When you hear “consultant,” what do you picture? A high-level advisor? An extra set of hands? A specialized firm offering guidance?
The truth is, interim consulting can be a solution to a surprising variety of staffing needs — some obvious, some less so. You just need to know where consultants can provide the greatest benefit for your business.
What Is Interim Consulting?
“Consulting” encompasses so many conflicting and overlapping definitions that it’s useful to define what we mean (and don’t mean) at the outset.
What We Don’t Mean
Temp staffing — or, hiring short-term employees as extra “warm bodies” to address transactional needs when time is short and business is bustling — is not what we mean by interim consulting. These contracted employees are typically more transactional in nature and not subject matter experts within a particular function. They almost always require extensive hands-on training to get acquainted with the job.
At BVOH Search & Consulting, we call this “transactional staffing.” It’s not what we mean when we talk about consulting.
When your needs are unpredictable — two hours this week, 30 hours next week, two weeks off, then 10 more hours — it may make more sense to turn to a managed services company. (BVOH’s sister company, MorganFranklin, is a great example.)
Rather than offering a single subject matter expert to help in-house, managed services companies are made up entirely of experts — from cybersecurity to internal audit to systems experts. You can bring them a specific issue or project, and they deliver a solution using their array of internal resources. With this type of consulting, you skip the interview process and go straight to results.
What We Do Mean
Two Types of Interim Consulting
When we say “interim consulting,” we’re referring to two different types of consulting: staff augmentation and advisory consulting.
By staff augmentation, we mean contracted subject matter experts who contribute 40 hours per week for a set period of time. These degreed professionals typically have at least four to five years of experience and functional expertise that qualifies them to stand in for an existing team member or to add bench strength to your team for myriad reasons — more on that below.
Consultants leveraged for staff augmentation are usually doing so at the direction of your team, though not always. An Interim Accounting Manager, as an example, could be directed by your full-time Controller, whereas an Interim CFO may be directing the work of your team on a short-term basis.
In contrast, we consider advisory consultants true experts, typically at the director level and above. They know the subject matter inside and out, and they bring in expertise a team lacks in its existing state.
Advisory consultants may not always work full time; there are many instances in which they engage on a fractional basis. However, they will train, review, advise, and guide your team as part of their role, and direct others how to accomplish a task, goal, or project.
When to Hire an Interim Consultant
Bringing on a new employee doesn’t always make sense, nor does redistributing work among existing employees. Maybe your need is temporary; you don’t have the headcount for a permanent hire, or you need someone right now to support your immediate needs. This is where interim consulting provides support.
At first glance, consultants’ rates might give hiring managers a serious case of sticker shock. The reality, though, is that despite a higher premium in the near-term, consulting can be an effective way to manage long-term expenses.
It’s important to remember that interim consulting is, by nature, short term. It isn’t the same as hiring a new employee and agreeing to pay that rate over the course of their tenure with the company. In many circumstances, the benefits can be well-worth the expense.
If your needs are short term, creating a new long-term position doesn’t make sense, but augmenting your staff can be a great solution.
Short-term needs may include:
- One-off projects
- Employee leaves of absence
- Sudden, unexpected vacancies
- Temporary surges in workload
Tight Hiring Timelines
Work doesn’t slow down just because you need to fill an open position. Often, you need someone in a matter of days, not weeks, and certainly not months.
At the same time, you don’t want to hire a candidate without a thorough dive into their skillsets and culture-fit. Especially in the case of high-level vacancies, the intensive search, rounds of interviews, negotiation, onboarding, and training process can take far more time than you have.
To provide a buffer, buying yourself time to find the right permanent hire for your company, consider supplementing your team with a consultant. They bring the skills you need to keep operations running without the commitment of long-term employment.
Often, consultants can start working in just a few days and can bridge the gap until you can make the best long-term decision for your team, not just the quickest hire. Hiring managers adept at bringing on consultants often task them with documenting processes during their engagement, and even have them ramp up and onboard the new hire once a candidate is offered the full-time position.
Gaps in Expertise
Everyone wants a team with such a confluence of wide-ranging and versatile skills that they can handle everything. For example, maybe you want to hire a Controller with NetSuite implementation experience — but that qualification significantly limits your candidate options in an already constrained hiring market.
Instead of holding out for a rare candidate, you can separate the long-term requirements from the short-term. This gives you the opportunity to look for a permanent hire with the expertise and experience you’ll rely on for the long haul, while addressing short-term gaps in your team’s expertise as needed with a consultant.
As another example, perhaps you’re evaluating a new system and hiring out someone to manage that system. The technical skillsets required to implement a system versus manage that system are quite different. An expert systems consultant can step in long enough to configure the new system, then hand it over to someone on the team (or to-be-hired) to maintain the system going forward.
What Does Interim Consulting Look Like in Action?
If you have experts on your team, but bandwidth is otherwise constrained due to surges in workflow or vacancies, then staff augmentation makes sense. For example:
- “Our accounting manager is going on maternity leave and we need someone to cross-train with her, fill in for three months, and catch her back up to speed when she returns.”
- “We just lost an important member of our team. We want to find the best replacement, but we can’t put work on hold while we try to fill the role.”
- “We need to fill a new position soon, but our company will be more attractive to the best candidates if we wait for an upcoming positive press event, like a fundraiser or product launch.”
You may turn to an advisory consultant when you need expert guidance in an area your team isn’t familiar with, such as:
- “We’re implementing a new system and we need someone to help with testing and launch.”
- “We’re going through the IPO process and need someone with experience to prepare our accounting pronouncements.”
Interim consulting is a great option for managing inconsistent workflow or problems requiring subject matter expertise. If any of the above situations sound familiar, your business may benefit from the expertise of a great consultant — without the risk and expense of rushing a permanent hire, making uninformed guesses on key projects, or over-staffing your team to meet the ebbs and flows of work.
BVOH can connect you with the help you need. Start exploring your options today.
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