Part-time relief for those growing pains

Interim managers are in demand when companies go through restructuring or expansion. Wilf Altman reports
Click to follow
The Independent Online

"There is a critical point in the life of a growing business," according to Elaine Green, "when it starts employing more than 10-12 people and needs more space, more technology and more human resources skills. The next leap, especially if it's a family business, may need a different kind of management. The culture of the business changes. Employees can be scared, which can lead to the first staff turnover problems."

"There is a critical point in the life of a growing business," according to Elaine Green, "when it starts employing more than 10-12 people and needs more space, more technology and more human resources skills. The next leap, especially if it's a family business, may need a different kind of management. The culture of the business changes. Employees can be scared, which can lead to the first staff turnover problems."

Green speaks as an experienced HR consultant and interim manager in demand by growing companies needing advice on such issues as the welter of employment legislation and HR strategies and systems. Some of her assignments can take weeks or months. Some clients need her one or two days a week.

Interim managers such as Elaine, with a specific discipline and proven track record - whether in IT, HR, finance, marketing or production - are in growing demand by larger companies when they need additional management talent short-term to cope with change, restructuring or the introduction of new technology.

Now smaller, fast-growing companies are catching up. The advantage of interim managers is that they can be hired for a specific time and a fixed cost; they bring a lot of experience and they are hands-on managers committed to delivering results.

APD Communications, a specialist provider of mobile information and control room solutions, based in Hull and Milton Keynes, has doubled its headcount in the last few years to 140 but has also used two interim project managers since the beginning of this year.

"We needed to strengthen management in areas of hardware and software development," said Steve Dennison, managing director. "One of the interims was taken on to look after a large bespoke contract and the other to manage a new engineering development. They are very professional and very committed."

Why interim managers rather than recruiting permanent staff? "We had an immediate need. It would have been impossible to recruit two senior managers of the quality we needed in under three months. We had to move quickly. The first appointment was made within a week, the second within two weeks. Both report to me. In both cases, roles have changed. One is now responsible for development and one for operations."

And cost comparison - if you had been able to make a permanent appointment? "We are paying more than we'd have to pay comparable senior staff executives, but there isn't much difference when you take into account there were no finders' fees and interim managers pay for their own cars, pensions, holidays and insurance."

How affordable are interim managers? What do they cost? Research by Russam GMS, a leading interim provider who supplied APD's interims, suggests that the average daily rate for interims is around £500 (although it can be less) and for interims working at board level, significantly more.

Increasingly, demand is for part-time interims, which indicates more use by growing businesses. By using an interim manager part-time, says Charles Russam, "a growing business accesses skills and experience in excess of what is affordable on a full-time basis."

Interim management is attracting younger recruits with a good background and at least five years' experience in IT, HR, finance, marketing, selling, purchasing or production. "You have to like the challenge, register with two or three reputable agencies and prepare for active self-marketing and networking," said a 35-year-old interim. "You have to be credible. You are expected to be on top of the job within two days."

The success of an interim management assignment often depends as much on the specialist provider as on the interim manager. Providers have to do much more than simply go through a database and match CVs to requirements. They have to know the interim's exact strengths and track record, help clarify objectives, negotiate fees and contract terms and keep in regular contact throughout the assignment. But the client's briefing is also vital to ensure that the interim's skills match, and chemistry and personality are absolutely right.

Comments