Establishing a ‘Big Company Manager‘ as a Self-employed Freelancer in Interim Management & Management Consulting

Strategic Key Success Factors

Master's Thesis, 2019

75 Pages, Grade: 75


Table of contents

Executive summary


List of tables

List of figures

1. Introduction
1.1. Project and investigation context
1.2. Aims and objectives
1.3. Personal objectives
1.4. Organisational objectives

2. Problem definition
2.1. Discussion and definition of the problem drawing on relevant literature to develop the investigation
2.2. Linking the discussion to the data collection method and process to address the issue
2.2.1. Sampling and preparing the data with a focus on justification drawing on literature and need of the issue

3. Collection and analysis of evidence
3.1. Discussion of the process of collecting the evidence/fieldwork
3.2. Analysis based on a logical and appropriate process to enhance the analysis
3.3. Develop more cogent understanding of the issues and findings
3.3.1. Interrelationships to the issues and subsequent analysis

4. Conclusion and recommendation
4.1 Conclusions
4.2. Recommendations
4.3. Consideration of critical implementation issues to the investigation

5. Personal reflection
5.1. Evaluation of personal learning and development to the investigation
5.2. Achievement of personal learning objectives
5.3. Future development needs




Executive summary

The title of this research project gives an indication of the subject. It explores four issues for a start-up in business in the DACH region, in order to find strategic key success factors for establishing me as a self-employed freelancer in Interim Management and Management Consulting.

There are further four research questions with objectives addressed in my investigation which have been focused on.

Part of the research involved interviewing sixteen people with knowledge/experience of Interim Management and/or Management Consulting. During the interviews, eight questions have been asked regarding an Interim Management working model/market and Management Consulting Marketing/Image. The developed interview questions have been semi-structured with a small guiding introduction. The interview questions helped to develop a more cogent understanding of the issues and findings, and the interrelationships related to the issues.

Conclusions have been, that the research questions have been answered, and recommendations made as follows hereafter.

Why does the number of new Interim Managers reduce in Europe? With the objective to find the root cause. This conclusion is clear, that supports the objective with the well running economy in DACH for long term are less and less managers in permanent employment have been thinking to decide for the working model of Interim Management. So, the ones active in the market obviously consciously opts for this working model are therefore already longer than two years in business. The recommendation is clear, that if any permanent employment does not meet my expectations, Interim Management is a highly attractive alternative as a self-employed freelancer, but only in full time possible by replacement of any permanent manager role at any company with required on-site work.

What is my profile as Interim Manager? With the objective to detect a successful path in the Interim Management market. This conclusion is clear, that supports the objective with a need for a better profiling are no signs visible of any bubble in the Interim Management market for DACH. The recommendation is clear, that my individual profile (i.e. based on my educations, experiences, capabilities, expectations, reflections) will enable me to find contracts fitting to me.

What makes marketing in Management Consulting effective? With the objective to turn marketing to an advantage for my small consultancy. This conclusion is clear, that supports the objective with an individual mix to approach customer fields are turning making to an advantage. This recommendation is clear, that a strong individual network will allow me to approach the diverse customer fields in an efficient way to finally get new contracts. I cannot ignore any single field, because of strong dependencies and connections within the different field.

What is it that makes me special, unique on some dimension as a Consultant? With the objective to set an image for sale to clients. The conclusion is clear, that supports the objective with an individual image based on speciality and uniqueness to sell a vested image to any customer. The recommendation is clear, that to not offer anything what in the end I am not able to deliver, because this will bring an image down to be repudiated finally. It might be once extremely difficult to turn a bad image into a good image.


Firstly, I would like to thank my family, friends and ex-colleagues for their support that they gave me during my MBA journey.

I would also like to thank my supervisor Richard W. Frost for his guidance and patience in ensuring that I completed this research project.

Lastly, I would like to thank my syndicate study groups in GM03, GM04, GM08, GM09 and all interview participants.

