Focus Management Consultants Limited

Recruitment Specialists for the food and drink industry

To Be or Not To Be an Interim

Working as an Interim Manager can be a lucrative option.  It can offer you flexibility and of course real variety, as you might spend six months working in chilled bakery and the next nine in recipe dish manufacturing.  Each new assignment brings a fresh and potentially demanding challenge.  You don’t get bogged down in the politics, and being a fresh pair of eyes you can deliver some real wins that get you noticed.  

Great.  That all sounds exciting, motivating and a way to boost your income.  I do think the old sayings are still in use because they actually mean something and ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ is rather apt here.  The life of a professional Interim Manager is not as easy as it looks.  It’s useful to think about interim management from every angle if you are considering it as your next move - or if you are a client bringing an Interim Manager into your business on assignment.

To have a successful interim management career you absolutely need to be flexible on location.  Some candidates benefit from repeat assignments that are commutable from home but they are a rare luxury.  For continuity in work, you may need to stay away from home on a regular basis.  Most assignments are five days a week, and long days at that.  If you are delivering positive results, you can probably negotiate an early finish time on a Friday and some clients allow flexibility on the Monday morning but that’s usually when you are well into the assignment and have shown your worth to the organisation.

The days tend not to be a standard 9am to 5pm.  An Interim Manager is needed when there is a skills gap or there are serious issues in the business that need resolving, so expect to have a healthy work load with some early starts and late night finishes.

If your assignment is driving change through a business then you are not often the most popular person on site.  It can be an emotive and difficult time for the existing teams and you will often encounter resistance.  It sounds obvious but I have known some Interim Managers on my books decide it’s not for them, as being the prime mover of that change programme can be a lonely place.

Interim Managers are an expense to any business and that cost needs justifying.  You may well have saved a major retail account, driven cost out of the engineering function or reduced waste in the factory, but when the finances are under review the interims are the first to be cut to bring costs back in line.  It is a risk that you need to be aware of.

When you are on an assignment and working long hours it’s a juggling act finding your next role so you may end up with a gaps between contracts.  This is where Focus Interim can help, talking to you about new assignments when the current one is coming to an end. However, there is no guarantee you will be in work continually so you need to manage your finances accordingly to cover it.

When an MD brings an Interim Manager into their business they want to see results.  Your achievements must be tangible and you need to make sure they are visible.  You won’t have a week long induction process, it’s straight in at the deep end to make things happen.

You also need good references from your most recent assignments.  Everyone knows everyone in this industry, so you need to perform in every business you work in.  One mediocre review can jeopardise potential new assignments if MDs get talking together, so its an environment where you have to perform at each and every stage of the process.

On top of all this, while you are away all week your other life has to be managed so your weekends are often used as catch up time for paperwork such as invoicing…and of course your laundry!

Nevertheless, it’s not all doom and gloom!  Over the years a number of Interim Managers I have had the pleasure to work with have now become friends and they would never go back to working in a permanent role and they confidently say it was the best decision they made.  I just think Interims get a bad press sometimes so it’s worth looking into it before you make the jump and I’m sure there are some pros and cons I’ve missed but at least this gives you a flavour of what to expect.

By Sarah Moran