Now I have been working as an Interim Manager for ten years. Before that I worked for a few years in economics research and then joined a German multinational company in Brazil. In this company I started a classical career path: after working at the staff department in Brazil, I was invited to move to Portugal three years later and then to Spain and Germany, always working in finance; the next big move was to business, where I held one local position in Spain and then an European one again in Germany. My last position was as General Manager in Spain.
No need to say that during the sixteen years that I worked with them many changes occurred: several units were spun-off, the business where I worked was sold to a leading American competitor and they ended up merging with a French company and changing names, not once, but twice.
When one works for a big Group he or she soon realises that there is a lot of time and energy consumed with internal affairs. You are competing with your colleagues for the next promotion, different sites are competing among themselves to attract investments or avoid being closed, businesses are compared to each other and all strive to fit in the long term strategy, companies are bought or sold, management changes from time to time and the new bosses usually come with fresh ideas and challenge what was done before. Although all this is vital for a company’s long term success, it also comes at a high price. Employees can be winners or losers depending on where they stay when changes occur, rather on their actual performances. And in all cases you end up working a lot more, dedicating endless hours to a number of things that go far beyond your real job.
I left my old company when they decided to close the site where I was General Manager. I was not sure what I wanted to do next, but I knew that I didn’t want to stay another sixteen, twenty or thirty years working for the same company. My dream job included not having to spend time and energy with internal politics, and mostly concentrating in getting things done in the best professional way as possible. And once the job was done, I wanted to move on to something else. There are so many interesting things to be done out there in the market, I didn’t want to specialise in one industry or country, and didn’t want to work for just one employer.
What I didn’t know at that time was that this dream job did exist and that it had a name: Interim Manager.
Not everybody knows what Interim Management is or what an IM does. One easy explanation is that the IM is the consultant that gets things done, the person that will say what to do and then implement it. Although this is a good definition, it is also a very limited one. In it is implicit that the hirer of an IM has a problem that has to be sorted out. People tend to believe that IMs are hired only in tough times. In many situations that is exactly the case, but not in all. You can also hire an IM to develop a new project, a market entry, the opening of a new unit, the launch of a new product range, lead a change process or any other activity that would require specific skills for a limited period of time and that the company doesn’t have available at the moment.
Two things immediately attracted me to this new career path: being an IM you have the unique opportunity to help your customer to define the problem and design the strategy how to solve it; and then you are in charge of its implementation. It is an ideal job for doers, for people that love at the same time the intellectual work of figuring out what to do and then doing it. You are fully result oriented. The second attractive thing is that once your project comes to an end, you move on to something else. And this is known and agreed between the parts from the start.
At the beginning the transition was not without problems. The first challenge was the credibility one: some people that I talked to were not fully convinced that I wanted to give up the niceties of being a full-time employee of a multinational company to embrace the uncertainties of working in projects, without an employment tie with the customer. Although they did not voice it, I could feel that some people thought this was only a plan B until I could find another stable job. To put it plain, people were afraid to contract my services only to see me leave in the middle of the project, in case I had found something better somewhere else.
Now, after ten years of experience, this fear no longer exists. When potential customers see my record track they understand that I have brought all projects to the end. They also understand that it is part of my offer that they, as customers, can terminate the contract at any time and without extra costs. If they are not happy, we stop. As simple as that. As a matter of fact, in some cases the opposite happened: people asked whether I was interested to join their companies. They were maybe surprised when I thanked them, but declined.
Interim Management is a career option. In a continuously changing job market, it will more and more also become an alternative for junior professionals. It is a great alternative for companies, because they can count on talented people that bring the experience and the skills that they need, but only for the period that they need them. And it is great for people that want to focus on doing their job, without having to lose time and energy with internal politics. You get to know more people, to work in a variety of company cultures, you learn things that you never thought about before and you have more often the incredible reward of seeing things done, bringing results to the company and witnessing people proud of being part of a successful project. Last but not least, in between projects you have some spare time to dedicate to other things that quite often you just can’t do when you have a full time, conventional job.
I agree that Interim Management is not a career option for everybody. But if you have the right profile, once you have made the decision, you will never want to get back to your old career path again.