Independent Executives Poised to Transform Corporate America, First-Ever Survey Suggests

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First-ever survey of independent professionals’ attitudes by Business Talent Group finds that control of what they work on and who they work with matters most to growing, influential segment of elite workers

Companies that figure out how to access this talent on a temporary, ‘just-in-time’ basis will have a competitive advantage. Innovative corporate leaders are beginning to think differently about how firms and top talent interact.

Independent business professionals – experienced executives and consultants who choose to work on a project basis rather than in traditional senior corporate roles – are making a career out of interim work because they value the choice and control it offers them with respect to what they work on and who they work with. In addition, most independent professionals are not using interim work as a means to re-enter the work force, or as a bridge until a permanent role is found. These are the key findings of the first-ever survey of independent business professionals, conducted by Business Talent Group.

Census data (which does not track the emerging professional workforce with precision) suggests there are perhaps 1 million senior independent business professionals in the United States today, and their ranks are growing. To understand the values and motivations of this segment of the labor force, Business Talent Group, the leading firm that places such talent in interim assignments at Fortune 1000 companies, private equity firms and major nonprofits, surveyed its pool of 2700 independent professionals. Sixty percent of the pool is male. Over 70 percent have been in the workforce for 20-plus years; 95 percent have been working at least 10 years.

The survey asked independents to rank which was more important to them in their work: money, or the ability to choose their own projects and control their career. By nearly a 2 to 1 margin, independents chose control. Eighty percent of the talent pool said they intended to remain independent in the coming year. The pool is comprised of businesspeople who typically earn between $1500 and $5000 per day. Most have been able to maintain or increase the fees they charge for their services, even in the difficult economy.

“Our first annual talent survey confirms what we see in our business every day,” said Jody Miller, Business Talent Group’s founder and CEO. “There’s a choosy new corps of ‘free agent’ executives with the desire and the ability to work on their own terms. They’re well paid, but money isn’t their prime motivator. Companies that figure out how to access this talent on a temporary, ‘just-in-time’ basis will have a competitive advantage. Innovative corporate leaders are beginning to think differently about how firms and top talent interact.”

Amelia Warren Tyagi, Business Talent Group’s co-founder and chief operating officer, says the attitudes of independent executives, combined with their growing numbers, may have an impact on broader social debates before long. “It frustrates our talent that they can’t access group health coverage outside the traditional employment setting or when government policy or the tax code treats them unfairly,” Tyagi said. “When independent professionals find their voice as a constituency for change, watch out.”

Further details on the survey’s findings, including the primacy of strategic growth assignments for independent talent even in the current economic environment, are available upon request.

About Business Talent Group:
Business Talent Group is the premier firm delivering the world’s best independent management consultants and independent operating executives for consulting and interim executive assignments. Business Talent Group has offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle.

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Ryan Leventhal
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