Interview: Tim Herlihy

22 September 2016

Brief summary of your executive career before doing an Interim role?

C-Level executive with strong credentials in leadership, management, transformations, finance and operations. Key attributes and experience:

  • Over 25 years as CFO/COO with international and domestic listed and private companies
  • Sponsor of multiple major business transformations & change management projects
  • Leader of teams across Finance, Accounting, Investments, Planning and Budgeting, Technology, Property, HR and Corporate Governance including IA, Risk and Compliance
  • Broad industry sector experience: including financial services, professional services, technology, infrastructure, property, human capital leadership/management development/education and exposure to Government
  • Strong stakeholder management experience and Board reporting
  • Highly networked in business community with deep, lasting relationships at all levels
  • Geographical experience in Australia, UK and South East Asia

What attracted you to an interim executive opportunity? 

One of my key values is making a difference. In most cases when interim executive roles become available a major cultural and business change or intervention is required as part of the mandate. This allows me to use my skills to work with the client and make a difference.

Another appealing aspect of an interim executive role is the opportunity to be part of a change/transformational agenda rather than business as usual environment. I get great satisfaction from driving and implementing the change, mentoring the existing/new team and finally handing over the new model/change/culture. I am also a people person and enjoy meeting and working with a diverse range of business executives that interim roles offer.

What are the biggest challenges of being an interim CFO and what makes a successful Interim?

Challenges do vary between assignments but I have found the biggest challenges with the interim assignments are:

  • Creating trust and demonstrating gravitas with multiple stakeholders in a short period of time
  • Understanding the different agendas your stakeholders have. These may not be all aligned
  • Understanding the culture or the various cultures operating at the client.
  • Maintaining stability whilst at the same time gauging the pace of change that will ensure outcomes are met
  • Ensuring that business as usual operates effectively whilst change agenda is progressed

To be successful key attributes are:

  • Be a great active listener; listen before you act and collect all the data points to get the real perspective not just from a few individuals (listen, listen and listen)
  • Understand who your stakeholders are and what are their needs/agendas are
  • Take time to create trust and build working relationships with all the Stakeholders
  • Be able to have critical conversations -  frank, open and honest communication delivered with a can do and empathetic focus
  • Ability to create and lead virtual teams within organisations
  • Be a fully engaged member of the team i.e. while you are there, think like you are an employee not an interim
  • Continual communication, listening and reading the pulse of the Team
  • Live the Culture and understand the Strategy and ensure all actions align with this

Could you tell us a little about your recent Interim CFO assignment through Odgers Interim at a leading Australian University?

Background to the Assignment

The Vice Chancellor is driving change across all of the University with strong emphasis on finance to underpin and drive change through improved interpretation and analysis of business information.

The focus of this change is to improve the quality, timeliness and consistency of the University’s services to enable excellence in teaching, research and engagement.  More robust financial management, including providing strategic analysis and advice, will enhance the University’s competitive advantage and support its strategic vision and direction.

The Finance Strategy and Capability Review (FSCR) project was initiated in early 2014 with the objective of developing a finance function to enhance the University’s competitive advantage and support its strategic vision and direction.

My Role

I joined in August 2015 as the Interim CFO and was also responsible for driving the FSCR to a successful conclusion. A new CFO was recruited and started in December 2015. From January 2016 my role focused on the FSCR as the Director Finance Transformation. I completed the assignment and handed over the new operating model to the new team on 2 May 2016.

When should clients consider using an Interim Executive and what are the advantages of doing so?

From my experience an interim executive is best used in the following circumstances:

  • During a change/transformational period where these skills are required for a specific period to drive the change agenda. Important if the existing executives do not have this experience and if these skills are not required when “business as usual” recommences.
  • When a key C- Level or Senior Executive leaves the organisation before a replacement is sourced. Normally the interim executive is more experienced than the role requires i.e. a safe pair of hands.
  • To assist existing Executives with a major project where they have time and resource constraints and skill gaps. This can be a more cost effective approach rather than hiring a Consulting Firm.

To find out more about Tim Herlihy or Interim Management, please contact Adam Kyriacou


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