Temporary Manager

Interim management is ideal for purchasing organizations because of their high profit responsibility but their frequently all too lean setup. All about Sourcing talked with Yurda Burghardt who, jointly with Gerd Kerkhoff, manages the Kerkhoff Interim business. Before that, she had been senior partner of Kerkhoff Consulting for more than 12 years where she had been responsible for business development among other things.

All about Sourcing: What type of company is suitable for the assignment of an interim manager?

Yurda Burghardt: An interim manager is an external management executive for a temporary period and signed up for a concrete task. According to that definition, interim management is suitable for all companies. Large, publicly traded companies have been using this flexible management resource for years already. In small and medium-sized businesses as well as in family-owned companies, the concept of interim management has recently been strongly gaining ground. According to a study however, 30% of small and medium-sized businesses do not know this service as yet.

Sourcing: And the companies familiar with this service – why do they request it from you?

Burghardt: Our clients are lacking either the resource or the capacity which they would need temporarily and on short notice, or there is the need for a specific competence, i.e. an expert who is not available in-house.

Sourcing: In what sense is purchasing suitable for the assignment of interim managers?

Burghardt: Increasing challenges in purchasing and the lack of junior staff in the companies are the reasons for our recording increasing demands for the service. In most companies, purchasing has major profit responsibility. Yet, paradoxically, purchasing departments are nonetheless quite frequently set up very lean in terms of their number of staff. And this imbalance in small and medium-sized businesses can be excellently countered by using highly qualified temporary managers.

Sourcing: What are the tasks and functions in purchasing that companies seek support or assistance for?

Burghardt: We fill CPO positions, also those for heads of purchasing, as well as positions for strategic and operative buyers. And the sectors of industry are just as different as the assignment situations: In one SMB, our interim manager bridged over a vacancy until a qualified head of purchasing could be found for the position. In another case, our client needed support in the day-to-day business because of the company's vigorous growth. One client was looking for an experienced head of purchasing who, by "showing and demonstrating", passes on his knowledge and experience to the company's staff and will coach and further develop that staff.

Sourcing: What are these interim managers doing in very concrete terms?

Recently, for example, we placed technical experts who present, in major purchasing projects, the interface between purchasing and production. Based on his or her expertise, the interim manager will here mediate and moderate between the technical requirements and the purchasing-relevant components of tender invitations; the interim manager also provides relief for technical departments and introduces the significant outsider's view in order to realize results which impressed our clients.

Sourcing: How do you find the right managers for your clients?

Burghardt: As part of the Kerkhoff Group, we have known the market for over 20 years. Kerkhoff Consulting as the leading consultancy for purchasing and SCM has implemented far more than 250 consulting projects in companies. We understand not only the challenges but the people as well. We have a pool of about 120 interim managers for the area of purchasing and SCM. We recommend exclusively interim managers who are personally known to us.

Sourcing: Is there any exchange between your interim managers and the consultants of the Kerkhoff Group?

Burghardt: Our interim managers have the distinct advantage that the know-how of the entire Kerkhoff Group is at their disposal. They will exchange themselves with consulting colleagues and experts and expand their knowledge. Most recently, Kerkhoff Consulting has again been honored with the award of "Beste Berater" (Best Consultants) by the trade magazine brand eins. Our clients are profiting to a great extent from this exchange of experience and knowledge transfer.

Sourcing: Do you place predominantly procurement experts?

The bandwidth of our interim managers provides great professional diversity. We have experienced process specialists from the areas of lean management, reorganization and process optimization as well as production optimization, but also in the areas of refurbishment, restructuring and turnaround. It was only yesterday that we also filled a rather classical position in the area of finances and controlling because the job holder had fallen ill.

Sourcing: Interim managers are generally expensive. When does it pay to use them?

Burghardt: The cost factor should not be considered in isolation. The interim manager is working on a temporary basis in the company and will leave it when his or her project is concluded. The companies will pay a fixed price which can be calculated and does not entail any additional costs. In purchasing assignments, costs are frequently contrasted with measurable success so that quick amortization can be realized. Just as an aside: Most companies put important projects on the backburner because they do not have the necessary capacities. The result will be: Pressure is increasing, and the quality of requirements as well. Postponements are generally more "expensive" than the assignment of a suitable manager who will additionally provide relief for the in-house management team and lend support either in day-to-day business or in an important project.

Sourcing: How do I get an interim manager and how long will it take before I can rely on his or her assistance?

First of all, I will be pleased that you called me. In our conversation, we will discuss your needs and formulate a concrete task. Requirements and skills will then be matched by means of our manager database. You will receive 2 or 3 personnel profiles and decide with whom you want to have a meeting. The placement process usually takes three to five days. But it happened more than once that we had to place someone from one day to the next, says Burghardt (and laughs).

Sourcing: Could you prioritize, from your point of view, the advantages for companies of using a "management nomad"?

1. Very motivated, highly qualified and unbiased managers who provide 100% performance from day one (without initial training or familiarization)
2. Short-term, flexible assignment
3. Strength in implementation
4. Specific know-how (sectors of industry, product groups, countries) can be applied according to need and demand.
5. The interim manager is a coach and passes on his or her profound knowledge.