Here's What Your Fractional Executive Needs To Accomplish In 30, 60, And 90 Days

You found what you believe is the perfect fractional executive for your startup. Now, it’s time to integrate them as soon as possible into your workplace and have them use their experience to produce exceptional results. It sounds easy, but there are so many pitfalls along the way, especially in the first 90 days, that prolong results. 

The first 90 days of a fractional executive “reign” is so important that we’re creating a series of articles especially focused on those first 90 days. And we’re doing so for each specific fractional executive role, from fractional CMO to fractional CHRO

So let’s see why are those first 90 days so essential. 

The importance of the first 90 days 

Research suggests that an employee’s first 90 days will in large part determine his or her performance, longevity, and contribution to the company”, said HBS Career Coach Matt Spielman. 

There has been a lot of talk about the importance of the first 90 days on the job. When it comes to a fractional executive, the following five things are the most important ones: 

  • Communication. A fractional executive should go above and beyond, especially in the first 90 days, to communicate who they are, what they want to do (achieve), why they want to do it, and how they will do it. Every single stakeholder should be informed about the fractional executive’s work and decision-making; that’s how they create buy-in from your employees. 
  • Culture. A fractional executive is still a new person that’s coming to your team and as such, they will need to learn how things really function in your startup, or what’s the company’s culture. There can be plenty of conflicts that emerge because of culture because you have a fractional executive who’s learned how to do things in a specific way and your startup might be doing them in a different way. That’s no reason to panic, but you should brush up on your problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills to ensure a smooth transition. 
  • Expectations. When you hire a fractional executive, you expect them to deliver specific results to your company. To do so, the fractional executive will set expectations toward you as the startup and the people (employees) they will work with. The first 90 days are essential for this because they will be a testing ground for the work the fractional executive will do. 
  • Trust. Will the fractional executive do what they said? Will they follow through on their plan? Will they implement what they said and will they hold themselves accountable if they don't? This is the breaking point for many startups and fractional executives; if they build enough trust with each other, they can solve the problems that they face and come out stronger. If they falter on the first problem(s), then the remaining time will be filled with doubt and untrustworthiness, impacting results in a negative way.
  • Momentum. And last but not least is momentum building. A fractional executive should build momentum as soon as possible, showing to the startup and the employees that their plan brings real results and does so with haste. Momentum pushes others to give more and do more, increasing productivity and creating a “yes, we can” attitude in the company. That’s why a fractional executive needs to have early wins; they’re the biggest momentum-builder that you can possibly have. 

With these five elements in mind, let’s see what a fractional executive should specifically do in the first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job. 

What should a fractional executive do in the first 90 days?

There are specific things a fractional executive should do in the first 90 days and they’re divided into three separate categories:  

Initial Assessment  30 days 

Within the first 30 days, the fractional executive should do a lot of assessment and listening. They should focus on understanding the current state of the startup. They need to discover how the company operates in the market, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and how they position themselves internally and externally. 

One of the best ways to get information is to have one-on-one meetings with key team members and managers who can elaborate on the problems and concerns. 

The first 30 days are about understanding the problems and getting to know the essential people in the startup. At the end of these 30 days, the fractional executive should understand how the startup operates and they should start setting initial goals. 

Strategy Development 60 days 

After the first 30 days are up, the fractional executive should start developing a strategic plan by day 60. This plan would identify issues and create a step-by-step process on how to leverage opportunities to solve the problems. The one element that this plan should have is early wins; they’re short-term goals that lead to the accomplishment of long-term objectives. 

A startup is a dynamic environment and things change almost on a daily basis. With that in mind, a fractional executive should create feedback loops that would ensure that they strategy remains aligned with the needs of the business. The market changes fast, and a startup even faster. That’s why feedback loops are essential; the last thing you want is an expensive solution to a problem you don’t even need to solve. 

The roadmap that the fractional executive creates should have clear milestones that need to be accomplished and they should be accompanied with KPIs. You want to measure the success (or failure) of the strategy and clear KPIs would help you do so. 

Implementation and Optimization 90 days

The last phase, the day 61-90, should focus on three specific elements: 

  • Executing the plan. The strategic plan has been created; now it’s time to execute it. You have the KPIs in place that will let you know if the fractional executive succeeded (or failed).
  • Monitoring and adjusting. During the implementation of the plan, the fractional executive will adjust specific things to ensure everything works as intended. Every plan changes a bit when implementing it so this shouldn’t be of any concern. 
  • Adapting the culture. The strategic plan will provide a solution to your startup, and once it’s in the implementation phase, the fractional executive will create an environment where that problem will no longer emerge. They will do so by adapting the startup’s culture. This is where you should be an ally to them and listen to their recommendations.

In the following articles, we will discuss specific departmental needs and challenges, so stay tuned for deep dives into marketing, sales, IT, HR, legal, security, engineering, product, finance, and technology. 

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

The first 90 days of hiring a fractional executive are essential and they can be massively beneficial for your startup. However, there are some common pitfalls that you should take into consideration. These pitfalls can turn the first 90 days into a disaster: 

  • Communication channels. Communication needs to be fast, effective, continuous, and two-way. This will ensure that everyone’s on the same page. 
  • Conflict resolution. The question isn’t whether the conflict will emerge, but how will you solve it when it does. 
  • Misalignment. All stakeholders need to be aligned on business goals and the startup’s vision from day one.  
  • Understanding company culture. The fractional executive that comes into the company needs to understand the culture and also communicate the things they believe should change. 
  • Team dynamics. Understanding team dynamics will be essential for the fractional executive to ensure the success of their strategic plan. You can help your fractional executive by elaborating and explaining the current team dynamics in your startup. 
  • Flexibility. The problem you brought your fractional executive will be the one they will solve, but maybe the path to solution will be different from the one you imagined. Stay flexible and work with your expert. 
  • Prioritization. A startup has many problems and your fractional executive won’t be able to solve all of them; prioritize correctly and solve the most impactful one. 
  • Leadership. Change always requires empathy and this is where the right leadership comes into play. To ensure success, you will need to manage resistance to change and use empathy to create buy-in. 

Focus on the first 90 days and create momentum 

The first 90 days are essential when bringing in a fractional executive. And if you follow the steps above, you’ll be on the right path. For more details and a deep-down analysis, follow the series and see how the first 90 days look for specific executive roles such as marketing, IT, finance, or engineering.