Why I Became an Interim Executive

Why do you think an organisation chooses to employ an interim over other alternatives?

My experience is that a client chooses an interim because they want unique, cost effective, service tailored to their needs and developed under their direction. This is a genuine and cost effective alternative to buying packaged services, which have a value but can  be risk adverse and expensive alternatives. Interims are more flexible-a number of my assignments have been exploratory initially for three months and then extended- usually six months to a year. With an Interim, clients can also find also find a lot of varied and useful experience in one person, consultancy tends to be more siloed, requiring a further specialist at every deviation of the brief.

What do you think are challenges facing estates and facilities right now?

After the dreadful COVID 19 experience, I can imagine the current estates model is going to change, for a start there will be more working from home and conferencing in business. Clearly both public and private estates will feel the pressure of a lagging economy and will be looking for ways of freeing up assets and perhaps fewer permanent staff and more automation. Business may be national and more local this means more efficiency and sustainability – focusing on the assets and systems that are critical to your business then getting best value and high performance in servicing them.

Why become an interim and what are the benefits?

I began as a Chartered Surveyor and Engineer with Grimley’s and Drivers Jonas international commercial real estate before becoming Director of Estates in the Further Education, University, and Police and Government sectors. My last permanent post was Vice Principal in education with ‘end to end’ responsibility for serious multi-site development including asset sale and development worth £100’s millions.

I wanted to merge my consultancy background and corporate client experience at Director and Senior Executive level, to provide pragmatic business improvement consultancy so I started Innovate Estates Ltd to focus on what creates real value in estates and facilities strategy, procurement and logistics, interim and consultancy.

In my view this is strategy and objective setting, Estates and FM organisational change, Strategic Purchasing, supply chain & logistics and Project & Programme Management. Most things revolve around these disciplines. I am committed to practice-based education, so this led to the interest in teaching and writing on estates issues.

The great joy of interim management is having the direct contact with clients. Working in so many different environments is a real learning experience.

My philosophy is to make it as easy as possible for a senior executive client to delegate complex issues setting the pace and staying in control. An interim provides a safe pair of hands, embedded in the organisation offering a genuine consultancy solution with a rational process and outputs a time frame and a cost, while they get on with the pressing day to day business.

What advice do you have for those considering Interim?

For me Interim Management is a career, not an option between full time jobs. You are your own product. You have to be highly flexible, be prepared to start at short notice, from anywhere and with any available information. The brief will develop in time. Clients choose interims to bring something tried, trusted but also innovative to the organization, so keep your skills relevant and constantly refreshed, analyze trends, and have educated insight. Contributing to blogs, learning from how other industries manage their assets and work with supply chains helps. As an interim, your clients expect to use your time with them not just to fill a post but bring ideas and solutions from your wealth of experience from having resolved many complex problems in a wide variety of different organisations.


About Russell Whitaker:

Russell has been an Interim Estates Senior Executive for 12 years with 3 years most recently as a part of MRG Interim Executives. During that time, Russell has undertaken logistics strategies and Olympic Games disruption preparation for the Southbank Arts Centre, managed capital development at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, been Executive Director for a leading Girls School Trust and Development Manager for the Royal Automobile Club as well as a project management in Berlin, he is also a Visiting Lecturer of Project Management at the Sir John  Cass Business School and a published author on the client’s role in construction.

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