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Welcome to Globalise Talks: Using Interim Leaders as a Business Strategy

Listen now: Mike Harris (Patina Solutions) and Charlotta Kvarnström (Nordic Interim) discuss the importance of interim management in the current global context.

 

Globalise Talks - The globalise podcast

A transcript of the podcast can be found here:

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Mike Harris, CEO of Patina Solutions, USA

Mike Harris, CEO of Patina Solutions, USA

A proven and prolific entrepreneur, Mike has significant experience in starting and building professional and technical services firms. Patina Solutions is his sixth professional services start-up since 1995. Mike is best known as the founder and former CEO of Jefferson Wells, which grew to $132 million in sales with 23 offices and 1,600 employees in five years. Mike is a frequent speaker on topics ranging from entrepreneurial endeavors to transitioning from CFO to CEO. Earlier in his career, Mike was CFO for Alternative Resources Corporation and Wind Point Partners. A CPA, he has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from University of Wisconsin – Parkside.

Charlotta Kvarnström, Partner at Nordic Interim, Sweden

International background from professional services and management consulting. Previously Managing Director and Partner at Accenture, most recently heading up the Communications, Media & Technology Business Process Services in the Nordic Countries. Charlotta has a degree in Industrial Engineering and long-standing experience from several executive positions in various industries and segments. She has been driving a number of comprehensive global initiatives focused on business and market development, been responsible for Gender Diversity at Accenture Sweden and a member of the Human Capital Board, where she played a leading role for the recruitment transformation at Accenture resulting in fifty percent of candidates recruited being women. Previously Charlotta was a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer for an e-commerce start-up.

Charlotta Kvarnström, Partner at Nordic Interim, Sweden

Script of the interview

Mike Harris:

Welcome to Globalise Talks. I'm Mike Harris, the CEO of Patina Solutions, based in the United States. I'm pleased to have Charlotta Kvarnström here with me today. She's a partner with Nordic Interim, based in Stockholm. Both Patina and Nordic Interim are founding members of Globalise, the leading global interim management group that meets a variety of executive and managerial talent needs for companies around the world. Today we're going to discuss how and why companies should consider using interim leaders as part of their business strategy. Charlotta, welcome. Would you please share a little bit about your background before we jump into the topic? 

Charlotta Kvarnström:

Thank you, Mike. Of course. I am absolutely thrilled to be part of the leading executive interim service provider in the Nordics and a part of Globalise, which I view as a great global collaboration. I joined Nordic Interim as a partner in May of this year, following 20 years at Accenture as Managing Director and most recently responsible for communications, media and technology, business process services in the Nordics. I am used to helping companies think differently about getting important work done and to help them be best prepared to deal with the change and transformation. 

“Interim leaders can be utilized at the highest level in the C suite and can also be for Vice President level work.”

Mike Harris

Oh great. Well, to start off, would you please give us some insights into the ways that interim leaders can help companies achieve their goals and better operate their businesses? 

Charlotta Kvarnström

I would say companies use interim leaders to address a variety of situations. It may be to help plan and execute an important project or initiative, or to help the company successfully make a major change. As a result of digitalization and automation, the majority of companies are or will be facing large transformations. Interim leaders can also be used to fill an open executive or managerial role for a period of time. It might even be to help develop the next generation of leaders already inside the company. Interim leaders can be utilized at the highest level in the C suite and can also be for Vice President level work. 

Mike Harris

Well, it sounds like many of the situations you described are somewhat reactive in nature, meaning a company may not think of proactively using interim leaders in these situations, but suddenly they may realize they need some help from outside their organization. For example, maybe a key project is falling behind schedule, or a company leader quits unexpectedly. 

Charlotta Kvarnström

Many times that type of reactivity is the reason why interim leaders are engaged. But I suggest a company can benefit from being more proactive about planning when, where and how to use interim leaders. There are quite a few positives that come out from using interim leaders. Companies get a variable cost resource that can be utilized and paid only as needed. This mediates the requirement to employ the leader, which includes cost for recruitment, ongoing employment with benefits, and possibly termination costs. So less fixed costs can be quite desirable for many companies these days.

Another positive is gaining a set of skills and experience that you need for a defined situation, but that you don‘t need to keep employed on your own team. And some companies may not be able to afford or attract a high level or critical talent to join their company as an employee permanently, but they can quickly access them on demand as an interim leader. With interim leaders, clients get access to the right skill at the exact right time. And in today‘s business climate, there is great value in remaining an agile organization. So changes can be made quickly and relatively painlessly and that is not always the case when company employees are involved. 

Mike Harris

Makes sense. So what are some of the major reasons or drivers as to why so many companies are now using flexible and agile workforce models, such as interim leaders, even at the highest and most complex levels of the organization? 

