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  • How a part-time executive helps grow your business

  • The concept of a part-time executive is becoming much more common. As a business growth strategy many mid-sized businesses realize that they function successfully with the resource of a part-time executive, without the need to engage a full-time employee in every role. Depending on the need, part-time executives can be engaged for short-term assignments or on a permanent basis, much like an employee, just not all day or every day. Many of these businesses are seeing the large contribution that part-time executives make to the success and growth of the business.

    My personal observation is that the most likely reason for a business plateauing, or ceasing to be successful, is the failure to recognize that large gaps exist in the executive team that are not attended to and so the business fails to “fire on all cylinders.” This is particularly true with businesses that have grown significantly in a short period of time. As they reach a critical growth point they continue to lean on the existing management team, without recognizing the need for different and additional expertise.

    In my role I often work with companies as a part-time CFO (Chief Financial Officer). Other executive functions can also be employed on a part-time basis, e.g., Vice-President, Sales, Marketing, Manufacturing, Logistics, etc. All of the key aspects of a particular business should be considered for a part-time executive before jumping to the conclusion that a full-time employee is required. Similarly, when it is clear that the current team does not have the time or expertise to grow the business and needs additional support, a part-time executive is often the solution.

    Let us consider the common benefits of a part-time executive:

    • The business receives the expertise required, enabling business growth;
    • An obstacle to growth is often eliminated;
    • There is significant relief of pressure on the current executive team and staff. This often includes the Owner/President, enabling them to focus on areas where they can be more effective, further boosting the success of the business;
    • A new executive often provides insight and strategic thinking that was not available from the existing group;
    • The part-time executive often provides a more disciplined and professional approach to the business;
    • Many part-time executives provide services to a range of clients and so bring a breadth of experience to the table, facilitating better decisions and processes;
    • A part-time executive will often restructure, train, coach, improve processes, etc. For example, as a CFO I will always try to upgrade the skills of the Controller (or head of the Accounting/Finance function). The organization continues with a more effective person in the role and the department staff enjoy a sense of fulfillment and success, more confident that they are providing real value to the business;
    • Hiring a part-time executive may be a very effective way to test for the need to have a full-time person in that role;
    • Most part-time executives are engaged as consultants and not employees and so the severance consequences, if and when there is a parting of the ways, are not normally a consideration (this may depend on the terms of your agreement and legal advice should be obtained);

    Before you consider engaging a part-time executive, follow the same exercise or process you would if you were planning to hire a full-time employee. Spend time defining your needs and prepare a written document, similar to a job description. You may modify this as you go through your search but at least you will have a guide to measure against as you interview the potential candidates. Remember, the executive has many of the characteristics of an employee and a good search process is likely to significantly reduce the risk of a bad hire. A part-time executive can do as much good as a great new employee but they can also do as much damage as a poor one.

    Consider the organizational structure of your business and see if you could use a part-time executive on your team. You may find that there is an area in which this solution will contribute significantly to the growth of your business.

    If your finance/accounting team is not fulfilling the needs of your business and needs guidance, please contact me me at (416) 726-8256 or James@MastermindSolutions.ca

    James Phillipson is a Chartered Accountant and a Principal of Mastermind Solutions Inc. with over thirty years experience in large and small businesses.  He has provided financial counseling to his clients since 1996, often in the role of a Controller or Chief Financial Officer, for both public and private corporate clients.  James has experience in financial roles in a wide variety of businesses and industries.  This includes several large corporations and many medium-sized public and private companies.