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Leaders Letter 152 – The Impact Of Fractional C-Suite Role

Dear leaders, have you noticed the trend of more fractional leaders? 

There have been numerous articles written in recent weeks about the rise of fractional leaders. Some have been positive, and others have questioned the risk and the reward of a “part-time lead” within businesses. 

Data via exploringtopics.com

Having been a fractional lead covering Operations, Growth and Marketing within a marketplace, I can speak on my personal experiences, however, to get to the bottom of this growth and the business impact of the fractional roles I wanted to dig deeper and ask current fractional leaders to give me their take on fractional roles and how they are driving businesses forward. 

The fractional c-suite leads interviewed were (click names below to connect): 

Q. With fractional roles becoming more and more popular, what are the two common themes you see when taking on fractional leadership roles? 

Camilla: In my experience, the main reason businesses are investing in Fractional roles is due to the unstable economic environment we are in – and the flexibility and reduced-financial risk these roles can offer. But, also the increasing understanding that a business that is not yet ready for an expensive CMO hire, can actually still afford to have the strategic prowess of one, and find it valuable despite not being full-time. 

Fractional briefs also allow you to be laser-focused on the job at hand, removing some of the fluff and politics that often come with a full-time role– so I have actually witnessed personally, and from peers, companies actually getting more impact from someone part-time, than a full time equivalent.

Mehul: I find the awareness is still very low outside the immediate group. Although in the current environment, companies are facing a multitude of challenges and there is an acceptance that they need to supplement their internal teams with external expertise to resolve those challenges

Mike: Early stage companies struggle to see the value of it until they try it. What can seem like an expensive upfront investment pales in insignificance when compared to the time that can be saved in up-skilling and waiting for a developing leader to meet the required level. More open, less defensive budding leaders see fractional leaders for what they are – a great opportunity to rapidly up-skill and increase the tangent of their own career development.
It’s not a threat, it’s a huge unfair advantage in their career.

I also see a lot of dysfunctional leadership teams with a lot of false harmony. Lots of back-slapping and perceptions that everything is rosey.
It’s only when you start peeling back the layers when teams realise that there’s a lot more to building an exceptional team.

James : Flexibility: More companies are welcoming the flexibility that working with Fractional CMOs brings. It certainly suits current market conditions, but also aligns with the remote working world.
Contractors would often be viewed as separate to the business, remote working is a great leveller with a lot of these barriers being removed. I also seeing this coming more and more into the agency world, with less “”lock in deals”” and lengthly contacts that companies are being held to. 

Multi-faceted Problem solving: Seeing more businesses looking for general senior problem solvers, who have operated in a similar space and can solve a set of key issues and problems that a business may face as it pertains to their growth.
This can often be less “straight-up marketing”, diving into a multitude of other areas – from strategy to data – all part of the modern CMO’s skillset.

Oren: Businesses early on with inexperienced leadership have a hard time rationalising the increased investment of fractionals. Why pay +1k a day when I can hire a 40k a-year marketer full-time? – The perceived value and remit of a fractional is directly proportional to the C level’s belief and confidence in the impact of marketing, and hence how and if it will influence growth.”

Q. How do you feel fractional roles are helping companies move forward?

Camilla: In so many ways but as mentioned above and below, the primary beauty of a fractional role is being able to support a business that otherwise wouldn’t be able to invest in a full-time role.
For so long these businesses went without senior leadership in key functions, as they believed unless someone was full-time, they couldn’t be valuable – but the increase in Fractional roles has proved otherwise.

Mehul: Fractional roles bring a high level of expertise along with benchmarks of what good looks like. This helps the companies and the teams to maximise their learning opportunities, contextualise their performance and ultimately unlock success earlier and more efficiently vs. what they may have achieved internally.

For e.g., most of my clients give me a consistent feedback that I have helped them identify the right projects, scope them correctly and get the required investment which supports their medium and long-term objectives.

Michael: I think they lower the barriers to excellence. Where companies previously couldn’t afford to hire experienced leaders they can now tap into the expertise of more established professionals without having to foot the bill of paying a full-time salary.

Great leadership isn’t doing more. It often involves being more selective over the things you do, making better decisions and managing teams more effectively.
I’ve made countless mistakes over my career that less experienced teams no longer need to make. What might have taken me working long days & weekends to achieve earlier in my career I can now do a day/week with a more junior team supporting me.

James: Instant expertise: Companies can have FCMO’s parachute into a business at little to no notice and immediately provide expertise in key areas. These skills would often take time to acquire, build, buy-in as well as time to ramp up. This can be a shock to the system, but also an instant energy change for both parties.

Try before you buy: This works on both sides with the FCMO and company being able to determine fit for longer term engagement in weeks, not months – saves time, money and organisational strain. It feels like an incredibly optimal way to work for senior hires especially.

Oren: Fractionals pull in C-level experience for the marketing function that was not previously available for companies pre B-round.

Q. Do you feel there are any limitations in fractional roles versus having a long-serving full-time department lead? 

Camilla: The ultimate goal for a business is to be at the size where it can justify investing in a full-time CMO. I see many businesses doing this before they are ready, however, and then unfortunately it therefore sometimes doesn’t work out. Until they are ready, a Fractional CMO is a very effective way of ensuring they have senior counsel and leadership without the risk and large investment.

Mehul: Business and category knowledge is one of them. Although you are being hired for your functional expertise.

Developing trust with the team that you are there to unblock and empower them and not make their lives harder or replace them.

You have to feel comfortable for not getting the credit or value created by your foundational work in the years to come.

Michael: The main one is logistical – it can be challenging scheduling team meetings/offsites when dealing with multiple teams with different rhythms and priorities. It’s not insurmountable but certainly requires some thought.

James: The limitations do align around people management, which is particularly salient in the remote working world. It’s difficult to develop deep management relationships with FCMO engagements, especially when it comes to line management, it means these people management areas need to be filled from other areas in the org, which requires transparency all round.

Oren: Yes, many limitations. A fractional, unlike a part-time CMO, presents a hybrid of strategy and tactical deployment, and hence with limited time/scope is constrained by time/energy. This impacts team management the most, but also availability for the rest of the c-suite who often have packed schedules making finding meeting time difficult enough. 

In general, the challenge is that business owners/founders are wedded to their businesses, and having someone who isn’t in the trenches with them 24/7 as they are, is a hard pill to swallow.


From all of the underlining data being shared and the expert answers above, the fractional role is here to stay and in many businesses, it will add a huge amount of value, particularly those at an early stage or looking to mature at an accelerated rate. Many companies will need to consider how a fractional c-suite member(s) can work and how they’ll add value away from execution and add a level of insight and education in leadership meetings and to the leadership team.

As ever if you have teams in place, do consider how a fractional lead could come in and positively or negatively impact company strategy and company culture, especially if they are not onboarded into the business properly and are not a match for the existing team in place. 

This week’s focus action: consider how a fractional leader could add value and build momentum in your business and how, rather than consider it as a hindrance how it could help your business progress and grow. 

» As ever if you have something to say about this week’s newsletter? Don’t be shy, subscribe (below) and then you can just hit reply!

Thanks and have a great week, 

Danny Denhard

Want To Work With Me? I Coach, I Advise & I Consult (email danny@focus.business)

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