The Power of ZEREN Interim: Part Two
By Jennifer Brook-Botfield. Jennifer is the Director of Zeren's Interim & Consulting division, and is based within our London office.
Understanding the need, attracting, and hiring exceptional interim talent.
So, you’ve just received funding – congratulations! From talking to several Founders scaling from pre-Seed to Series B, it seems fair to say that the ‘honeymoon phase’ starts to quickly fade, and the question on everyone’s mind is…
What do we do next, and where do we start?
Perhaps a more apt depiction would be: ‘Let’s quickly clear any outstanding debt and focus on our next growth plans, which will include attracting further investment down the line’.
In a start-up or scale-up environment, attracting investment is arguably, always front-and-centre, as a Founder, Investor, member of a Leadership Team or Part-Time Employee.
If the latest pre-Seed and Seed funding investment announcements and valuations are anything to go by, 2022 is set to be the record year for Venture Capital. For context, in 2015, the average investment made was £260k, increasing to £1.5m by 2021, according to ScaleXP ‘Funding in 2022: What the experts are saying’.
When looking at how to attract investment, the experts established some key areas of focus, including business scalability, market growth potential, Founder self-awareness, and last but not least, the key ingredient in my opinion, which is the ability to build strong teams.
Hiring and attracting exceptional talent is an on-going challenge, and frankly, hiring Interim talent is no different, and equally just as difficult. In this current market, it is proving as vital as hiring your first VP in a market where on average, each Interim Executive has at least three to four offers at any one time; some offers are even putting Equity on the table as part of the 6–12-month assignment to sweeten the deal, particularly in a more boot-strapped venture.
Interim leadership is on-demand access to high-impact individuals, who identify and implement impactful changes that accelerate business outcomes, with measurable results.
This is hugely beneficial to start-up, Venture and growth businesses in order to achieve targets that release more funds to scale. That’s because experienced, Interim Executives immediately pin-point and execute the strategy needed to create a sustainable course for growth.
- For Founders, they achieve growth targets to release necessary funding to scale.
- For Investors, they deliver fast returns with strategic direction to sustainable growth.
- For Stakeholders, they deliver the confidence of a business focused on growth.
The Hiring Phase.
The origination of an Interim requirement can usually come from various situations and ideas of thinking, and it is typical that the need will most likely stem directly from a reaction to the company’s current state, be it high-growth or sudden change, and subsequently identifying a clear gap to achieving its future goals. This is where an Interim will help build the bridge to shorten that gap.
Partnering with Renovata and Zeren’s retained search teams at Leadership-level on a permanent hire, has helped alleviate the unnecessary urgency and haphazard behaviours associated with typical Interim hiring. This, in our experience, creates the advantage of benefiting from an excellent client and candidate experience during the process, as both client and recruitment partner have the breathing space to truly map-out what is required of the Interim during their tenure, and subsequently create a clearer agenda for the Recruiter to source the best available talent in the market for your rapidly-scaling business.
Advice we always give to search committees and Leadership teams is ‘the better prepared you are in terms of expectations and deliverables, the stronger-alignment the interim will have, in terms of both skill-set and experience, to deliver wildly successful and exceptional results’. This can take the form of a workshop meeting, and is highly worth investing the time in, in order to ensure all parties are satisfied at the end of the assignment.
Understanding and Managing Expectations.
When identifying your Interim need, budgeting is crucial. Understanding exactly what you will need at your exact stage of growth and how you would like the services delivered, will determine what daily rate you can end up paying.
The following is a guideline and can be used alongside external economic factors:
Seed to Series A: Infrastructure and Implementation.
£750 – £900 per day.
Typically, at this stage of growth, there is a need for agile structure and road-maps that can nurture growth and pivot away from stereotypical pitfalls. This will require ‘hands-on-the-tools’; operational execution with the ‘big sky thinking’ in mind, but a real dedication to building from 0-1.
Series A to Series C: Business Continuity, Growth and Expansion.
£900 – £1200 per day.
