The part-time CEO

Written by: James Dunne
Published on: 15 Aug 2016

    Famously, Steve Jobs was the boss of both Apple and Pixar. However, as quoted by Walter Isaacson in his biography of Jobs, “It was…the worst time in my life”.  

    Of course it’s very important to distinguish between the two jobs Jobs had and the kind of jobs most CEOs have.  Trying to run two huge companies doesn’t strike me – and others - as a great idea.  Doubtless there will be some supermen/women who can do it, but I don’t think most of us are up to the challenges and strains involved.

    That’s not to say that you can’t be a part-time CEO or Director. Whether a “proper” Chief Exec working part/flexi-time or a senior businessperson helping out on an interim basis, there are many openings for those who, for whatever reason, seek a different kind of challenge. The opportunities for senior-level, part-time work are perhaps greater in the third/public sectors than in the private sector, although the latter does have quite a few companies who are seeking short-term/interim management. At the time of writing there are 19 part-time roles on exec-appointments – which, given our niche position, compares very favourably to many other job-boards.

    These should be seen against the background of the increasing trend towards flexible working in the UK.  British government statistics confirm the substantial rise in the numbers working part-time, with the ONS reporting, “Between the 3 months to February 2016 and March to May 2016, there were 8.52 million people working part-time, 223,000 more than for a year earlier.” In contrast, in the USA, the number working part-time in June 2016 was slightly lower than a year earlier, but this was after substantial growth from August 2015, to April 2016.

    Obviously, the vast majority of those seeking a CEO level role want a full-time, full-on position, where they can wield the levers of power and generate revenue, status and prosperity for their companies. That said, at C-Suite level I suspect there are more people now considering part-time exec appointments.  Those made redundant (and most of us have at one time or another), those returning to work after a career break (usually, but not always, women), senior-level gurus who want a few years more work before retirement (but without the same day-to-day intensity as at the full-time coal-face), self-employed turnaround specialists – these and many others are all looking for a variety of challenges that part-time, exec-level appointments offer.  Many will put in far more hours than they are paid for, reflecting the work ethos that got them to the top in the first place.  For private sector firms and public/third sector organisations they can be a neglected species.  When a big-hitter – say your CIO, CFO, CMO - leaves the senior management team there is invariably a long wait while you embark on a 6-12 month headhunt (and exec-appts solution, naturally!) for his/her successor. In such circumstances, it might be worth looking to a highly experienced interim exec working flexi-time to fill the gap..?

    James Dunne,