Ben Wolf, Fractional Leadership: Landing Executive Talent You Thought Was Out of Reach (Houndstooth Press 2021).
"Whether and how to utilize someone who’s already done exactly what you want your business to do without the cost, commitment, or ramp up time involved in a full-time hire."
For those businesspersons/entrepreneurs who have had questions, or felt reluctant, about engaging a fractional resource (leader, executive, integrator), Ben Wolf recently published an indispensable, practical guide to whether and how best to do so and, in the process, dispels many of the concerns surrounding such an engagement.
Wolf begins by noting three trends that are driving the growth of Fractional Leadership:
- Post Covid financial pressure,
- More experienced C-level leaders ‘going fractional’, and
- The phenomenon that technology has made virtual work more effective and simply more desirable for many.
Wolf frames the quandary, the catch 22, facing many businesses: “They can’t scale without bringing in an experienced C level leader, but they can’t afford someone like that until after they have scaled.” Fractional resources (called ‘Fractional Leaders’ or ‘FLs’ by Wolf) can bridge that gap especially since, in many instances, in his/her experience, the FL has already gotten past the point where the entrepreneur is stuck. As Wolf notes, “The power of FLs is their experience and ability to focus [the entrepreneur’s] organization’s resources on [his/her] priorities.” FLs bring the ‘been there-done that’ expertise that the organization needs while avoiding the fixed cost of a full time hire. And because FLs have indeed been there and done that, they are not at all like consultants, providing merely drive-by advice. FLs embed and become part of the team and the solution.
But not every situation lends itself to retaining an FL. Helpfully, Wolf poses and works through five questions to help the businessperson determine whether his/her enterprise is a candidate for a fractional resource. If yes, he then details the most important things to consider when engaging an FL: accountabilities and deliverables, onsite versus remote, time commitment, cost, length of engagement/working themselves out of a job, strategic versus tactical.
Wolf also discusses the competencies and value-add that FLs can bring to the core functions of Marketing, Sales, Operations, Finance and Technology.
Surprisingly (since he is a lawyer by training), and disappointingly for this reviewer, Wolf, while flagging the eye-watering hourly rates of outside counsel, neglects to include the Legal Function/Chief Legal Officer fractional in his discussion. As discussed in an earlier piece that I wrote, t|e GC has a service offering that fills the bill and is nicely congruent with all the factors and considerations Wolf lays out in his book.
Finally, since finding the right fractional resource might seem like a daunting task, and no one wants to spend time kissing a bunch of frogs to find the perfect match (and since a Google search would only add noise), Wolf includes a description of a “vetted FL referral platform” that he and his colleagues have created (www.FractionalLeadership.io).
In identifying whether and what role FLs can play, this is a very useful how-to guide for those businesses ready to move to the next level in a focused and most cost-efficient manner.