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Executives on Demand: What are part-time CEOs and why does every business need one?

CEO On Demand SkillQuoModern businesses follow the talent and many talented individuals are embracing their independence from companies, going off the books and onto their own as freelancers. These individuals range from executives with proven company records to interim managers, and these so called ‘supertemps’ have established their position as useful personnel. So, why has this phenomenon gripped the business world and are their proven benefits for businesses? What is the future of on-demand executives, and will they stand the test of time? 
The Necessity of C-suites in Micro to Enterprise Level Businesses

Formerly, C-suite teams were typically associated with enterprise level organizations. Today, businesses grow at a varying, dynamic pace. In other words, there isn’t always a precise formula or universal indicator as to when a C-suite executives are required, especially for smaller businesses. Even enterprise level businesses that already have a C-Suite team, may be faced with a challenging business transformation and would require an executive level augment of their services for a specified, interim period of time. Today, technology has made it easier to access executive talent and even contract with them remotely. So, companies of all sizes contract with an On-demand CEO, also known as ‘Service CEO’’, ‘virtual CEO’, or ‘Outsourced CEO.’

The History of On-demand Executives
The idea originated in Silicon Valley during the advent of advanced internet services in the 90’s, where hundreds of tech firms and startups hadn’t grown to the point where they needed full-time CEOs in departments such as finance but were still complex, well-sized and developed enough to reap benefits from experienced C-level professionals from a multitude of backgrounds. On-demand CEOs are not exclusive to American business, though. In Europe, particularly in the Netherlands during the 1980s, onerous labor legislation made it very difficult to fire people from established roles and hiring them for permanent positions was also a lengthy process. In response to this, companies imported executives during transition or crisis and the employment terms were less formal. Now, the on-demand executive phenomenon has truly spread across the world and according to American consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, the UK market for on-demand executives is one of the world’s most developed, accounting for $1.8 billion in revenue in 2009.

A Modern Market for High-level Temporary Positions: ‘Supertemps’
Businesses need hard-hitting, impactful individuals who can quickly and efficiently solve an urgent business need in the short-term, the void is filled by those who offer high-quality, C-level services on a temporary, when needed, service basis. Since their introduction, on demand CEOs have increased in their prevalence. Their ability to bring an area of a business to the next step has been realized by many startups to enterprise level companies. Advances in technology such as online platforms and business services have optimized the job market for these individuals, so accessing their skills is no longer a cryptic process.

In fact, ‘supertemps’ – highly qualified freelance individuals who work on short-term contracts for companies have been growing not just in the C-suite, but in many various business departments – some carry out niche, specific jobs, like managing large turnarounds or sales while some just fill a much needed managerial space.
So how big is the ‘supertemp’ phenomenon in business today? McKinsey research in 2011 found that 58% of U.S. companies believe that they’ll be inclined to use more and more temporary arrangements at higher levels in the years ahead.

What are the Benefits of using On-demand Executives?
On-demand CEOs can provide the services you desire, without the overhead of an executive level permanent hire. For example, your SMB may handle many of your company’s finances independently and a part-time or on demand CFO could step in and assist you in your financial plans, operations, and processing, implement new solutions and strategies and help you provide for the future. Imparting their experience and expert knowledge temporarily into your company can give you a long lasting insight which is invaluable for SMBs who don’t have the budget to hire a full C-team.

Many SMBs spend a period floating in a limbo state when their variable budgets can’t quite make the leap towards hiring C-level managers and other officers to heighten their operations and business potential. This flat footed period of partial financial instability is a pain-point for SMBs as the cost of hiring C-level executives doesn’t quite tally up with their own progression – you need something in between to enable you access to talented individuals without long contracts. As businesses worldwide develop, so to do the options and on-demand CEOs enable the dynamic, quick progression of businesses to accelerate alongside their dynamic budgets. You are not forced to hire a conventional bevy of C-level executives when you just need to hit your core pain point/urgent –whether it is in marketing or supply chain or so forth.

There are several benefits to on-demand executives:
They have a large CV with proven executive experience: Often, these individuals have a diverse skill-set which is proven through a rigorous job history. There’s a great flexibility imparted by drawing upon the most heavyweight individuals for short-term contracts.
Value: You can get long-lasting positive effects for your business for short-terms. The changes on-demand CEOs can pass on to your business are valued far more than their fee.

Quick injection of vital skills and expertise: On-demand executives don’t waste time, they’re about actions and they’ll already have plenty in mind for your business if you brief them well, they’ll hit the ground running and really make a big splash in your business producing immediate results.

An example: IT
Perhaps your company can’t find permanent IT managers and tend to find that they’re hopscotching between roles, or you can’t pay for full consulting services in IT. You could then benefit from a part-time CIO or CTO who can inject as much of their time as is required to further guide your company’s IT program to fulfill management needs and expectations. Budget limitations and restricted budgets for management level services mean that there have become an increasingly worrisome amount of SMBs who have IT managers with little expertise in IT.

Leaving these kinds of holes in an SMB can be disastrous, though, as an on demand CIO assists you in identifying and implementing more efficient, future-proof and streamlined IT processes whilst reducing risk with better security strategies.

An example: Marketing
In marketing, many small and medium sized companies attempt to formulate their own approaches without the much-needed expertise and specific experience required to create effective strategies. SMBs can get carried away with their quickly formed marketing plans, rashly entering poorly considered strategies which ultimately don’t succeed. Part-time CMOs can step in during a crucial period of marketing strategisation within your SMB and plot efficient tactics for your company. As well as cementing better marketing practices for your SMB’s future, they can identify your models and set up the necessary tools and software needed to improve them.

Overall, on-demand CEOs provide a brilliant way of pushing your company over the brow of a hill onto better things without the need to make big, long term budget commitments. Many SMBs haven’t encountered the idea of on demand CEOs, though, it’s just waiting to be tapped into for its rich resource of cost effective solutions to advanced problems in key stages of business development.

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About The Author

I graduated from a top 20 university (Emory) with a dual degree in English and Business. I have pursued a thriving business career with just over a decade of experience in marketing strategy, branding, and communications. I have worked with Fortune 100 companies’ billion dollar accounts, empowering them to create their most enduring brand stories. However, my most challenging accounts have been the boutique-sized accounts, where the money had to work hard for the client. I have also forayed into teaching high school English. I know when to be pithy and to the point. Conversely, I know how to weave a web of words like a work of art so that it ensconces the reader like a cocoon.


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