Interim COO tasked with a complex piece of work or turnaround in a sizable or complex business. Mid-tier interim managers can expect to be paid £800 to £1500 per day and lower tier interims earn £400 to £800 per day. Although these figures appear high, it is worth noting that interim rates are considerably lower than management consultancy fees and interim managers differ from management consultants as they don’t just provide you with a report and template on how to resolve an issue but work to a specific brief, implement solutions and deliver the outcomes the client needs.
For organisations engaging interim managers, a thoughtful approach is required before making an appointment. For example, if you are seeking an interim manager for a technical IT infrastructure project where the interims contact will be restricted to a small team within the IT/IS function, then you need to focus on their previous experience of delivering similar projects. Their technical competency is more important than their management style or ability to influence. However, if you are seeking an interim to undertake a change management initiative within the same IT/IS department, their management style and ability to influence overrides their technical competency. As such a more seasoned interim is more likely to quickly establish credibility and deliver the necessary outcomes.
If your organisation is new to interim management, I would recommend using a consultancy such as Interim Management Jobs, as using a consultancy offers a measure of quality control. I would also recommend putting an early warning system in place, then if, after a few days, the interim has not made an impact, you can pick up the phone and request a replacement. A good interim manager will make the right impression within the first few days, so if feedback from colleagues is not-good after this time, look at your options.
Engaging an interim manager is additional overhead for your organisation, so use interim managers sparingly and have them focus on a specific task, set clear objectives within a strict timescale with milestones agreed at the outset. This way, you will ensure the interim manager is delivering at all stages of the assignment. Ensure that everyone in the organisation knows why the interim manager is there, so they can assist the interim if required to do so. Ensure the Interim Manager is wholly focused on the assignment and is not given additional work to do which will deflect their attention away from the task they have been brought in to complete.
Wednesday Nov 21, 2018