You may not have reached the main board of the company you work for, but you are identified as a seasoned, experienced professional.Maybe you are a finance or an HR director. Perhaps a senior role as a change, creative or product director. 

Can you see the opportunities for promotion are starting to diminish? 

Does your work style bring you the  freedom and joy you deserve?

Are you feeling like your current situation can be sustainable for the rest of your working life?

If the answer to any of these is “no” then maybe it’s time to explore a Portfolio Executive work-style.

What is a Portfolio Executive?

There are many  people who have a portfolio of non-executive director roles. This is not the same idea.

There are some people who have a portfolio of working relationships. They do a bit of this and a bit of that: may be a combination of salaried and self-employed positions. It is not that either.

A Portfolio Executive takes responsibility for a specific function in a number of businesses on a part time basis.

Consider the role of a finance director for example.

As a Portfolio Executive you will become the finance director for a number of businesses, responsible for the finance function in each business on a part time basis. 

You will ensure they have the right people in finance control, in book keeping, in debt recovery, in purchase order processing etc.  

You will also bring all your skills as an experienced finance director to become a trusted advisor to the CEO and the board of that business.  You may, for example, help them to develop the financial part of their business plan, to develop new funding options, find the right advisors and understand which parts of their business are more or less profitable.

You will do all the functions that a finance director has, but, because this is a smaller business, you will be able to spend a lot less time on each client. At a minimum you might spend 1-2 days a month. You will attend the executive board and management meeting, ensure management accounts are properly produced and that the CEO is aware of the financial position of the business as his trusted advisor.

You come into the business and put the systems in place, either through people already employed or people you employ yourself to become be confident that the right finance function is delivered for that business. Once you have got everything set up, you can build up a portfolio of similar positions in other companies. Some which may be a bit larger, some a bit smaller. For example, if you are fee earning 12 days a month, with on average 2-3 days per client per month, you will have between 4-6 clients. If you lose one, it is not a disaster. As the organisation grows, it may require a full-time Finance Director.  For you, that is success and you probably be invited to continue on the board as a non-executive director.

What the clients get is the skill and experience to help develop the business in an affordable way. 

This scenario can apply equally to any of the senior executive positions in an organisation. The size of organisation that you engage with will depend on what specialist professional expertise you bring. 

Over time, you should be able to bill between £800-£1200 per day. 10 days a month at £1000 day equals around £100k gross annual income. As you build expertise, experience and reputation, you can increase those rates. You may choose to  sub-contract others supporting roles for the function. 

Through this you can build a profitable business. I looked at a business plan recently that showed a £1million turnover delivering £ 250k profit every year with a relatively small portfolio of clients.  This is an entirely realistic outcome for the Portfolio Executive work-style.

Sustainability and flexibility as you get older

If you wish to reduce your earning commitment as you get older, you can choose how many clients you have; you can let go the clients who perhaps less profitable or offer lower the rates. You can reduce the clients who are a lot of hassle. You can increase the number of clients for whom you have a Non-Executive Director position. 

You can sustain a work-style with 4-6 clients in your 50’s; 3-5 clients in your 60’s and 1-2 clients in your 70’s.  At this stage you may reduce to just 1 day or 2 days per  month and be a highly valued trusted advisor for the CEO and his board indefinitely.

This is perhaps the greatest joy of a Portfolio Executive work-style.

In my next blog I’ll talk a bit about the transition to become a Portfolio Executive.  Transitioning to this work-style is not straightforward and you will need to draw on skills and experience that you are yet to develop.

Charles Mclachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.