What are on-demand executives?
Whether you prefer Harvard Business Review‘s term “supertemp,” the “new intermediaries” or high-level experts in the “gig economy,” on-demand executives are senior level executive leaders and professionals who apply their expertise in a project-based, part-time or interim model.
Qualifications & Experience
On-demand executives frequently hold degrees from top institutions and have successfully led critical functions at multiple companies (often large, publicly-traded organizations) and/or leading startups that have successfully scaled. When you review our team you’ll see frequent references to Ivy League schools, MBAs, doctorates, Big 4-6-8 accounting firms and more. But most importantly, you’ll see strategic and implementation success as C-level executives.
Demonstrated Operational Expertise
Demonstrated success inside organizations is an important distinction between on-demand executives and consulting firms. Many consulting firms hire and train young MBAs with little or no operating or leadership experience.
Full Strategy and Implementation
TechCXO partners sit squarely between strategy development and “been there, done that” experience. We are viewed as “doers.”
Conversely, many consultants tend to inflate the size of their teams and focus more on concepts than full strategy and implementation.
On-demand executives are “athletic” because they move easily from the conceptual and strategic to nuts-and-bolts implementation. Often they will implement strategies and programs for the client by themselves or with a very small and efficient team.
On Demand as Competitive Differentiator
“Owning” your talent in the form of building an increasingly large workforce was a decades-long business objective for many organizations. High transaction costs incentivized corporations to get larger as it was cheaper to keep resources and talent in- house than to transact for them in the open market.
However, as Harvard Business Review stated, “new technologies and a developing spot market for high-end talent are driving transaction costs down and challenging assumptions about which management skills and professional talent belong inside versus outside the organization. “
Access not Ownership of Talent
“Access to” — not “ownership of” — talent, experience and the capacity to complete critical tasks and functions is most desired, particularly with the speed of innovation and subsequent technology and platforms that displace incumbents and disrupt markets.
What is the primary benefit of using an on-demand model?
The primary reason for accessing high-end, on-demand executives is equally distributed by talent, skills, speed/agility and cost benefits.
Source: Mavenlink, ResearchNow
Leadership Comfortable with On Demand
Forward-looking entrepreneurs, owners, investors and executives realize an on-demand model allows them to access the right skills , experience and resources at the optimal time.
Because on-demand executives enable businesses to stay lean and flexible without compromising expertise and the ability to innovate, 79% of executive leadership inside companies see the on-demand model as a competitive advantage and more than 9 out of 10 business leaders expect to increase their use of contract professionals.
In House vs. On Demand
There are good reasons for having a dedicated in-house executive team. However, for startup companies with limited resources or a company in transition, leveraging on- demand executives has advantages.
Remember: Don’t invest in G&A costs until you prove you can: 1) build your product and 2) sell it. An on-demand model gives you access to top experience without the expense and commitment of an executive hire.
Three Scenarios where On Demand Makes Sense
When should you to think about an on-demand executive? There are typically three different scenarios that a company would consider outsourcing executive functions: (1) High-Growth/High Stress; (2) Specialized Projects; (3) Transition Periods.
1. High Growth | High Stress
High-growth companies can become victims of their own success. When requirements for people, technology, facilities and capital accelerate, new strains may be put on the organization’s structure that require skilled, professional and experienced guidance.
The most common catalyst for considering an outsourced option is when a company reaches a certain level that requires more experienced leadership, but does not yet necessitate a full-time resource, i.e. following an early-round capital raise or a large customer win. On-demand executives who will work with a company on a project, days-per-week or days- per month basis are the ideal solution for such companies. Scenarios can include:
- Increasing number of transactions, such as more customers, more employees, more vendors
- Increasing complexity in the business that requires more experienced leadership and better planning to develop policies and procedures Inexperienced internal person, e.g. Controller or other finance staff member, who may simply need a mentor
- The company has raised or intends to raise significant ($1 million or more) funds from outside investors
- A merger or acquisition of a line of business that requires acquisition accounting and reconciliation between multiple systems.
2. Specialized Projects
You may require advanced or specialized skills to address a very particular problem or opportunity. Some common projects that might require on-demand expertise include:
- Financial models and budgets
- GAAP accounting
- Audit Preparation
- Debt and equity raises
- M&A activity
- Post Transaction Services
- Board Management
- ASC 606
- ASC 842
- ASC 718
- Go-to-Market Planning
- Sales & Distribution Strategy
- Demand Marketing
- Product Marketing Management
- Account Based Marketing & Sales
- Key Account Management
- Pipeline & Forecast Management
- Strategic Alliances
- Customer Success/Renewal
Product & Technology
- Security Due Diligence
- Cloud Readiness
- Product Strategy
- Agile Transformation
- IT Organization Design
- UX Development
- Mobile App Development
- Agile Coaching
- Program Management
- IT Board Advisory
- CHRO Support
- CEO Support
- COO Support
- Supply Chain Management
- Data Scientist
- Manufacturing Operations
3. Transition Periods
You may have significant management turnover, board and/or investor activity, a cratering sales quarter, seismic strategic shifts or M&A activity.
In sensitive and high-risk situations such as these, a dedicated, objective leader in one or more functions may be needed to achieve a timely, cost effective, successful outcome.
The leader must have the business acumen and soft skills to execute on complex business objectives and strategy without negatively disrupting the organization and customers. He/she can separate politics and noise from real issues, and develop timelines with hard milestones.
On Demand Executive Best Practices
An exec with years of experience working with similar companies can enhance the management team, provide credibility with your board and investors and generally raise the level of professionalism at the company. Experience with your specific industry is a plus for networks, providers, investors, etc.
The executive should be a natural leader and have the gravitas to slip into a leadership role, even on a part-time basis.
Plan | Priorities
Be realistic about goals and objectives to achieve given the time constraints or available resources. A few, very strategic, well-defined projects will be easier to manage than multiple, more tactical projects. Focus is key.
Drive for results including well-defined project objectives, an engagement overview, primary activities and deliverables, expected duration of the engagement and the KPIs and business outcomes by which success is measured.
While developing a rapport with the CEO and management team is a must, a good cultural fit with the rest of the team is important too. The executive should inspire “been there, done that” confidence, but also be creative and flexible enough to adapt to the team and its culture.
5 CEO Questions
Do I have time to focus clearly on the business drivers necessary for success? (Or am I spending too much time “figuring out the books,” helping with sales or fixing the product?)
Do I have the right information to make good decisions? (Or are we/I managing by instinct, using a few key bits of information to proxy for all the rest.)
People & Model
Do I have the right people and the right model to scale? (Or do I need to upgrade strategy, finance, marketing, sales, channels and customer success processes and people?)
Am I adequately funded for what’s next? (Or are we guessing about equity and debt funding needed and the road forward?)
What’s the best way to access talent and expertise to answer 1-4?