I have been in the executive search vertical for 18 years, spending over half of those years in the Silicon Valley and the remainder in the Midwest US. Over the years I have interacted with multiple companies conducting Board of Director, C level and VP searches for all types of companies. Those companies range in revenue from $0 to $5b+, family owned, VC Backed, PE backed, publicly traded, across multiple verticals, from services to products and around the globe.
Typically, when I get the call, there is not good news at the other end, even in a fast growing company. With that call, something bad has happened within the senior management team, and no one at the board, investor or management level has a solution.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…
It has been 50 years since the release of the epic movie that reverberates not about what happens, but how it develops. When a senior management team member departs for whatever reason, it’s what develops that will set the course for the future of the company. In most instances, this development can be smooth with a process already in place and someone internally already identified. Unfortunately, that happens in far too few companies, and what really develops can be bad, ugly and at times tragic to the company.
In way too many instances, the board and senior management has done little to no preparation for the departure of someone of significant value. In fairness, most companies are moving at a pace where there is just not enough time or manpower to make this happen. By the time anyone realizes that a key member of the management team is departing, it quickly goes from bad to ugly. If there is no replacement within the organization, which is not unusual, since most people are not preparing someone to take their place and mentoring appropriately, the ugly reality sets in.
In this situation, two key practices take place:
- First, everyone now has to take on more responsibility within the company. Since time is now the number one issue for most people, this adds a stress level that is not positive within the organization.
- Second, once they realize they have not developed or have anyone to step into the role internally, they understand there is another time problem, which they have to typically engage a search firm to identify and bring to the table individuals that can preform at or better than the person that departed. The ugly reality of this is that it may take 90 days to do a senior management search, but you have 30 days typically at both ends to select a firm, and then for the selected candidate to extract themselves from what they are currently doing and start the new opportunity.
So from the time someone departs, if there is no heir apparent internally, it is five months until someone joins that takes time and stress off everyone on both the board and senior management.
After sharing with you the bad and ugly things that can happen, there is a solution. Someone from the board, management team, funding source or executive recruiter has an immediate solution when the bad happens to keep it from turning ugly. Within a few days, all the angst of the departure of the individual can be reduced with an interim leadership person.
Interim leadership is a stopgap measure that takes time and stress off of the rest of the team.
Interim leadership is a proven person who has done the job before, understands all of the issues and would work with the existing team, providing stability as well. The interim leadership solution takes time and stress off of the board and senior management teams while allowing the transition of finding and bringing onto the team a permanent replacement, typically within five to six months.
The above post was guest authored by Mark Reiff, the founder and managing partner of Reiff Search Solutions. Mark has over fifteen years of executive search experience and specializes in board and senior management searches for technology and life science companies. He now focuses on the Indiana and Midwest US markets.