A day in the life

Interim manager Tina Finch talks us through her day.  By Sara Bean

Where and when I start my working day will depend on my assignment. I’m
currently working for a large leisure group, but I take assignments in a number
of industries, from manufacturing to IT. My speciality is in sales and
marketing and my initial training was in FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) –
but I’ve worked as a consultant and have got extensive industry experience,
including IT, business-to-business, leisure, pharmaceuticals and motoring.

I decided to get into interim management when I was doing my MBA. My
dissertation was on future skills needs, given the demand for more flexible
work patterns and increased employee mobility. I was so intrigued by flexible
work trends that I decided to have a go myself and see what it was like on the
other side of the fence.

My current assignment is via IM agency Global Executives. I think I have a
good relationship with them, as they know me well and I trust them enough to go
in and get full details of the brief, which is very important. The timescale
from the first call from Global Executives to beginning a job is typically two
to three weeks, but it can be as quick as a week. When an organisation needs an
IM, they have an immediate need – it gives them breathing space while they make
a full-time appointment or simply time to decide what action to take. You may
be going in to the post for a variety of reasons, to hold a position, say, for
maternity cover, as a result of poor performance, or even restructuring.

Before I even begin the job, I must get a thorough company background, and
the more comprehensive the brief the better, which is why I like to use a good
IM agency. I also do my own homework – for instance, if it’s a retailer or
manufacturer, I’ll check out their outlets and products on the high street. I
also use the Internet prolifically. By doing the research you go in with a good
understanding of the organisation, its products, structure, competitors,
current issues, objectives and, of course, the crunch numbers – how the
organisation is actually doing.

The first day you go in to an assignment, you’ve got to hit the ground
running, as they see you as a cost and they want an almost immediate return. I
try to get a feel for the culture of the organisation as quickly as possible –
it’s a bit like being a chameleon – so if everyone turns up at 7 o’clock,
you’ve got to do the same.

The important thing though, on day one, is to try and network with as many
people as possible. If you’re going in to give maternity cover, people may be
interested in working with a new face, although some may regard you with
trepidation and you’ll hear, "Well, so and so doesn’t do it that

If you’re going in as part of a restructure or to turn around poor
performance, people may be nervous of you, so you must absorb the culture and
get things moving quickly. Acclimatising to a new culture is one of the most
difficult things, and one of the most underestimated aspects of the overall mix
needed for an IM.

The assignments I really enjoy are those where you have direct
responsibility for people – I’m keen on sharing knowledge with people, and it’s
a great feeling that you’ve enhanced them in some way and given them a
different perspective – have allowed them to grow.

What you don’t have time to do is tread water. As an IM, I don’t have the
holidays, corporate events, sick days and time for gossip by the coffee
machine. I don’t have much time for leisure, but I know that I owe it to myself
and the people I’m working for not to get worn out. Although the length of
assignments vary between three and 12 months, those I like best take around six
months, because after that you start to get your slippers on – get too familiar
and comfortable with the issues – which can make it difficult to retain your
objectivity, which means you may lose your "added value" to the

When I know an assignment is coming to an end I’ll get on the phone and tout
around to find out what’s going on. There is always some nervousness, but when
you do interim management you have to be committed to that as a career. I think
the term "Interim" is slightly misleading as people think they can do
that while looking for a job. You can’t – being an interim manager is a
full-time career.

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