A key route to market for professional interim managers and executives is the Interim Service Provider (ISP). Executives Online has been a provider of interim management services since 2000. Earlier this summer, the Institute of Interim Management (IIM) published a guide which describes how interim managers and executives may best work with interim service providers to get the best out of that relationship for both parties.
The IIM guide draws upon the findings of its annual survey of leading interim service providers. In addition, the IIM compiled over 15,000 individual votes from around 2,500 interim managers and executives in this year’s interim management survey to create a list of the 80 finest interim service providers as voted for by the interim managers and executives themselves.
Interim managers or executives considering entering the interim management profession and clients considering engaging an interim manager will find the following findings and statistics of interest:
1. The provider market is very fragmented. The IIM understands there to be several hundred agencies that will try to fill an interim position given the chance. This mirrors the fragmentation seen in the broader executive recruitment and general recruitment industries, which contain (in the UK alone) thousands of firms ranging from sole practitioners on up to global recruitment brands employing thousands.
2. The most populous segment of provider consists of firms that deliver both executive search and interim. Interim service providers may be specialists who only handle interim assignments. They may be permanent recruitment agencies or executive search firms also handling interim. From the IIM’s survey, just 32% of providers surveyed considered themselves interim specialists. A further 56% call themselves search firms, with the remaining 11% as recruitment agencies.
3. Providers earn an average 21% of the day rate billed to clients as their fee. The provider fee, typically known as the “margin”, is in most cases a percentage of the day rate that the service provider retains from the fee charged to the end client. A few providers run their calculations by adding a percentage on top of the interim manager’s rate, and a few others will charge the client a facilitation fee on top of a direct contract between the interim manager and client. The average provider is charging around 21% margin.
4. Interim Service Providers are the most important route to market. Fully 45% of all assignments are sourced via providers, and 80% of interim managers will use interim service providers at least some of the time. It is a beneficial relationship that works for most. Other sources of assignments include repeat work from prior clients (26%), personal networking (14%), client referrals (8%), and job boards and other online tools (7%).
5. Being proactive is important, but because it sows seeds for the future, not because it is likely to lead to an assignment right then. Most assignments are not advertised, a trend which has been strengthened by the growth of social media and sites such as LinkedIn. Being “easy to find” is now much more important than being good at “applying” to vacancies. If an interim manager is not on an appropriate provider’s database, s/he cannot be selected from it. Most assignments (80%) are sourced by being found rather than finding an assignment. This is not passive because it requires hard work to build relationships that later bear fruit, whether they be provider-based or direct. Being visible and memorable is essential.
6. Being known by the provider consultant matters. According to the IIM’s survey, interim managers are 7 times more likely to be placed on assignment through an interim service provider consultant that they already know than to be selected and placed from the provider’s candidate database. The IIM advises to build consultant relationships steadily and professionally, without being a pest.
7. Carefully choose providers with whom to cultivate a relationship. The average number of active relationships an interim manager has with providers (from 2014 data) is actually only 5, with most interims having between 3 and 8 relationships. This small figure is somewhat remarkable given how many firms deliver at least some interim management placements: Several hundred on the face of things, with 80 firms named in the IIM ranking. It therefore makes much more sense to build a great relationship with a smaller number of service providers that operate in the relevant sectors and functional disciplines than to fire CVs indiscriminately to a long list of providers. Being in touch with more than a dozen providers diminishes the effectiveness.
8. It’s important to customise an interim management CV. The internet is riddled with advice about writing a CV of no more than 2 pages, often because those websites are dealing with the American resumé standard which is typically shorter than a UK CV. Nearly 80% of interim managers surveyed reported their CV was 3 or more pages long, with the most popular length being 3 pages (41%). Interim managers will customise their CV 70% of the time.
9. Advertised roles require speedy, on-target response. Most providers expect a response to a role they have advertised within 24 hours (and some would prefer it faster). Be mindful that experience and profile elements noted as “essential” in an advert usually (always) are “essential” unless a candidate has an utterly compelling alternative rationale. Serial untargeted applications do little other than annoy the providers and waste everyone’s time. Return provider calls or e-mails promptly.
This blog post owes its content to the IIM's comprehensive research and report. The provider survey illuminates certain features of the market and confirms what we see in our own research and practice. We’re delighted to be ranked in its “Platinum” tranche of the top 20 providers, at #12 this year (up from #14 and #13 in 2012 and 2013 respectively). To read the full “Interim Service Providers Survey and Guide 2014”, visit the IIM website and download it for free.
If you are an interim manager not yet registered with Executives Online, please register and send us your CV. (One note, the finding in the IIM research about providers’ use of their own databases does not align with Executives Online’s business process which makes every role known to the relevant segments of our Global Talent Bank and screens all applicants whether known to us or not.)
If you are in a company or organisation and are considering engaging an interim manager, please contact us to discuss your situation. We’ll advise whether interim management is the right solution, discuss how it can help, and help find exactly the right person for you.