What does an interim manager do?


An interim manager takes over important activities in the company for a certain period of time. However, their function is not merely to fill a gap, but to operate as a temporary expert who makes valuable contributions to success due to his or her experience and leadership skills. This is often necessary for important projects or tasks that are limited in time and require specific expertise. The activities can therefore be very varied and challenging.

In the following article, we explain exactly what an interim manager does, what skills he or she should have and what the costs of the assignment are.

Table of contents

When is an interim manager employed?

Interim managers take on a variety of tasks in the company to be able to help in important or tense phases. This flexibility means that you benefit both in projects and in organisational and operational tasks.

This includes deployment in the following important activities in the company:

– As a technical expert with management experience

– As a project manager for important, strategic or political projects

– As a manager for organisationally difficult tasks

– In setting up new divisions, departments or companies

– For internationalisation and development of international business

– As support for succession planning

– For bridging vacancies

As a technical expert with management experience

There are countless industries, products and processes that require many years of expertise to take on a managerial role. In this case, interim managers can provide vast advantages, because they often have the necessary experience and knowledge.

There is no need for a long induction period and the manager can be deployed immediately as a productive member. In addition, due to his or her experience, he or she brings along important insights from his or her field of expertise that can otherwise only be obtained on the free market, or through expensive consultants.

As project manager for important, strategic or political projects.

An interim manager is also perfectly suited to take on projects within the company. These can be external customer projects or internal projects, for example to modernise systems, processes, or the organization in general.

The big advantages here are that projects, like interim management have a defined time limit. This means that the manager can implement politically sensitive projects more easily because he or she then leaves the company again.

As a manager for organisationally difficult tasks

It is not uncommon for organisational tasks to arise in the company that can only be handled by a specialist with professional competence. These include the topics of cost reduction, optimisation and profit increase.

These are also classic goals of the management, but sometimes the necessary resources or the specialised know-how to achieve these goals is missing. In such cases, an interim manager can take over these difficult tasks as well as the responsibility for them.

When setting up new divisions, departments or companies

Especially when setting up new departments, divisions, or even entire companies, it can make sense to rely on external help from interim management. This is is to relieve management of additional work on top of the day-to-day business.

This can put too much strain on existing managers and quickly overtax them. Interim management, on the other hand, can concentrate entirely on these new areas, tasks and companies. In this case, you no longer have to choose between prioritizing day-to-day business or expansion.

On internationalisation and building up international business

Another important aspect is the increasing globalisation, which can pose great challenges for companies. However, companies can also profit a great deal from it. For companies from the DACH region, there are more and more attractive opportunities in Europe and Asia.

The interim manager can focus fully on building up the international business. Balancing this priority with day-to-day business activities is not necessary in this case. As a reliable partner at your side, we help you find the right expert for Europe or Asia.

To support succession planning

Particularly in family businesses and companies, there are often challenges when it comes to succession planning. The successors are not always suited to take over all tasks without problems immediately.

An experienced interim manager can help ensure that the handover and succession run as smoothly as possible. He or she not only provides advice, but also takes on operational and organizational tasks as needed. In this way, the successor is not immediately burnt out and has a sparring partner to accompany him in the first phase of the takeover. The burden of responsibility can be shared.

Deployment to bridge vacancies

The use as a vacancy-bridging measure is no longer as popular in the modern working world. Sometimes, however, a company can only fill a vacancy permanently after a lengthy search. Or the candidate is not available for several months until he or she is released from his or her old contract and becomes available.

But the urgent operational tasks don’t wait until a position is filled and an experienced manager is needed who is immediately available to step in. In such cases, an interim solution is the best option. You get a reliable manager immediately who can be replaced later by the new staff without any problems.

What is the job description of an interim manager?

The classic job description of an interim manager is defined by his experience and the tasks he performs. Namely, he is an operationally involved professional who is expected to take on responsibility and leadership. He draws on many years of experience and is convincing due to his expert knowledge as well as his leadership skills.

This makes him particularly suitable for carrying out extraordinary tasks in management. They can often take on these tasks completely without or with minimal training and thus immediately bring added value to the company. The costs of using a freelance manager on a temporary basis are manageable and easy to plan, also because most of the ancillary wage costs are not incurred.

What qualities does an interim manager need?

To be successful as an interim manager, you need a whole range of skills and qualities. After all, the manager has to be able to adapt to the new company right from the start. In addition, he needs special qualities to perform important tasks so that he can opperate in a results-oriented manner.

In the following sections we explain the essential qualities in detail:

– Qualified education and training

– Many years of relevant professional experience

– Goal and result orientation

– High level of social competence

– Strong communication skills

– Confidence in appearance

– Confidence in the field

Qualified training and further education

In interim management, the right training is often a decisive factor. This allows you to signal to the company at an early stage what specialist skills you have. For the management of important global IT projects, a degree in one of the information sciences can be very useful.

It is equally important for the interim manager to constantly educate himself and keep his knowledge up to date. The corporate world is constantly evolving, and the latest knowledge and technologies help to remain competitive in the long term.

