Interimleder celebrates 20 years in the interim management industry
It was a dark and stormy night in the small Spanish port city of Nerja. A young German lady seeks shelter from the rain in a bar. There she strikes a conversation with a charming Norwegian who has just come from Cuba with a business idea to provide companies with senior executives on a temporary basis. Here begins the story of Interimleder AS, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Silke is the name of the young lady in the story. She remembers well the first meeting with Sverre Guttorm Holen that evening in the year 2000:
– We were both in a bad mood due to the weather and quickly got into a conversation. He said he went to Cuba to find himself and write a book, but instead, he got a business idea. When he was about to leave, he tapped me on the shoulder and invited me to dinner that night. Harmless, I thought. He was twenty-two years older than me. Little did I know what it would bring.
Cupid's arrow struck that night. Not only did they become Mr and Mrs Holen. They also became business partners in Interimleder AS, which they were until Sverre departed in 2017.
Worked around the clock
Interimleder AS was founded on April 3, 2001. Silke Holen, Sverre Holen, Harald Heier, Stig Hammer, Arne Rød, Einar Wahlstrøm and Hans Paul Finsrud attended the first board meeting. The latter had known Sverre for twenty years as his business partner in the consulting company Holen, Finsrud & Partners:
– Sverre and Silke complemented each other well. He was charming, creative and had excellent people skills. She was structured, energetic and had what Sverre lacked as a leader. She should have a lot of credit for the fact that Interimleder made it through the difficult start they had
For the first few years, Silke and Sverre worked around the clock based on Sverre's network. They did everything themselves. From accounting to PR. Here they are immortalized in Aftenposten March 16, 2003:
– We were so determined to succeed that it blurred our work-life balance. But my how happy we were when we landed our first contract, an interim management assignment for the Kongsberg group. Selling was no easy job in those days since the philosophy among leaders was that you own your employees the way you own your house. It took a long time to change that perspective, Silke says.
The accounting figures from 2002 show a turnover of 3.5 million NOK and an operating profit of minus 220,000 NOK. Only in 2004 does the black bottom line show up, and from then on, business improves. Located at Skullerud, six miles south of central Oslo, Interimleder is slowly but surely taking the lead as Norway's only provider of interim management services, and in 2014 they reach a turnover of over 28 million NOK.
Passing the baton
In December 2014, Sverre passed the baton to Vegard Rooth, who took over as CEO. Vegard had been a board member of the company for five years and had experience as an interim manager.
At a board meeting at Østmarksetra in Oslo in early 2015, they invited an old acquaintance, Stig Hammer from the marketing agency MarkedsPartner, who introduced the board to a new marketing strategy.
– When Stig told us that we had to start blogging twice a week to get found on Google, I immediately thought of beauty bloggers and footballers' wives. But that's where we started our digital marketing journey with inbound marketing, which has helped us position the company as a thought leader in our niche and doubled sales, says Vegard.
Four years later, Interimleder AS had reached a turnover of more than 60 million NOK and had considerably strengthened the bottom line.
– I considered it a bold move for a relatively small company as Interimleder to invest in a full-fledged inbound strategy. They were ahead of the curve, innovative and forward-thinking, but then we also had a relationship of trust to build on in the first place. It is nice to have been a contributor, and I am impressed with how they have developed the company to what it is today, says Stig Hammer.
– The interim leaders are our gold
A business is nothing without a product, however. Interimleder's product is their interim managers, "our gold", which they call them. Over the years, the company has put a lot of effort into elevating and developing the profession and creating a network for interim managers.
Since 2007, they have arranged boat trips for interim managers, customers and partners. And since 2017, they have hosted the annual Interim Day, where the Interim Manager of the Year Award is presented. Moreover, the company has arranged several live events and webinars to educate the market about the benefits of interim management.
Another important channel is the Interim Manager Blog, with 50,000 visits a year. With Vegard as the prime mover and regular contributor and with profiled and knowledgeable guest bloggers, the blog has put topics like sustainable management, change management and performance management on the agenda.
In 2021, Interimleder AS celebrates 20 years. The company is the market leader, thus no longer alone in the Norwegian market. With two decades of experience, a base of 2,600 Norwegian and 30,000 international interim managers, they have a unique competitive advantage that their customer base appreciates.
When Norway reopens, the office at C. J. Hambros plass 2C will probably be buzzing with life again. In the meantime, the business is run from their home offices, where Silke, Vegard and senior advisers Geir Erik Lian, Narve Karlsen and Petter Quinsgaard work hard to help companies that need top management skills quickly. One thing they probably all agree on.
It was good that it rained that April evening in Nerja.