Ireland's No.1 for Marketing Freelancers
1,350+ Specialists on our books
Experienced team with deep knowledge

Fractional CMO's arrive to help Irish business owners

Experienced executives can add heft at pivotal moments, provide C-suite cover or fill a gap pending recruitment

Exit the interim manager: enter the fractional executive

In the wild west they used to call them guns for hire. In business, they’re called interim managers and their role is to bolster the management capability of an organisation, particularly during periods of change, growth and expansion.

Interim management really took off in the 1980s when the economic climate forced widespread corporate restructuring. Savvy operators spotted the advantages ofbuying in expertise as needed rather than paying for it full-time and this helped drive widespread acceptance of the practice leading the distinguished HR researchers Inkson, Heising and Rousseau to describe the interim manager as “the prototype of the 21st century worker”.

A lot has changed in the world of work since then, but variations on the theme of interim help have stuck. With hard-pressed companies now needing to curb expenditure again, interim management is enjoying a renaissance and a rebrand. Exit the interim manager: enter the fractional executive.

Fractional executives are usually seasoned managers with 20-plus years of experience at senior level under their belts who give their clients a fraction of their time for a fee. They have the skills to fill operational and strategic roles and are often hired to provide cover in the C-suite or to hold the fort while a replacement is found for a function head.

They may also be engaged for their experience and expertise and to work alongside an existing management team to add heft at pivotal moments – for example, during the launch of a new product or service or to help management drive transformative initiatives around restructuring, manufacturing, process, expansion or digitalisation.

Fractional managers generally have a portfolio of clients, big and small, and their experience and networks are of particular benefit to start-ups and growing businesses without the resources to hire full-time managers. Some companies end up deciding that fractional executives suit them just fine and, by budgeting carefully, they can hire several fractional managers for the price of one full-time executive filling a single role.

How much time a fractional manager devotes to the job and for how long is up for negotiation, as is the remuneration. Some slots are part-time for short bursts, others are full-time and longer. Some companies will have a budget for a task while others prefer to agree an hourly rate or a flat fee.

Fractional managers work across all disciplines, but Peter McPartlin, co-founder of the Indie List (a freelance marketplace for the marketing, media and creative services sectors) has homed in on the importance of marketing for companies that want to grow or expand into new territories.

“We could see that many businesses simply couldn’t afford a full-time marketing director, and assigning marketing tasks to managers with other responsibilities can leave strategies unfulfilled. This encouraged us to set up the Fractional Marketing Collective, which provides businesses with access to a range of highly experienced senior marketing specialists,” he says.

“We launched at the end of last year and, so far, almost 50 marketing specialists have registered with the platform, with experience across everything from ecommerce to data analytics, brand marketing and B2B strategy. We’ve matched them to a mix of projects ranging from large enterprises in the health care sector to SMEs and even a VC company that has seen the value of putting a fractional chief marketing officer into some of their portfolio companies to provide quality guidance on marketing strategy.

“Fractional executives have several advantages over in-house candidates,” says McPartlin. “They provide a leading-edge approach based on their breadth and depth of experience. The hiring process is faster and more affordable and they can actively participate in the business from the get-go. They are not emotionally invested in a company so their objectivity can provide valuable perspectives and fresh thinking.”

Katie Molony started her career in The Irish Times as marketing and promotions manager and has since worked in Ireland and overseas with companies including Maximum Media, where she was chief executive, and with Irish Studio, where she was chief digital officer before taking on the role of chief executive in 2019.

She has also held roles as chief growth officer and chief operations officer and, towards the end of last year, she became a fractional executive while studying part-time for an master’s degree in work and organisational behaviour at DCU.

“When I was working in the States, I heard a lot about fractional executives and the concept really interested me,” she says. “Then when I came home, I came across businesses that needed to move to the next level but didn’t have the budget fora full-time hire or sometimes the head space to think about the type of person they needed long-term. That’s where a fractional executive can come in. My particular skill set is growth, marketing strategy and operational efficiency.

“Because I’ve worked in various C-suite roles across digital, commercial and operations, I can look at a business as a set of individual parts but also through the lens of a CEO,” she adds.

“I’m currently working on several projects around content strategy and developing target audiences as well as a three-month contract (three days a week) where I’m devising a marketing strategy for a business, mentoring the team and helping them identify the individual(s) who will help them achieve that strategy in the future.

“What I really like about being a fractional executive is the variety and the opportunity to work with business leaders across different industries facing different challenges,” says Molony.

This article, written by Olive Keogh, originally appeared in The Irish Times on February 23rd, 2024.

Want to hear more about our Fractional CMO Collective?

The Indie List simplifies the process of connecting you with the right senior marketing talent. Just provide your project details, timeline, and budget. We'll handpick up to three qualified candidates for you. Once you choose, we facilitate the introduction for you to discuss work details, fees, and schedule. We provide an agreement outlining the terms and responsibilities. To get a highly experienced working on your marketing strategy for a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-timer, talk to Peter or Una.

Find Freelancers →Register as a Freelancer→