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The Interim Executive Playbook

By September 20, 2013Newsletters

Over the past 10 years, we have recruited and worked with hundreds of interim CFOs and have noticed that the difference between a good and great interim CFO lies not with technical ability, a CPA designation, industry expertise, or experience at a “brand name” company or accounting firm, but in the individual’s own self-awareness and their ability to read other people.

We have seen situations where tone deaf interim-CFOs bring a 500-page, full-time CFO playbook to an interim role and it does not work; the hiring CEO and private equity fund work in a narrow time frame and expect their resource to accomplish specific tasks in a much shorter period. Our advice:

  • Focus your lens – As an interim CFO, you are a hired gun engaged for a relatively short period of time to get through a limited number of deliverables. Understand and document those deliverables and declare victory when they are completed.
  • Enable your experience, but leave the past behind – Many consultants start their conversations with, “When I worked at ABC Company, we did this.” The listener would think, “What makes ABC Company so great,” and discount the point. Also, some interim staff carry baggage and, at times, palpable bitter resentment from previous employers. Better to lead with something like, “When I was in a similar experience, the challenges that we faced were X, Y, and Z.” This “generic” presentation focuses the listener on the issues and on you as a valued, experienced resource.
  • Check your ego at the door – Interim projects are usually messy. Do not go into the engagement thinking that everyone else within the finance department is an idiot and that you are the hero, able to fix everything. This is the fast track to having the body reject the transplant. Ask questions, listen, but be firm with regards to setting a direction and expectations.
  • Don’t lobby too heavily for the full-time job – Many CFOs do an interim assignment as a way to a full-time job offer. We have seen people want the full-time position so badly that they become conflicted between doing what is right as an interim resource versus what they think is right to get the full-time position. Let your interim work speak for itself.

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