22nd May 2023

The secrets to a transformative interim hire – expert view

Nick Hart joined the McLean Partnership in April to head up our Interim & Consulting business. He’s got more than fifteen years’ experience appointing critical executive interim leadership roles to organisations undergoing turnaround, transformation, and growth. Here, we ask him to explain how the service works, why successful organisations rely on interim hires, and what makes the McLean offer so different.

Hi Nick, can you give us a quick explainer on what makes the Interim & Consulting service line unique?

It’s all about deploying the right people, at the right moment, at pace. That makes experience and intuition particularly important because you need to find an effective solution quickly.

Different sectors, functions and scenarios require very different of types of people, and I’ve spent more than 15 years in the executive interim management business. During that time, I’ve worked at executive level across nearly all parts of the public and private sectors including healthcare, technology, consumer, business services, government, and industrial. That includes all manner of organisations, from FTSE 100 and major public sector institutions to early-stage venture capital backed firms and mid-cap private equity. I have worked with businesses in turnaround, in transformation and experiencing rapid growth, as well as across all functions on the executive team, and many different parts of the world.  That’s what I think makes my offer relatively unique.

I think my experience covers lots of situations – particularly why certain people work well in certain scenarios. It’s only by doing it year after year that you fine tune that ability to deploy the right people at pace.

Why do clients tend to utilise the service?

Most of the time, organisations need the rapid flexible deployment of leadership capability to solve an issue. By that I mean someone with specialist skillset that can deliver an immediate impact, whether they are working on a sensitive tactical situation, responding to a surge in work or the hiring business simply want to try someone out before committing to a permanent hire.

Sometimes the solution isn’t a professional interim hire at all – it can be a permanent person who is available quickly, or a more bespoke consulting solution. I worked on a scenario with a healthcare business pivoting to a SAAS model requiring a CEO, CMO and CFO. The search initially focussed on finding professional interims, but the business quickly realised they needed people for the long term, which in turn altered our shortlist. The interims we provided were moved onto permanent contracts within a matter of months.

In another case, we worked with a soft furnishing business seeking to grow their international business. After introducing them to various international sales directors and a very experienced ex-CEO, they went with the ex-CEO as a board advisor working a handful of days a month to help set strategy.

In another, an investor in a services business was seeking a turnaround CEO after a sudden decline in the business’s fortunes. After assessing the candidates we provided, they opted for the more growth focussed CEO.

All three cases reveal the degree to which you can be more nimble working in interim and really tailor the solution to the needs of the given business, which are changing all the time.

How does the process differ from more traditional search?

For traditional search, the search process begins when the mandate is confirmed. When working on interim hires, the work is almost done before you are engaged by a client. Of the eventual shortlist of three, at least two of them we’ll likely know at the outset.

That’s why cross-sector, cross-border experience is so important, because you’re working with a smaller pool of people than you would be on a traditional search mandate. The better the network, the better the solution you can provide.

It’s also why technology is so important, and that’s another factor that makes McLean Partnership stand out. The Client Relationship Management (CRM) technology is modern and sophisticated, and it allows us to really harness data to make quick decisions. We just haven’t got the time to be using researchers to build manual long lists from clunky databases. 

We also want to differentiate ourselves as the first-place candidates go when they are considering becoming an interim. It’s quite an old school method to repeatedly work with the same pool of candidates when we know there is so much more talent out there. We’re spending a lot of time working on growing the network with some of the newer tools at our disposal.

What makes a good interim candidate?

The best candidates come with an exit strategy. They have the clarity of thinking to know at the outset what they intend to deliver, they execute their plan and leave a sustainable legacy.

That’s quite different from permanent leadership roles that often entail a lengthy period of listening before making big decisions. It’s another reason why the private equity sector tends to use interim candidates so effectively. When firms are purchasing businesses with a view to selling them on in three to six years, you can’t spend twelve months finding a candidate who will then spend twelve months getting up to speed. The right interim candidate will spend that time creating value.

 If you are business considering utilising interim management, or you’re a leader that is interested in exploring interim positions, reach out to Nick using  nickhart@mcleanpartnership.com

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