Cast your mind back a few years and career paths were framed by accepted norms. The need to sign a full-time contract with a sole employer. The need to commute to a physical office, Monday-Friday. The need to work your way up established hierarchies. Yet, along came a pandemic and blew these limitations away.
From widespread acceptance of remote working to more companies seeing the value of on-demand expertise, Covid-19 has accelerated the trend towards flexible career choices by enabling more leaders to take up interim and fractional roles. But what’s life like as an interim leader?
Think of it as head-renting instead of head-hunting. Interim and fractional leadership involves hiring senior leaders on a short-term basis usually to carry out a specific purpose.
For example, an interim leader commits to work for a company over an agreed period of time, such as a scale-up hiring a CMO for six months to develop their marketing function, devise lead generation strategies and train the in-house marketing team before the CMO moves on, often helping to hire their replacement.
On the other hand, a fractional leader is a part-time role on a recurring basis. For instance, a Customer Success leader might work one day per week for three different companies at the same time dealing with a variety of challenges, goals and customer types.
Whether it’s parachuting into a scale-up to solve a crisis or simply passing on crucial experience to start-up founders, interim leadership is fast-paced, dynamic and rarely the same. “I didn’t know what to expect but I literally love being able to jump into an organization or team with a clear challenge,” says Lotte Cohen, who realised she wanted a change during the pandemic. “I can help them make decisions quicker, regain energy and accelerate results based on the best practices I gained by going through these challenges myself in previous roles”.
For Margo Hayward, it’s about diving into an agile space and pushing yourself. “Getting up to speed in record time can be a challenge, but it’s hugely rewarding to bring expertise and knowledge from years of industry experience to new companies. I love the instant impact and benefits this brings and how it quickly it can help companies to solve their scaling challenges”
The average tenure of a revenue leader in the start-up world is roughly 18 months and many experienced leaders have spent their career following this trajectory: sharing their knowledge and learning more before moving on. For interim leaders, this two-way street is accelerated with “new people, new challenges, new outcomes, new learning and new insights every couple of months,” according to Lotte Cohen.
Margo Hayward agrees. “Joining new companies regularly is incredible as I love learning about new propositions, new companies and meeting new people,” she says, adding that this fast-paced, on-demand approach enables her to make a positive difference to companies that need it. “I knew I could use my experience to help organisations grow and at a faster pace.I quickly realised that there was a clear market for helping scale-ups to improve their go-to-market approach and implement a really effective sales and marketing structure. Helping them by providing this advice and leadership is very rewarding.”
The ability to pick and choose assignments also provides leaders with greater control over their working choices. Throw in short-term contracts, remote working and the freedom to specialise on the parts of the job you enjoy most, and it’s no surprise that leaders like Margo chose a portfolio career “to have the right work/life balance”.
What’s more, the transition from full-time to interim leadership is even easier when you are matched with roles that suit your needs and skills. “Having an organisation like Scalewise is nice because it adds a layer of ‘feeling connected’ and it provides backup to make sure you have everything you need for success,” says Lotte Cohen. “Scalewise introduced me to my current assignment at a very cool UK-based start-up. Thanks to their big network and thorough matching skills it has been a great adventure so far!”