Are Interim Managers becoming one of our most successful exports?

By Jason Atkinson, Managing Director, Russam Interim and IMA Chairman

JasonInterim management is now a mainstream industry and the UK now has the most established interim management sector in the world. It is worth £1.5 billion per year according to the IMA’s Ipsos MORI quarterly survey. Interim Management is also one of Britain’s strongest exports. There are up to 20,000 top level executives working as interims in the UK and we export approximately 15 per cent to work overseas. It is expected the industry will be worth £2 billion by 2015, with up to 25 per cent of this growth coming from British interims working overseas.

The figure is expected to increase as more international firms seek specialist skills on a temporary basis and place high value on the ‘British interim brand’. UK interims managers are highly skilled, experienced and knowledgeable professionals and most have an excellent understanding of the principles of governance. Many also have a good command of foreign languages, which makes their skills highly transferable.

Many interim workers consider taking assignments abroad at some time during their careers. Interestingly, a recent survey by the Interim Management Association (IMA) has found that nearly eight out of ten interim managers would vote to stay in the European Union. The union’s open borders policy allows for the free movement of people as well as goods, and therefore Europe offers the flexibility to relocate to work on projects across 27 member countries.

The top three international destinations for British interims are Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the USA and Canada; however, there is also growth predicted in Asia and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as more international firms want to expand into these markets.

Of the interim managers currently working abroad the vast majority are scattered around the EU, with a smaller number working in Asian countries. This could be because some of Europe’s best developed economies welcome skilled workers from overseas – for example, German employment legislation is less strict than UK law, so businesses make much quicker hiring decisions.

Russam GMS conducted some recent research looking at the international interim market and found that 8 out to 10 of the 500 interims they spoke to had completed an assignment overseas – nine out of 10 of them were men aged 45 to 60.

One of the top benefits of international work is the challenging and stimulating nature of working abroad, being paid more and the greater number of jobs. Our research found that those working overseas achieve the highest pay rates at £718 per day, compared with £620 per day for those working in the south, the highest paid region in the UK.

The growth in demand for British Interim Managers to work internationally prompted us to establish our international division, Russam International in 2012. We are also a founding member of the Taplow Group, an international executive search and interim management group that finds resident national interims within specific countries.

One thing to note is that working overseas is not without its challenges. Whilst it might be the dream of many to live and work in a foreign country the reality can often be very different. Many people find leaving their family and friends difficult, and that the whole experience is very intense with very little downtime. Cultural differences can also be a challenge.

Here are my top ten tips for international interim success:

  1. Learn the language, smile, make friends and adapt to the cultural dynamics
  2. Establish a good relationship with the client quickly but keep in regular contact with your home and office
  3. Keep an open mind; the UK is not the be-all and end-all
  4. Make sure your contract covers all eventualities – remember you will be travelling in your own time often and much of it will be unpaid
  5. Hit the ground running, do what has to be done, don’t put on any airs. You are one of the workers, not a colonial officer
  6. Your personality is as important as your skills
  7. Don’t go native and don’t expect the locals to like you – you have taken one of their jobs
  8. Integrate and don’t be too ‘British’
  9. Be prepared for things to take longer than in the UK
  10. Treat it as an adventure. Enjoy the differences, relish the can do environment and get on and deliver



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