Why there’s never a bad time to be an interim

In more than twenty years in the interim sector I’ve never seen a significant dip in demand for their expertise. And, as Russam’s recent Brexit-focused survey indicates, interims themselves recognise that their prospects remain good even when little else is certain.

The survey found that 66 per cent of interims feel positive about the future, despite the ever-deepening obscurity around our relationship with the European Union.

This makes perfect sense. Any uncertainty creates opportunities for the interim sector. Interims from all kinds of discipline – from  business strategy and project management to legal expertise and technology – have a role to play in helping organisations through uncertain times.

Just one of many challenges

Brexit is just one example of the kind of challenge businesses face at any given time. More common challenges are changes to the regulatory environment, new market dynamics, pressure from competitors or the need to reduce costs. Most recently, of course, the pace of technological change is driving heavy demand for interim support.

But what is it about an interim that is so appealing to an organisation faced with uncertainty? In my experience, it’s as much about their external perspective and past experience as it is about the business skills they bring into play.

Russam has seen a welcome upswing in demand for interims to lead Brexit strategy for their client companies. Clearly this is not an area where anyone can claim past experience! But interims are particularly skilled in immersing themselves into a situation, identifying the challenge and the strategic options, and then successfully delivering the change required.

Harnessing a wider perspective

Their external experience is something that clients value enormously too. Every interim arrives from a previous assignment and will have worked in a number of different organisations over the past few years. This breadth of insight into how different organisations have managed their own challenges – or failed to – is integral to an interim’s value. It helps address organisations’ tendency for silo-focused thinking and opens them up to a wider perspective.

The challenges that face a business are cyclical, yet interims add value at every point. Even during the financial crisis and at times of recession, businesses have always needed interim expertise to find a way through: assessing where cost savings can be made, recommending investment strategies, driving a restructure.

A future of flexibility

So, uncertainty has always been a factor in the demand for interims. Something that will further drive the ongoing demand is the move to more flexible business practices and the ‘gig economy’. Businesses that want to respond fast to the ever-changing environment need to be more agile – potentially by having a smaller permanent workforce and pulling in experienced professionals at short notice.

This will be a boon for both the interim workforce and forward thinking corporates. There is a clear trend for businesses to ensure they have a ‘refreshed’ talent pool, to bring in new ideas and ways of working. Interims will bring both external thinking and vast experience.

At least one thing today is certain, then. The future for interims is as bright as they think it is.

Malcolm Alexander is an Associate Director of Russam GMS. He joined in April 2018 following 25 years’ experience of interim management. He established Interregna in 1998 to supply senior interim managers and directors, both in UK and overseas, following several years as a successful interim manager specialising in turnaround situations and the restructuring of companies experiencing major change. 

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