Achieving Flexibility and Results in a Time of Uncertainty. Three Cheers for Interim Management!

By Charles Besondy

Depending on the political slant of your favorite news source the U.S. is either falling into recession or experiencing a mere speed bump. Everyone can agree the economy has taken it on the chin lately. The undertow caused by defaults of sub prime mortgages is still threatening to pull some financial companies under. The record high price of oil is having an inflationary impact on nearly everything we buy. The value of the dollar is at record low levels compared to the Euro. Swings of 100-200 points a day on the NYSE is common place. Unemployment is still relatively low, however, and inflation is in check (at least for now).

These are unnerving times for executives responsible for driving their business plans forward no matter the head wind. Revenue forecasting, always a challenge, is made more difficult by the economic factors in play (not to mention a Presidential election). When there’s less confidence in the revenue forecast executives are loath to add to their fixed costs, such as payroll. It is common in times like these for companies to become very cautious about filling vacant positions, or adding head count.

Just because the economy is sputtering doesn’t mean that companies are putting key initiatives on the back burner, or hunkering down in a bunker mentality. It simply means they are looking for ways to maintain momentum while mitigating financial risks. Interim managers or on-demand leaders in Marketing and Sales can play invaluable roles for companies during uncertain economic times by achieving the necessary results without adding to fixed payroll costs.

Q2 Employment Outlook Softening

ManPower, Inc, the $21 billion employment services company, just released its Manpower Employment Outlook Survey for Q2 2008. It clearly reflects a softer jobs market for the quarter ending June 2008.

ManPower’s CEO and Chairman, Jeffrey A. Joerres summarizes the report’s findings, “The important change we are seeing is not about reductions in workforces, like we would typically expect in a recessionary period, but rather an increase in the percentages of employers who are planning to put a hold on hiring and forge ahead with the people they already have. This is definitely a ‘wait and see’ approach as they evaluate where their economies are headed, rather than a panic attack at this point.”

In the survey “a quarter-over-quarter comparison shows the weakest employment prospects since Quarter 1 2004. According to seasonally adjusted survey results, employers in nine of the 10 industry sectors expect the hiring pace to remain stable or decline during Quarter 2 2008. Of the 10 industry sectors surveyed, only Transportation/Public Utilities employers anticipate improved conditions for job seekers in the coming quarter versus Quarter 1 2008.”

As you’d expect the figures vary by region and by industry sector. The report can be downloaded from ManPower’s Website.

Damn the Torpedoes and Full Speed Ahead

Any experienced business leader will tell you the keys to achieving results during periods of uncertainty are to mitigate the financial risks but keep charging forward. The use of interim managers is a smart way to achieve much-needed flexibility and results during unnerving times. Here’s why.

  1. You can quickly apply the right talent to achieve the necessary results. Hiring an interim is much faster and easier than is recruiting someone for a senior-level permanent position. Less valuable time is lost.
  2. You can focus entirely on the skills you need for the short term without complicating the picture with concerns about future requirements. You don’t have to find the marketing or sales leader who is perfect for this quarter as well as next year and beyond. You can focus like a laser on meeting the short term requirements.
  3. Interim managers are the utilities of management talent. You only pay for what you use. This is an enormous benefit during uneven economic conditions because you can adjust the volume of service you need very easily and quickly. To use interim talent you’re making short-term financial commitments with variable dollars, rather than long term, fixed cost commitments.
  4. Interim manages can deliver results for less. When the total cost of recruiting and employing a permanent executive or senior manager is compared to an interim’s fees the cost advantage can be significant.
  5. Interim managers often provide a more practical and cost-effective solution than management consultants. Usually you can bring in the same level of talent, one with both strategic and operational credentials, who can be a member of your team for less than management consultants with bureaucracies and fancy offices to support.

Don’t let the next months of economic uncertainty prevent you from keeping your customers satisfied and your competitors on their heels. Maintain fiscal flexibility and generate results through the use of interim management for filling gaps and driving forward key initiatives.

For a more in-depth look at how to successfully utilize interim management strategies check out these sources:

  • Leadership On Demand: How Smart CEO’s Tap Interim Management to Drive Revenue, available from Amazon.com
2 replies
  1. Charles Besondy
    Charles Besondy says:

    Many time the “action” is below the radar because the CEO or Board are not eager to broadcast that an “interim exec” is in a key role. This fear of a scarlet letter is unfounded, but present just the same.

    For additional insight into the challenges and constraints of using interim managers may I suggest picking up a copy of “Leadership On Demand: How Smart CEO’s Tap Interim Management to Drive Revenue” by Besondy and Travis. Available in paperback and ebook through your favorite online reseller.

    Reply

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