Roger Sweeney: Is it time for a change at your company? Featured

8:01pm EDT September 30, 2011
Roger Sweeney: Is it time for a change at your company?

Uncertainty looms on the horizon for many corporations fighting to move forward through our present economic climate. Small and midsized businesses are faced with considerable challenges, and many of them are finding themselves in transition phases without the promise of growth that only solid leadership can bring.

In such situations, action is the key to success. Time is precious, and money is generally short. Having the right CEO often climbs to the absolute top of the priority list. Finding this person, however, can be a daunting task. Utilizing an interim executive is a smart — though often disregarded — option to propel a company from a static, transition position to a forward-focused phase of growth.

An interim executive is an experienced, unbiased top-tier business leader. His or her career is filled with four- to six-month stations in the CEO position for companies that don’t have the internal talent to recruit from within or the time or funds to recruit from the outside. Interim executives have years of experience conquering myriad common business roadblocks; time is on their side, and politics are rarely in their way.

Strategy and objectivity drive an interim manager to success. Chances are they powered through a similar situation in their last position. Whether they may be called on to replace a sudden vacancy, shore up a weak/inexperienced management team, mentor an inexperienced leader or even shut down an ailing business — they have seen it all.

Furthermore, interim managers do not require time to transition themselves into their temporary role as leader but rather hit the ground running implementing appropriate strategy and moving their temporary company forward. Case in point, a diversified telecommunications, real estate and transportation company required a management team to address its troubled telecommunications subsidiary. The team’s job was to step in and solve problems quickly, without mistakes. In a matter of days, with the hiring of two interim managers, an experienced CEO and CFO were in place to refocus the business and reduce capital spending and operating losses, enabling renewed focus on regional top-line growth.

In a different situation, a company had earned more than 50 industry awards, yet like hundreds of other Internet companies, it was burning through its funding. The interim manager who was brought in as a CEO to rescue the business, and who had taken over and turned around at least 10 companies prior, got results right away. He rewrote the business plan, refocused the product from a one-size-fits-all commodity to a strictly custom model, cut staff and refocused the sales effort. With that done, he re-energized the board, negotiated new critical partnerships and raised $9.5 million in new funding.

Because an interim manager has no interest in morphing into a full-time CEO for one corporation, they are able to see and, therefore act, objectively. This objectivity ensures that their mentorship and guidance is genuine. Their leadership comes from the best interest of the company, not the best interest of any one individual. Likewise, a team atmosphere is better developed from the leadership of an interim manager, as he or she poses no threat to the careers of existing management.

While an interim manager forges through crisis management, the company can simultaneously extend its efforts to recruit a new, permanent leader. This leader, thanks to the use of an interim manager, will not have to sacrifice any relationships with new employees due to hard, but inevitable, decisions required during transitions. He or she will instead be received in a positive light, ready to move his or her new company into a full-fledged phase of growth.

Roger Sweeney is the managing partner of SMB Operating Partners, a firm with expertise in change leadership, providing clients with experienced, high-performance, C-level interim executives to carry out time-intensive assignments in a wide range of businesses. For more information, visit www.smbop.com or call (312) 924-1547.