What a Fractional Leadership Engagement Looks Like – Part 3


Once you’ve reached this point in considering whether or not to engage a Fractional Leader (FL) (see Part 1 and Part 2), it’s critical to identify the type of approach an FL can take and the type of provider that would work best for your company. Here we discuss a strategic vs. tactical FL as well as the categories of FLs, such as organizational, Independent and Licensee.

Strategic vs. Tactical Leadership

Fractional Leaders become part of your leadership team. They typically participate in leadership team meetings and decisions, create metrics for their direct reports, lead departmental meetings, drive accountability of their team’s achievement of their goals, and coach and mentor team members. The high-level, strategic nature of most FL roles is critical because their primary value to you is their experience, leadership, and ability to drive your team’s achievement of your desired results.

But don’t full-time operations leaders, like COOs, drive day-to-day operations, such as ensuring deliveries or service calls happen on time, product deliveries are correct and timely, or that customers are satisfied at all times? How can someone do that on a fractional basis?

To understand the answer to this question, it’s important to distinguish between someone’s role as COO and another operations hat they might wear.

For instance, full-time COOs in smaller organizations often have two roles. The leadership, management, and accountability aspects of the COO role usually consume about 20 percent of their bandwidth. But they also wear one or more other hats, such as director of operations or high-level project manager. This part of their job takes 80 percent of their time.

Business owners who engage an FCOO or FL, by contrast, split the COO role away from the project manager or head of operations role. They take that 20 percent bandwidth needed for the leadership/management/accountability part of the job and assign that to an FCOO or FI. They give the head of operations or project management responsibilities to someone else or several other people.

I hope in my past blogs I’ve convinced you not to undervalue the deeper and more powerful change an FL can make in your business at the leadership when they are not distracted by also having the role of being a higher-level worker bee.

With that being said, some smaller companies in particular — those with five to 20 employees — sometimes need their FLs to provide both leadership and another set of hands at a higher level than the other team members can provide. Particularly with respect to FCOOs and FIs, there is a subset of companies and FLs who need and want to play a tactical as well as strategic role. I call these Doer Leaders versus Manager Leaders. I explain more about the Doer versus Manager distinction here.

There are two primary categories of FL providers: Organizational and Independent. There are some differences between them, and no one model is right for everyone. Therefore, you must consider which kind you want or whether you’re open to both.

Organizational Fractional Leadership

Organizational Fractional Leadership (OCFL) organizations assign individual FLs to clients. They either hire these individual FLs directly, make them partners, or enter into independent contractor relationships. In this model, you pay the OFL, and the OFL pays the individual FL. This model has several advantages, each of which are discussed below: (1) accountability, (2) standardization, and (3) peer learning.

The OFL takes responsibility for the services provided by the individual FL. If there are any issues, you can approach the company to help resolve the problem or for a replacement. This saves you from the need to start over at square one, searching for someone else. 

Standardization. OFLs usually create a standardized service model, which is some proven process they have found effective. All the FLs on their team use this proven process.

Peer Learning. Finally, FLs serving clients through an OFL are part of a team with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Some OFLs hold weekly virtual meetings where a group of FLs shares the issues they’re facing with clients. Those who have encountered a similar situation offer guidance. This helps clients by leveraging multiple FLs’ knowledge and perspectives to solve their problems.

Independent Fractional Leadership

Some factors mitigate in favor of working with a solo practitioner independent FL rather than an OFL for some business owners: (1) price, (2) independence, and (3) customization.

Price. The first advantage of working with an independent FL is price. OFLs are typically more expensive than their “single shingle” counterparts, sometimes by as much as double. This factor alone is determinative for many business owners because they cannot afford some OFLs’ rates for the time commitment they believe they need.

Independence. Some business owners prefer working with an independent FL because their personal hardwiring makes them more comfortable with independent operators.   Such people bristle at anything that feels overly corporate, and some OFLs come across that way to them.

Customization. Finally, some business owners look for a customized engagement and see OFLs’ standardization as a bad fit. They want their FL to custom- services and methods to their business’s unique needs. Although most OFLs custom-tailor each engagement to fit precisely what their clients need, some business owners perceive them as too cookie-cutter for their tastes.

Fully Independent vs. Licensee Fractional Leaders

Among independent FLs, there are two subtypes: those who work entirely on their own and licensees or franchisees of a standardized system. Examples of the latter include FCSOs who use the Sales Xceleration or SalesQB frameworks.