List of tables

Table 1: Sample of interviewees

List of figures

Figure 1: Brand portfolio structure

Figure 2: Value proposition framework

Figure 3: The firm’s unique competing space

Figure 4: Shrinking unique competing space

Figure 5: Unique competing space and strategic boundaries

Figure 6: Kapferer’s brand identity prism

1. Introduction

This document is concerned with a singular and very specialised subject: the key to successful transition for an experienced manager whose career to date has been within various small, medium and large firms, into becoming an Interim Manager and Consultant, working independently.

Now more to my background with three finished work educations in Germany. The first has been as Production Modeller in 1993, then Batchelor of Purchasing and Material Management in 1999 and finally as Master of Industrial Engineering in 2006. I completed them in the German dual education system or while working within a company. I am only 47 years old and am expected, according German law, to work for 15 years more before reaching retirement age.

The most experience by function I have gained as dependent employed individual, is within Purchasing, Procurement, Material Management, Supply Chain Management (SCM), and Quality in the Automotive, Retail, Software and Medical Device industries over the last 30 years, as an employee working for diverse SMEs and MNEs up to the 3rd global organisational management level in the companies hierarchical structure with success. The leadership and supplier market responsibility covered local, regional and global geographic areas.

The title of this paper has given already an indication about the subject, but it does need more explanation. Interim Management & Management Consulting are two areas to be considered as areas where my experience and skills may enable me to be successful as an independent operator.

Briefly defining the terms, we might describe a management consultant as (according to the Barnes Reports, 2018) is: ‘…establishments primarily engaged in providing advice and assistance to businesses and other organizations on management issues, such as strategic and organizational planning; financial planning and budgeting; marketing objectives and policies; human resource policies, practices, and planning; production scheduling; and control planning.’ According to Gross & Poor (2008) the industry is less than 150 years old and the first association was formed in the USA during the 1930s and later in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (Kosmath, 1974).

An Interim Manager may be defined as (according to Russam, 2005): a person offering a high degree of knowledge, skills and experience within a particular field, who takes a short-term assignment within a firm, to manage a particular role, within a period of change, transition or crisis. Such crises may be a sudden death or period of illness for a key worker, who would normally take some time to properly and fully replace (perhaps 6 months to a year to find the right person and have he or she work their notice at the previous firm). According to Russman (2005), Vousden (2002), and Alewell et al. (2005) it is still a young discipline started in the Anglo-American part of the world initially, with the foundation of related Interim Management Associations in the USA and UK as of 1987, and later in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

We know that there are many such independent operators in the field (explained later in this work), so a requirement is to create a successful ‘brand’; the branding is about me to better sell and differentiate my service capabilities to different customers and industries.

My home base is Munich (Germany), so my active radius is planned to be 400 km around it, because the customer will likely expect the consultant to work onsite for most of the working week - especially true for interim management - and this is a manageable distance to travel daily or weekly. This means also, that my geographic area covers parts of Germany, Austria and Switzerland - all German-speaking nations, and known collectively - from their international country abbreviations - as DACH or the DACH region.

I decided to become self-employed, because I believe that my background and experience can bring value for any client, give me a more varied working experience, and also - hopefully - bring greater financial rewards. An essential point is as well the potential to work as a freelancer according to German law in parallel to a dependent employed contract with any company, if this was agreed. It means that I could start off in a small way and progress from this secure base. This gives a reasonable opportunity to generate my future income, with more flexibility.

In terms of interim management the outlook in the DACH region, according to Knothe (2018: 7) is currently growing annually at a rate of 10 to 15%, and this continues in 2019, according to DDIM (2019). The increase in the number of Interim Managers seems higher than the demand by clients, however, so a better personal profiling is required in order to be successful (Knothe, 2018: 7).

