Scaling your Portfolio Executive Business: Providing more value to your clients

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It’s really interesting to see how as your portfolio matures, there are opportunities to add additional elements to your offer and use that to increase your effective fee rate. So, if your primary offer as a portfolio executive is part-time responsibility for a function in a smaller organisation then that’s great, but now consider these other offers that you can add to the picture.

Start to provide one-to-one support

If you are the part-time finance director and they’re looking to appoint a full-time direct finance director, and they are going to do that by promoting the existing financial controller, then as part of that transition you reduce your input and start coaching and mentoring the new person. Your coaching and mentoring rate should be a significant premium over your normal day rate. So, if your day rate is £1000 a day, your coaching rate should at least be £300 an hour. That is a reasonable coaching rate.

Over time, you may end up doing more of that one-to-one support for clients, where when you have an opportunity, you realise the right thing to do is provide one-to-one support for the incumbent who’s not quite ready to be a finance director, rather than you step in and become the part-time finance director.

This has been a very attractive approach for one of the portfolio executives, I worked with. With a history of working in aerospace engineering business sorting out issues in operations, he was keen to work more locally. He has been coming alongside CEOs of family businesses that are looking to transition to the next generation. His 1-2-1 support is both helping the CEO to manage the relational impacts of this transition and strengthening the family member who is leading operations. This has an immediate commercial impact, improving profitability by reducing costs through efficiencies and increasing revenue by providing a more responsive service to customers. It also helps to develop the leadership and management skills of the family member which tests their suitability to succeed as the CEO.

Running groups for developing professionals

Look at the opportunity to start a group as a finance director where you have four or five finance controllers, or finance managers, meeting together once a month, for two or three hours, where you provide a setting in which they can compare notes, where you can do group coaching with them and where they can raise issues with one another.

Now if you have got four or five people in the room, and it’s two or three hours, and you’re charging perhaps £300 per person or £400 per person, you have increased your fee rate again. For the portfolio executive operations director mentioned above, the motivation was both financial but also developmental. He wanted to use the skills he had developed in coaching and mentoring in other group settings and apply them in his business. This would give him a personal stretch from developing a new offer and working with business leaders rather than participants in community groups.

Becoming a board advisor

Board advisors are typically appointed by investors, often private equity. The assignments tend to be shorter, and they tend to be more intensive. However, it can be a great stepping stone to non-executive director roles in the future. It starts to connect you with the investor community, which in itself can create all sorts of further opportunities. Operating as a board advisor rather than a non-executive director means you don’t have the legal responsibilities of a company director. It often commands a premium day rate compared to your portfolio executive role.

Typically, a board advisor is brought in by an investor to support an incumbent senior executive and help them to turn around what’s going on, through the advice you can give them. The input again can be relatively small, it might be a half a day, twice a month, but it is something which is usually done over a relatively small period as a piece of remedial work. This is not a long-term relationship.

One of the fractional finance directors, I have worked with has found a very rewarding niche working on post-merger or post-acquisition transition. She has very strong project management skills and an understanding of HR. She has built strong relationships with private equity and highly acquisitive business groups and has a steady flow of work. She has built a support team that she engages to multiply her impact. Because she can create huge value in a short period of time by accelerating the immediate benefits of merger or acquisition, she commands a premium day rate

I would be very cautious about relinquishing my core portfolio and focus only on board advisory work, but it can be a great contributor to your longer-term progression and enable you to start to scale your portfolio executive business.

Facilitating board meetings

Founder CEOs can benefit enormously from the discipline of quarterly board meetings. It enables them to step back from day-to-day urgent priorities and review their progress against their quarterly and annual plans. In addition, when board meetings are supported by regular reports, well-structured agendas and carefully written minutes, it demonstrates good governance and provides a contemporaneous record of the development of the business. This can accelerate due diligence required by investors or acquirers and protect the valuation of the business.

However, CEOs do not often make the best chairs of these meetings and the business is often not ready to appoint an external chair of the board. For a portfolio executive working with smaller organisations, you are developing broad commercial skills, understanding how to operate through influence and a rich awareness of the people dynamics of the executive team.

When you offer to chair board meetings, you are not seeking to act as the chair of the company but you are enabling the CEO to fully participate in the discussions without seeking to chair at the same time. There are several clients where I have started by providing 1-2-1 support for founders and extended my service to chairing board meetings. I charge a premium fixed price for a two-hour board meeting. This ensures I can set aside the time necessary to chase executives to circulate reports in advance, agree the agenda with the CEO, consult with any external directors and publish the draft minutes immediately after the meeting.

Alongside the quarterly board facilitation, I can often sell a facilitated annual strategy session (half day or whole day) which helps to set the parameters for the preparation of the budget in good time for the board meeting at which the budget is approved.


Traditional business wisdom is that retaining and ‘upselling’ existing clients is more profitable than winning new clients. These suggestions help you to do both. More importantly, if you want to continue to build a workstyle that gives you freedom and joy then continually evolving and developing yourself and your offer for clients will help you to do more of the work you love for people you love working with.


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.