The Diary of the Secret Interim Finale

The Secret Interim’s Diary, Day 179: It’s been thoroughly enjoyable – but what’s next?

Six months ago, Eton Bridge Partners placed an interim in a role as Divisional Chief Financial Officer. With his initial contract about to expire, our man looks back at his time in his role, discusses the differences between interim and permanent work – and looks ahead to the future.

Please note: This is ‘The Secret Interim’s Diary Finale, Part 5’.

– Click here to read Part 4

– Click here to read Part 3

– Click here to read Part 2

Click here to read Part 1

Day one hundred and seventy nine

I’m now approaching the end of my six-month contract – and the good news is that I’ve been asked to stay on.

I took a call from the Global Chief Financial Officer of the company, suggesting I can add more value in a group role. They want to start exploring permanent roles with me. However, I’m still not sure going permanent in this role would be the right thing to do so my role has been extended for another six months, with the notice period enhanced from one month to three to offer greater stability.

From day one I was always comfortable coming into this role and was confident I would be successful. As I’ve said before, I’ve enjoyed it because it is a target-rich environment.

Have I completed the work I was taken on to do? Well, the more lids I lift, the more vital issues I find that need addressing. I thought this role might take 12 to 18 months to complete – I now think it could take a bit longer.

The more I know, the more change is required and I can see us making quantum leaps every quarter – and that could carry on for quite some time, maybe as long as two-and-a-half years.

But clearly, if they’re asking you to go permanent, you must be having some impact.

One area we’ve focused on in the last couple of months has been some of the key processes, especially in sales and operational planning. This is something the business never had, but finance is leading the way and pulling the rest of the organisation with us.

Putting this sort of structure in place means you can come up with a really accurate sales forecast. You can tell your suppliers what the market wants and then deliver products accordingly. Previously, the plants were making what they wanted, and we had product we couldn’t sell – and not enough of what the market desired.

This is an incredibly complex, multi-layered process. You need financial people who can perform statistical analysis but you also need input from the sales team. You then need input from the industrial side to say yes, we can make these products. Then you can pull all the relevant information and analytics together and turn this into reality.

So have I changed the culture here? You don’t always feel like it on a day-to-day basis, but then you look over your shoulder and see how far the business has come. People have told me the finance team has created major advances in the last six months.

It’s become clear this business was heading in the wrong direction for a long time and it’s a big job to turn it around. We’re talking about a collection of historic brands, some 100 years old, trying to turn itself into a global business. Everything needed to start from scratch and it’s going to take a while to redirect the business and invest in the areas it needs to invest in.

For instance, we’ve identified 23 key deliverable projects including important things like budgeting software and business analysis tools. Everything is being reinvented – and everything is a priority. But we are now starting to see green shoots in the financial statements.

This has been my first experience working as an interim and I have to say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. The chance to make an obvious impact in a short space of time is very rewarding.  Even if you do all the due diligence in the world, you don’t really know what you’re walking into until you get the keys and start lifting lids.

By now I do feel like an employee; I am certainly treated like one. People even assume I’m a Statutory Director and I have to remind them I’m not. In the end it’s all about finding yourself in the right place surrounded by the right people.

What’s the best thing about being interim? Not being permanent! It’s a given that you are coming into a situation which is fresh and new – and it’s a chance to bring things to the table from your previous experience and deliver positive change. To come in every day and really add value is really satisfying.

What’s the worst thing about being interim? Not being permanent! You do have concerns about job security and it can be harder to influence an organisation. If you are an interim, some people might think: “There will be a new sheriff in town in a few months’ time.” But once you’ve settled in and made a few changes, that becomes less common.

Many ask me “what is the biggest lesson you have learnt?”– go the whole hog and throw yourself in as though you are a permanent member of the team. Don’t be afraid to give your opinion early on. You’ll be doing the right thing for the company, your team and ultimately, yourself.

Marcus Shah

Partner
Interim Management
CFO & Finance


Marcus is responsible for senior finance interim management assignments across UK and internationally. Typical assignments include: CFO, Divisional Finance Director, Group/ Divisional Financial Controller, FP&A and M&A/ Corporate Development operating within daily rates of £500 to £2,000 per day. Supporting clients at varying life cycles in their development across multiple ownership structures – private equity, plc and private.