As a Consultant the DACH regional outlook, according to BDU (2017) is that the largest growth is in the Consumer, Retail and Chemical/Pharma industries and in the fields of Change Management, Business Development & Innovation, and CRM & Sales. According to Barnes’ Reports (2018), the market in the DACH region has yearly growth rates of 7 to 8%, which will continue in 2019.

1.1. Project and investigation context

The overall aim and scope of this work has been to find out about the critical success factors from practitioners and the literature, to define my own market position in Interim Management and Management Consulting. Practitioners are a focus group who run their own interim management and/or consulting firm. Another focus group are the providers, who look for individuals in interim management and/or consulting for their customer base.

The overall context and setting for the investigation has been to look to practitioners and providers who operate in this market and consider literature and core models about Value Proposition Framework, Unique Competing Space Framework, Branding concept, etc., in order to understand what the best approach would be for a new entrant into the field, operating as a self-employed person for the first time, and not wishing to fail.

Interim management is a type of fast and flexible assignment of personnel (i.e. self-employed Interim Manager) between an experienced individual and an enterprise. This service might be used by clients more often than management consulting (Corby, 2003). The current situation, according to DDIM (2019a) is:

- that 35% of clients use them for Change Management
- the average daily rate paid increased from €853 (2017) to €876 (2019)
- only 9.6% are female
- 31% see it as an important quality for an Interim Manager to have competences in strategic and operational execution
- most Interim Managers work at MNEs for 52% of the time, and 40% for SMEs
- Agency Providers are now finding 38% of the contracts for Interim Managers.

According to Cosier & Dalton (1993): ‘Whether one’s involvement in management consulting is full or part time, there are many reasons it can be recommended. Consulting is characterized by an unusual level of independence. It may be the only profession where both assignments and hours are discretionary.’ This service is used by clients more often against for interim management (Corby, 2003).

The current situation, according to BDU (2017) is:

- that the role of the consultant changes from an information researcher to a navigator and bridge builder by 94% of the responses in a survey
- that the analysis possibilities (i.e. of big data from clients must be further extended by additional data during projects) have to be increase by 92% of the responses in a survey
- agile and interactive software tools for the analysis of data will be used much more by consultants by 90% of the responses in a survey
- that the requirements of digital topics need completely different internal necessary training and qualification programs for consultants by 88% of the responses in a survey
- that digitalisation will force the use of agile ways of working between client and consultant (e.g. Scrum, etc.) in the coming years with more weight by 88% of the responses in a survey
- that customers will increasingly question the specific aptitude of teams and their individuals detached from the branding of the servicing consultancy firm even more as before by 85% of the responses in a survey.

And according to ASCO (2018a) the economic value of the management consulting industry is 10 to 20 times higher than their business value. The war for talent has further intensified to fill open job vacancies. According to the Barnes Reports (2018) the number of microbusinesses, employing 1 to 4 staff seems also to be well-represented in the DACH region.

1.2. Aims and objectives

The aims for the issue have been to find out about:

- the market size for interim management and consultancy within my defined region of DACH
- why does the number of new Interim Managers reduce in Europe?
- against this background, what would be the most successful marketing strategy for a new, independent Interim Manager/Consultant?

The objectives were:

- to determine success factors for an Interim Manager and for a management Consultant
- to determine what factors, make marketing in management consulting efficient?
- to determine how a single person consultancy can make marketing into a competitive advantage within DACH, and finally
- to determine the researcher’s special dimensions as a Consultant in order to properly and successfully sell an image.

These have been issues critical to successful start-up businesses in the field.

1.3. Personal objectives

The personal objective of the IBP has been to support the start of my own business. My intention has been to discover something I really can use for my business as a freelancer.

I have interviewed other professionals (i.e. practitioner, interim manager, management consultant, provider) who have started up themselves, to discuss what they did, and what worked well, and what did not, then checked their responses against what the literature says about the identified issues, then draw up a set of rules to govern my own start. That approach has given me the necessary research requirements, has helped me with executing my own new venture, and gave a reasonable coverage of some existing literature related to the subject.

