What’s a Fractional Executive?

Learn how a fractional CFO or COO can help grow your business.

The C-suite of a large corporation traditionally consists of a CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, CTO/CIO and more. But for smaller and midsized businesses, that’s usually a luxury they can’t afford. Owners and managers frequently oversee operations, finances, marketing, technology, human resources and more simultaneously — often to the detriment of optimal efficiency and their bottom line.

That’s where the benefits of retaining a fractional executive come in. This increasingly popular option involves bringing someone into your organization to serve as a temporary and/or part-time executive to fulfill specific functions that aren’t currently or adequately being handled internally.

How is a fractional executive different from a consultant?

While fractional executives normally bring a consultant’s mindset to the work they do — which often includes such consulting tasks as evaluating current operations and making recommendations for change — there are some key differences.

Consultants generally are outside professionals who study specific parts of an organization and suggest ways to optimize efficiencies. Engagements are usually time-limited at the outset and involve contract-specific goals. Consultants will often visit the organization multiple times, meet with leadership and selected employees, and pore through internal and external data to assess things and make recommendations.

Fractional executives, on the other hand, embed themselves inside the organization and BECOME the CEO, COO, CFO or CMO for an extended period. Working from the top down and the bottom up, a good fractional executive will get to know ALL of the people and moving parts of the organization in order to properly identify strengths and weaknesses and ways to generate improvements.

And most importantly, the ideal fractional executive will stick around long enough to implement recommendations, identify the right person or people to take on the responsibilities of their role, and work to transition them into the role before moving on. Fractional executive work can often be a multi-year engagement, depending on organizational needs and budgets.

Ultimately it’s a valuable option for businesses to access the expertise, wealth of knowledge and insights offered by a seasoned professional without incurring the costs of a full-time executive.