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Damon Jones on the true worth of interim managers

With a background in establishing, leading and rapidly evolving procurement in complex multicultural environments, Damon tells Angharad Kenward how interim managers really add value.

Damon Jones is an experienced CPO and commercial director who, after a successful career in permanent roles, has spent the last seven years as an interim.

After 25 years of working in a range of procurement roles and delivering major transformation change programs and outsourcing around the world, I’ve decided to shift to an interim management career.

I am now often asked what were the reasons behind my decision and if interims can really bring great value to a company. The interim market has seen some huge changes in the last ten years. The economic turmoil has made a large influx of people starting to see interim roles as an attractive alternative to permanent employment.

But, whilst this has been great news in terms of bringing in new skills, it equally presents those buying interim resource with new challenges – they need to ensure they are getting what they really want and need!

An interim management solution can be very effective in resolving organisational problems, like invigorating a business, getting out of a crisis or dealing with an unexpected situation.

Unfortunately, when it comes to top end strategic leadership and transformation there aren’t enough qualified interim managers available on the market. This is why many companies decide to hire lower level permanent employees instead of properly searching for the right interim candidate.

That’s just not the right solution! The right interim manager can be hard to find and is usually quite expensive but, as John Ruskin, the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, used to say: ‘It’s unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.’

Everything depends on sourcing the right interim. It’s crucial for companies to do all they can to select the best person in the first place. In order to do this successfully, companies need to build great relationships with recruitment agencies and consultants. With a flood of candidates with ‘apparently suitable CV’s’ and new entrants diluting day rates it’s extremely important that interims are hired through trusted consultants that have an in depth knowledge and understanding of the interim market as well as of each of their client’s specific needs and objectives.

This will help you hire the right interim for your particular situation and also help you mitigate risks and change situations. The complete opposite will happen if your hire the wrong interim! Personally, I get all my work through a very small circle of relationships, it’s all recommendation driven.

So, make sure your chosen interim professional shares your organization’s direction and ethos and has the right attitude and personality. Also, unless the assignment is particularly technically specific don’t get hung up on a specific sector, I’ve seen many excellent interims bring expertise from other sectors into new assignments.

Interim managers meet critical business needs and can make a huge difference to a company looking to build, change or grow. So, even if you do have internal resources with the right skill sets, hiring an interim can bring a lot of positive value to your company. Sometimes a new fresh vision is exactly what a company needs!