Any ethical issues regarding the interviews and the concerns of the interviewees about their identity and what they have said and/or stated has not been a problem, as I have been asking professionals about their experiences and thoughts, which they have agreed to freely give me.

I explained to each individual the process with the related ethical guidelines. I dealt carefully with related produced data, and respected the interest of each individual with regard to confidentially, non-disclosure, etc.

1.4. Organisational objectives

The organisational objectives have met the terms of reference of the client, because I have understood about my own position for a new-to-me professional market in the DACH region, with clear understanding about a good differentiation for myself, based on knowledge, experience and ability.

A brand portfolio has been built for “SJL Management & Consulting” (SJL), the name of my new firm, within the service category Interim Manager and/or Management Consultant. I have structured the portfolio in two groups, and the brand portfolio structure is illustrated in the following (Figure 1) below in three type of work areas therefore:

Figure 1: Brand portfolio structure

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The identified core target market segments in Business to Business (B2B) for the firm’s services are from three fields:

- Agency providers for a final industry customer (Knothe, 2018: 41-50)
- Direct customers (Knothe, 2018: 41-50)
- Cooperation partners for a final customer (Knothe, 2018: 41-50).

The type of industries SJL can service are based on my experience, knowledge and professional background, together with my interests: Automotive; Retail; Software; and Medical Devices, for roles within the functions of Purchasing; Procurement; Material Management; SCM; and Quality.

Agency providers for a final industry customer are intermediary firms such as job brokers, specialist employment or recruitment and placement agencies, supporting their client to find adequate individual professionals to act as Interim Manager and/or Consultant, to get any problem/task solved. In this situation, SJL will have a contract with the provider (i.e. broker, agent), who has a business contract with the final client. In this business model I am a sub-contractor. The provider takes a certain margin for their service.

Direct customers are clients that SJL has a direct contract with, without an intermediary.

Cooperation partners for a final customer are freelancer professionals, with whom SJL can work to support a client in a more complex project, where a higher number of individuals is required for some reason (e.g. capacity, know-how, experience). In this business model SJL will likely be a sub-contractor, as I do not have the contacts personally, nor the time to develop them, in order to bring a team together for such complex work - though this may develop later in my career. In this type of situation, the type of industries I can service are broader than indicated above, as I could cover roles in Purchasing, etc., in more industries, when part of a team.

2. Problem definition

The literature examined has discussed the size of the market and the opportunities of being an Interim Manager and/or an independent Consultant in the DACH region.

As Interim Manager the size of the market in German will be €2,250 million (2019) with 10,500 individuals working in the field, but the opportunities for all of them to have full employment were limited in 2018 due to oversupply of individuals for the amount of work available. On average, individuals worked 172 days so based on a 215-day working year, were not fully booked, but operated only at 80% capacity, and this trend should continue into 2019 and 2020. The trend for the average daily rate should increase from €1,142 (2018) to €1,175 (2019), to partially compensate for this shortfall in the average working week. The market size of over €2,000 million, with over 10,000 individuals is historically high, but the number of industries serviced, and functions filled in this way, are increasing. Highly demanded is Digitalisation in Change Management projects with 16.9% of all different functions. The biggest increase will be in the Automotive sector, which makes 17.1% of the total market size of Germany in interim management. The most requirements in 2018 (32%) were with firms of 1,001-10,000 employees and have been similar for 2019. This year, the highest demand by function will be in General Management (30%), Engineering/Production (13.3%) and Marketing/Sales (12.6%) (DDIM, 2019).

For Austria it was not possible to find the market size detail but will likely have 1,500 individuals and the opportunities are because annual market growth is by 10 to 15% (DÖIM, 2019), the average daily earnings rate should increase to €1,065 in 2019 (DDIM, 2019).

In Switzerland no market size was published, but the opportunities are due to the general status of the economy, which shows a positive direction for the use of Interim Managers (DSIM, 2015a).

