Boardroom Advisors are specialists in providing part-time Directors to Scale-ups and SMEs. We place experienced individuals on the Boards of firms of all shapes and sizes. It’s a practice that can deliver huge benefits to the companies involved. It’s also one, however, which many firms misunderstand or don’t know anything about.
Even some of the most experienced professionals, for instance, may not know what a part-time CEO does. A few may not even have realised that there was such a thing. We’re going to try to remedy that right here. What better way to do so than by getting the answers straight from the horse’s mouth?
We spoke to Simon Dodd; a part-time CEO and NED with extensive experience. He’s worked with all manner of different clients and took time out from his busy schedule to speak to us. He shared some insights into what being a part-time CEO is all about. What he does day-to-day and how he views what is a role which can be critical to the success of a small business.
Aims & Motivations of a Part-Time CEO
The idea of a part-time CEO can be a tricky one to get your head around. A CEO is one of the most authoritative figures in a business. The thought of them performing their role on a part-time basis can seem unusual.
To overcome this seeming paradox, you must understand the aims and motivations of a part-time CEO. Simon summed up his idea of those aims succinctly and simply:
a part-time CEO exists to help build a robust business plan and lead the delivery of it
In order to do so, Simon believes that it’s important for him to stay strategic. He must avoid being dragged down into too much deep detail.
While a firm’s existing staff and executives handle the day-to-day, a part-time CEO can help with the big picture. They can come on board and devise the right strategic direction for the company. As well as overseeing things to ensure everything stays on track. Especially brand, offering and margin. What, though, does that look like in practice?
A Typical Day for a Part-Time CEO
Our first question when we spoke to Simon was to ask him if there was such a thing as a ‘typical’ day for a part-time CEO. Predictably, his answer was “not really”. Then again, is there even such as a thing as a typical day in any executive job?
What Simon did kindly sketch out for us, though, was the general shape of how he works with a current client, Jericho Writers. Simon spends at least one day per week in their office and that day has a “kind of routine”. He strives for interaction with every team member.
He always meets face-to-face with the business owner. For other team members, he liaises in different ways. That might be through a team catch-up meeting, either in person or over Skype. It could mean a one-to-one meeting with a specific colleague. On these days, Simon has a kind of mantra, which he shared with us:
carefully controlled time for admin and screen. Max time for human interaction
In general, a part-time CEO must strive to be available and helpful to the whole team they work with. That’s something that extends far beyond their time in a client’s office. Simon stressed to us the importance of understanding that:
although the role is part-time… communication must happen every day
When he’s not seeing team members face-to-face, he’s in touch in other ways. Via mobile, email, Skype and every other conceivable channel. That’s as well as:
keeping an eye on internal comms whilst working on large strategic initiatives
Challenges Faced & Benefits Delivered by a Part-Time CEO
Simon made it clear to us that as a part-time CEO you must know a firm “as well as you would as a full-time CEO”. The truth of that statement should by now be abundantly obvious. He and part-time CEOs in general must act as a touchstone and mentor for their teams. That’s as well as seeing the big picture and keeping the business moving forward.
The main challenge for any part-time CEO, in Simon’s own words, is “making sure you stay very focussed, so you are giving maximum value to the client”. That value is delivered in a number of different ways.
With an experienced part-time CEO, firms get “senior and proven high level strategic support”, to quote Simon once again. The kind of support they can’t afford to bring on board on a full-time basis. That’s not the only advantage of choosing a part-time over a full-time CEO, either.
Simon feels that as a part-time CEO he can give firms “more objectivity and brave thinking than normal”. He’s at once deeply committed to the business, but outside of its individual bubble far more than full-time employees. He can provide a different perspective. That’s invaluable for problem solving and discerning new and novel paths to success.
Hopefully you can now understand Boardroom Advisors’ raison d’être. Why it is that we’re so passionate about placing experienced directors with Scale-ups and SMEs. Skilled and motivated board members like Simon can add massive value to businesses. Of all shapes and sizes. Not to mention providing invaluable insight when they’re gracious enough to explain their roles.
Part-time CEOs, too, are the tip of the iceberg. Other part-time executives can also become key members of a firm’s team. People like part-time Operations, Commercial or Strategy Directors. Boardroom Advisors have a talent pool with executives, just like Simon, to fill all kinds of roles.