A Functional Fractional: How to Operate Effectively as a Fractional Executive
- Personal Operations—Keeping yourself organized
- Client Operations—Integrating quickly and effectively in your engagements
Personal Operations ToolkitA primary factor that defines a fractional executive’s experience is the number of accounts and logistics they’re juggling on a day to day basis, especially if they have more than one client engagement.
Communication ManagementMost fractionals have, at a minimum, personal and business email accounts, then will receive an email account for each engagement (being entrenched in a client’s workspace is a key differentiator for fractionals vs external consulting models). Between inboxes, Slack and chat apps, collaboration platforms, etc., it’s essential to set up a system that keeps each workspace distinct and manageable. Tool(s): Free solutions like Google Chrome Profiles or paid integrated inboxes like Superhuman can be helpful in keeping conversations straight to ensure responses are timely and commitments are met. Calendar Management The calendar dance is often a rude awakening for a first time fractional executive. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to inadvertently double and triple book time slots across multiple accounts or worse, miss meetings altogether. Tool(s): There are several tools available from free to premium that integrate multiple calendars so you can schedule across numerous accounts with confidence. In fact, many now have a scheduling link feature built in for convenience.
Administrative TasksFrom time tracking to invoicing, getting paid is no longer as simple as it was during salaried years. Most fractionals will agree that a retainer or set fee model is a much preferred path to revenue vs hourly engagements, but either way it’s important to have a clear way to account for time spent and receive payment for services. Tool(s): It’s wise for a fractional executive to set up their own HRIS and/or accounting platform to manage payroll, taxes, and other administrative logistics. Use a browser plugin if you need detailed logging of hours and/or add notes to your calendar to audit how your days are spent.
Client Operations ToolkitGetting started with a new client in a fractional capacity is an exciting time. While there are many similarities to the onboarding experience of a salaried employee, there are several best practices the fractional and client should align on up front to ensure mutual success.
Expectation of Availability and ResponsivenessIn many ways, a fractional executive feels like a full member of the team. However, since it’s typically not a full-time engagement, it’s important to establish up front when you’re working and when responses may be delayed. Tool(s): Set dedicated working days/times as a baseline and communicate them clearly. Establish SLAs for responsiveness both inside and outside working hours, and be up front when responses might be delayed (e.g should they expect answers on nights/weekends or not until business hours?). If applicable, align on escalation protocols in case you’re needed for an emergency like a platform outage or security breach.
Onboarding and OwnershipA client holds some responsibility for getting a fractional up to speed, but a great fractional executive has tried-and-true methods to onboard quickly and make an impact. Remember, most companies hire fractionals not only for their skills but for their leadership and seniority so a prescriptive approach will save everyone time and effort (and lock in glowing referrals for future business).
Tool(s): Create a standard list of discovery questions to quickly learn who is responsible for core functions (perhaps even creating a RACI if one doesn’t exist), how to access and navigate systems and tools (and identify systems gaps, as applicable), and establish your domain of influence to know where your time should be spent.