Evaluating a business’ situation and what should be done to further its best interests requires dedicated time, objectivity, emotional detachment (those latter two are different — objectivity comes from clear vision, and a grand, experienced perspective while emotional detachment comes from not being emotionally constrained from sacrificing any sacred cows, or offending anyone), and the experience and expertise of someone who has lived through a large number of these types of situations previously.
You need a tactical and strategic specialist upon whom you can truly rely. And you are already frightened that a stranger will compromise or destroy things which you have emotionally invested in.Interestingly, this very fear and attachment are the factors that keep leaders from leading the great businesses which they’ve built in moments of either crisis or critical decision.
Your business is in dire straits. You don’t know quite when it happened but your business is hurting: cash flow is very then, both fixed and variable costs seem to be on the rise, and your regional managers no longer seem motivated beyond their biweekly paycheck. You wish that you could stop everything that you’re doing and spend a few weeks examining the business in detail, but you are 1) too busy and involved in the business process and 2) not at all objective. You lack time and objectivity — and to top it off you are too emotionally involved with the business to make the changes that might have to be made. You and your attorney conferred with me, and came to the conclusion that you needed a Turnaround Consultant, and asked if I had an interest in the engagement. I am at your offices this morning, because as good a visionary, leader and hands-on manager as you are, you lack time, objectivity and the emotional detachment necessary to be effective in doing what must be done.
It requires time, objectivity and emotional detachment to do what has to be done for a business at any critical point in its evolution: whether that is averting financial disaster; contemplating adding a new product or service; thinking about outsourcing or using virtual office services to cut your staffing requirements (and the expense which comes along with having a full-time employee — now close to 37% on average of the employee’s base salary in most corporate cases); contemplating developing a virtual export or import division; evaluating a merger opportunity with a competitor in your industry who is significantly larger than you are; evaluating combining your business with you largest supplier; thinking of recapitalizing through either a private placement of equity interests, a public offering of securities, a deal with a private equity firm; a “guaranteed” public offering of your company‘s common shares through an investment banking firm; or, signing on for a large line of credit at seemingly good terms with an overseas firm out of the Middle East which only wants a 7% equity stake in your company.
When a business is at a critical inflection point in its evolution, life cycle or critical path, the key individual cannot necessarily trust or confide in anybody except for his or her lawyer or his or her accountants — but these professionals are limited in their scope of practice and expertise. The person whom you seek is usually referred to you by your legal counsel or perhaps by your independent accounting and auditing firm — and he will have those attributes necessary to guide you past that inflection point that we spoke of earlier:
It’s at these times, whether the decision involves avoiding a disaster or acquiring another firm in order to make a giant step in your business volume and diversification (not to mention the increase) in revenue sources that I feel delighted to be needed.
Thank you for reading me, and for circulating my posts through your ever-growing social media channels.
Why does BPM matter? (ebizq.net) – They Invent New Acronyms Every Week. And When They’re Not Doing That, They’re Finding New Uses For Existing Acronyms Just To Create Confusion – I Thought That “BPM” Stood For “Beats Per Minute”. That’s Why I’m One Of Those SOBs Who Avoids Acronyms.
Economic Times Main Syracuse ambulance company files for bankruptcy; change won’t likely …
Douglas E. Castle‘s insight:
After reading the article, it struck me as fascinating how the Economic Times was callng this Chapter 13 abankruptcy (as if it were a death knell for the ambulance company), and that the ambulance company spokesman, out of political training, or out of ignorance, called the proceeding "a routine reorganization….the company’s service will not be affected." The reason for the publication taking a more fatalistic view is that most companies of small to medium size ultimately wind up transitioning [atrophying] into Chapter 7 (a liquidation of asets, usually by auction), with a complete cessation of activities, The "reorganization" is basically a court intervention which just forestall (in most cases) a liquidation.
This fatalistic perception has permeated all of society because of the sad fact that those companies which are not "too big to fail" do not do anything constructive during the Chapter 13 reorganization period in terms of formulating and implementing an Emergence Plan to leave Chapter 13 and emerge as a streamlined, smarter, better-run enterprise. It takes an expert with a great deal of knowlege to get into the company, correct its trajectory objectively and candidly, in order to navigate through the "reorganization" into a newer, better way of doing business.
Lamentably, most businesses tend to just use Chapter 13 as an excuse to continue making the mistakes that brought them to the courthouse in the first place. That’s very foolish. They need to be turned around by a visionary from the outside with an objective view and a firm hand regarding suggestions and implementation.
If only Detroit were one of my Turnaround Business Clients (sigh), either the bankruptcy might have been avoided, or its method of conducting its “Municipal Business” might have been radically changed some time ago. There should have been much more oversight, checks and balances in all aspects of management, and operation, financial and forensic audits by a competent independent third party firm on a short notice basis. But then, the sad aspect of the public sector is that is by no means as accountable, or as interested in its investors (the taxpayers), as would be a simple medium-sized company.
When you combine poor accounting (and a lack of individual accountability), a lack of variance analysis, a lack of integrity in leadership, the absence of a formalized budgetary review process, the informality of fiduciary authority and a plethora of useless contracts for services and purchases that were not of benefit to the client [in a business they either call that “Other People’s Money” (OPM), which doesn’t really have to be accounted for directly if there’s enough of it (and who is keeping count as the nectar pours through the sieve? And more importantly, who knows what the total available capital for expenses and expenditures actually is?), or, in the worst case breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and embezzlement.
