Perspective talks to Duncan McIntyre, Operations Director at Weetabix...
Duncan, firstly can you tell us a bit about your career and background?
Prior to joining Weetabix, which was about seven years ago, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry at GlaxoSmithKline and latterly at Boots. My core responsibilities were around the global supply chain and operations. It was a really interesting and diverse role but I wanted a new challenge and I had a desire to work for a Private Equity business which then led me to Weetabix.
Times are still pretty tough so what challenges is the business currently facing?
The impact the climate is playing on the production of our raw materials is a big challenge; especially as last year’s wheat harvest was the worst in a generation. However, it’s not just us who have suffered; the situation is the same for many other businesses where crop quality or yield has affected reliability and price of supply.
How important has it been to bring Interims in with previous “food” sector experience to Weetabix, bearing in mind your own background in consumer health/ pharma?
For me, it’s less about the product and more about the process. I came from a sector where having a rigorous process in place was integral to an organisation’s operational success. However, I do look for scalable experience in any interim I employ as I want someone who has already done the role and who remains hands on and operational. For me, that’s key.
When might you hire an Interim? And is there an acid test for you when hiring?
I tend to look for interims who have ‘bigger business’ experience but who are still operationally focussed. We are a large organisation so I need experts who know how to work in that kind of corporate environment and who have an awareness of the complexities involved. We tend to bring in interims for sizeable projects such as a deal or acquisition as we may not carry that specific expertise in-house. For us, it’s all about adding value.
Do you have any tips for our readers who might want to capture a prospective employer’s attention?
Two things spring to mind: firstly on reading a CV, I want to fully understand the interim’s previous assignments; the situation of the business when they joined, the issues and challenges it faced and how these where tackled. I also want to know the state of the business when the assignment concluded. It might sound obvious, but all of this is crucial as real-life results are what matters and bringing skills to life and making them tangible is important.
Secondly, when I hire an interim, I really do want an interim. My focus is on recruiting the right expert who can make an impact and deliver right from the start. Then, when the project is concluded, they leave. What does infuriate me is someone who comes in at the interview stage and then reveals their real aim is a permanent job!
In your view, what’s the mark of a good interim?
Versatility! I’ve hired a number of interims who have been able to adapt their focus and, at the same time, have the capability to lead on a number of projects whilst remaining hands on. Another talent is knowing when the job’s done as a good interim knows when to call it a day! I’ve recently worked with a great interim who had successfully completed and delivered on a number of projects for us. We wanted him to stay – and even offered him further work - but he decided to move on as the role going forward didn’t warrant his level of experience or expertise. That kind of professionalism and honesty is always appreciated.
You’re quite an advocate of interims... why is that?
If you choose the right interim then you can get good people at short notice! There’s now more and more focus on generating returns and building a lean organisation but particular skills or expertise may not exist in business. This is where interims really come into their own; in the last 2.5 years, four out of our top 30 managers have been interims. I think that says it all.