While the job market may be tightening for healthcare C-Suite positions, coupled with intense competition for those jobs that do become available, there is one career segment that will probably see significant growth over the next five years: interim executives.

Businessman and business sketchFor executives who have a solid record of performance in financial and operational improvement, this may be an attractive, and potentially lucrative career option.

The equation for this prediction is fairly straightforward: change brings turmoil; turmoil creates instability; instability breeds operating and financial problems, which in turn fuels executive turnover. And turnover breeds opportunity. This year there has been a steady uptick in the need for interim/turnaround executives. Many industry prognosticators that I talk with believe that this trend will only increase over the next five to seven years.

As a cautionary note, the competition for this work (like executive search) has always been intense, from the large national firms to recruiting agencies and independent executives, but for those who have a great story to tell, healthcare reform may turn out to be a professionally rewarding and lucrative gift from Washington.

Ideally, you can go after the work as a free agent, contracting directly with a board or the controlling entity. Or, you can work as a sub contractor for one of the national firms who routinely sell this service and offer a plethora of expertise and consulting resources. If you are contacted by one or two of the national recruiting firms that engage in this service, be aware that you might be unpleasantly surprised in how little of their fee you can command.

Here is a list of questions that may help you decide whether this lucrative career track is for you:

  1. Do you have 10 to 15 years of experience in a C-suite position in a variety of organizations – scope, size and complexity?
  2. Can you illustrate that your record of accomplishments is relevant: materially improving clinical, operational and financial performance?
  3. Can you demonstrate that you are politically savvy with a record of effective relationships with board members, physicians and employees?
  4. Do you have, or are you willing to aggressively build, a large network of potential referral contacts: partners in consulting and audit firms, for example. Do you have a database that can you help you stay in touch with these contacts? Are you willing to invest the time to expand that network to help you build ties with potential market targets/future customers?
  5. Are you willing to invest the time to build a strong knowledge leader brand on LinkedIn or other social media sites?
  6. Are you comfortable with self promotion, including making unsolicited telephone sales calls?
  7. Do you have the patience and physical stamina to be a road warrior? Typically interim executives get home every other weekend. More importantly, will your spouse/partner be comfortable with this lifestyle – either living in an apartment near the client’s location or accepting a relationship lifestyle with infrequent time together?
  8. Do you have the confidence and determination not to become discouraged and quit?

This is not a gig for the inexperienced, the faint of heart or those who are uncomfortable appropriately tooting their own horn. Unless you are extremely well known as a top-flight leader with an amazing record of turnaround performance, this is a business/career strategy that requires a lot of research and communicating – aka self promotion. In short, creating a company, printing business cards with somewhere like Printivity, building a professional web page with excellent content and then announcing your existence is the easy part. Building a productive network of contacts who are in a position and actually willing to help you identify and win engagements is the hard part. A lot of potential turnaround consultants are good at the former and are mediocre at the latter.