The Diary of the Secret Interim, Part 1

The diary of the secret interim

The Diary of the Secret Interim, Day One: It’s essential to get your mindset right from the start when you switch to life as an interim manager.

How does life as an interim differ from the permanent world? One man with extensive experience of senior roles has agreed to share his intriguing insights to Eton Bridge Partners as he moves into the realm of interim.

Eton Bridge Partners has placed him in his first interim assignment (Divisional CFO) – we’ll be running a series of blogs to track and support him on his journey. As you’ll see, there are big differences; in the permanent world, the focus is on your ‘first 90 days’; as an interim it can be desirable to make an impact in the ‘first nine hours’.

Day One

The first thing you have to get right is the mindset. It’s all about deciding how to position yourself.

The contract I’ve accepted is open-ended but with a six-month initial term. So I could go into it with a six-month horizon, looking to keep it simple, focusing on the short-term impact and kicking anything longer term down the road.

I have the feeling that if I say I’m around for only six months, things won’t work. I’m not going to mention that I’m here on an interim basis but, of course, if someone asks I’ll tell them.

It was the right time for me to move away from the corporate world. I was there for more than 30 years, the last 15 in very senior roles as a Chief Financial Officer at local, regional and European level.

I enjoyed the corporate life – elements of it, anyway. I had done some internal interim roles before and making this move now felt like a natural progression in terms of the breadth and depth of my experience.

Put it this way, I felt there must be plenty of places out there looking for someone with my kind of skill set.

I had been with my last company for 10 years and things had got a bit staid. It was the end of the year – not a great time for a career transition, with people tending to hang on until March, when the bonuses are paid. That’s definitely the case with my previous employer.

But for me it felt like the right time to dip my toe in the interim world. If I like it, great. If not, after completion, I know I can always move back into corporate life.

The role I’ve accepted is Divisional CFO for a company not far from London that produces a number of well-known brands. They’re trying to do things at a global level for the first time, so on some days it’s going to feel like a multi-national, on others like a corner shop.

I do feel that right from the start I’m under pressure to justify my presence every day. I like that, it’s a good mindset to be in. Every day, the minimum I want to do is make sure I earn my salary. In a permanent position that’s less in focus, but when you are in an interim situation it’s more acutely perceived.

I’ve already had a bit of a surprise. On Day Minus Two I was invited to “pop in for a coffee” with the MD prior to commencing. Once I arrived, it was clear I wasn’t just “popping in” and I was meeting the HR Director too. Needless to say, I ended up being there for four hours to highlight the true extent of the challenges that lie ahead. It’s clear the pressure is going to be on from the start but I’m up to the challenge.

The firm I’ve joined is going through a lot of change, so in the early days I’m going to be concentrating on fire-fighting and keeping my head above water. But that’s one of the things that attracted me to this position. I wanted to be in a growth environment, a place where things are fast-moving.

As I say, if there are things that need fixing we could put a quick fix in place. I like to go in with a permanent perspective, taking a long term view.

We all know the saying that people always want things good, fast and cheap – and you can only ever have two out of those three. I think the right approach is somewhere in the middle and that’s what I’m going to do here.

I’ll be back soon to let you know how things are progressing. But whatever happens, I’ll be working to leave a good legacy.

To be continued…

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.