I’m a finance director of a large company, and I’m thinking of moving into interim management for a more flexible lifestyle. What advice can you give me?
AS an interim manager, you’ll be parachuted into organisations to sort out particular difficulties. But you can’t just be a good problem solver – you need to be a good manager too. Like a consultant, you’ll need to analyse the situation, unearth the problems and design a solution. Unlike a consultant, you’ll then stay to implement that solution and handover the necessary skills for that improvement to continue.
You have to understand that it’s a very transient, nomadic lifestyle, moving around and living in hotels for short periods – it’s not for everyone. At the Interim Managers Association (IMA) we run an induction day once a month for prospective interims, and only around a third decide to progress with it as a career.
If you decide to, you must know how to market yourself. Think of your experience in terms of the problems you’ve solved rather than positions or responsibilities you’ve held. The value you bring to a client is your proven experience at solving problems generally, and solving specific problems in particular.
Interims get work through agencies and through their own connections. The problem for new interims is that agencies generally work only with people who have interim experience, so you need to look to your own network to start off. That’s why how you couch your experience is so important. If you’ve ever worked in a large organisation you’ve probably been seconded to deliver particular projects or overseen specific change programmes, and that will all count as relevant experience.
A lot of people, because they’ve been successful, think they’re God’s gift and that the phone will ring and ring once they become an interim, just because of the positions they’ve held. That’s not true and it can be a bit of a wake up call. You have to go out there and market yourself proactively – your job isn’t just solving problems for companies, it’s selling and promoting your ability to do that better than anyone else. A lot of people just aren’t prepared for that and end up struggling.