For Consultancy the size of the market in Germany is €49,253 million (2019) with 31,489 microbusinesses, employing 1 to 4 staff (Barnes Reports, 2018), and increased average sales to EUR €0.49 million for each business. Relevant consulting fields are Process Optimisation and Performance Management with 11.1% and 9.0% market share, these highest growth areas are followed by Purchasing/Procurement and Supply Chain Management with 5.3% market share and 6.8% growth in 2016. The Automotive industry, with 13.4% market share and 7.6% growth, followed by Retail with 4.3% market share and 8.6% growth, and Healthcare with 3.4% market share and 7.5% growth in 2016 (BDU, 2017), will be the target markets for SJL.

In Austria the business is worth €5,447 million (2019) with 3,606 microbusinesses (Barnes Reports, 2018) and increased average sales to €0.47 million per establishment.

In Switzerland the business is worth CHF12,065 million in 2019 (approximately €10,978 million), with 3,883 microbusinesses (Barnes Reports, 2018) and increased average sales to CHF0.96 million (approximately €0.87 million) per establishment. Over the next five years (2018-2023) it is expected the average yearly market growth will be 5.2%. Digitalisation will be the critical issue over this period, and related strategic questions are popping up now. Two directions are seen: develop from data new business models, and develop new techniques to increase efficiency, to finally improve profit. This has created a difficulty in recruiting, because more than half of the 40 biggest consultancies could not fill the total number of their vacancies in 2017. This confirms the trend of previous years, that graduates have more interest now in small consultancies (ASCO, 2018).

The literature has also discussed the issues arising from being an Interim Manager and/or an independent Consultant.

According to DDIM (2019), there are fewer new Interim Managers. In 2017, 26% of all Interim Managers in Europe have been less than two years in business and in 2019, this had fallen to only 22% (i.e. a drop of 18% over the period). There will be different reasons for this, but these reasons have not been finally answered and so this becomes ‘Issue 1’ for further exploration.

Despite this, the number of Interim Managers seems higher than the demand by clients for them. Therefore, it is clear that if I and SJL are to do well in this business place, a better personal profiling is required (Knothe, 2018: 7) and this now becomes ‘Issue 2’ for further exploration.

Within Consultancy, according to Nash (2003: 15-17), it is ‘hard to find clients’ and ‘always looking for work - constant marketing’. This, as previously indicated, is a disadvantage of consulting and this is now named as ‘Issue 3’ for further exploration.

A major practical issue arising from this is that: ‘Any consultant implicitly - if not explicitly - sells image. It should be remembered that the prospective consultant’s accomplishments, experience, clients, and education suggest that he or she is special, unique on some dimension.’ (Cosier & Dalton, 1993) and this is now named ‘Issue 4’ for further exploration.

This is now the summary of the problem that the literature says will occur when I execute such self-employment.

There are likely to be issues about financing, gaining recognition, strategy, marketing etc., but I have been clear that for a new Interim Manager and Consultant, Strategy and Marketing aspects are vitally important, so in this work I concentrated only on them.

2.1. Discussion and definition of the problem drawing on relevant literature to develop the investigation

The research focus, with final questions and objectives addressed in my investigation, will consider both topics i.e. Strategy and Marketing.

Research question 1: Why does the number of new Interim Managers reduce in Europe? With the objective to find the root cause.

Research question 2: What is my profile as an Interim Manager? With the objective to detect a successful path in the interim management market.

Research question 3: What makes marketing in management consulting effective? With the objective to turn marketing to an advantage for my small consultancy.

Research question 4: What is it that makes me special, unique on some dimension as a Consultant? With the objective to set an image for sale to clients.

In the following literature review, I have researched and worked on these areas I wish to work within, in terms of geography, number of towns/cities, number of large companies that might use my services, and anything I have found about the potential DACH market. I have considered any relevant Strategy theory to help me explain this, too.

