Most of us are executives or consultants (or both). As active executives, we are quite often looking for new people, to recruit them, or to hire them as contractors. As consultants, our daily concern is to find the next mission. As executives "between jobs", we need ways to present our expertise to companies which may need us.
But we have all experienced how difficult and time consuming it can be, as consultants looking for missions, or as executives looking for jobs, to meet the right people. We use our network, we meet with head hunters, we dissect adds, we prospect companies which have never heard of us.
And we have all experienced how difficult and time consuming it is, as an active executive, to find the right contractor or candidate, through hundreds of consulting offices, headhunters, our personal network, or our HR department. More so, if we are sitting in an office in Chicago, and looking for someone in Malaysia...
Isn't there a better way to satisfy our needs than the old fashioned channels? How can the demand meet the offer efficiently?
We use consultants either because we need professionals for a limited time, to help implement something in our company (a new tool, a new organization...), or because we need dedicated people to gather information and produce a smart analysis. Or we need high IQs with the expensive stamp of a respected firm to prove to our board that the strategy and vision we are presenting is unquestionably right.
In some cases, we want someone who will not just act as a consultant, but make operational decisions and implement them with authority in the command line: more like an interim manager or a part-time manager under a service contract.
We can find standard solutions directly from well established consultancies (if we can afford it). But for very specific problems (or when we can't afford standard consultancies), we may look for one individual with a specific set of competences. There are thousands of capable people out there, sometimes with the exact professional and cultural competence (for international business issues in a foreign country), and sometimes with the capability to act as an executive consultant or as an operational manager. But how can we find him or her?
Why would we need an interim manager? Because we have lost a manager with an operational role and we need someone in that seat quickly. Or because something needs to be done, that standard managers are not competent for doing. Or because we need a specific competence for a limited time, maybe not even full time.
In all cases, the person we need must be quick minded, to take over instantaneously and operationally capable, if possible in the cultural environment where our problem stands. The ideal person could well be an Australian executive looking for a part time job, a Malaysian consultant with operational competence, a French CFO with years of experience in China, or a US former Business Unit VP who can speak Uzbek...
How can we find this person? Through Interim Management offices in the target country, or through head hunters. But how likely is it that these structures have the rare bird in their candidates list?
Why is a permanent position different from an interim management assignment? Because the top executive has to live on the long term with his decisions, and drive the operational routine (even though, in a fast changing world, routine means less and less nowadays). It is not easier to lead people on the long term than through changes, it's just a different mindset.
Hiring such a top executive is not something that one would want to do in a hurry: any mistake in such recruitment has a high cost. Wouldn't it be interesting to have the opportunity to test a promising candidate through short term assignments, before signing him for real? For instance when we expect the activity to go through phases (start-up, fast growth, stabilization...)?
"Expert advice" is usually for a very specific topic: HR, technology, communication, marketing... What about "executive" expert?
When we are engrossed in our work, having someone to talk to, someone with a different viewpoint (albeit an expert in executive's work) may not appear like a necessity. But it may make the difference between a good and a bad decision. It's not so much that this person knows what we don't know, but it takes a peer to ask the tough questions, challenge what seems evidence, or use his own experience to contradict ours.
How to find this peer? Amongst our friends? We know that their advice will be biased. In our board, or amongst our colleagues? The hidden power games will also bias both the advice and the way we accept it. A coach? His competence is not in operations.
Why not pay someone? Because we need to be sure that we pay for real value, not just for the time he or she will spend to understand our situation. We would want someone who can almost instantly understand the big picture we are confronted to, compare it with similar situations he has faced, ask quickly the right questions to understand similarities and differences, use his hindsight to adapt the lessons he has learnt to our problem, and help us draw quickly some relevant conclusions.
This rare bird would need to have one more quality: be able to humbly present his comments so that we will accept to be contradicted, and to build jointly the solution.
This rare bird should have long ears (to listen), a quick mind (to understand fast), a sweet voice (to ask nasty questions in a nice way), no ego (challenging ours) yet firm confidence in his hindsight, a convincing background, and the big white beard of the wise man.
Amongst the thousands of executives out there, in our country or in another country, this person exists. And if he or she is located 8000 kilometers away, it should not prevent us from getting his or her expertise... if we can reliably build a remote relationship using modern distant work tools. But the problem is to find him or her.
How can you meet all these needs today? Today, if you want a mate, you will find hundreds of official public sites. You will meet over the net, get to know each others, use video calls, share things... But if you need an executive, it's like Stone Age.
What if you could find a marketplace, with a reliable intermediary who would make the effort to identify quickly the person you are looking for in a matter of days? What if you had reliable tools to make your own opinion on the competence of this executive and your personal fit with him or her? How would you imagine such a marketplace?
And yes, it does exist, already.