HOW DOES AN INTERIM MANAGER ADD VALUE TO AN ORGANIZATION?
We interviewed Antonio Gentili about the benefits for a Company to hire an Interim Manager. He is an experienced CFO and General Manager who worked for different industrial and commercial groups at national and international level. In his long career he has successfully managed restructuring and special situations. He has been working as an Interim Manager for many years also involved in Duke&Kay projects and in touch with the Globalise network.
In light of your many years of experience, which are the skills of a Turnaround Manager?
Making an effective turnaround in complex organizations is not always easy, starting with identifying the real causes of business difficulties. Therefore, it is more effective and efficient if such a change is guided by an external professional: the “Turnaround Manager” who needs to have different technical and psychological skills.
The Turnaround Manager have to:
- Be credible
- Have the ability to quickly analyze and act
- Have managerial skills such as:
- Quickly understand the organizational model
- Involve the human resources available
- Address corporate efforts to achieve the turnaround
Basically he/she must be able to deliver results:
- Inside the company
- Ensuring the necessary management discontinuity
- By adopting an effective reorganization focused on the objectives of the turnaround
- Have the technical expertise to develop an industrial recovery plan to be:
- Shared by the organization
- Clear in actions and goals
- Motivating human resources accordingly
- Checking and if necessary, changing the corporate governance
- Outside the company
- Ensuring continuous and effective communication with stakeholders;
- Making the activities carried out by the company and the business plan credible;
- Ability to attract industrial or financial partners’ interest on the reorganization project.
The Italian SME, the approach with the entrepreneur or the support to a multinational company. According to you, what are the differences?
The Italian business system is characterized most of all by small/medium sized companies. There are, of course, also large and multinational companies, but fewer. This results in different managerial approaches. In the case of the typical Italian SME, with a strong presence of the entrepreneur, the manager has to take a different psychological attitude. While in large companies or multinationals, the approach will be focused on the technical aspects to achieve the settled objectives as quickly as possible, often easily measurable by the “KPI” targeted for the “turnaround”.
In the case of SMEs, the approach must be “bottom-up” and psychologically effective. It is necessary to manage the relationship with the entrepreneur and with the organization, often aligned with the entrepreneur rather than with the company, as well as with the stakeholders (customers, suppliers, banking system), used to have direct report (or in any case not very mediated relationship) with the so-called “ownership” of the SME.
The Manager – in order to affect quickly and effectively on the organization – must be first of all accepted by the entrepreneur. The Manager, and in particular the Turnaround Manager, often has to temporarily replace the entrepreneur achieving credibility thanks to the effectiveness of his actions and the hands-on expertise shown on a daily basis.
If the relationship with the entrepreneur is conflictual or not accepted, due to the ownership’s incapability to address some issues, actions could slow down and things become a little tricky. The manager should therefore focus efforts on correctly understanding the character and personality of the entrepreneur in order to turn him into an ally, even if placed alongside or even, in some cases, outside the company, to better achieve goals.
As mentioned before, dealing with the multinational is sometimes easier because the relationship and the communication are encoded and guided through methods, tools and a more consolidated language. Therefore, the manager’s technical skills acquire more relevance than human ability, most often called upon in projects involving SMEs.
What are your 3 top actions at the beginning of a new assignment?
- Introduce yourself to ALL the people in the organization; get to know them and quickly understand their availability and attitudes; this is essential for an effective and rapid implementation of the actions required to achieve a successful company turnaround, sharing with the key figures the mission’s objectives and methods;
- Split the business into different areas of activity and evaluate its economic results by area. One of the first task of the Manager is to implement a new business plan estimating the necessary financial resources to assess the sustainability of each area, the enhancement or the related downsizing.
- Explain to the main stakeholders of the company the reason why we have engaged a turnaround manager; clarifying the objectives and purposes of the mission in order to get them on board on the project with an alignment of purposes.
During this period of crisis, companies are facing many difficulties. How can a manager support them?
In this period of crisis companies are experiencing main critical issues related to understanding the dramatic changes of the market and the transformation of customer’s approach to purchasing.
To modify corporate strategy and operational work flows is often necessary to satisfy market’s changes. If necessary, the Manager should be able to streamline changes in organizational models, creating a corporate structure perfectly adaptable to new roles, to different working methods, open to acquire or use new analytical and management tools.
The Manager should be able to lead by example and then apply flexible methods to his own work. The main ability, in such difficult or challenging contexts, is to involve people to such an extent as to impact on company results, helping them to welcome changes, creating rewarding mechanisms.
What was the biggest challenge faced in your last mission?
I was engaged as a Turnaround Manager not by the entrepreneur but by one of the partners without full agreement of all shareholders. At the beginning my main task was to let all the stakeholders understand that I was committed to achieve the best result for the Company, regardless the single interest. The biggest challenge was the relationships with people involved in the project to make them understand that what’s best for the company means positive results for everybody. To engage an interim manager to solve critical issues is the best way to achieve positive results for everyone.
In what situations does it benefit an organization to hire an interim Manager? Why do you like to work as an interim manager?
Hiring an interim manager offers companies great benefits. First of all, an effective and experienced perspective, able to quickly identify many facets of business or the strategic and operational actions to be carried out. Those who have always lived in the company and have always been used to making certain decisions based on internal parameters often do not see things from a different perspective.
In such situations, the Interim Manager, with the key technical and psychological skills properly assessed before the engagement, can make things happen in a different way bringing a new culture in the organizations. As far as I am concerned, being a mover for change and to be part of the solution in different business contexts and corporate lives is a great satisfaction. To continually assess my own managerial skills is my goal, being therefore constantly “work in progress” and promote continuous learning.
In this period of crisis, what are the opportunities to be seized by companies?
Hiring an Interim Manager means to speed up the action and all measures are assessed for effectiveness. The external manager is not linked to long-term relationships with the company or its shareholders, therefore more easily he can address the difficulty of acting in a distressed situation faced by the entrepreneur or the internal managers due to human or relationship constraints.
Problems, risks or opportunities need to be different in approach than before and an external point of view is strategical to achieve results.
When new challenges or economic and financial issues arise, the entrepreneur performs his role perfectly if he quickly grasps the signals, identifies objectives and shares them with the external Manager. The interim manager guarantees wider, faster and more effective management also thanks to a different credibility to all stakeholders, compared to the previous management.