Value proposition

In strategic management several high-level concepts and frameworks of analysis helped me to understand the notion of value and its implications for the firm’s competitive position better. The term ‘firm’ in the following theory represents me, the owner and self-employed freelancer in the German speaking environment of the DACH region. The concept of the value proposition and the framework that describes how it is derived is one such concept.

The notion of the value proposition is a current one in the development of strategy as a management discipline. Strategy thinkers such as Drucker, and Hamel and Prahalad, laid some of the early groundwork for the concept of the value proposition in the early 1990s. Drucker’s classic Harvard Business Review paper ‘The theory of business’ (1994), though it does not make explicit reference to the term ‘value proposition’, essentially lays out its components. In describing the key elements of what he calls the ‘theory of business’, Drucker argues that managers must continually challenge the assumptions that go into its derivation - assumptions about the firm’s core purpose and aspirations, its external environment and its internal basis of competitiveness. Figure 2 shows these elements, particularly the three inputs to the value proposition (Henley Business School, 2016).

Figure 2: Value proposition framework

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Tovstiga (2015)

The first of these inputs focuses on expectations regarding the ‘where’ questions with respect to the external competitive environment of the firm; where are its opportunities for making a difference - i.e. delivering a unique and differentiated value offering - occur. Nevertheless, the external environment also offers potential threats, and this element also probes where and wherein these might lie, and the implications for the firm.

The second element focuses on the internal basis of competitiveness: the ‘how’ questions examine how the firm anticipates generating value, its ability to create and deliver a superior value offering to its stakeholders, and it probes the firm’s strengths and weaknesses.

Finally, the third input element examines assumptions regarding the firm’s aspirations, guiding principles and vision - the ‘why’ questions that examine the organisation’s internal disposition towards creating value. Composed, the three inputs define what it is that the firm aspires to create and deliver in terms of a superior value offering (Henley Business School, 2016):

- the analysis and assumptions regarding the external environment pointing to where the opportunities for doing might lie and what it ultimately is paid for i.e. what its services and products sell in that environment - the assumptions and assessment of its internal ability defining wherein it must excel based on its core competences and organisational capabilities
- the aspirations and ambitions providing the rationale for why it might do so; what the firm considers meaningful results and how it envisions making a difference through its value offering.

In practical terms the ‘where’ questions in this theory are relevant to SJL. The opportunities found for each country in the DACH region as Interim Manager and/or independent Consultant have been listed already. This can now be further detailed for my work into geography, number of towns/cities, number of large companies (i.e. MNEs) that might use my services.

The geography will cover parts of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with the distance of up to 400 km away from Munich (Germany) from my home base.

Germany is situated in Western and Central Europe, bordering many countries - Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The German territory covers 357,021 km², and is the seventh largest country by area in Europe and the 64th largest in the world. Significant natural resources include iron ore, coal, potash, timber, lignite, uranium, copper, natural gas, salt, nickel, arable land, and water. Its population is 82.8 million; it is the largest population within Europe. Germany’s GDP is also the largest, at about $4.0 trillion. The main outputs of the German economy are: motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electricals, foodstuffs, textiles, rubber, and plastic goods.

Austria is a largely mountainous country due to its location in the Alps. Of the total area of Austria (84,000 km²), only about a quarter can be considered low lying, and only 32% of the country is below 500 m. It has a population of around 9.0 million and a GDP of only about $455 billion; its economy is based on production of motor vehicles, paper, board, chemicals, iron, steel, textiles, sports equipment, and foodstuffs.

Switzerland, extending across the north and south side of the Alps in west-central Europe, encompasses a great diversity of landscapes and climates on a limited area of 41,285 km². The population is about 8.4 million; its GDP is about $705 billion, and its economy is similar to that of Germany and Austria.

The number of towns/cities considered as being suitable for SJL and within the 400 km distance limit in Germany, are Munich, Augsburg, Kempten, Passau, Landshut, Nürnberg, Herzogenaurach, Würzburg, Aschaffenburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg, Weiblingen, Esslingen, Tübingen, Rastatt, Konstanz, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, and Bensheim.