Some people prefer fully independent FLs. They see no need for the “unnecessary complication” of an external system if the FL has experience, knowledge, and strong references.

They do not want to spend time, money, or energy on parts of a system that don’t apply to them simply because they are part of “the package.”

On the other hand, licensed systems provide a proven process. Some business owners want their FL to use a system that works for thousands of organizations and has been implemented by dozens or hundreds of FLs. They need and want results as soon as possible. They’re hiring an FL because they know they themselves are not experts in the field and recognize that their perception that part of a system is unnecessary may be unfounded.

Licensed FLs also bring technological tools engineered specifically for their clients’ goals. This saves the need for custom software or web app development and facilitates faster implementation custom-designed for business owners’ needs.

Regardless of whether you decide that an OFL or an independent FL is a better fit for you and your business, you’ll leverage the benefit of someone with years of experience at multiple companies to guide you to accomplish what you could not on your own.

Deciding whether a strategic or tactical approach is best and then determining whether you want to engage an FL through an OFL or as an independent operator are critical steps in finding an FL who would best suit your business and goals. If you haven’t determined already the C-level executive you need, check out my blogs on each of these FLs. And you can find more detailed information in my book, Fractional Leadership: Landing Executive Talent You Thought Was Out of Reach.

Can an “Intrapreneurial” Approach Lead to Success?

image-photo:bottom-view-business-team-standing-circle-shutterstock_1434524087 copy

image-photo:bottom-view-business-team-standing-circle-shutterstock_1434524087 copy

Everyone knows about Entrepreneurship! But it’s “Intrapreneurship” that can take your small business to the pinnacle.

In fact, Google’s “20% time” rule reflects this type of spirit. As Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin put it in 2004:

“We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.”

Coined by American entrepreneurs Gifford Pinchot III and Elizabeth S. Pinchot in the late 1970s, the term Intrapreneurship refers to a system that allows an employee to behave like an entrepreneur within a company or an organization.

It can provide a “disruptive” environment and technologies for enhancing and reengineering your organization’s internal processes. The goal is to identify new and parallel products and services and become a leader in your industry. It takes Agile and LEAN continuous improvement to another level!

It is based on the “submarine disruption” theory because it starts at the bottom, not with leadership. Success does rely on senior management and ownership to empower individuals and teams to seek and make change even at the risk of possible internal discontent.

Steve Jobs described it as “a group of people going back to the garage, but in a large company.”

Not everyone is meant to be or wants to be an entrepreneur. Most employees will not be interested in taking the personal or financial risks associated with starting their own business. They are perfectly happy with their careers and a regular paycheck.

But they might be very interested and committed to making meaningful change in the community and the organization.

Intrapreneur Characteristics

Intrapreneurs have high leadership skills and think outside the box. They take risks and drive changes to enhance goods and services to the customer. They are not satisfied with the status quo and always look to make meaningful changes.

Often, a significant obstacle is that the disruptive results and new opportunities and income streams are sometimes not well accepted by ownership and other internal departments that may prefer to back the outcome for the firm.

Intrapreneurs have the same entrepreneurial spirit as visionaries and small business owners but exhibit their skills within the organization and usually do not have the financial risks. They are not afraid to make waves and are often seen as “troublemakers!” But they can assist leadership in making significant advantageous disruptive “change.”

The 3 Types of Intrapreneurs

There are three types of intrapreneurs. Creators, Doers and Implementers, and there will assuredly be others.

Creators are, hopefully, all around you. They always look to make things more efficient. Cherish them. They will make your business successful.

Doers look to work with Creators and implement meaningful change. They understand the change and get it done.

Implementers understand the high-level goals. They are often pressure and goal-driven and strive to make the company “great,” as do all of your Intrapreneurs.

Build and reinforce a culture of creativity, disruptive innovation and brainstorming! You hired them for a reason. Support them! It will only benefit you and your mission!

Intrapreneurs are right under your nose and should be supported and rewarded for making your firm the best it can be. If you are lucky, you will lose your good Intrapreneurs to the world of Entrepreneurship, where they belong!!! You cannot stifle them. But utilize them while you can.

Give me a call — I would love to discuss your Intrapreneurs with you!

