How Interim Executives Can Help You Grow with Kristen McAlister

6 Minutes Read

Episode 58

In today’s episode, co-owner of Cerius Executives and author of How I fired my Boss and Made More Money, Kristen McAlister shares with us her 10+ years of experience leveraging interim leadership to help companies grow.

She discusses who interim executives are and how you can benefit from them to regain strategic vision in your company and expand your horizons. She also shares insights about how best to manage dynamics between your permanent staff and interim executives.

If you want to grow your company and expand your potential, this episode is for you!


Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  • Get insight on how to manage the dynamics between permanent staff and interim executives.
  • Discover what an interim executive is and how they differ from fractional executives.
  • Find out why an interim executive may be a great fit for your organization and an answer to its challenges.

Episode Highlights

Kirsten’s journey from retail to owning an interim executive company

    • She used to work in retail and got laid off in 2008.
    • She decided she wanted to consult and began taking consulting appointments.
    • However, she felt she had no impact, because a few months down the line companies would call and say they have the same problem.
    • The main issue was that there was no one inside helping the company on the day to day.
    • She was having this conversation with someone she is on a non profit board with who is now her co-owner: Pamela Wasley.
    • They did a management buyout of Cerius Executives and now they own it.

How her company shifted strategically

    • Cerius Executive used to be made up of a loose group of consultants but they realized that you need more than consultants, you need someone to step in and work side by side with people inside the company.
    • Interim executive hiring is a prevailing model in Europe, so they decided to bring the model to the United States.
    • They built a great reputation doing this and the company grew.

Typical mistakes most companies make in talent acquisition

    • Mistake 1: They make the same mistake over and over (for example: letting go of the third CFO in 4 years, “we had to let them go, we are not sure what we are doing wrong”).
    • Mistake 2: They wish their staff would do things a certain way that may be beyond their capacity or leadership level (for example: I wish my Head of HR would do this).
    • Mistake 3: They give employees things to do that they don’t want to do and put them in a position where they can’t say no out of fear and loyalty (for example “I did it because you asked me to”).
    • Mistake 4: They don’t slow down to try and fix cracks, they just want to use what’s around them (quick temporary fixes).
    • You don’t have to replace staff, sometimes you just need someone who complements their skills with the leadership skills needed to place a solid infrastructure.
    • Companies need to adopt an “I don’t have all the answers mentality”. Sometimes, stepping back is the best way to solve problems.

Beliefs to be killed after todays show & What attracts executives to want an interim role

    • There are 3 myths about interim executives: (1) they’ll be retired; (2) they can’t keep a full time job; (3) they don’t have equity/stake so they won’t be invested in my company’s success.
    • These myths may be true, but only in a small number of cases.
    • Most interim execs have had an executive career for a long time but are looking for something more time flexible now.

How Cerius Executive shifted with Covid-19

    • They were already virtual.
    • Rates have stayed the same, sometimes even increasing.
    • The biggest shift was interacting with clients on zoom.
    • Motivated them to start building virtual communities of executives.
    • Creating a community fosters the feeling of “I am not the only one”; being part of a community breaks the feeling of loneliness.

Strategic approaches to business transition

    • Shift thinking from “I need this because I’ve got this problem” to “I am not sure what the problem is, I need someone to figure it out”.
    • Stepping back and solving the right problems.
    • Adopting an “I don’t have all the answers” mentality.

Is an interim executive what your company needs?

    • Visualize 6 months from now what your company would ideally look like, then work backwards.
    • Bringing in a superman that comes in and solves everything is a recipe for disaster.
    • Begin with the end in mind.
    • Ask yourself what are the things that need to have happened for you to get to where you want to be.
    • Optimum company size range for interim executives is 5 million – 100 million (companies who do not have an executive bench).
    • A 10 million dollar company doesn’t need a team of executives, they just need to pull them in on an as needed basis.

Assessing the right fit (right fit>right person)

    • Profiling is an effective way to determine work-style fit.
    • Knowing up front the work style of who you are working with saves a lot of time and avoids misunderstandings.
    • It’s not always the person, sometimes it is the fit (wrong person v. wrong fit).
    • Look for the right fit; if you hire only based on talent you might bring toxicity into the workplace.
    • Is your team aligned with your strategic objectives?