Charlotta Kvarnström

For interim leaders I would say it‘s key that they quickly acclimate into the company situation and operation, meaning analysis and change management skills are key, in addition to bringing the role-specific skill set of course. They also need to understand the interim leader role and that it might involve some coaching, advising and suggesting, versus directing and telling and bossing, which might have been part of their past roles. Plus, they need to consider how to transfer the knowledge to the company employees they work with. For companies it‘s important obviously to welcome the interim leader as part of their organization and team and to clearly explain why they are brought in to help. The more a company utilizes interim leaders, the easier it becomes and the more accepted and successful it will likely be. It‘s also natural that a company‘s employees may be a bit nervous about why an outsider is being brought in to help. 

“And in today‘s business climate, there is great value in remaining an agile organization. So changes can be made quickly and relatively painlessly and that is not always the case when company employees are involved.”

Charlotta Kvarnström

Many companies are facing a skills shortage, including but not limited to IT and technology and competition for executive and managerial talent is fierce in most places today. The pace of innovation and change is at an all time high and automation technology often changes jobs. Some jobs will be automated and new jobs will be created. In 2025, Millennials will represent 75 percent of the global workforce and these are the digital natives typically excited by technology and change. Almost half of working Millennials today freelance and this is more than any other generation. And this is accelerating the independent work models and trends. It‘s simply becoming a norm that using outside resources is smart and it‘s here to stay. And at the executive and managerial level, working as an interim leader is growing in popularity. A variety of work and more flexibility in work schedules are appealing to many executives around the world. So more talent is moving into the on-demand economy model, which is reducing basically the pool of candidates to hire as traditional employees.

The skills-driven economy means companies will be able to leverage quick and flexible access to a wide range of these technical, cognitive and complex problem-solving skills as they need them. Also, studies have shown that interim leaders update their skills more often and believe they are better prepared for the future than traditional company employees. Interim leaders need to do this to stay relevant and competitive in the marketplace. 

Mike Harris

So if a company does make the decision to bring in interim leaders in either a proactive or reactive fashion, how can both parties make sure that the engagement that they‘re going to work on is most successful? 

“Using interim leaders can provide a competitive advantage for companies if it‘s done in an open-minded, thoughtful and planned for way.”

Mike Harris

Well, Charlotta, you‘re certainly passionate about how and why using interim leaders is smart. And frankly, it seems to me an inevitable way for companies to operate. Clearly so much of the workforce at just about all the levels is really moving to on-demand models and it seems like using interim leaders can provide a competitive advantage for companies if it‘s done in an open-minded, thoughtful and planned for way. I thought I‘d share just quickly a story about a couple of Patina clients. These are global manufacturing companies. And they now have utilized Patina and our interim leaders to be their supply chain remediation teams.

They‘ve got their key suppliers that they are really counting on to build some of the equipment that they obviously are selling to their customers. And if there‘s problems with quality or timeliness and all kinds of other things, they‘ve got to get that fixed or it‘s really going to hurt their business. So instead of trying to maintain their own employees as a team … and this stuff does come and go … they made the decision to use an outside resource and that happens to be Patina. So we can put together the right team to go to the right place with the right skills, get it done and then we go away until they need us again. So I just thought I‘d share an example. That, to me, is a very thoughtful and planned for and smart way to operate. 

Charlotta Kvarnström

Sounds like an excellent example and a great case. And I think for businesses, interim leader solutions often create better value for money. Companies get access to the specific skills required at the exact right time, providing flexibility an the ability to react quickly to change. Interim leaders, they have a clear mandate based on their interim or project role, which creates a unique commitment and execution power. They also work in different situations and different industries and cultures, enabling them to leverage learnings and skills more broadly and to quickly inject perspective, expertise and capability to their clients. For businesses, interim leaders present a great opportunity to bring in talents that would otherwise be inaccessible to the organization, be it for cost only for a short term leader level of experience. So maximizing, opening and welcoming the benefits of diverse talent which is available as needed will likely improve both creativity and profitability. New, fresh and different perspectives and thinking brought in by interim leaders may very well help a company improve or change their culture. So overall, I believe that companies should make use of interim leaders as part of their talent strategy and plans and yes, interim leaders are a good solution when the unexpected happens, but they are just as effective when used in a proactive, mindful and planned for way. Interim leaders can really make a positive contribution. 

Mike Harris

Well, Charlotta, I want to thank you so much for your insights today. It‘s clear that using interim leaders and other on-demand and freelance work models is growing in importance and popularity around the world and that leading companies of all sizes can greatly benefit from understanding and implementing some version of an interim leader model on both a proactive and reactive basis. Well, both Charlotta and I are proud to be members of Globalise. Globalise member of companies share best practices and we work together closely to serve the executive and managerial talent needs of companies around the world. Thank you for listening to Globalise Talks. 

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