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Tuesday, 23rd April 2024
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‘If it’s security you crave, don’t even think about becoming an interim manager’ Back  
An ability to hit the ground running and achieve results from early on is vital to becoming an effective interim manager says Peter Rowley, the 38 year old interim manager chosen by Pioneer Investments to replace its Compensation and Benefits manager. With only a couple of days to get a working knowledge and understanding of the business they find themselves in, their role within it, and the dynamics of the department and people around them – there are no ‘honeymoon’ periods for interim. But while not for everyone, the obvious attraction of working as an interim says Rowley, ‘is the diversity of the working environment which revolves around assignments that are challenging, even innovative, and always, always different’.
Peter Rowley is a 38 year old interim manager with extensive human resources (HR) experience and a masters in HR management from the University of Limerick. He could have remained within the conventional, permanent employment career model, but – in keeping with the ‘portfolio career’ alternative posited by Charles Handy and others - opted instead for the kind of challenge and diversity that only serial employment can deliver.
Salaries for interim managers



With around two years in interim management under his belt and a CV deepened and broadened by that experience, the route back to the permanent nine-to-five remains open to him. However, it’s not one he intends to exercise just yet, as it’s just one of several attractive options that interim management opens up for the able and motivated professional.

To date, he has worked on both interim and permanent assignments in sectors as diverse as asset management in the IFSC, software development in the financial arena, manufacturing / R&D in medical devices, outsourcing consulting / due-diligence in Hi-tech and in organisations ranging from major multinationals down to highly entrepreneurial SMEs. Some of these have come his way through InterIM Solutions Ltd, a provider of short-term management expertise to all sectors of the economy and across all management disciplines, others by direct recommendation. Whatever the source, this diversity of working environment and professional challenge is the primary attraction of working as an interim.

In the normal course of events, he says, a HR professional can expect to work on a really interesting project every two or three years. By contrast, the work life of an interim in the HR field actively revolves around assignments that are challenging, even innovative, and always, always different.

He accepts that interim management is not for everyone, and if it’s security you crave, then don’t even think about it. A certain degree of risk orientation certainly helps, as does a willingness to move on and seek out new challenges. In his own case, an early stint in accountancy has proved invaluable, as a good interim needs to understand the business to which he’s assigned, and appreciate the factors the business drivers and dynamics. ‘An interim manager moving into a fresh assignment has just a couple of days to get a working knowledge and understanding of the business they find themselves in, their role within it, and the dynamics of the department and people around them – there are no ‘honeymoon’ periods for interims, so an ability to hit the ground running and achieve results from early on is vital’, he reckons.

Good people skills are essential to a successful outcome, although this is always a little easier for the interim manager who, unlike a permanent staffer, has no political or personal ‘baggage’ to carry, and so can navigate office politics and power plays much more adroitly.

In this sense, the interim is perceived by those around them as a neutral, although Rowley is keen to point out that this is not the same as fence-sitting; interim managers are very often a potent medium for organisational change precisely because they are politically neutral (in the office politics sense). Indeed, it can be argued that they should strive to make a positive contribution in this way because their motives are much less suspect, ‘As an interim, I can challenge the status quo in a way that recognised as being right for the business, rather than being good just for me’.

An accepted benefit of interim management is that it often leaves behind a managerial footprint with the client organisation, due to the depth and breadth of their experience and the fresh perspective this can introduce to what have become established routines. As Rowley explains, ‘As an interim, I might have worked in five different companies across five different sectors, and so become aware of five different ways of approaching the same task; it’s up to me then to apply the best of these to the requirements of whichever client company becomes the sixth’.

Of course, the benefits are not all to the client. Adopting this lifestyle brings benefits to the manager too. The most oft-cited of these are the flexibility it introduces, particularly in terms of time management (a two month summer break is an option if the individual chooses to pursue it). Variety and diversity of work are important, as is the opportunity to work with very good people over a series of assignments, learning from each in a way that extra-mural studies and seminars could never achieve. And there is always the possibility of identifying a business opportunity that could open up a new career as an entrepreneur.

Rowley’s advice to anyone contemplating interim management is to embrace the risk aspect of it, rather than fearing it, and to seek out the widest variety of assignments possible. Not only does this make for a more interesting work life, it significantly enhances your subsequent marketability. And while the economic prospects at present are rosy, he suggests that even a potential future downturn should not be a deterrent.
Head count – always a primary concern – takes on a greater importance when the economy slackens.
But companies are not afraid of interim managers (this is especially true of financial services) and the need for high level expertise, on assignment and available at fairly short notice, is more likely to grow than reduce in the years ahead.

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