Commercial and Contracts offers a fantastic and varied career path, and we think it is particularly meritocratic compared to similar professions. Given the right mix of talent and commitment, it is possible to progress through the ranks quickly. However, for the lucky few, there is an issue: you hit the ceiling. You are one of the most senior Commercial people in a FTSE100/Fortune 500, and you want a new challenge; what are your options?
Get the top job?
Typically, the “top job” in Commercial is Group Commercial Director (GCD). This role will likely be a step beneath the management board; you will likely report to the CFO or General Counsel. We very rarely see Commercial roles sit at true “C” level. Most GCD roles are appointed internally, so if that is your aim and your current boss is in for the long haul, it is worth considering a sideways role in a new organisation with an opportunity for a step up.
Move into an MD/senior operational role?
The broad business skills you acquire as a commercial leader are transferable to other disciplines. The most common step we see is into a divisional MD role. You will likely have demonstrable experience in all facets required in the role, with the notable omission of P&L management. We see people make this move within their existing organisation; given the lack of a track record in P&L management, it is a challenge to make this move externally, but a current employer can often see past this as they have had the opportunity to see the potential in the individual first hand.
The top job in an SME, perhaps with some equity?
This route is the option we are asked about most, opportunities do exist, but they are vanishingly rare. To justify a Commercial and Contracts department, a business needs to be of a scale where they have large and complex contracts; this rules out smaller companies and B2C businesses. In our experience, it is highly unusual for a business under £200M T/O to require a dedicated Commercial department, so we are very much in the “M” of SME. There are very few Defence businesses of this size; most of these opportunities are with fast-growing technology businesses. To land one of these roles, you need to possess deep and varied experience and, critically, be happy to get stuck into whatever needs doing. While your core focus will be large customer-facing contracts, you will inevitably get involved with any deal underpinned by a complex contract; Supplier negotiations, M&A, employment law and probably insurance. Be prepared for a lower base salary but a more highly geared package.
Perhaps you have had enough of corporate life and want to do something completely different? Plenty of major projects out there need an experienced negotiator at the helm. It’s a different way of working; you will have intense periods of activity interspersed with downtime between projects. While occasional projects are leading/building teams, most opportunities are individual contributor roles facing clients on big deals. Financially it’s likely to be similar to your exec perm package; you would need to take the leap and leave your current role as immediate availability is a pre-requisite.
If you want to understand the market at your level or plan your next move get in touch with the Arguile Search team at email@example.com or 0161 445 3947.