Interim Manager: to be or not to be?

The Interim Management market is in full swing and shows impressive growth figures. It is to be expected that the labour market will become even more flexible and that the need for specialists will increase further.

Interim Management
Karl Moeremans

Evolution of the market

If you look at the labour market today, you will see that a number of patterns are clearly discernible:

- In a rapidly changing landscape, the market is focusing more and more on flexible deployment of labour, especially at management level.

- Assignments generally transcend mere continuity with verve and have become particularly project-based, which automatically makes the mission much more exciting.

- Partly due to the above-mentioned points, the duration of Interim Management assignments has increased considerably in recent years. An average of 7 to 9 months is a conservative estimate. Very often, we see longer-term assignments.

- Although a wealth of experience is and remains crucial, you also see that the average age of Interim Managers is falling. Entry from 40 to 45 years of age has become common.

These are just some of the factors that, together with the downright impressive growth of the Interim management market, ensure that the attractiveness of 'the temporary manager' continues to increase. It is only logical that many are asking themselves whether it is a good idea to take the plunge now. Sensible, as some take the plunge without serious thought or thorough self-reflection. All too often, this important step is taken without proper preparation. The adage then often seems to be: "we'll see", an absolutely wrong approach. After all: "He who forgets to prepare, prepares to be forgotten".

Want to become an interim manager?

Based on the above and years of experience, here is a list of considerations for those who want to become interim managers.

  1. Experience

A crucial point. Without experience in one or more fields and/or sectors, it is not worth even considering taking the step of becoming an Interim Manager.

When a company calls for temporary support at management level, the reason is often very specific and the need is very high. In other words, clients will look for Interim Managers who have experience in the very specific area where the problems or opportunities lie.

A client will only feel comfortable with an Interim Manager who has already successfully applied the specific knowledge during previous assignments, whether or not on a temporary basis. The client expects a very quick Return On Investment (ROI). An Interim Manager must often be able to prove within two weeks that the problem has been understood and that the necessary actions will follow. Therefore, a very focused experience is of great importance. A candidate who presents himself as a 'generalist' will find it particularly difficult to convince the client, on the one hand, and will need time to achieve the first results, on the other. Customers do not have that time.

  1. Financial

An Interim Manager must be fully aware that a day not worked is a day without income. Of course, this is obvious, but it becomes less obvious when you know that there is often some time between different assignments before a new challenge arises. And isn't everyone entitled to a nice, annual holiday?

So for your own accounting, take into account a period of, say, three months of inactivity on an annual basis. In other words, a self-employed, temporary manager must have a war chest, a financial buffer of at least a quarter. Is this too much? Perhaps, but at least it gives you peace of mind.

  1. Mental

If possible, even more important than point 2 is the mental aspect, which should certainly not be underestimated, even if there is a financial buffer. Every Interim Manager ends up 'in between two missions' at some point. You also have to be able to cope with this situation. After all, suddenly you go from being 'important' to a situation where you are not. No more questions, no more e-mails, no one asking for your advice... You find yourself in a kind of professional vacuum.

It is important to be aware of this. Even if you keep good contact with your partners, the Interim Management offices and maintain your own network, a feeling of emptiness or feeling useless cannot be excluded. This is a mental challenge that you should not underestimate. It is good to think about this possible situation beforehand.

  1. Part of the gang or party pooper?

The day you start working as an Interim Manager for a client, you may rightly assume that the client will ensure that the onboarding is a good one. At the same time, it is and remains a fact that the assignment of an Interim Manager is not always well understood by all stakeholders, even if it is well framed in the eyes of management.

Many people will immediately think of words such as 'SUSTAINABLE' and 'PASSENGER' when they hear the term 'Interim Manager'. Unfortunately, these are unpleasant situations that you as a temporary manager are sometimes unjustly confronted with. On the one hand, the management of the company expects you to bring the assignment to a successful conclusion, while others wonder what you are doing here and will rather choose not to cooperate. And then the importance of the first point, experience and being able to make your mark very quickly thanks to that experience, becomes even more important. 

One piece of advice is certainly that, as an Interim Manager, you must never become part of the internal politics of an organisation, however difficult that may sometimes be. Remember the saying: "An Interim Manager has no past and no future within a client's organisation". If you feel inextricably linked to every employer, if you always say goodbye with tears in your eyes... think twice.


When reading the above, you may have blinked once or twice. Is this article meant to be a deterrent? No, absolutely not. These are just some practical experiences that I wanted to share with you in order to avoid disappointment. The transition to a life as a 'temporary specialist, at management level' should be carefully considered.

However, there are also many good sides to the life of an Interim Manager. If you are cut from the right cloth and leave a solid 'legacy' with every assignment, you will have a particularly bright and enjoyable future.

If you have an opinion on this article, or questions about interim management, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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