Talent Strategies for Modern Business: Leveraging the Interim Executive Model – Part 1

Part-Time Director of Operations

Leveraging the Interim Executive Model

We never know from one day to the next when contacted by clients what their situation will be and which combination of resources and expertise they will need. Though many businesses share a number of underlying principles about how they run and how they are successful, each company is unique. They differ in any number of ways: where they are in their lifecycles, how they were founded and by whom, what has spurred growth, the leadership team, the culture, the challenges, and what type of expertise is needed at this point. 

At Cerius, we have been working with companies for more than a decade to find the right interim executive at the right time to help organizations fill their exact needs.

Organizations can leverage the expertise of an interim executive to get what they need in flexible, affordable ways. To offer just a few ideas, the following four chapters offer rare views inside a number of companies and show how they leveraged interim executives to bring them success through part-time and interim placements in small, midsized, and Fortune 100 situations. 

Part-Time Executives: Making an Enormous Impact in Less than Forty Hours Per Week

Part-Time Director of Operations: Operations Can Make or Break Any Company

Jim is a serial entrepreneur who owns several companies; he became concerned that one of his companies in the retail distribution business was not making enough profit to sustain the business. It had grown to $200 million in revenue over a relatively short period of time, and yet no employee could figure out how to fix ongoing operational issues that were plaguing his business. They were too close and couldn’t really see the forest for the trees. 

Jim recognized the need for additional resources to help improve the company’s operational performance. Fortunately, he didn’t have to look far for how to improve the situation. 

During the previous ten years, Jim had used interim and part-time executives on various occasions to solve issues ranging from human resources challenges to due diligence during acquisitions. He had operational leadership personnel in place but knew they didn’t have all of the tools and skills they needed to identify and close the gap. Rather than hiring someone to come in above or to replace his current team, he engaged a part-time director of operations: Brian. 

The first issues to be addressed: reduce increasing costs and increase accountability—two items that are likely on every business owner’s wish list. 

Brian quickly got to work with a network- and supply-chain analysis. Working a few days a week, Brian laid out a plan based on the analysis and leveraged the existing team to accomplish a number of goals over the next year. He started by halving the number of warehouses while still meeting the two-day shipping commitment to customers. He provided the team and the owner with increased visibility into the operation’s activities through weekly reports on key performance indicators (KPIs) and worked closely with the finance team on the monthly budget versus actual reporting.

Improving reporting was challenging at first due to the arduous nature of obtaining information and closing the books each month. Brian knew it was time for the company to also step up its technology. From prior experiences, he was intimately familiar with enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementations and led the team through a warehouse management system (WMS) selection and execution, increasing efficiency and capturing more timely and accurate performance data. 

With all of the newly available data and analysis tools, Brian was then able to implement a system with suppliers to reduce external spending. Freight cost alone was reduced by 80 percent through renegotiations, reduced services charges, and changes to customer freight charges. 

During the interim assignment period of about eighteen months, Brian accomplished a 40 percent improvement to Jim’s troubled organization’s EBITDA while also improving customer wait times at will-call by 75 percent, simultaneously reducing the number of warehouses the company operated and maintaining a two-day shipping commitment to customers. The implementation of a WMS provided increased efficiency and the ability to capture performance data by employees. 

There is a saying that certainly proved true in this situation: “What gets measured gets managed: What gets managed gets improved.” 

Lesson Learned: Part-Time Director of Operations

The right part-time executive can provide more than full-time results. KPIs are often spoken about, but rarely correctly tracked and acted upon. Brian set up weekly KPIs and monthly financial reporting and trained the internal team on how to use them.

When Brian completed the assignment, the internal team had acquired both the tools and the cultural mindset to be customer-focused and to strive for continual improvement. 

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