HOW CAN YOUR BUSINESS BENEFIT FROM A FRACTIONAL LEADER?

And steps to find the right firm. 

For those not familiar with the concept of fractional leadership, it is an efficient and cost-effective model for businesses to outsource functions when they do not have the expertise in-house or are going through a transition. This form of leadership offers an objective perspective and can guide businesses when faced with challenging decisions. Their role is to become a trusted advisor, lead through change, and offer unbiased advice.

This practical solution gives companies access to experienced talent without paying for the committed costs of a full-time employee with benefits. And based on the needs, this can either be a short or long-term engagement. Interim needs vary from filling a vacancy while a candidate search is taking place, to covering for an employee taking medical leave, or preparing your company for a merger.

As a result of our current economic environment,  fractional leadership has become more popular. Businesses that have recently streamlined their operations have hired a fractional leader because they still need access to a high level of expertise and must close the leadership gap. A big challenge is finding a consultant that is the right fit for your company and qualified for the job. Equally important is making sure their values align with yours.

Here are steps to guide you through the process to find the firm that will deliver results and become a valued partner.

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First. Clearly define your needs and challenges. List the goals, expectations, and deliverables for the engagement. What are the expectations upon completion of the project? Be sure to define the scope of work. Prepare and share any relevant materials such as financials, charts, policies, or other reports.

Second. Ask for referrals from a trusted source. Your CPA, banker, or attorney is a great resource. The more people you ask, the better understanding you will have of the marketplace. Pay attention to names that are mentioned repeatedly. If you are new to an area, local business groups or the chamber of commerce may be able to help.

Third. Do your research. Once you have a strong list of key players, look at their websites to see how their values and approach aligns with your needs and company culture. Talk to current and former clients, if possible, to hear first-hand about their working experience with the firm.

Fourth. Schedule meetings with the top firms. Conduct these meetings like you would conduct an interview. Prepare your questions ahead of time and share your goals and expectations.

Fifth. Pay attention to the following characteristics during these meetings:

  1. Unimpeachable character. First and foremost, a competent consultant must be a person of integrity who demonstrates professionalism, confidentiality, and commitment.
  2. Solid experience. A consultant’s work experience is their asset to you. Ask how many years of experience they have as well as training and degrees. The more seasoned they are, the more value-added solutions they are likely to provide. Also, consider the types of companies they have worked with before and knowledge they may have of your industry or relevant fields.
  3. Creative problem-solving skills. Understand what their approach will be to deliver a results-oriented solution. Does their response sound authentic? Are they able to provide specific examples of how they have addressed similar situations?
  4. Excellent interpersonal skills. Try to envision working with this individual and how well they will integrate with your team. Will they proactively address issues and conflict and minimize unneeded drama?
  5. Outstanding communication skills. Pay attention to how they communicate their thought process. Their ability to lay out their approach provides insight into their level of communication.

Once the interviews are over, expect to receive a detailed proposal from each firm. The proposal is an essential element of the decision-making process because it provides additional insight into thought processes and written skills. The proposal should capture:

1) The scope of work, as discussed during the meeting.

2) The approach to resolving the problem with milestones and a timeline.

3) A clearly defined cost and payment structure for the project.

4) The individual’s credentials and experience.

5) The firm’s strength, longevity, and reputation.

Consideration of value: While cost is always a factor, examine the entire package of expertise you are receiving for the investment you are making. Often a good consultant can provide a return many times the investment (ROI) through efficiencies, savings, and/or increased revenue.

Benefit of working with an entire firm vs. a single individual: When hiring a consulting firm, your businesses is more likely to be supported by a team of of professionals who know your business, have a wealth of experience, and a strong support system. The firm can bring together different skill sets from multiple disciplines to assist with a variety of challenges. The benefit of the team is having the backup, just in case.

After deciding which firm to engage, remember you can always ask for references. It is a step that can be revealing to help make you feel more comfortable with the choice.

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Warren Whitney provides fractional leadership in the areas of HR, Finance & Accounting, and IT to include the roles of HR Leader, CFO, CTO, CIO, COO, and Controller. While we typically work in our clients’ offices, we can also work remotely. Based in Richmond, Virginia, we also serve clients throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond. We are passionate about the work we do and welcome the opportunity to speak about the services we provide. To learn more, please contact Stephanie Ford at SFord@warrenwhitney.com or 804.282.9566.