As a fractional executive, splitting my time between different businesses, I sometimes feel like a specialist operating restricted hours at different clinics with a sign on the door when I am “in” for consults! It’s an exciting and very effective way of meeting a business need, hence this article.
The background is this: for many months pre-Covid I was mentoring a small business in the leisure industry; gently nudging the enthusiastic but inexperienced founders to make better decisions, adopt more productive strategies, and focus their energies on key objectives. Then Covid intervened. The lockdowns took away their market overnight and they had a choice – abandon their dream of running a successful business or, in their words “chuck it all in and get a real job”. Thankfully, pandemic business relief (loans and the furlough scheme) kept them going and they used the enforced down-time to refine plans for a new service offering launched just before Covid hit. At this point it became clear that they needed help to take this forward and I joined their team on a fractional basis to bring the commercial experience and skills they needed. I helped them to prepare new management accounts which gave new insights into the profitability of their services (or lack of profitability in some cases!). We built a new business plan centred on the services that were both profitable and had the potential to grow. We issued an investment prospectus which was successful in attracting all the investment they need to rebuild their traditional business and to grow the new service in a post-Covid world. The business is still recovering but has over-achieved its targets for the last few months and has a stronger vision and better chance of success than it ever had pre-Covid. The plan is to stay with them (for an average two days every month for five years) with the joint target of growing the value of their business to a potential sale.
So, why was the fractional approach a good solution? In this case there was a significant skills gap. The founders had enthusiasm and energy but had never been taught how to think commercially about their business: how to analyze product profitability, write business plans or attract investors. The business was too small to justify anything like a full-time commercial role and, even if it were affordable, cost constraints would dictate that the role would be filled by a young business graduate who might have learned the theory but would never bring the experience that only years in senior roles can bring. By going for a fractional executive solution this business gained access to the skill set, experience and just the right amount of effort needed. It’s also worth noting that the business is located in the UK and I fill the fractional role from Kelowna, BC. Working with the founders at a distance has proven to be no problem in this world of effective video conferencing and online collaboration tools. Even the time difference often works to our advantage! I’m pleased to say that the business is growing nicely and is on a solid trajectory for the next five years.
After discussing this experience with my colleagues at Osborne, I discovered that many of the team have successfully filled fractional roles but in very different circumstances. For example, a skills gap in a regional ag retailer was filled by an Osborne Principal working on a fractional basis. Over a five-year engagement the workload morphed from leadership of the marketing function to mentorship and succession planning. By bringing in a senior, experienced generalist, the client was able to deploy our time in flexible ways according to business need as it evolved.
In another example, an Osborne Senior Advisor was employed by a national hospitality and tourism business for one day every week, for three weeks per month, to provide onsite executive coaching to team members who had been through a period of intense pressure due to a market downturn. As well as providing one-on-one coaching, this fractional executive was easily able to identify organizational and leadership development needs, implement a performance feedback scheme, and create development goals with each of the senior leadership. And in addition, step in and advise on a variety of more sensitive HR matters such as recruiting and onboarding senior team members and handling a sensitive grievance investigation.
So, bringing in experienced and skilled executives on a fractional basis can augment existing teams and can fill skills gaps in any size of business in a practical and cost-effective manner. The fractional approach frequently brings flexibility and value beyond the initial needs identified when the broad talents of the fractional executive are matched with evolving needs of the business. Fractional engagements might be one or two days per week or a few days per month and can be on site or remote according to the role.
Contact us for a no-obligation discussion if you would like to find out how fractional executives from Osborne Interim Management can help your business.