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So you want to be an interim manager?

Posted on from VMA Group

Ever considered becoming an interim? What are the benefits and drawbacks, what skills are sought-after, and how do you go about launching this career? Emma Flaherty reveals all to Mary Appleton in this Q&A.

Q. What does ‘being an interim’ mean?

A. It causes no end of debate. Many people refer to themselves as interims in the same way that lots of people consider themselves ‘strategic’ or ‘commercial.’

Essentially, it comes down to mind-set. On the one hand you have true ‘career interims’ who have made the choice to pursue a career working as an interim manager for a variety of organisations. On the other, you have those who have accepted a short-term role but their ultimate aim is to secure a permanent position.

Interim managers are highly experienced professionals who work independently, typically through their own Limited Company or through an umbrella organisation. They support organisations to deliver business critical projects in a timely and cost effective manner. Typically, when organisations need to:

  • Boost business growth and improve the bottom line
  • Manage crisis or change
  • Replace the loss of key management
  • Increase resource but not headcount.

 

Q. Is an interim career a good temporary solution?

A. Pursuing a career as an interim manager is not really an appropriate temporary solution. You’ll also be competing for work against proven interim managers who can demonstrate a track record of successfully supporting organisations through periods of change.

If you’re struggling to find permanent employment, it may be better to focus on looking for fixed-term contracts where you’re perhaps covering a role during a period of absence or while an organisation is looking to hire permanent headcount. These roles are more akin to permanent employment and may well ultimately lead to a permanent offer of employment.

Q. What are the benefits of an interim career?

A. It can be hugely rewarding and offers several key benefits. You can:

  • Take control and enjoy a better work/life balance. Many interims, for example, choose not to work over the summer months or may enjoy time off between assignments
  • Take on new challenges and work in a variety of roles and organisations
  • Be part of a team without getting involved in the politics
  • Enjoy better pay and more free time
  • Build up a portfolio of skills and experiences in a shorter timeframe.

 

Q. What are the drawbacks?

  • There’s no guarantee of regular work so you may have to cover periods with no regular income
  • You need to manage your own finances and time
  • You will not have the sense of ‘belonging’ that a permanent role often brings
  • You may have to spend time working away from home
  • You’ll need to invest in your own training and development

Q. What skills do I need to demonstrate value?

A. Successful interim managers:

  • Tend to be over-qualified for the project they are to deliver and will bring a wealth of experience that they have gained with a range of different organisations
  • Must be a driver and decision maker with a mix of strategic and tactical skills
  • Must have honed project management and communication skills
  • Should have good influencing and stakeholder management skills that allow them to establish rapport quickly and help drive change
  • Tend to have a high level of emotional intelligence and understand how to immerse themselves in a company’s culture without getting embroiled in internal politics
  • Must be financially astute and be able to manage budgets
  • Should be able to develop the existing team’s skills by offering hands-on coaching and development.

 

Q. What are your tips?

  1. Understand how to market yourself and cultivate a network. If a steady pipeline of new work is important, then network. If you neglect this when you’re working, you run the risk of a delay in finding your next role.
  2. Demonstrate value quickly. Your reputation depends on the quality of service you deliver.
  3. Be flexible about where, when and how you want to work. If you’re prepared to travel this will open up many more options to you. Don’t price yourself out of the market. Be realistic about what day rate you can charge as a new interim manager.

What can I expect to earn?

Interim managers are typically paid on a day-rate basis. Established Interim managers tend to have a range within which they operate. They might look at the lower end of their scale for work that’s close to home or a contract of a longer duration. Individuals with sought-after specialist skills, such as compensation & benefits, may be able to command a higher day rate.

If you’re looking to enter the interim management world for the first time, you can find a starting point through a widely used interim management calculation:

Take your annual basic salary and add 30% to cover benefits. Then divide this figure by 220. For example:

£60,000 basic + 30% = £78,000
£78,000 / 220 = £355 per day.

Typically, an interim manager will work a maximum of 220 days a year, taking into account holidays and down-time between assignments. You’ll only be paid for the days you work; therefore you will not be entitled to holiday, sick pay or any other benefits. This is why we add 30% to the base salary.

Click here to view our day-rate calculator: http://www.vmagroup.com/interim/salary_calculator.php

Over time, as you successfully deliver in a range of interim assignments you’ll be able to increase your daily rate. Experienced interim managers tend to be paid higher than the equivalent permanent employee as they are deemed experts in their field and will be able to positively impact an organisation within a short period.

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