Sunday, January 13, 2008

Who are your most important suppliers?

The difference between a carpenter and an interim or project manager

I have been giving advice to a self employed carpenter who specializes in fitted wardrobes. Judging from observation, it appears that much of his day is lost, spent running around collecting last minute orders for brackets and hinges, extra wood, glue, screws, parts for his machines – whatever. He is always blaming his late deliveries on his suppliers, who appear to be constantly letting him down. Obviously my advice to him was to learn to better manage his suppliers and to invest more time in project preparation.

However, it got me thinking about my role as an interim manager – who exactly are my essential suppliers and how dependant am I on them?

Here’s a list, in a rough order of importance:

1. My mobile phone network supplier (no mobile, no business)
2. My bank (receiving funds and paying suppliers)
3. My ICT supplier (access to e-mails, MS Office + Project)
4. Car garage
5. Fuel stations
6. My accountant (legal compliance & tax optimization)
7. My insurance company (legal compliance + you never know)!
8. Lawyer

After item 8 the list begins to switch from essential to ‘nice to have’. However, it goes without saying that really, the most important supplier to an interim manager is themselves i.e. their health. Without it, we are quite simply finished – nothing, no income, no pension.

Thus I believe it is vital we invest in our health and general wellbeing over and above anything else. Luckily there are many doctors who agree that a glass (or two) of wine a day + a visit to the sauna or massage therapist, once in a while, does you good. Good restaurants and relaxing holidays in the Mediterranean are apparently also very beneficial.

So when I go over my profit margin figures for 2007, I can see clearly that my expenses have been very well balanced and entirely appropriate for a person with my profession...

Who are your essential suppliers?


Matthijs said...

Indeed, myself including my health is the most important supplier to my interim management practice. For me, however, the next one in terms of importance are the intermediaries, like the Essensys, Robert Half and B-management of this world. As a starting interim manager without a network, I largely depend on them. And Harley like you wrote, no opportunities, no income, no pension.

In the case of a need for an interim manager, the potential clients of today put the different intermediaries into competition by asking them to show only their top profile in relation to the expressed need. Furthermore, one only becomes a top profile if one is strongly overqualified, like having around ten years of experience in the specific job. If one has not done a proper job, like having been an accountant, IT developer, finance director or a HR-manager, one has no chance. All this stems in my opinion from the fact that most of the clients do take by preference risk-minimizing decisions and by doing so are lacking creativity.

The above means as well that clients do no longer perceive additional value added from the intermediaries and that they will rely more-and-more on their own network to find an interim manager.

Harley, it stroke me that they are not on your top eight list. So you are totally not depending on them. My question is what did you do to arrive in that position? Myself and others can learn from your experience.

Harley Lovegrove said...

Dear Matthijs

Indeed you are right, I have never worked via an intermediary, that's why I set up the Bayard Partnership with my Partners. My contracts came from my network after being the COO of a few software companies. I find that clients are prepared to take risks with interim mangers not having the exact experience, as long as they come from a company with a good pedigree and have great references from previous assignments.