Why Fractional Leadership Works


Now that we’ve introduced each of the Fractional Leader (FL) roles with a high-level overview, what does it mean for your business to have an experienced leader swoop in when you’re stuck and guide you to your destination? A strong leader who has “been there and done that” knows what to do and how to inspire your troops to charge.

The biggest reason Fractional Leadership works is you’re bringing someone on your side who’s already gotten past the point where you’re stuck — and they’ve usually done so multiple times. They shortcut you around bottlenecks and obstacles so you can break through and go way beyond where you could on your own.

Sometimes the best way to illustrate something is to go to those who have been there done that, so I spoke with many small business owners about Fractional Leadership. Here are but a few brief examples that I discuss in length in my book.

Wil Schroter, founder and CEO of Startups.com, the world’s largest startup launch platform and cohost of the Startup Therapy Podcast, explains that in the startup world, Fractional Leadership “is just called hiring.”

There’s no way I could possibly afford the kind of Chief Operating Officer or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) I need. I bring them on in exchange for maybe a quarter point of equity because early equity is the only kind of currency I have at that point. And the truth is that I don’t need that CMO to run my pay-per-click anyway. I can find someone on fiverr to do the grunt work. What I need is for her to tell me what’s around every corner, which company I need a partnership with, and “By the way, here are the contacts you need to talk to.” She’ll send an email that will take 15 minutes of her time and save me a year of my time. That guidance and those relationships are worth their weight in gold.

Kwame Christian, Esq., Director of the American Negotiation Institute and author of Finding Confidence in Conflict, told me that he uses a Fractional Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in his company because it allows him to bring extensive experience and an objective perspective into his business but without the full-time cost:

My Fractional CFO manages the entire financial side of our business. He has that high-level expertise, but we don’t need to pay for full-time.

His benefit is also objectivity. I think it’s easier to be more objective about the company when you have a little bit of separation. My background is in psychology, and I do some implicit bias training from time-to-time because bias is just a natural state of the human mind. I have preconceived notions about my own business. So I tell him, “Listen, I’m biased. This is the way I’m seeing it, but I’m probably missing something. What am I missing?” He can see things a lot more objectively. It’s been really helpful to have that outside influence.

The bottom line for most considering a FL is that they need a leader in the fractional role. For people who are used to having to figure everything out for themselves, hiring a Fractional Leader can almost feel like cheating. They worry they’re doing something wrong by bypassing the obstacles and skipping straight to effective (though often not easy) solutions. Although this feeling is natural, it causes them unnecessary pain and makes their progress toward their own dreams much longer and harder than it has to be.

Leader, Not Worker Bee

Tactical, frontline-type work is a distraction from a Fractional Leader’s main value proposition. Fractional Chief Sales Officers (FCSOs), for example, generally do not make their own sales. Fractional COOs do not personally lead highly technical system rollouts. And FCFOs do not personally do your bookkeeping, A/P, and payroll. Instead, FLs set up systems and processes that cause the people in your organization to do their jobs far more effectively than before. They then train and oversee those teams. This ultimately gets you far more results than one person, even one who is very skilled, can accomplish on their own. The power of FLs is their experience and ability to focus your organization’s resources on your priorities.

You probably built your business by being a “doer” who gets as much accomplished as is humanly possible. Your leadership team always did the same. The problem is, as the saying goes, “What got you here isn’t going to get you there.” Even though the “all hands on deck,” “get ’er done” culture got you past the critically dangerous startup phase, you’ve now reached the stage in your business where that does not work anymore. Isn’t that why you’re frustrated and reading about Fractional Leadership in the first place?

Get Focused on the Right Things

Whether you use an FCSO to focus your sales process and message on what resonates with your target market, an FCFO to make the right decisions based on financial experience, analysis, and data, or a Fractional Chief Technology Officer (FCTO) to build and iterate the right product, focus is key. Because FLs have seen what works and know how to drive implementation, people use them to focus their limited resources on the right things for maximum impact and scalability.

The information herein is a partial excerpt from my book, Fractional Leadership, which  is a consolidation of my personal experience as a Fractional Leader (FL), retaining other FLs in businesses I managed or manage, interviews with FLs on my podcast, Win-Win—An Entrepreneurial Community, and my network and relationships with other FLs.

My experience in operations and being a Fractional Leader in companies running on EOS certainly contribute to my knowledge of operations. I am not, however, a subject matter expert in marketing, sales, finance, or technology. I’ve written these topics with reliance on business owners and FLs in those fields — from a 30,000-foot perspective.

Check out my blogs discussing the five main types of FLs: Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (FCMO), Fractional Chief Sales Officer (FCSO), Fractional Chief Operating Officer (FCOO),  Fractional Chief Technology Officer (FCTO) and Fractional Chief Financial Officer (FCFO).

Ben Wolf Author
Ben Wolf, founder and CEO of Fractional Leadership, has been on both sides of the Fractional Leader search process.
As a leader in companies where he served as Fractional Integrator (outsourced COO), he has searched for and found multiple Fractional Leaders for clients. And as a Fractional Integrator, he has gone through many cycles looking for new clients at the successful conclusion of each engagement.
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