Fractional Executives Create More Than the Sum of the Parts

In today’s unpredictable economic climate, tech companies can often be seen scaling back their workforce. Naturally that makes it challenging to achieve existing business goals, much less undertake new ones. Whether it’s testing a new business model, launching a new service, opening a new channel or developing a new product, the objectives keep piling up, but the experience to successfully plan and execute may no longer be there.

In times where every dollar counts, companies are understandably cautious about new full-time hires to fill those gaps, complete with benefits and an increase in permanent head count. Under these conditions, it's crucial to avoid candidates who have merely surface-level experience, and even more crucial to avoid a wrong hire because the company was in a hurry.

Expertise as a service

In any business, experience is the commodity that’s hardest to replicate. Seasoned experience at the executive level is always a big advantage, but it’s not always easily hired. As a company’s size, priorities or budgets change, the needs for executive experience often change too. To succeed in a channel that you're trying to enter or grow, you need the right expertise.

For these reasons, fractional executives, also known as part-time or interim executives, are an idea whose time has come. This expertise-as-a-service approach lets businesses access elite talent without the salaries and benefits that might otherwise make that talent inaccessible.

Not just for startups

All companies need expertise at the C-level that can help them capitalize on opportunities and overcome challenges. However, not all companies can afford C-level talent and end up limping along (or behind) without it. We often hear that 9 out of 10 startups fail. How many might have succeeded if someone who’d been there, done that and got the T-shirt was there to help steer the ship?

In different cases, companies can well afford a big hire, but maybe not until more budget clears in six or twelve months – even though they’ve got to execute on plan today. Other companies might be unsure if they need to create a new C-level position and would like to try things out without making a full-time commitment. Still others might be transitioning or restructuring but need to get things done in the meantime. Fractional executives let companies move and scale in ways that would have been otherwise impossible.

Fresh eyes make a difference

Companies have a culture and a status quo, and sometimes one, the other or both are what’s stopping them from being as successful as they could be. Few employees, no matter where on the org chart, deliver their best work when it’s outside their comfort zone. Under these circumstances, change management can be very difficult. Sometimes an outside perspective is exactly what’s needed most.

Once again, the fractional executive makes tremendous sense. A company shifting from one emphasis to another, or changing a product line or business model, naturally approaches the challenge with a legacy viewpoint. These views aren’t always holistic and often reflect the bubble of the company’s culture and way of doing things. Thanks to fractional leadership, companies can bring in fresh eyes and fresh approaches that are precisely targeted to the needs, without a costly hire.

It usually works out for both sides

In many cases, companies find that the part-time executives are just the right addition, and they end up offering them full-time roles. With the fractional model, both sides get ample time to assess the fit, which minimizes the risk of a wrong hire. In other cases where the engagement is meant to be finite, the fractional executive gets to focus on the skills in his or her wheelhouse and the freedom to work on other projects, while the company gets the benefit of top-shelf experience and saves the substantial cost of a full-time executive.

Think about all the ways having a ringer in your company’s corner can help win the day. Need to enter a new channel where you don’t have experience? A fractional CMO closes the gap. Getting ready for a funding round or an IPO? You can have an all-star CFO on your team without breaking the bank or weighing down the payroll. Need relationships in global markets where you don’t have any footprint yet? Oversight of a new technology initiative? Whatever the role, fractional executives can give organizations of any size the talent to match up with any competitor and any market challenge.


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Senior Partner Lew Brown oversees bluesalve partners' health tech practice. Lew has deep expertise in consumer IoT, consumer technologies and consumer goods, and excels in bringing new products and technologies to market.