By 2020, the U. S. Government Accountability Office estimates that more than 40 percent of the American workforce, roughly 60 million people, will be alternative workers and part of the “gig economy.” This independent workforce pool of freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees includes highly skilled professionals from marketing leaders to top technology developers to results-oriented C-suite executives.

Employers no longer need to spend $250,000 a year on a fulltime executive nor bring in a high-priced consultant from a top management firm. The rise of the independent executive being available for as short or long as needed is creating game-changing competitive advantages for companies on all sizes and across all industries. Two distinct companies, Jewish Family Services and Village Green Foods, have applied this on-demand staffing model with positive results.

Interim CEO helps instill cultural change for nonprofit
Jewish Family Service has served the San Diego community for 100 years to help poverty-stricken seniors become self-sufficient and remain in their homes as long as possible. JFS’ services include transportation which was born out of a subsidiary of JFS called Charitable Adult Rides and Services. Started 12 years ago, CARS is a high-tech, national turnkey vehicle donation program for non-profit organizations.

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Recently, CARS was searching for an interim CEO to help it better manage and grow. It was a good business for JFS, and the revenue was important for the growth of the business overall. The executives at JFS searched “interim CEO,” and began conversations with a firm about how it works. Soon after, they met Howard. (No last names were provided in this blog. – Editor.)

Given his extensive background in various industries, Howard was able to quickly assess and determine the best plan. As an interim CEO, he was then able to stay on and implement the plan. Howard created positive change with his skills and expertise and made a number of improvements to the culture that improved both his team and the community.

What was Howard’s secret? Part of it can be attributed to his mindset. “It’s important to know you are not there to save the company but to help them on a better path,” he notes.

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After a number of initial successes as the interim CEO, Howard and the company decided they wanted to extend the role to a fulltime position. Howard has now served as CEO of CARS which serves as the back office for more than 2,600 nonprofit organizations nationwide. They continue to thrive with a customer focus and giving culture.

National food manufacturer taps part-time COO talent to align growth
One of the biggest challenges growing companies have is outgrowing what initially helped get them there. Some outside perspective can make the difference between keeping up with exploding growth opportunities or imploding.

Village Green Foods is a custom food manufacturer for restaurant chains and other manufacturers. This family-owned business started in 1991 and develops handcrafted, proprietary soups, sauces, dressings, marinades, spreads, pie fillings and more from scratch. Their clients include top restaurants and brands like Ruby’s Diner, Wahoo’s Fish Taco and Carl Strauss Breweries.

Two years ago, VGF was experiencing explosive growth that led to challenges with inventory, sales forecasting and production. Like so many companies in their situation, they only needed help in a few operational areas. This was certainly not enough to warrant a fulltime operations executive so they searched for a part-time COO.

That’s when VGF connected with operational expert, Katherine. Although VGF executives feared that an outside COO would change everything about its staff and business, the reality is that Katherine was a phenomenal asset to the business during that time.

Katherine quickly found that the VGF executives had a great team that could learn, adapt and drive initiatives forward. They knew what needed to be done, but they lacked the tools, background or knowledge of how to accomplish the critical tasks. In a few months, the plan was in place and the team was implementing their first improvement project. Within six months, the team put in place roles and responsibilities, an accountability system and training materials, and they were using these tools to cross train one another. With some outside guidance, they went from reactive chaos to strategically deciding where they go next and how to get there.

Despite the fact that JFS and VGF are different business in unique industries, one thread connects them: In order to be successful in today’s business world, change is constant. Both JFS and VGF were at such critical points in their businesses that the next step they took would determine success or failure. Leveraging the gig economy and hiring an interim executive helped both companies innovate, grow and expand their businesses.

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