At this stage of growth, the Leadership team are now nearly all firmly in place, and any skill-gaps will require testing, thinking and strategic Leadership coupled with an operational hands-on approach.
Series C to post IPO: Change and Transformation.
£1200 – £2000 per day.
Firmly in the realm of Private Equity territory, with a clear Exit strategy in the future, an Interim Executive will help to restructure, reshape and redesign any changes with a strategic assessment of the business, working with the Leadership and functional teams to deliver results in true collaboration with the business.
The best piece of advice I give to both businesses and Interim Executives prior to starting a new project, is to set clear objectives. Everyone in the business can have a different perspective on what is best for the future, so it is imperative to all be aligned on deliverables within measurable timescales. Carry out an assessment with the aim of seeing exactly what is really going on, and figure out what the areas of concern and opportunity are. This is a great starting point, and one that can easily be overlooked when you dive straight into the deep-end with excitement to see immediate results.
Understanding what below average, average, good, and great will look like at the end of the assignment and working backwards will truly allow for some honest and transparent conversations, which can ultimately build trust at the speed required in order to deliver high-impact conclusions.
Boundaries are also key when operating as an Interim Executive, and the quicker you can learn to say ‘no’, the better, as the temptation to immerse yourself and become involved in every single project across the business will be high, but ultimately can lead to less than ideal results when you have spread yourself too thin.
Depending on the stage of growth, being operational is critical to success, so being comfortable with being on the tools, getting in amongst the weeds and feeling comfortable with ‘getting your hands dirty’ will not only earn the respect of the teams, but will also give you a much stronger idea of the business to feed-back to Leadership, particularly where there is a functional skill-gap.
Working in a high-growth environment, and especially within the current Technology market, the speed and agility at which you are required to move can be daunting to some, yet invigorating to most. With this, comes a need to ensure, as both the Hirer and the Interim Executive, that as you have your finger on the pulse, there is a periodic check-in to review priorities that were set at the start of the project and ensure they are still fit for purpose.
Change is inevitable throughout any growth phase, so you should prepare to be challenged by the business and External Investors, who will have a clear agenda as well as be ready to admit if an original priority is no longer required, and reassess the constantly-changing business needs.
Exit Strategy: Creating a Legacy.
The Exit stage of an Interim Executive assignment cycle can be comprised of the transferal of knowledge, competence, and understanding to Stakeholders or incumbent Permanent Leaders, in order to facilitate effectively leaving the organisation.
An effective Interim ensures that their departure from the business is well-managed and timed to ensure the durability and sustainability of their work. In summary, the Exit Stage assures the legacy of the Interim, and that the impact of the assignment is made long-standing.
Where Zeren Can Help.
Resilient, adaptable, experienced, and politically unbiased, our C-Suite of Interim Leaders are available immediately and on-demand to solve and deliver in shaping the organisation with a strategically client-focused roadmap that is ready to guide the incoming, permanent appointee.
It is worth highlighting recent examples of how Interims and Consultants have benefited our client base:
- Interim Chief Product Officer appointed for 6 months to assess the delivery function of an EdTech business as they hired their first Head of Product.
- Interim Chief Financial Officer hired to help re-shape the Finance function as the business secured Series C+ funding and prepared to hire a new permanent CFO.
- Interim Reward Director secured to assess the Payroll and Reward function of a large Private Equity-owned business with several Acquisitions planned.
Together with transparency, trust and talent, harnessing the power of an Interim Executive can be the fundamental difference between being the disruptor, or becoming the disrupted.
Zeren exists to empower the world’s change makers. We do this by building high-performing teams in the world’s most innovative businesses, to accelerate growth by connecting visionary leaders and ambitious talent.
We are a leading global Executive Search & Recruitment firm with teams and offices in San Francisco, Houston, New York, London, Berlin and Frankfurt.
We partner with both high growth, VC/PE backed businesses and ambitious Corporate brands placing senior leaders, building exceptional teams, or providing critical interim and consulting talent.