Interim President: A Hail-Mary to Keep the Lights on Wins the Game


Lessons learnt from companies that brought in interim executives as experts rather than risking the business’s future.

Interim Executives President: A Hail-Mary to Keep the Lights on Wins the Game

Samira’s business was thirteen years old and had enjoyed a lot of success. She had grown the manufacturing business to over thirty-five employees. Looking back at what she had created frustrated her more and more each day, however, as she saw declining sales and margins and hadn’t been able to fix them.

Her CFO was telling Samira they were about six months away from closing the doors. She couldn’t seem to get a handle on the source of the issues but knew the answer was out there. The obvious answer was to hire someone who could fix it. The problem was, there wasn’t enough cash to either replace herself as CEO or to bring in a president at a minimum of $200,000+ per year. And not only was there not enough cash, but she would be betting it all—the future of the company—on one person.

She wasn’t willing to risk it.

Samira took a less perilous route and brought in an interim president, Matthew, who worked two to three days per week. He quickly established a strategic plan with goals, metrics, dashboards, and daily quotas to rapidly create accountability. To help the team adjust, he held daily meetings with follow- through and quickly identified training gaps. One of the major issues was contention between engineering and sales. Matthew prioritized quotas and engineering’s workload and quickly saw the need to begin charging for much of the work engineering was doing.

Within two months, Matthew had the company back at break- even. By the third month, it was profitable. Some key components that contributed to Matthew’s success were a 90 percent reduction in returns, 16 percent reduction in inventory, and reorganizing the workforce, achieving a 20 percent reduction by removing the C-players and elevating other employees.

After six months, Matthew was able to step away, and Samira was much happier to continue managing the business with all of the tools he had put in place. One year later, the company was thriving. They had reduced COGS by 13 percent and had achieved a 25-percent increase in product shipments. The company’s profitability had also improved over 6.5× what the original loss was when Matthew first came to the company.

Interim Executives Lesson Learned

Not all Hail-Mary passes make it to the end zone, but in this case, it was the pass that won the game. Samira’s willingness to take a calculated but reasonable risk, paired with Matthew’s proven skill set in leading an organization through tough decisions and some painful, quick turnaround decisions, helped to save this company.

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