11 min read

How to become a Fractional Executive

A comparison between full time and fractional executives. Find out of Fractional Executive role is for you.
How to become a Fractional Executive
Photo by Hunters Race / Unsplash

What is a Fractional Executive? 🍰

Fractional executives work as part time leaders for startups to medium-sized businesses. These businesses are usually seed to Series A stage. At this early stage of a business, there’s not always enough work or budget to hire a full time executive. By hiring a fractional executive, startups can gain access to talent that they couldn’t otherwise afford. A fractional executive provides just the right amount of leadership to guide the company at this critical early stage.

Unlike a consultant, a Fractional executive does more than simply give advice. They stick around to ensure their plans are put into action and continue to help grow their clients’ business down the line.

Fractional executives fill crucial C-suite management roles such as Chief Product Officer (CPO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), and more.

These individuals come loaded with previous experience, having typically filled one of these roles in a full-time position during their careers.

Is the Fractional Executive role for you? 🌱

Fractional work isn’t for everyone. If you prefer the stability of the same team and same job for an extended duration, then a full time role may be a better fit. But a fractional role confers different benefits. Here are some questions to consider to see if you’re a good fit.

Do you enjoy

  1. Having more control over your time and scope of work?
  2. Having project diversity, working on a number of ideas at once?
  3. Working with earlier stage startups and founders?
  4. Focusing on bringing new ideas to life instead of non-stop execution and hiring of the growth stage?

If so, then the fractional executive role might be a good fit for you.

What’s the difference between a full-time and a fractional executive? ⏳

When a company raises their Series A or Series B, they typically have the means to hire full time executives. Before that, or when projects are still abstract, an alternative is to hire a part time executive who can help you shape the project and identify the right full-time executive to hire.

Here’s a comparison between full time and fractional executives.

As a full time executive, you go through a standard interview process to get your role. This happens once every 2-6 years depending on how often you’re switching jobs.

As a fractional executive, you’re constantly meeting with potential clients. You may be working on 2 or 3 client projects at once on a part time basis.

So, if you’re considering becoming a fractional executive, the first thing you need to do is to get your elevator pitch right.

Why do you need an elevator pitch? 🛗

As a fractional executive, you are meeting at least one new potential client a week. You’re also sharing your pitch to even more potential clients that you may never meet directly. You’re selling your services at a higher scale than if you took a full time position. Thus, having an ironed out elevator pitch will save you time and bring you more business.

How to write your elevator pitch ✏️

Your elevator pitch should be compelling, memorable and highlight your unique offering. Since you are seeking executive positions, you are up against the best of the best. An elevator pitch allows you to introduce yourself and deliver your value proposition.

Your elevator pitch needs to include these elements:

Your Focus Area 👑

  • What types of companies do you work with? Industry? Size? Founder profile?
  • This answers your audience’s question of “Are we the right fit?”

Your Special Sauce ​​🥫

  • 2 things that make you stand out; 1 related to your expertise, 1 related to your passion
  • This answers your audience’s question of “Do you have what I need?”

Your Credibility 🏅

  • 1 example of a client “just like them” that you helped

Before you go and write your own, it’s probably helpful to look at some examples.

3 examples of great fractional executive pitch ⭐

The best way to create a great pitch is to study other great pitches. Looking at fractional executive profiles is the best place to start. To find the best profiles to show you, I reached out to Bolster, a fractional executive network that I’m a part of. They shared a few top profiles in their system. Let’s see why these profiles stand-out.

Recall the 3 elements we want to make sure we include. Using color code, I’ve highlighted each element in the profile.

  1. 👑 Your Focus Area (yellow highlight)
  2. 🥫Your 2-Key Differentiators (pink highlight)
  3. 🏅Your Credibility (blue highlight)

Let’s take a look at fractional CFO Ashley Vulkovits’ profile. In her short bio of only 2 sentences, she touched on #1 Focus and #2 Special Sauce. Her #3 Credibility shines through in her more detailed list of experiences.

When we look at CTO Kevin Carlson’s profile, a similar pattern emerges. #1 Focus and #2 Special Sauce are addressed again in 2 sentences. Kevin decided to flip it, focusing first on #2 before getting into #1. His credibility shines through in his CISO roles, tying directly to his security and privacy focus on #1.

I take a similar approach in my profile, hitting hard on #1 Focus and #2 in the summary section. My special sauce of storytelling adds a unique dimension to my product offering. Product management in particular is a large domain. By specializing on the vision and go-to-market side, aka storytelling, I am able to find clients that are more aligned with my unique offering. Plus, it’s a great conversation starter.

Now, you’re ready to write your pitch and win some clients. Next, I’ll share my playbook on:

  1. How to get your pitch polished
  2. Where to post that pitch to get business
  3. How to win your first client

How to get your pitch polished 🎙

Before posting your pitch, it’s important to get feedback. I’ll share with you one tip from my 6-week storytelling class. First, record yourself on video doing the pitch, so you can make some adjustments on facial expression and body language. But most importantly, this step forces some practice cycles before going out into the real world with it. Once you’re ready for the real world, here are the top three places to get feedback on your pitch:

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