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What is an interim manager?

Interim managers provide stability to a business following the sudden departure of a key employee, or offer a highly specialised skill set which a business may not have internally. They are typically hired for three to nine months, after which they move on to another job. Interim management has become increasingly popular over the past decade.

Interim manager vs strategic consultant

The terms ‘interim manager’ and ‘strategic consultant’ are closely related (in fact, they are sometimes used as synonyms). However, there are some important differences. A strategic consultant offers advice on a specific business challenge, whereas the interim manager goes one step further and also implements the solution.

As a result, interim managers are more flexible and less restricted in terms of what they can and can’t do. They are strategists as well as hands-on problem solvers.

Finding the right consultant

man sitting on chair in front on window during daytime

Interim managers are great troubleshooters. The only challenge is finding the right profile for the job. When looking for an interim manager, you basically have two options:

A) You contact an interim management company and let them do the work.
B) You start the recruitment process yourself, cutting out the middle man, thus saving you some money. A word of warning though: the war for talent is a bloody one. Attracting the right consultants can be a real struggle.

That’s why most companies call in external help. And rightly so. However, this begs the question: which criteria should you take into account when selecting an interim management company? Because let’s be completely honest, the market of recruitment companies is completely swamped, as the overview below illustrates.

Making sense of the interim management landscape

There are two key differentiators to divide the competitive landscape of interim management and strategic consulting:

1. To what degree is the company a specialist in a specific business domain, as opposed to being a generalist across domains?

2. Is the company solely focused on providing Human Capital? Or do they also provide business solutions in the form of Strategic Consulting?

Using these two differentiators makes it possible to come up with four types of companies.




1. Generalists providing human resources

Examples include: Vacature.com, Randstad, zelfstandigen.be, maerten & partners

You can choose to work with generalists who are focused on providing you with the staffing you need. Think of generic job websites, such as vacature.com.


– They usually boast high brand awareness and a large reach.
– You can use one organisation across multiple business domains.
– Generalists can also recruit for permanent positions.


– Their work method is not tuned to your business needs.
– Their network is unsegmented.
– If you have questions that go beyond recruiting, you are unlikely to get answers.

In other words: this is not your preferred partner for strategic business advice or strategy consulting.

2. Specialists providing human resources

Conversion talents, House of sales


– These recruiters are highly specialised companies that headhunt interim managers in a specific business domain.
– Their network is highly segmented, which could be a major advantage in some industries, for example headhunting C-level IT managers.


– However, they don’t necessarily have the mindset to think along with your business needs outside of recruiting. Depending on your needs this could be a major downside.

3. Generalists providing solutions

Examples include Deloitte, Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company.


– These companies are an excellent solution if you temporarily want to bring in outside advice.
– They will provide fresh insights and will do so objectively.


– They do not at all provide you with the human resources to implement strategies. So it is entirely up to you to follow up on the strategic advice. This could lead to bumps in the road when you bring in new people to execute the strategy, especially when the people that implement the strategy have a different opinion on the matter.

4. Specialists providing solutions

For example 4P square.

Sometimes companies need an interim manager to temporarily fill a position. This could for example be because a key employee goes on maternity leave, or the workload in a team is momentarily skyrocketing. But, often it’s less straightforward. Companies might struggle with business problems, rather than just with staffing shortages. Organisations are for example looking to find answers to questions such as: “How do I make my business decisions more data-driven?”. In this case you don’t just need an interim manager. You need a strategic consultant.

Companies specialised in strategic consulting, as well as interim management offer the best of two worlds. You can go to them for just one of those two. But the strength lies in the combination.


– You immediately have access to the right network. This level of segmentation will significantly increase the chance of finding your ideal interim manager or strategic consultant fast.
– They understand your business needs.

Why? Well, imagine you are looking to make your marketing efforts more data-driven. But you wonder where to begin. This type of company can first help you come up with a thought-through strategy, after which it can immediately follow-up with the right interim managers to start implementing the strategy.

– Working with the same company for your strategy and interim solutions ensures successful alignment between strategy and operations. If you don’t need strategic consulting, you can simply focus on interim management recruitment.


Working with a specialist has its downsides as well. This is mainly the inability to provide consulting and interim management across departments. These companies might have well-defined boundaries of operations, whereas business problems rarely stop at these boundaries.

Everything you need to know about interim management

Interim management has become increasingly popular over the past decade. So what is it exactly that an interim manager does? What sets him apart from a strategic business consultant? And why would companies prefer interim managers over permanent employees? To top it all off, we give you some tips and tricks for aspiring interim managers and starters. Ready? Go!