By Rachelle Peard. Published on 4 October 2016
Being a senior professional interim was not the end game for my career in finance. To be honest I didn’t have an end game, but the experience gained in large blue chip organisations, enabled the later success I had as a professional interim manager.
Working with and learning from the best people, exposure to numerous cultures, nationalities and different ways of working as well as growing up in organisations that were rapidly changing and innovating, would prove invaluable experiences when it came to delivering in my own name.
Despite the career success I was enjoying, being a small cog in a large corporate wheel eventually lost its appeal and in my early forties I took a leap into the unknown world (to me) of Interim Management.
I wanted to go it alone, without the benefit of a corporate safety net around me, and so, with no significant research, no big network to leverage, no clear idea of how the interim market worked and a number of naysayers telling me I was too young, I embarked on my interim career in 2002. Hardly perfect timing in hindsight as the market had dried up after the glut of the late 1990s, Y2K excitement and the bursting of the technology bubble.
However, at the time I was enthusiastic, optimistic and could see that, unlike some players, this was a conscious career choice for me and I wasn’t in the interim space by default or marking time at the end of a long career. That was a significant point of differentiation, and made a compelling sell to anyone prepared to listen.
I soon discovered that not many would listen because to get in front of the best Interim Service Providers you needed to have a track record of interim project delivery.
Undeterred by that I set about describing, to those who would meet me, how my experience in the corporate world played well in the interim market; after all, corporate life for me had been commercial projects, implementations, transformations, team building, business partnering etc. So I knew how to do it.
The first three years were tough, but I plugged away, building my network and doing a couple of assignments for organisations I’d worked with in the past, and slowly I noticed a change. As my track record developed, people starting calling me, my networks started working and referrals started flowing. From that point I didn’t look back and completed 13 assignments until, in my mid fifties I decided to wind down and enjoy a new life back in my home county of North Yorkshire.
So what did I learn about the interim management space?
A number of observations, but I offer several that stood out for me.
> It is a bit muddy in places, not always well understood and organisations gets confused between professional interim and consultancy, agency and temp work (particularly in the mid market). So clarity about who you are and what you deliver are key.
> Demonstrating that you can run fast, add value and implement sustainable solutions helps in the cost benefit analysis of hiring an interim. “It’s expensive to hire an interim, but even more expensive to hire somebody ill-equipped to do the job.”
> Credibility, professionalism, tenacity, mental and physical fitness, together with strong relationship building skills are all key to success.
> Excellent references from people who will stand up and back you are key marketing tools. Repeat business with the same client can also help others to be confident in what you deliver.
> Working with top class interim service providers is also key. There is a real mix out there. I built relationships with those who invested time in getting to know me, clearly understood what I did and were at least as professional as me. It soon became clear from the quality of the referrals which providers really knew and understood my offer!
The assignments I’ve enjoyed most
There isn’t one assignment I would choose, but throughout my work there was one common theme that kept bringing me back for more; delivering performance through people.
I’m passionate about working with and developing people and teams. Tapping into the discretionary effort available when people are aligned, enthused and see the possibilities is very energising. It’s not always about more resource, in my experience it’s often about getting more from the same or less. I saw many examples of people growing in confidence and delivering amazing results they didn’t feel were possible at the start. That was very rewarding.
So when you boil it down, my most enjoyable assignments as an interim manager worked like this:
> I won people’s hearts and minds.
> I built both management and staff confidence in what we could achieve together.
> I listened and listened again to the issues worries and concerns.
> I reached out for the input of ideas and possible solutions.
> I put together prioritised plans to get the job done, and relaxed whilst the assignment
results were delivered through the organisation’s most important resources – people.
I lost count of the number of times I was thanked for my work by the people who had actually done it all themselves.
“I’ve really enjoyed my 12 or so years working as an interim manager, and my success was in no small part due to the team at Eton Bridge Partners. I was always motivated to work with professional people who you could trust, understand and build strong relationships with. These kind of strengths and many more, are I believe at the heart of Eton Bridge Partners as a businesses.”