Keeping it in the family: executive interim management to secure the future of family businesses and SMEs

Securing the future of family businesses and SMEs

SMEs and family businesses form the backbone of many economies, especially here in Belgium: 97% of companies in the country have fewer than 50 employees, and SMEs represent over 70% of the GDP(i). Their long-term success is therefore crucial.

Yet for many of these companies, change can be particularly daunting, be it to launch an international expansion, to adopt new technology, or to transition the business from one generation to the next. This is where executive interim managers’ contribution proves invaluable.

Harnessing change

Essensys has 25 years of experience working with family businesses and SMEs: we have an intimate understanding of what makes up the DNA of such businesses. We have found that these companies often need to see rapid change. SMEs in particular are driven by an entrepreneurial mindset, which is inherently one of quick response. The smaller size and more tight-knit nature of these companies also means that these businesses are rarely bogged down by the same kind of inertia that may affect corporations, which paradoxically makes them ideally suited to change.

The interim managers we select are hardwired to enable change in a short space of time, be it to tackle organizational challenges, venture into changing markets or resolve internal difficulties. This makes them the perfect partners to support family businesses and SMEs in times of transition and transformation.

Straight talk

In addition to bringing in expertise on change itself, interim managers offer a precious outside perspective. Not being embedded in the internal dynamics of a company – though remaining sensitive to these – gives an interim manager more room to think outside the box, to pitch fresh ideas and identify knowledge gaps they can fill. This allows them to enhance internal knowhow, as well as foster creative thinking to make a lasting contribution to a company’s resilience.

Interim managers are also defined by the temporary nature of their work: this puts them in a better position than permanent staff to be candid and speak freely, without concerns about how this could affect their career.

A better return on investment

Finally, the relatively small size of SMEs and family businesses means that the cost-benefit ratio can be particularly high for these companies, which may struggle to make long-term staff-hiring commitments. Bringing on an interim manager can allow them to benefit from senior expertise without the financial burden and risk associated with a highly qualified long-term hire.

The financial returns from such an investment also tend to materialize much faster: bringing in someone with the exact expertise needed to enable a transformation means this can happen much sooner than if it had been left to permanent members of the company’s executive. Executive interim managers thus constitute an optimal resource for family businesses and SMEs, which need to see rapid results.