Interim Executives in the Fortune 100: You’re Never Too Big for an Outside Perspective
Even companies in the Fortune 100 use interim executives.
This is an excerpt from our new book The Executive Search where we dive into everything about interim executives.
Most companies keep their employee base busy. In the area of human resources, that is usually an understatement. So, what happens when the company makes a large acquisition and the busy get even busier? One of the top reasons for failed acquisitions is the inability to appropriately integrate the two companies, particularly on a cultural basis.
One particularly large acquisition involved international teams located in several regions and cultures with which the current human resources team had not yet worked. This was also, coincidentally, the largest acquisition in the company’s history.
The company had hired one of the Big Four consulting firms with teams in each country to assist with the integration. The challenge came when corporate HR didn’t have anyone available with bandwidth or expertise to manage communications country-by-country.
To assist with the integration, the company brought in an interim human resources executive who had large acquisition and integration experience among his many skill sets. In just six weeks, he put together a coordinated Q&A system to openly address all employee questions while taking into account each country’s culture and business environments. This increased the volume of questions corporate and local acquisition teams were able to address rapidly by more than a factor of four.
Most importantly, he was able to take on acquisition-specific activities, leaving the existing teams to continue with their scheduled activities. He compiled, coordinated, and implemented all aspects of retention and incentive programs for the executives and key staff. He created a global policy manual, taking into account all corporate stakeholders, then adjusted it to local requirements of each country. Finally, he coordinated and led HR communications for the initial launch of the welcome, training, and completion celebration.
In the end, there was a lot to celebrate.
When you have only one chance to get it right the first time, and the stakes are as high as they could possibly be, placing a project in the hands of somebody with a deep bench of proven skills is worth every cent of investment— especially because there are no do-overs in acquisitions and integrations, and the cost of failure can be catastrophic for both entities.
A leading-edge technology company was bending under the weight of legacy issues, both with its products and its brand. To better serve its customer base and its vision to be an innovation leader, the company conducted a spin-off.
A spin-off is quite different than an acquisition: Additional resources tend to be more focused on marketing than human resources. Rather than bringing everything together under one umbrella, an organization needs to create a separate, equally compelling, distinctively different brand within the marketplace.
To get some outside perspective, this organization’s leaders brought in one of the leading interim brand marketing executives in the country. They needed to move fast in order to have everything ready and needed someone who could be self- reliant, with minimal direction, as the existing team continued to manage the larger entity’s needs.
The interim CMO got to work quickly and in less than four months, put together the research, findings, and recommendations for a go-to-market strategy that heavily relied on differentiation and product positioning.
When working with larger enterprises, there aren’t a lot of “kudos” or “attaboys” associated with executive-level assignments. But when you see concepts and storylines in print when you open the Sunday paper, you know the client must have been satisfied with your work.
No organization is too big or too small to require outside assistance for projects or to fill gaps. Companies in transition, evolving daily, face challenges and opportunities that experienced executives have seen and handled before. Don’t hesitate to fill the expertise gap when needed.