Growing trend of temporary executives

March 3, 2009 1:00:22 PM PST
The unemployment rate in California has now exceeded 10 percent for the first time in more than a decade - everyone from first time workers to high-end executives find themselves suddenly looking for work. Now a Bay Area company is among those finding a creative solution.SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

Talent-on-demand -- it's a growing business trend that's appealing to both companies and the experienced professionals who offer their services.

"We have tri-athletes and Ph.D.s, and working moms and working dads - there's lots of reasons people want flexibility," said Sally Thornton, Flexperience co-founder.

A couple of years ago, Sally Thornton helped co-found Flexperience - a boutique consulting firm that connects experienced marketing, human resources, finance and legal professionals with companies needing to hire flexible executives who can cover a leave of absence or work short-term on a special project.

"We saw a bunch of highly-skilled talent who said I love to work, I just don't want to work 80 hours anymore," said Thornton.

Talent like Tisa Beene, who has no desire to return to a full-time job; Beene is a certified public accountant, who still likes using her skills and getting paid well, but has mastered churning out work in fewer hours.

"Just the fact that I'm able to do CFO consulting for two startups in three-days a week, I think kind of says it all," said Beene.

And then there's Deborah Kopleman -- she's currently working on a six-month project for the Bay Area biotech company Genentech. Kopelman says the job fits her lifestyle, while keeping her career skills fresh.

"From my perspective, with two young kids, I have the ability to try on and experiment different career opportunities," said Kopleman.

And for companies, especially during this period of economic uncertainty - hiring flexible executives makes financial sense -- they don't have to pay benefits, nor payroll taxes, but can still tap into highly-skilled talent.

"Small companies like us because we have part-time CFOs or part-time general counsels, so it's that critical expertise that a startup needs at a rate that they can afford. Big companies like us because they don't want to add to headcount, so they say you're affordable," said Thornton.

Flexperience currently places a pool of talent exclusively with Bay Area based clients - many are Fortune 500 companies. The sectors range from high tech and financial - to biotech, even retail. And clients include Levis, Ross stores, Pixar and Genentech. With California's unemployment surpassing 10 percent - more skilled professionals may start seeking temporary work through flexible consulting firms.

"The people that you get are not only highly qualified, but they are very motivated, they're very engaged, and it's a win-win for both sides," said Elaine Miller, Flexperience client.

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