Demand for interim managers in Australia has increased steadily, and it is becoming a more attractive and recognised career option. Australian businesses are embracing specialist expertise for specific internal projects and restructuring activities. We are a bit slow off the mark though, as Australia still lags Europe and the US in adopting this trend.
Interim managers can be used to strengthen an existing executive team, lead a specific project, manage a crisis, fill a short-term specialist skill set or transform a business.
Interim executives are working in a wide range of industries and functional roles with businesses from ASX 200 companies, through to private equity and public sector organisations and SMEs. They work at board, director and senior and project management level.
They need to be high achieving, proven business leaders, capable of stepping into critical roles at short notice. Interim management can be a real value solution, especially to organisations experiencing major change either through growth or crises.
With the current multi-speed economy, there are promising opportunities for quality interim managers in Australia across a wide range of skill sets and sectors.
Benefits of using interim managers
- Specialist skills: The ability to engage a highly skilled, proven achiever with specific expertise capable of ‘hitting the ground running’ with minimal induction, training and supervision. This becomes critical when time and expertise don’t allow the current executive team to implement strategic changes.
- Confidentiality: When the board or CEO require work to be carried out discreetly, for example with listed company acquisitions or divestments, especially when a ‘cold eyes’ review is required to analyse and assess company strategy and performance.
- Controlled costs and timeframes: The ability to achieve critical objectives within a strict budget and timeframe is essential when a new business is acquired (or sold) and post-merger synergies have to be delivered. It’s also crucial when a business is in high growth mode or going through a major turnaround and crisis.
- Lack of accountability. If clear direction and measurable outcomes aren’t communicated from the outset with the interim manager, deadlines can be missed and project costs can blow out with little or no recourse (or consequence) to the individual.
- Culture erosion. If there is poor communication and delivery from the executive team and the interim manager, this can undermine the work and responsibilities of the permanent workforce and taint the organisation’s culture.
- Higher upfront costs. The specific nature of projects and skills needed means the initial costs can often be higher than a permanent salaried employee. This needs to be considered when estimating the savings/revenue to be gained.
For the new project manager
The decision to embark on a career as an interim manager should be a considered choice and, ideally, not dictated by circumstances like redundancy. Understanding the pros and cons of a career as an interim manager is vital to success.
Advantages of an interim career
- Higher remuneration: often above market equivalent for similar permanent roles.
- Fast-track experience: more scope to work in different industries and commercial challenges.
- Effective outcome delivery: It’s often easier to get required results by not being a permanent member of staff, as you aren’t drawn into organisational politics and bureaucracy.
- Networking: Meeting more people leads to wider networks. Performing well in a role can bring referral work and build your profile (if you actively cultivate contacts) – especially with specialist recruiters and private equity firms who have a similar need for proven performers.
Disadvantages of interim roles
- Lack of acceptance from existing teams: It’s harder to become part of the executive team and be trusted as a leader of the business due to the project nature of the role.
- Lower security: There is rarely a guarantee on contract length, although initially there may be a negotiated term on the project. If major projects are shelved or axed, interim managers and contractors are always the first to go.
- Inconsistency in income: There can be long gaps between assignments, so it is important to look for the next opportunity as your current assignment nears an end.
- Sourcing and winning work: This is a competitive market for lucrative contracts so develop a strong suite of skills and hone your ability to pitch for work.