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When could your small business benefit from an interim manager?

May 30, 2017

how to choose an interim managerBusinesses often find themselves requiring some management resources and skills on a temporary basis.

Hiring an interim manager, or an entire management, team can ensure the business successfully fills this temporary, but urgent, business gap.

To help you understand if your business could benefit from the input of an interim manager, we asked Clive Hyman of Hyman Capital Services to explain when an interim manager make sense and how to go about hiring the right person.

When to consider employing an interim manager

Typical situations requiring an interim manager, include crisis management, sudden departure, illness, death, managing change or transition, sabbaticals, MBOs and IPOs, mergers and acquisitions and project management.

The necessary and desired scope of an interim manager’s skill set can be as unique as the individual and the many different business environments in which they are required.

There is currently a trend to try to get interims at lower and lower rates. While it appears to deliver a cost saving, the lower rate interims might not have the experience and depth of knowledge required.

Why might your company need Interim Management?

Sometimes businesses aren’t ready to employ anyone permanently and the requirement is to buy in management skills as and when needed – rather than recruiting a full-time position. Companies may only need the interim manager to make a difference in a short matter of time and don’t need the skills in the long term.

Circumstances can call for an interim manager for a period of transition, crisis or change within an organization. The high-level skills needed may be impossible to find on short notice or there may not be anyone internally who is suitable for, or available for the position.

A sudden departure of a key member of staff, perhaps due to illness, can leave a critical gap, that ends filling if the company is to continue as normal.

An interim manager can help the company continue to operate and achieve its goals a suitable long term hire is found – which can easily take six months or more. During this process it is important that the company is not ‘put on hold’.

Interim management includes consultancy as well as project management. It is the accountability and responsibility that interim managers have for successful analysis and delivery of a suitable solution, that makes their assignment lifecycle stages uniquely atypical.

It is important to understand this cycle when hiring and working with an interim manager.

Stages of the Interim Management life-cycle

Following engagement, Interim Managers examine and assess the current situation and the requirements of the varying stakeholders. They diagnose any issues that may be present and then formulate a detailed proposal.

This detailed proposal acts as the Interim assignment’s objectives and plan. Responsibility is then taken to propose a solution most likely to be effective, not necessarily the one originally requested by the company.

For a ‘gap assignment’ such a proposal may simply outline how they will be a ‘safe pair of hands’.

Following the proposal, the Interim Manager is involved in implementation; taking responsibility for managing the intervention, project, or solution, tracking progress and conducting periodic feedback reviews with the company. The implementation stage can particularly highlight an Interim’s expertise, accountability and effectiveness.

Exiting an assignment involves the Interim Manager approaching project end to ensure objectives have been met and the company is satisfied. This stage can involve ‘knowledge handover and training’, determining and sourcing ‘business as usual’ successors, and ‘sharing lessons learned’ in the process.

Setting up an Interim Management framework

If you are hiring an Interim Manager then you’ll need to develop an internal framework to ensure that, when needed, you find the right Interim with the right skills;

1. Who do you need to know?

Knowing your sector and your market, and the roles you may need an Interim for, is the place to start. Look for a number of interim providers, ask for recommendations and speak to interims you already admire – even if they aren’t in your sector.

2. Build Relationships

Establish and build a relationship with the top five suitable interim providers – get to know them and get a feel for what they can offer. Build the relationship so the provider will understand what you need when the time comes, and you will have the confidence that they can deliver the person your business requires.

Some providers have preferred suppliers who can work with you to get all the paperwork in place so that you can exercise a call off arrangement in which the contract terms are laid down.

3. Policy and Procedure

Ensure there is an established company policy and procedure for emergency staffing. A contingency plan for special circumstances can minimise the damage of any staffing fallout.

4. Insurance

Does your company have insurance, for example key-man insurance, to cover an Interim hire? What exactly does the insurance cover – is it suitable?

If there isn’t any insurance in place, look to different insurance providers and policies to see if this is something worth considering.

Tips on hiring an Interim Manager

Once you have identified an interim requirement – here are 8 tips on what you need to know and do;

1. Provide a clear brief

Have a concise brief to present to your chosen Interim Management provider or preferred supplier and have clear and direct communication.

Face-to-face communication is better than email. This will give the agency a fair chance of understanding the brief and therefore being able to select high quality candidates.

2. Identify skills and characteristics you want

It’s important to specify the skills and characteristics you need in your Interim. Hone in on the detail to ensure your hire will be a good team and cultural fit.

3. Have a clear job description and set goals

Write a clear job description and list the goals that need to be achieved and give them a workable time frame. In other words, ask yourself what do you want the company to look like after the Interim’s intervention?

4. How long will you want the interim manager?

Decide on the length of the assignment. Is it for one month or is it a six to 12month timescale? Take care to designate the right time frame.

Set realistic deadlines and milestones for the hiring process.

5. Ensure candidates fit the bill

Be aware that the current problem in today’s market of interim providers is that they tend to recycle the same candidates and these people don’t always have the required skills some companies need.

Stronger Interim providers widen their search (and their minds) to open-up the market and their client companies to more possibilities for highly effective candidate selection. This is an important hire – you don’t want a provider who just ticks boxes.

6. Define a clear reporting structure

Consider how are you going to manage the Interim and to whom they will report. Identify someone who can establish regular time to speak with the Interim in a supportive and constructive way so that there is two-way communication.

Put a system in place to ensure the quality of deliverables required from your Interim.

7. You get what you pay for

And finally, remember, you generally get what you pay for. If you want to attract the best quality interims you’ll need to pay the going rate.

Summary

Successfully hiring the right Interim manager can provide seamless continuity of your business activities, it can manage effective change and deliver potential growth opportunities.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Clive Hyman FCA, founder of Hyman Capital Services, who offer expertise in due diligence and managing change in business including raising equity and debt capital, mergers and acquisitions, interim management, board management and governance, deal structuring, and company turnaround.