In Austria, I would consider Graz, Linz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck.

In Switzerland, Zürich, Schaffhausen, Winterthur, and Bern.

The MNEs suitable in Germany and using Interim Managers and/or Consultants are Siemens, General Electric, BMW, Audi, Daimler, Dräxlmaier, Valeo, Faurecia, Plastic Omnium, Megatech Industries, Marquardt, Magna, Johnson Controls, Samvardhana, ZF, TRW, Autoliv, Lear, Visteon, Webasto, Brose, Osram, Knorr-Bremse, Tyco Electronics, Agfa-Gevaert, BBraun, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Sixt, Adidas, and Puma.

In Austria, Dräger, Philips, Magna, and Voestalpine.

In Switzerland, Georg Fischer, Roche Diagnostics, and BBraun.

Further, I then built on the literature on start-up for Interim Manager and independent Consultant used earlier, to explore the issues in more depth, and again, there is Strategy and Marketing literature that has helped with this.

Unique competing space

There are several ways of thinking about the firm’s competitive position. I have already presented the notion of the value proposition. Additionally, one can think of the firm’s competitive position in terms of an area within which it is able to create and deliver a unique value offering. Few capture the essence of this latter perspective better than the recently proposed framework of Collis & Rukstad (2008), which describes the firm’s opportunity space for creating a uniquely differentiated value offering in terms of a ‘strategic key spot’. More fitting would be to describe the area in question in terms of the firm’s unique competing space (Tovstiga, 2015) since the area in question is really a bounded space with strategic implications for the firm, and not a one-dimensional point as might be inferred by the term ‘key spot’. The issue of the label aside, the essence of the notion is powerful. The firm’s unique competing space is the area in which the firm creates and delivers a value offering in response to customers’ needs in a way that competitors cannot (Figure 3). The strategic basis supporting the firm’s unique competing space relies on four clusters. Three of the clusters (consisting of customers’ needs, competitors’ offerings and firm’s competitive basis) are linked in a relationship depicted by the Venn diagram below. It is important to note that the unique competing space framework is not new in the sense that it introduces fresh concepts to strategic analysis. Ohmae’s ‘strategic three Cs’ focuses attention on the corporation, the competition and the customer - three of the elements raised by the unique competing space framework - and were proposed by the strategist as early as 1982 (Ohmae, 1982). What the unique competing space framework does intend, is to position these factors in a new, thought-provoking way and in the greater competitive context (Henley Business School, 2016).

Figure 3: The firm’s unique competing space

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Tovstiga (2015)

The macro-economic environment indicated by the ellipse encircling the three interlocked circles (‘1a’) represents all those aspects in the firm’s external competitive environment that are relevant to their competitive position - with the exclusion of those aspects represented by two of the clusters (customers’ needs and competitors’ offerings), which stringently talking are also external factors from the firm’s perspective. Even so, with the exclusion of these two, the macro-economic environment represents factors such as the firm’s socio-economic, technological, political, ecological and regulatory environment. It might also be seen to capture aspects that narrow the external analysis down to the firm’s industry or market level (‘1b’). It is important to remember about the aspects contributing to the firm’s macro-economic environment, that these are aspects that cannot be influenced by the firm: the better the firm tracks and interprets these external signals, the better it can formulate appropriate responses.

In competitors’ offerings (‘2’) are all those industry and market players who are competing to fulfil the value needs of customers in the relevant market. The constitution of the group representing the firm’s competitors are diverse - established players as well as new entrants and emerging competitors. In the centre domain formed by the overlapping of all three circles are all competitors who can fulfil customers’ current needs. This is a hotly challenged space. Analyses that provide insight on competitors’ abilities and activities, and the nature of competition are of relevance in this space. As in the case of the macro-economic analysis, snapshot analyses are useful, but trend analyses provide potentially much more powerful insights.

