The Gray Cat Blog

A comprehensive collection of blogs designed to assist small business owners and multiunit operators.

The Interim Executive

Feb 03, 2023

The movie industry has been doing this for years.   With a screenplay in hand, a movie production house pulls together a team of production specialists including grips, gaffers, boom operators, etc. to all assemble at a film shoot location over a few months to produce a film.  Together, these experts piece together all of the components of a film to send to the editing room for post production.  So, does the movie house have all of these experts sitting around waiting for a new project?  No, the vast majority of them are freelancers or free agents.  They get hired for a project and when it’s complete they all go on their merry way.  This isn’t new.  In fact, it has been in place for many years.

Executive management is increasingly becoming more fractional in nature as well – tapping “free agents” for a specific need/goal and they are engaged to deliver on this objective.  Just purchased a new division and don’t have a full-time person to run it?  Bring in an interim executive to fill the gap and buy yourself some time.  Have an underperforming division general manager that you have been keeping around too long because you don’t have a full-time replacement?   Cut the cord and fill the gap with an interim executive while you search for the full-time candidate.

In a nutshell, Interim or Fractional Executives are hired to address an issue and charged with eventually leaving that situation in better place than which it was handed to them.  The Interim Executive serves as a fractional CEO, CMO, CFO, etc. and can bring an entire career of experience to the situation.  Bottom line, they are a problem solver.  

Generally, an Interim Executive Manager takes on the oversight of the following:

    • Sales Management and Forecasting
    • Operational Streamlining
    • P&L Management
    • Cultural Change
    • Personnel Development

So, how do they go about doing this?   Well, the they can approach the division without any baggage or as they say, “dog in the hunt”.  Bringing a new set of eyes to the situation can sometimes break through the previous stalemates and “we have always done it this way” mindset.  So, they dive in and ask a lot of questions to begin with – probing the organization for tidbits on the good, bad and the ugly.  

The general process that ensues is as follows:

    • Meeting with each of the departments (operations, marketing, sales, production, warehousing, etc.) and develop an overall Strategic Business and Assessment Plan on behalf of the company/division 
    • Understanding existing frameworks and begin development of internal routines that enhance collaborative communication
    • Going through a thorough review of the P & L with recommended enhancements to profitability
    • Creating of a sales forecasting tool and the routines that support hitting those targets
    • Development and management of ongoing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
    • Working with the sales and customer service teams, preparing a detailed action plan to drive sales and margin in two ways:
      • Selling more and with a greater margin to existing customers
      • Actively soliciting new customers into the fold
    • Revamping any and all inefficient system of processes
    • Development of financial metrics to include a daily sales flash, revamped P&L statements, and financial Proforma’s

"It's rare to find a consultant who can make an immediate impact, yet John Matthews successfully does that! I had the pleasure of working with John at Destination Pet when we hired him to help us transition marketing and partner with operations to address specific challenges. I was impressed by his ability to quickly form relationships with our leadership team, quickly identify specific limitations to performance, and jump in to solve and eliminate those limitations. During a critical time for us, John helped stabilize the team and drive positive results, restructuring process and helping restructure the team. He has significant breadth and depth in marketing and operations and was an asset to us during a critical transition period." - Jennifer Strickland Fowler, CEO, Destination Pet

Interim Executives can bring a wide-ranging set of experiences to a project and utilize that diversity in applying a working solution for the task at hand.  Ultimately, this diversity can provide a breath of fresh air to the situation and leave the business in better shape than it was found.  At the end of the engagement, they move on to the next project taking another set of experiences along the way.  Welcome to the new, blossoming world of fractional management.

Want more ideas?  For more information on Gray Cat Learning Series, visit:

John Matthews, President & CEO, Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc.

John Matthews is the Founder and President of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc. a Raleigh, NC-based management consulting company. Gray Cat specializes in strategic project management and consulting for multi-unit operations; interim executive management; and strategic planning. Mr. Matthews has over 30 years of senior-level executive experience in the retail industry, involving three dynamic multi-unit companies. Mr. Matthews experience includes President of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches; Vice President of Marketing, Merchandising, Corporate Communications, Facilities and Real Estate for Clark Retail Enterprises/White Hen Pantry; and National Marketing Director at Little Caesar's Pizza! Pizza!