Fresh from being named Interim Manager of the Year in the National category at last week’s Wessex100 awards, David Jones talks to us about his winning project and life as an interim.
David, congratulations on the award. Tell us a little about your winning assignment.
Intense competition from brands such as Apple and Samsung had been eroding SONY Europe’s margins, yet only a handful of the business’ European operating centres had an existing procurement capability. Those which did, operated independently and were unable to deliver savings on anything but a fragmented proportion of SONY’s €1 billion pan-European spend. I was given ownership for establishing the common foundations for the pan-European procurement practice; its policies, systems, procedures, reporting and communications with the objective of driving up the proportion of the spend which could be leveraged through pan-European contracts.
For more information, here is a reference from SONY’s European Procurement Director: open link
What attracted you to taking it on?
It was a great opportunity. I’d led procurement transformations across Europe before, but this was across almost forty countries, and a spend of €1 billion for a brand like SONY.
How long have you been undertaking interim projects?
I’ve been an interim for more than a decade, working with circa twenty clients; usually well known brands, such as Motorola, Aviva, BAA, BASF etc., often with a European footprint. I’ve been on assignment for DHL in an EMEA procurement role, based out of Brussels for the last nine months.
Why did you become an interim manager?
I thrived on consulting assignments earlier in my career: rapidly analysing, diagnosing, prioritizing & managing stakeholder relationships whilst advising on manufacturing, procurement and supply chain changes. In my experience though, being an interim is even more rewarding. We’re not just advisors – interims deliver the difference. And, personally, I love the variety, enjoy making new friends and learning new things too. It’s a great job.
What do you find most challenging – and, conversely, most rewarding – about interim work?
Although we try to keep in touch, I miss working with quite a lot of good friends that I’ve made along the way; and there are times when I’ve wished I could spend more time developing a team that I’ve set up. To have the satisfaction of watching the team develop and grow. The team in SONY Europe is a good example of that. Conversely though, the pace at which interim leaders are exposed to opportunities which stretch us (professionally and as people) is extraordinarily rewarding. The intensity of that learning in different industries, geographies and cultures would be really difficult to replicate in more typical line management roles. There are other upsides too – interims have greater control over when they take time out and what they’re earning, and can have assignments in a variety of geographies, without having to relocate a young family every few years. I’m particularly grateful for that.
Riding out periodic downturns in the market, is perhaps one of the biggest challenges that career interims face. However, even in between assignments there is an up-side – we get to invest time with our families and I tend to do some voluntary work; all of which helps to restore that bit of balance.
In what ways can an interim manager contribute / have an impact in comparison to a permanent appointment?
An established interim manager will contribute very quickly. It doesn’t take us months to get our arms around a role. When you join a new organisation and are paid on a daily basis it really focuses the mind on delivering value rapidly to establish the client’s confidence that they’ve got the right person and that the payback is definitely there. Objectivity is another obvious benefit. It’s reassuring for clients that interim leaders won’t have vested interests and are less concerned with the impact of internal politics, than doing what’s best for the business. Working across lots of industries also familiarises interims with the widest possible range of transferable “best in class” practices.
David, thank you for your time.