Customers’ needs (‘3’) are represented by a second circle in the model. Customers represent one stakeholder group. They are the recipients of the value created and delivered by the firm and/or its competitors, in return for which they generate economic returns. Critical insight for the firm circles around questions such as: Who are my customers? What are their needs? How are these changing? The issue is, the identity of customers is not always clear, their needs even less so. Often customers themselves do not recognise emerging needs. Hence the importance of the firm to be close to its customers and to anticipate customers’ needs when these emerge.

Firm’s internal basis of competitiveness (‘4’), represented by the lower circle, includes the firm’s potential competitive ability. The word ‘potential’ is important in this context because a firm may possess assets that are not being utilized effectively. Therefore, in this representation of the firm’s competitive basis are its resources, assets in tangible and intangible, its capabilities, stock of organisational knowledge, processes, structure and, leadership talent. The significance is that simple possession of a potentially strategic asset or attribute does not in itself endow competitive advantage. Competitive advantage results only when the asset in question is activated; by this I mean the transfer of that asset into the firm’s unique competing space (Henley Business School, 2016).

To now explore the Issue 1 in more depth; according to DDIM (2019), the start-up of an Interim Manager often begins with a successful career, professional progress, performance and measurable results. That is why Interim Managers have extensive professional experience. 61% (+4% compared to 2017) of the Interim Managers surveyed have already been more than 5 years in business, while 21% (-5% compared to 2017) with less than two years of experience carry out a relatively short period of time. Also, in 2019 continued decline in the number of new Interim Managers. So, fewer new more Interim Managers again than as in 2017 (26%) and significantly lower than as in 2015 (32%). The Strategy literature already covered helps to see the need to find related answers about SJL’s competitive position, because an Interim Manager is acting in the industry or market level (‘1b’). The better he or she tracks and interprets these external signals, the better they can formulate appropriate responses. Also, in competitors’ offerings (‘2’), other individuals are competing to fulfil the value needs of customers in the relevant market. A survey in Europe of 2,890 participants found established individuals as well as new entrants, and emerging competitors. Analyses that provide insight into competitors’ abilities and activities, and the nature of competition, are of relevance in this space. Trends analysis by qualified interviews will provide potentially powerful insights. Customers’ needs (‘3’) represent one stakeholder group, who are the recipients of the value created and delivered by the Interim Manager and/or its competitors. Critical insight for the firm circles around questions such as: What are their needs? How are these changing? Hence the importance to anticipate customers’ needs by qualified interviews.

To now explore the Issue 3 in more depth as Consultant; according Nash (2003), often when professionals consider consulting as a profession, they see only the money that other consultants charge, and focus on the advantages of consulting as an alternative to corporate employment. In reality, running your own consulting business has certain advantages and disadvantages. It is important to understand and consider both to ensure you capitalize on the advantages and manage the disadvantages. Being honest with yourself and keeping your eyes open will increase your chances of building a successful consulting business. This Strategy literature covered through Figure 3 helps to describe and confirm the need and difficulty to find related answers to Customers’ needs ‘3’. The recipients of the value created and delivered by me and competitors, hopefully receive excellent value for money, in return for which they hopefully pay the invoices. Critical issues for me as consultant circle around questions such as: Who are my customers? What are their needs? How are these changing? What is their identity of customers and needs? Hence it is important to be close to customers to anticipate customers’ needs when these emerge.

Changing competitive environments can be visualised with the unique competing space framework. See the scenario drew in Figure 4:


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Establishing a ‘Big Company Manager‘ as a Self-employed Freelancer in Interim Management & Management Consulting
Strategic Key Success Factors
Henley Business School University of Reading
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Interim Management, Management Consulting, Strategy, Marketing
Quote paper
Stefan Johann Leirich (Author), 2019, Establishing a ‘Big Company Manager‘ as a Self-employed Freelancer in Interim Management & Management Consulting, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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