One of the first topics I want to develop in this blog is the modern form of Senior Management, which is nowadays at the forefront.
Call it what you like, the wordings are many (at least in the Italian market, where we use a lot of English expressions): temporary management, interim management, turnaround management, sharing management. And the managers?
Besides the above mentioned words, you can also find titles like contract manager, leasing manager, freelance manager, or even – in Latin – pro tempore manager.
The terms may be new, but this kind of professional is not. This role has been in the market for a long time now, but our times of widespread crisis and consequential transformation have given these managers the opportunity to evolve and to carve out an even more specific profile and position.
Just a few days ago, for instance, the Italian Economic Development Ministry increased from €10 to €15 million the funding for companies to employ a temporary export manager, since the submitted applications have been consistently more than expected. Italy is running late in terms of internationalization, I know (and I will discuss this in detail in another post), but this is true for many other countries as well.
As far as I’m concerned, I follow the “rules” of sharing management, which is substantially different from typical contract management. This basically means that I take care of a company for a couple of days a week, for instance, over a given period of time. Having my own company to run, this way works better for me. But I must say it’s also beneficial to the existing management of the company I am in charge of, because the very nature of the task is not only to make practical changes but also to transfer competencies.
The profile of the contract manager is somewhat at odds with the profile of the consultant. And this is ironic because I cover both roles! But this gives me a twofold perspective on the attributes and the services that each provides.
Typically, a consultant doesn’t carry out the business management, but commits himself to providing suggestions, presenting hypotheses, and drawing up scenarios and related actions. At I.E.S. Shanghai & Hong Kong, for instance, I generally give three types of advisory opinions:
- technical > dealing with the engineering of cylinders;
- processes > often costs can be reduced by optimizing procedures and processes;
- commercial/marketing > if clients are searching for a supplier, in a new foreign market for example, I often provide them with some free recommendations, in accordance with the philosophy of the sharing economy.
In contrast, contract managers are experts in action: they operate in person inside the company by covering tasks aimed at effectively managing the transition the business has to face and, on top of that, are held responsible for the outcome of their interventions. I’m using the term “transition” because this is the situation I usually deal with. I work side-by-side with companies in need of a turnaround due to a crisis period, or a reorganization due to a poor performance against a high growth potential.
Some of the tasks of a good contract manager are:
- Assisting and coaching commercial directors and sales team
- Helping the company to find the right market positioning (USP)
- Creating an appropriate selling price-list (industrial cost + margin)
- Resolving contractual and commercial problems
- Researching and reporting on external market opportunity (purchase & sale)
- Developing the sales & marketing strategic plan (sales budget)
- Developing the procurement strategy plan (purchasing budget – raw material)
- Developing a marketing & communication strategy
- R&D of new products
The definition I have come across lately is not only motivating, but also absolutely appropriate: “contract managers are wizards of change“. And moreover, this is what strikes me as a revolutionary mind-set: their raison d’être is to become useless.
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If you have any comments, input or observations, feel free to share them here. I’d be happy to know your thoughts.