EaaS — Executive-as-a-Service for Outsourcing the C-Suite

Your company is anxious to get to the next level, or you’re facing a large deal and have little expertise in the area. You need to hire someone who can help your small- or mid-sized business thrive – or simply survive – in the coming months. In reality, you don’t need someone to grow with the company; you need someone to supercharge your growth over the next six to nine months.

By Art Saxby

Your company is anxious to get to the next level, or you’re facing a large deal and have little expertise in the area. You need to hire someone who can help your small- or mid-sized business thrive – or simply survive – in the coming months. In reality, you don’t need someone to grow with the company; you need someone to supercharge your growth over the next six to nine months.

EaaS as the Answer

The EaaS, or Executive-as-a-Service, can be the answer for your short-term growth needs. At its core, this isn’t a new concept. You outsource designers, developers, and writers. You utilize the services of lawyers and accountants when needed. For example, in the finance field, a company might have a good controller, but they need someone with a more specific skill set when trying to raise outside capital or sell part of the company.

These individuals with specific skill sets aren’t needed 365 days a year, but they are essential to your company’s success. An outsourced executive, one who brings a high level of expertise, can provide savings to a company on the brink of getting to the next level; you’ll save on headhunter fees and employment and insurance taxes, and there’s much less risk of spending hundreds of hours training, only to lose the person to the next shiny project at another company. Outsourcing a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) or other member of the C-suite can provide the same type of benefits.

In a number of industries, we find companies poised for great things. They have a strong business, competent management team, and great vision — but they need a little extra expertise to push them along and implement the vision. That’s where outsourcing the C-suite comes in — it allows you to bring in an experienced leader who can work as part of the company leadership team to realign the company’s vision, set up processes for future growth, or even create and execute strategies with your team.

Keep these pointers in mind when considering this trend’s implications for your business.

The goals are different than they would be with a traditional consultant.

Many times, a business will bring in a consultant to evaluate its current business model, marketing plans, or even staff. While this can be valuable, you are simply getting someone’s overall idea of where the company should go and how they should go about it. But with an Executive-as-a-Service, this professional will become a part of the leadership team for three, six, or even 12 months. She will get to know the culture, politics, and real barriers the business faces. And an EaaS professional will be there solely to create and implement a growth strategy, not just provide another report on what should be done. This outsourced executive will set you and your staff up for future success long after the contract is completed.

Find the right technical fit.

The whole point is to find someone with the skills and the expertise you need. So, one of the biggest things to consider is what skills and experiences you need for the role. What does the person need to accomplish? Does he or she need specific knowledge of an industry? Tailor your executive search to find people with the key traits you’ve identified.

Make a cultural match-up.

  Finding someone who fits in with your culture is often more difficult than making a technical match. It’s important to find someone who has the experience and maturity to learn how to assimilate, convince other people to work with him or her, and take part in the organization without seeming like a threat.

Know your ABCs.

Initially, the trend was to outsource CFOs through companies such as Tatum or B2B CFO. Then, companies were looking for CIOs to fill their growing technology needs. Now, companies are looking for more industry- or situation-specific talent, like marketing or legal counsel execs. It’s the difference between having an internal legal expert on your management team and using an outside law firm. An emerging trend is to hire a chief sales officer who can manage and lead the sales force, but isn’t necessarily full-time. Determine what C-suite roles your company needs.

Find idea people.

Today, the tenure of CEOs and other C-level officers is becoming shorter and shorter. Many people move on to new opportunities quickly, and you can take advantage of this trend. Potential C-suite consultants emerge for a variety of reasons: They’ve established their lives and don’t want to move for a job, they teach at a university part-time, or they’re seeking a career they can be really passionate about. For most of them, this isn’t a fallback plan – they’re deciding they’re at the point where they can choose what they want to do. Many of them want to invest their considerable talents in developing new ideas for their employers; they’re no longer interested in the rote and prefer the opportunity to be creative.

People can learn great things at big companies, but it’s really hard to double the size of a large company – that’s the allure of small business. The “I can make a difference” factor in small businesses is a huge pull for executives.

Weigh part-time versus full-time.

Once you’ve brought in your C-level exec, focus first on key company initiatives. Don’t push him or her into the day-to-day fire drills of running the company. I recommend bringing him or her in on a part-time basis, focusing the exec on the key strategic initiatives a few days a week over a six- to 10-month period. Don’t try to cram 10 days’ worth of consulting into two. It’s not about filling up a conference room, doing a bunch of work, and handing someone a deck; it’s about becoming a part of your leadership team and staying with the project as long as it takes to really come to life in the market.  

By outsourcing the C-suite, you get an Executive-as-a-Service – which means no hidden fees, hiring hassles, payroll problems, or worry about benefits. Instead, you get to say, “We need this person one to two days a week for the next six months, and then after a few months, we need a slightly different person.” Take advantage of the outsourcing economy, and find a leader who can make a big difference in a short period of time.

About the Author

Art Saxby is the founding principal of Chief Outsiders, the largest executive level consulting firm that helps the CEO's of mid-size companies implement their visions of growth. His career started out in the defense industry moving into the corporate planning and strategy and then marketing at Frito-Lay. He then later continued his executive marketing development at Kellogg's, Coca-Cola and Compaq Computers.