Sep 08

Why Portfolio Workers are Good for your Business

The Japanese people believe that everyone has an ikigai – a reason for being. Ikigai is about feeling that your life is valuable and that you have an impact. It’s not linked to your status in society, or the money you earn. Everyone’s ikigai is unique and is based on your particular intersection of passion, talent, and potential to benefit others.

For happiness and contentment, your version of ikigai, in whatever form, should be linked to the work you do every day. This is the philosophy of Sneha Shah, a global business leader and CEO who has has built and scaled many impactful and high growth businesses over her career. After over 21 years with large multinational blue chip companies, Sneha is combining her deep commercial acumen, a passion for business as a force for good and her talent for leading through people as she designs a more purposeful career for herself, her version of ikigai. That design includes some Board and advisory work, some fractional executive work, investing in emerging markets, and a growth CEO role.

With this move, Sneha joins the ranks of other executives with portfolio careers such as Craig Bond and Michael Ikpoki, who are all part of the curated and highly skilled talent pool that our clients at InbyEX have direct access to.

The Covid-19 pandemic offered us a fresh perspective on the role work plays in all our lives. The concept of a “career for life” has fallen out of fashion, and there is an increased desire for variety, flexibility, and autonomy. Given this momentum, professionals are realising in increasing numbers that a portfolio career is not only possible, but also preferable.

Technically, a portfolio career is one that is not reliant on a single source of income. You are your own boss, working with multiple clients, and the work could be large or small projects, part time work, interim management, or board-level roles. Barbara Sher, bestselling author of Refuse to Choose, refers to seasoned executives like Sneha, Craig and Michael as “scanners.” One of the most fundamental characteristics of a scanner is intense curiosity, and an ability to excel in two or more different fields at a time.

While a portfolio career can benefit executives wishing to find their ikigai, this emerging form of work has also proven to be hugely beneficial for more established businesses and entrepreneurial start-ups alike. Some of the benefits include—particularly in a time of increasing economic uncertainty—staffing projects with a finite timeline and engaging specific skills needed immediately for a short duration to achieve desired project outcomes. Executives with diverse careers are also better at working flexibly in different environments and are likely to have a greater range of skills and a wider pool of professional contacts they can call on to get a specific job done.

A portfolio worker also offers their clients breadth and depth of experience that are not often found in someone operating in a single job. Michael, a former CEO of MTN Ghana and MTN Nigeria, is now applying his 25 years of leadership and operational experience in the African telecoms and consumer goods sector, across what he calls “four buckets”. He spends the bulk of his time advising a broad spectrum of businesses through the process of entering and growing their businesses in the Ghanaian and Nigerian markets. In our conversations, he refers to his board roles and consulting work in the telecoms/ICT space as “low hanging fruits” and looks forward to spending more time mentoring and sharing some of his best practices with other African CEOs. He is enthused with applying his experiences into shaping Africa’s most impactful businesses of the future.

With his depth of know-how, someone like Michael can be brought on board as a fractional CEO, to challenge traditional group think, identify trends, and connect the dots that an insider often isn’t able to do when they are so deeply entrenched in the business.

Craig, a former CEO of two of Africa’s largest Retail and Business banks, among other significant roles he filled, calls himself a transformational and turnaround leader with “scars on his back.” He believes companies who employ fractional executives can benefit from partnering with someone like him who doesn’t need to own the outcome of a process, who is a good listener, culturally adaptive and who has lived experiences, like merging banks in real life, not just in theory.

Contact us on if your business could benefit from spending time with Sneha, Michael, Craig or any of the other top executives in our InbyEX talent pool. We can provide you with the executive talent your business needs, for an hour, a day, or a regular weekly meeting; at a fraction of what it will cost to employ a full-time executive of this calibre.

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