The most successful interim managers demonstrate a strong track record of delivering results in a corporate career that shows progression through roles of increasing responsibility. They also demonstrate focus – concentrated expertise, progression and success in a particular functional discipline and/or industry, or in closely related specialties. (Managers who have switched functions or industries a number of times may be equally good interim managers, but their skills may be more difficult to sell to a prospective client.)
In addition to having a strong CV, the best interim managers are comfortable operating in highly uncertain circumstances. There are many uncertainties in the life of an interim manager: not knowing when or where the next assignment coming from: not knowing the client environment thoroughly yet still being expected to make a significant contribution; and not having a network of peers on the job with whom to share challenges and brainstorm solutions.
Good interims are physically and mentally fit enough to start a new project every six months, and are financially secure enough to weather the inevitable months without an assignment. They can live out of a suitcase for weeks or months when necessary. They interview well – which is important because the interview process to select an interim is often shorter than for permanent roles. When in assignment, they have the skills to assess quickly what's going on in a totally new environment – to analyse, develop solutions, and then deliver those solutions on time and within budget.
Successful interims are confident in their accomplishments and can both sell their achievements to their clients and deliver the results on each assignment. They may rely on agencies to deliver a portion of their work, but they know they must generate much of it via personal networking (on average two-thirds, higher among new interims). When in assignment they enjoy a level of remuneration (in day rate) far exceeding their peers' in corporate life, and numerous other benefits of the interim lifestyle. They have a limited company through which to operate as an interim manager.