About the Author

Currently a Fractional Leader assisting SMEs with growth and operational excellence, William (Bill) is an entrepreneurial, results-driven “C” leader with over 30 years of success leading all areas of “the business,” including Accounting & Finance, Sales & Marketing, IT, Operations and Supply Chain Management in various industries. You can contact Bill via LinkedIn or at 484-390-1105.

5 Tips on How to Setup Your Fractional CMO for Success



In Economics, we learn the theory of rational behavior, that individuals make decisions based on options that provide them with the highest amount of personal utility. As marketers, we realize that people make decisions emotionally. And as growth-focused executives, we strive to bring the rational and emotional together in a way that drives marketing performance.

Getting this balance right is difficult to achieve and is perhaps why Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are so disillusioned with their investments in marketing. According to Harvard Business Reviews Spotlight Series/The Trouble with CMOs, 80 percent of CEOs don’t trust their Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs). Compared to just 10 percent of CEOs who feel the same about their Chief Financial Officers and Chief Information Officers.

As a result, the average tenure of a CMO is the shortest among C-level executives. Agencies don’t fare any better, with agency-client relationships lasting, on average, less than three years. This marketing churn chips away at the store of insight about an organization’s most important stakeholders: its clients, customers, users, consumers, shoppers, Etc. With the growing emphasis on audience-driven insights, user experience, and data-derived decision making, how can marketers be set up for success? Businesses can turn to Fractional Leadership, and, in this case, hire a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer.

Here are five tips that will make working with a fractional marketing executive more successful.

    1. Align the Fundamentals: Marketing fundamentals are only as strong as your business fundamentals. The underlying pillars of your marketing strategy must be derived from root issues (or strengths) thwarting (or propelling) your business growth. Failure to identify these drivers earlier in the process will only result in superficial tactics that are not designed or intended for growth.
    1. Focus on Meaningful Audience Insights: Insights about your audience don’t just come from demographic markers, such as age, income, location, title, and gender. These data may be easier to identify, but behavioral and psychographic information adds a dimension that results in a deeper understanding of a person’s intrinsic and aspirational motivations.If the ultimate objective of marketing activity is to build relationships that lead to sales, demographic data alone doesn’t get you there. Customer panels, qualitative research, and discussion groups with the sole purpose of listening to your customers, with no sales agenda, are a good investment for any client-centric leadership team.
    1. Create Campaign Frameworks: The exponential growth of digital platforms has made it easier to connect with audiences faster and cheaper than the monolithic media landscape of yesteryear. However, it has also made the task of execution much more complex. Creating frameworks that provide the latitude to A/B test variables within a loosely aligned structure can help bring order to chaos. A great example of this is the 5 “W” approach: Who? Why? What? Where? Which? Before launching a campaign, thinking through your frameworks collaboratively and cross-functionally helps form thoughtful hypotheses, identify variables that require interrogation, and prevent analysis paralysis.
    1. Rally Around Metrics That Matter: The ultimate objectives of any marketing team are to build brand equity and drive sales. Metrics that provide insight into how to deliver these outcomes matter. Therefore, map out the “path to conversion” from audience insight to sale. In navigating through all the vanity metrics, ask yourself the following questions to stay focused on what is important.-Is your NPS score strengthening or declining?

      Is your message clear, relevant, and distinct?
      Do you have clear benchmarks to evaluate your performance?
      How are you measuring the quality of your acquisition activity?
      Can you measure your yield, percent of interest that converts to sales?

  1. Wholeheartedly Commit: Jeff Bezos is known to have said, “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.” Too often, the steps that are most important for success — deep audience insights, design, and milestone-driven, iterative planning — are the ones most often skipped or dismissed. The consequence is often a “rush to fail,” which eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in marketing.

The truth is that a lot can go wrong before it goes right. These five ideas can help create an environment where the entire marketing team — internal and external — can collaborate openly, resolve conflict swiftly, and continuously optimize performance results, setting up marketing and your business for sustainable success. Learn more about the Fractional CMO role.

About the Author

Fran Biderman-Gross is the CEO and founder of Advantages, an Inc. 500 global digital branding and marketing agency whose firm assembles strategically lead, full-service teams for companies. Fran is a master at helping others translate their vision and values into a consistent and authentic brand experience. Fran is also the developer of the 3 Keys Workshop, co-author of 3 Keys Book, and an in-demand speaker and consultant who has empowered countless leaders to form the emotional connections that drive revenue growth.