Many years of relevant professional experience

The second important criterium is many years of professional experience in relevant positions. As a rule, the manager should be able to look back on a total of more than 15 years. Of these 15 years, at least 7 years should have been spent in a management position.

This means that the candidate has gained enough experience to be able to take on various roles in the company without any problems. In addition, this also provides the best prerequisites for employment as a manager.

Goal and result orientation

Interim management must always be goal- and result-oriented. After all, these are the essential criteria to quantify success. Those who achieve the set goals or results leave no room for doubt when interpreting success.

This is also often an essential differentiating factor from managers in the company. The internal managers, of course, also have their set goals, but the interim manager usually has specific time frames set to complete his or her task. For this reason they are required to work more purposefully in order to be able to deliver the first results as soon as possible.

High social competence

The interim manager is challenged from the very beginning and has to fulfil the set goals. In doing so, however, he is often dependent on other employees who do not always perceive his presence positively. An interim manager often has little time to build up a good relationship with his colleagues.

That is precisely why he must convince with a high level of social competence. The ability to work in a team, assertiveness, but also self-reflection and empathy play very important roles. Finally, strong communication skills are vital to success.

Strong communication skills

The interim manager often takes on important tasks in the company that require strong communication skills and a deciciveness. Especially in politically sensitive projects or restructurings, he or she must always be able to choose the right words.

Otherwise the entire undertaking can quickly be steered in an irreversible direction and the implementation jeopardised in the long term. Even with such tasks, the manager is dependent on help and assistance in order to be able to complete the project on time in accordance with the agreed goals.

Confidence in appearance

Interim managers who immediately take on a responsible position in the company must demonstrate a confident demeanor. Doubts must not be allowed to arise under any circumstances, also because they could hinder the implementation, whether justified or not.

For this reason, the manager must always appear and act in a confident manner. This helps ensure that the other employees have the necessary confidence in the reliability of the manager in tackling organizational tasks and challenges.

Confidence in the field

Ultimately, however, it is of great importance that the Interim manager has the necessary security and expertise in the respective field. This is a product of education and training as well as the work experience that the interim manager has been able to gather over the years. In the best case, there is even a personal passion involved.

If you are an expert in your field, it is easier for you to find your way around the company and to implement all the goals you have set in a timely manner. In addition, the client benefits from an external expert view of his internal problems, because operational blindness is not a problem for the interim manager.

How much does interim management cost or earn?

When using an interim manager, there are usually two models as far as the type of employment is concerned. If the manager is employed directly by your company, then the annual salary is of course the first big factor. As is usual with salaried employees, there are around 30 % ancillary wage costs. There is also usually some form of profit-sharing to provide an extra incentive.

There are also temporary managers who work either freelance or for an external company. Then a daily rate usually applies, similar to that of a consultant. For the most part, non-wage labour costs are no longer incurred, but there are some exceptions. For example, a freelance interim manager requires a workplace or an office as well as IT equipment to be able to work efficiently in the company environment.

Direct employment is often a better suited option for longer assignments, but it also involves a little more effort and risk. After all, you enter into a contract, even if it is temporary. An interim manager on loan from a partner, on the other hand, can be deployed flexibly on a daily or weekly basis. However, this flexibility can also cost a little more. On the 3i Business Solutions side, we have the approach that all interim managers are employed by 3i Business Solutions, and the social security is also handled by us. This makes it easier for our clients because we are flexible and the investment is calculable. This is a tried and tested model for success.

Note: Due to different qualifications, it hardly makes sense to name concrete amounts. An interim manager costs as much as a permanent employee in a comparable position, but there is of course a premium for flexibility. A good guideline for the daily rate is about 1/100 of the gross annual salary of the position to be filled (if the position exists or would exist). At 200,000 CHF per year, this would approximately equate to a daily rate of 2,000 CHF.

What are the requirements to become an interim manager?

First of all, you should have all the qualities we explained in detail earlier in the article. Education, work experience, social skills and a confident manner are just a few of them. There is another important requirement that many neglect at first glance. You have to be the right type to work as an interim manager.

Even if you have all the qualities, you should be aware that you will be working on short to medium-term assignments that are not always perceived positively by other employees in the company. You have to adapt to each individual organization and – unlike a consultant – show operational responsibility and leadership right from the get-go. This often creates unpleasant friction within the company, which should not diminish your motivation.

However, if you bring all the qualities with you and have a positive attitude towards the challenging job description, then you may be just the right candidate to succeed in interim management. Ultimately, a temporary manager comes into the company to leave later, i.e. on an interim basis (Latin meaning: ad interim).


The tasks and activities of an interim manager are varied and challenging. The focus is on managing demanding projects and taking over important management positions in order to help the company in critical phases. Especially in the DACH region, more and more SMEs are turning to international markets, primarily those in Europe and Asia.

Many of these countries have local peculiarities, cultures and laws that require appropriate expertise. As a leading interim management company with many years of experience in Europe and Asia, we help you to build up your international business quickly and efficiently. Our interim managers will independently take over all activities without you having to neglect your day-to-day business.

Contact us now and let us advise you comprehensively.

Author and 3i contact

Patrick Mathys

E-Mail: [email protected]

Phone: +41 32 426 8888