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ImageThe rise of Interim Management offers experienced professionals an attractive alternative to working life.

Does the thought of working on new and challenging assignments for nine months and then taking time off for three months appeal to you?

Experienced professionals looking for variety and a better work/life balance are increasingly turning to the interim management market as the next step in their careers.

Interim Management

Interim Managers are senior directors or managers who work for companies or organisations on a fixed fee, short-term basis – usually at least three months - taking on specific roles or working on particular projects. As self-employed professionals, Interims are employed on a freelance basis, with many working through their own limited companies.

According to the Institute of Interim Management, the total market for Interim management services is estimated at approximately £500m pa in the UK and €750m in the rest of Europe, with sustained long-term growth of 15% per annum. However, these statistics could well be below the actual number as, on average, Interim managers find two thirds of their work direct from clients, with only a third of assignments coming through providers and other intermediaries. Many Interims have well developed networks and never need to turn to agencies or providers for new assignments.

Interim Managers are senior directors or managers who work for companies or organisations on a fixed fee, short-term basis, taking on specific roles or working on particular projects.

Measuring the Interim market, says the Institute, can be tricky. Interims often change between temporary, contract, consultancy and Interim roles to meet the needs of client companies, and even move into permanent employment or retirement. They estimate, however, that there are about 2,000 career Interim managers in the UK, with a further 7,000 to 8,000 'passing through' – in other words, doing Interim work to fill a gap in permanent employment.

A Different Way of Working

Changes in the economy, such as a recession, lead to changes within organisations. Tighter budgets may freeze traditional headcounts but essential projects still need to be undertaken and completed.

Interim Managers are often seen as an ideal solution for companies that need highly skilled professionals for specific periods or to bridge the gap between the departure of a senior manager and putting in place a replacement.

ImageToday, Interim Managers are used across virtually every sector and business function in both the private and public sectors, including Human Resources, Finance, Business Development and IT.

Typical Interim assignments include managing a major change programme - for example following a merger or company restructure - leading projects, implementing staff reductions or cost savings and helping to turn around a business in crisis.

As highly skilled professionals and specialists, Interims can hit the ground running, helping to successfully deliver a project on time and within budget. Interims are frequently needed at short notice and, for companies, the ability to access experienced talent quickly and on a flexible basis makes using Interim Managers an attractive and often cost-effective way of recruiting.

Many Interims enjoy the fact that they can stay above company politics and this also enables them to bring a fresh perspective to a business and to stay focused on what is best for the business. As independent workers, they are less likely to be seen as a threat to permanent staff, which means that they are better placed to contribute honestly to the organisation.

An Interim Manager has to take responsibility for managing their assignment and must track progress and feedback regularly to their client. Using their expertise, they may manage teams and projects and have to get close to the business, while remaining an independent practitioner. At the end of an assignment, the Interim must ensure that their objectives have been met to the client's satisfaction. Finishing a project may also involve handing over or training a successor.

Making the Grade as an Interim

So, how do you know if you are suited to the work style of an Interim Manager?

Interim assignments can be very intensive and, as a result, many Interims choose to work for only part of the year. Assignments can last from three to twelve months, five days a week and Interims need to place their client's needs first during an assignment.

Typical Interim assignments include managing a major change programme - for example following a merger or company restructure - leading projects, implementing staff reductions or cost savings and helping to turn around a business in crisis.

To be immediately effective, you need to be more or less over-qualified for the job, and you must have a strong, proven track record and the competencies needed for the assignment.

Image According to the Institute of Interim Management, the key qualities of a successful Interim include being credible, diligent, enthusiastic, self-motivated, independent and comfortable with being held accountable for your work.

Interims can take full line or project responsibility from day one and are often part of the management team. As a result, a successful Interim needs to be action oriented and capable of hitting the ground running. Being able to think flexibly and take a hands-on approach is critical as your role is to implement the project and to make it happen.

Clients' needs may not always be straightforward and a good Interim has to be able to deal with ambiguity and influence the business in the right direction by identifying and dealing with the key issues. Strong communication, team and leadership skills are also essential for this type of work.

Being able to stay above the fray of office politics requires experienced managers who are principled and independent and who can remain objective throughout an assignment. Interims should have a high EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) and be adept at dealing with different corporate cultures and working well with people across the spectrum.

Interims frequently have access to confidential and sensitive information and they are expected to remain highly principled and ethical in their dealings with an organisation, its employees.

As a consequence, interims bring tremendous benefits to an organisation and are highly cost-effective when compared with the potential costs of failure for the business.

Risks and Rewards

As with any career area, however, there are risks as well as rewards to be found with an Interim lifestyle.

Interim Managers are paid on the basis of delivering the goals and objectives set for their assignment, and not simply on the basis of attendance. Unlike consultants, rather than taking on a purely advisory role, Interim Managers are managers who have to take responsibility for and manage a business or project in their own right. They can therefore be expected to be held accountable for results.


Interims are not permanent employees, but are professionals in business on their own account, with the risks and rewards that that implies. As a result, although they are generally highly paid, Interims have to take responsibility for their own financial arrangements, including tax, pension, and health insurance and are normally expected to carry professional indemnity insurance.

Networking, while important in any career, is a critical skill for Interims. A wide network of contacts and providers is essential and allows Interims to plan their work schedule according to the pattern of work that suits them. An Interim's reputation can be key to their future success. Working as an Interim Manager means maintaining high professional standards, as your future work is often based upon referrals as well as a successful track record.

Working as an Interim Manager can be challenging and highly pressured, but it also offers a lifestyle that is varied, well-paid and satisfying.

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