Kristen’s two books

    • How I fired my boss and made more money: There wasn’t much knowledge about interim execs 10 years ago which motivated her to write this book.
    • The New Executive Search: How Smart Companies Are Using Interim Executives: Myths and misconceptions, story and journey of an interim executive.

What Kristen wants to be known for

    • Being in service to fellow people.
    • She wants to be remembered for her “how can I help you attitude”.
    • It is always about how you can help people, not what they can do for you.


5 Powerful Quotes from this Episode

Who is an interim executive?

00:01 - "Interim executives are everything from: (a) they sold a company and they don’t want to go start another one but they want to help other CEOs do it and they’re far from being able to retire from that age, they don’t want to. To (b) they’ve had a great executive career for 20-30 years and they love the flexibility. Or they’ve got a growing family and they want that flexibility and they only want to work three or four days a week but they’ve got the wealth of knowledge and experience say I’m going to jump into companies three to four days a week and help them out. They do it not necessarily because they need to pay their bills it is something they enjoy and it’s this high they get off of helping someone else be successful”

Typical mistakes in talent acquisition

10:48 - “It’s anything from they’ve made the mistake over and over, we’ll often get a call of “my third CFO in four years just quit, or we had to let them go we’re not sure what we’re doing wrong” or they’re talking about “i wish my head of HR would do this” or “I'm having these issues and i know that so-and-so should be doing this””.

You don’t need to replace your loyal employees

11:14 - “You don’t necessarily need to replace them but they’re not the level of leader, they were the fifth or sixth person in your company, you need to upgrade your leadership and bring someone in not full-time but part time to work with them side by side; and either coach them or put the infrastructure in place and then show them how to manage that infrastructure once it’s in place”

The ‘I’m the only one’ feeling

19:45 - “I think as leaders, as entrepreneurs, and CEOs in some cases, especially when adversity strikes, you can feel as though it’s only happening to you. Even though the world outside you can see visually the news you know back in the real estate collapse in 2008 when wall street collapsed you could feel as though you were the only one losing a home, or you were the only one losing a job, or you were only losing part of your 401k; you know inside of the world of leadership we always realize at times it feels like we’re lonely at the top, number one, and then, at number two, when things are happening to us uh that maybe blindside us irrespective of the circumstances or catalysts, you can feel like you don’t know “oh it’s only happening to me” and so i love that you guys started bringing people together in groups and communities.”

Wrong fit vs. wrong talent

37:43 - “There’s this economic conversation called the J-curve. The J-curve simply is a situation where you’re going to start paying or investing but there’s going to be a process where you’re going to make the investment and never see a return. The question is how long is that curve going to take before it’s now a positive roi on the investment and if you get the wrong fit, not necessarily the wrong talent that curve may never get back to break even because there’s all those all these interim issues.”



Kristen’s FREE Gift to The MindShift Podcast Listeners to find out where you are getting stuck, tells you which phase to focus on

Kristen’s books: How I Fired My Boss and Made More Money | The New Executive Search: How Smart Companies Are Using Interim Executives

Predictive Index (Talent Optimization Platform)

What is a J curve?

Connect with Kristen McAlister: Twitter | LinkedIn


About Kristen McAlister

Kristen McAlister is the co-owner of Cerius Executives, a firm that helps growing companies find the talent they need to grow and scale their business. Over the last 10 years, Kristin has taught companies how to leverage interim executives for transitional situations. She also wrote How I fired my boss and made more money and The New Executive Search: How Smart Companies Are Using Interim Executives. If you wish to connect with Kristen, you may visit her website. You may also reach out to her on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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Darrell Evans

Darrell Evans is a serial entrepreneur, investor, and Co-founder/CEO of Yokel Local Digital Marketing Agency. He and his teams have helped businesses generate over $300M+ in revenue online. Every month, he leads virtual workshops teaching actionable strategies and tips from his experience helping companies market, grow, and scale.