In Austria, too, the interim manager industry has been growing steadily in recent years. The reason for this is not restructuring, but above all the ubiquitous change topics that require experienced strategists and implementers.

The Situation of the Interim Manager Market in Austria

In many European countries, interim management has become an integral part of business activity. Germany in particular stands out in an international comparison: the country has now advanced to become the world’s number one interim manager. In Austria, interim management is developing more slowly, but is also becoming an increasingly important management tool. A survey by an interim broker shows that 28% of companies in Austria want to use interim managers (2018). In 2017 it was still 11% – within a single year there was thus an increase of almost two and a half times. 27% of the companies stated that they had already deployed interim managers themselves. Interim management is also establishing itself in Austria. The recently published Family Business Survey 2018 by PwC provides a similar indication. In Austria, 43% of those surveyed stated that they would deploy external interim managers in the next two years.

A study from 2019, also from Austria, also shows that the top reasons for this are change assignments, of course frequently in the context of digital transformation. The companies particularly appreciate the rapid readiness for action and the objectivity of the external experts.

Interim managers for growth, innovation and modernisation

Traditionally, interim managers were often regarded as crisis fire brigades. Today, this view has changed dramatically. Reorganization orders have been declining sharply for years. Increasingly, there are areas of application such as growth, innovation, further development, sales or personnel development issues, often related to digitization. Experts from all relevant disciplines are on call at short notice to seize opportunities and exploit potential. The focus is therefore not on restructuring, but on development, with change as the key corporate theme.

Nevertheless, it is evident that many publications on interim managers still use outdated metaphors, speak of fire brigades, fires and crises, which also shapes the public image of a service that has long since been able to do much more.

Perhaps it is also the combination of strategic changes with simultaneous responsibility for the operative business that makes the service difficult for some to assess. The definition has become established: The assignment is a management task that is precisely defined in terms of time, serves a special purpose and is endowed with specific powers for this purpose. Claudia Heinrich, who is researching the success factors of interim management at the University of Leipzig, explains: “Interim managers should analyze situations found in the company, develop adequate solution concepts and then implement these independently.

Also in Austria: Interim managers drive growth through change

Recent surveys show that inquiring companies are primarily concerned with neutral input and a breath of fresh air from outside – or that interim managers contribute skills that are not available in the companies and do not necessarily have to be permanent. According to an Executives Online study, one of the larger interim brokers, one-third of the assignments were in change situations alone, the majority of which took place in industry and manufacturing companies. These figures are in line with the above findings for Austria.

Changes often require corresponding competencies at short notice. For the stable management of everyday business, completely different skills are required than for leading a change, which is why even high-ranking and deserving permanent managers who are top-notch in their regular management tasks are not always perfect managers for change situations. Often simply because experience is lacking or when it comes to transformational leadership instead of management. On the other hand, many interim managers have extensive additional training – very often in the field of change management. Since they have often already taken on such tasks, they also have far more practical know-how in this field and have developed the right personality for transformational leadership.

It can be assumed that this topic will also bring further growth to the industry in Austria. After all, the above-mentioned PwC study shows that innovation and digitisation are at the top of the to-do list of family businesses in Austria. The generally good communication and somewhat flatter hierarchies in family businesses are advantageous prerequisites for interim managers. They are expected to deliver rapid results that can hardly be achieved without good employee involvement. Assuming the right social skills, interim managers are quickly trained: Ludwig Heuse GmbH determined in 2015 that 78% of temporary managers had all relevant problems under control after only 30 days.

Interim managers bring companies an attractive return on investment

The interim managers were also convincing in terms of costs: According to Heuse, only every twentieth mandate ultimately causes costs. The return on investment (or more accurately: the RoIM – Return on Interim Management) was positive in 19 out of 20 mandates. About every tenth assignment is cost-neutral, with approximately 85% of the mandates having revenues that doubled to ten times higher than the costs. The interim managers thus impressively demonstrate what is possible if you have the right skills and experience on board. You can find further information on the subject of “Added value of an interim manager” here, the costs are explained in more detail here. By the way: Most of my own mandates so far fell into the group of those who contributed ten times or more.

The ubiquitous change and demographic development will continue to drive the Interim Management service in Austria, that much is certain. Experts with the appropriate organisational knowledge and change experience are becoming increasingly important for companies in Austria – and it has also been shown that many who have once tried an interim manager become existing customers. The sector is also becoming an important factor in modern corporate management in Austria, as it already is in Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain and the USA. The image of the interim manager as a company fire brigade is also changing in Austria.

I myself am a good example of the development of the industry: I am not responsible for restructuring, but help my customers to grow. My core areas are markets and customers (e.g. target group management, segment management, digitization in sales, increasing earnings …) and innovation projects (e.g. new business models, tapping potential, better customer centricity …) as well as leadership and mentoring (e.g. I contribute agility, develop managers etc.). My numerous training courses and certificates all point in this direction. I am a certified change and project manager, business model innovator, participant in the Management Forum Starnberg on the topic of “digitization in sales” and much more. In the current environment I can therefore be a valuable partner for Austrian companies. You can find an example from my practice here. In this case I have supported the innovative Gmundner SIHGA GmbH – the application caused a tripling of the EBIT and a double-digit sales growth, the previous record values of the enterprise. Although my own company, SLIM Management GmbH, is based in Salzburg, I am available throughout Austria and Germany – like many of my colleagues I am very mobile.

So if you are looking for an interim manager for your company: Contact me at any time. I can look back on many years of interim experience and have received several awards for my assignments – in Austria, Germany and on international stages. I will be happy to inform you about the possibilities. If I should not be the right person for your tasks, I can certainly find you a suitable person from my extensive network.

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