Goodness, if taxpayers realized that they were really shareholders, with the right to demand an accounting, a reconciliation, and an explanation of any ‘treasury leakage’ either through negligence or through political favors paid for at the expense of the populace. — DEC at 1Turnaround.
What follows is my curating and rather extensive and opinionated commentary regarding an article which I found in my inbox from Scoop.It!, a wonderful source of excellent articles and opportunities to really get a grand view of the topics which interest me, and are of crucial importance to my clients.
I am in full accord with the writer’s point of view as it concerns Detroit, specifically, and as it concerns all businesses and organizations which have fiduciary responsibilities. Sadly. election politics as well as organizational office politics tend to bring out some unsupported or unsupportable promises which ultimately will become perceived as lies. In any business or organizational structure (For-Profit and Not-For-Profit) you cannot make empty promises, as they will cost you all of your negotiating power (based largely in credibility), and possibly your career when the truth comes out.
Let’s assume that we are following a sensible business protocol, and that we are responsible to the Board, our colleagues, our employees, our customers (or constituents), our creditors and our investors. A methodical approach must be undertaken — it is sad that these politically-oriented individuals don’t examine the financial position and projections of the governments or businesses which they are trying to get the opportunity to lead prior to embarking on their campaigns.
A general rule to start with is that you cannot ever make a promise which is unconditional, especially if it is dependent upon the promises of others (grants, investments, lots of new business revenues, a technological breakthrough and the like). Make fewer promises of good and plenty, and more commitments to fixing problems at their source to ensure safety, stability and success.
Aside: Not to ridicule anyone at the federal government level, but you can’t make inferences to “getting out of debt by increasing borrowing,’ or balancing the budget and helping businesses by increasing taxes on the poorer and middle classes and reducing services to them as well!
Never make a commitment that you do not intend to keep, and that you do not have a plan (a method) to keep. Exaggerate costs and the length of estimated completion or delivery time frames – it makes it easier to be a hero.
In terms of examining, monitoring, course-correcting and maintaining or improving the enterprise (whether it is government or non-government, For-Profit or Not-For-Profit), the protocols are universal.
Of course, in the case of all-too-many governmental subdivisions and entities, there is tremendous complexity, inadequate supervision, and labyrinthine accounting, authorization and record keeping. There’s too much capital, and too many persons with access to it, without proper oversight. A large number of seemingly trivial expenses and expenditures can eventually accumulate into a cavernous loss. This waste (being kind with my choice of terminology) is taxpayer money — in private enterprise, the shareholders would be taking the company’s management to court for this type of abuse. They would be speaking of breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty, diversion of funds, fraud and possibly embezzlement.
I believe that Detroit is the first host organism to fall victim to an epidemic , and that municipal bankruptcies will be hooping up like crocuses in early springtime. And we’ll get closer to the truth about the extent of the federal deficit and the value of the U.S. dollar, fresh off of the press. That’s a scenario for The Global Futurist Blog to paint.
But then, I’ve gotten off of my focus. Let’s return to a standard fiduciary management protocol where each individual in the chain of command or hierarchy structure is responsible — truly responsible — at every level:
1) If a responsible individual sees or suspects a problem, it must be reported immediately to the appropriate persons of supervisory authority;
2) That person of supervisory authority should follow through with vigilance and persistence to see to it that the problem is solved before it wastes any more money and before it worsens;
3) The problem must be expediently fixed, and noted as such – after all, every minute of loss is a drain on profitability and solvency;
4) If there are too many systemic problems, and the organization’s current financials as well as its proformas (always have worst-case, realistic-case forecasts handy; they should be created frequently as assumptions and conditions change; they are a powerful management tool, and an early warning system) are not looking good, senior management must gather the right experts, both from inside of the organization and from senior management’s “A” list of outside professionals, and;
5) Re-examine the organization’s entire business model in terms of S.W.O.T. analysis, critical path dependencies analysis, and possible displacement (or antiquated assumptions) analysis. Look to prune your sunk costs and nonproductive recurring costs;
Note: From this point forward in my discussion, I’ll address this issue as if the business (even if it is the business of running a municipality) were yours, and that you were the executive ultimately in charge.
6) Reconstruct the organization’s business model with the help of the assembled expert committee, create a realistic, turnaround reconstruction plan, promulgate it to all of the involved and affected individuals, as well as to all other parties doing business or trade with the organization. Let them know of the changes, what the time frames really are, what sacrifices or compromises they will have to make lest the team effort fail (Note: If you’re a charismatic, credible, strongly committed leader, you will convince every individual, from the board room down to the janitorial staff that they are each, and all, partners in the the success of the business, and that necessary sacrifices may have to made to bring stability and better results for the benefit of all). Take a serious tone, especially when asking for sacrifices and compromises. Make everyone feel like a stakeholder and an employee or an agent of help;
7) Work the new plan to the letter, diligently, faithfully and without deviation. Report to all of your “partners” frequently as results come in and new forecasts are made. Your diligence, conscientiousness and candor in terms of reporting frequency and transparency will be appreciated and might make potentially hostile parties feel more like allies in a group project and a united effort. That latter is the effect for which you should strive – it justifies the sacrifices and compromises…and to make it even more potent, be certain that the C-Suite occupants, senior executives and the directors make visible meaningful sacrifices as well. You don’t want to look like a “too-big-to-fail” company that the U.S. government just bailed out [grin];
8) Demonstrate by variance analysis (projected versus actual results) how you are actually achieving the goals set forth in your turnaround business plan, and how you have converted waste and losses to a positive, potentially distributable fund balance;
9) From that positive pool of hard-won cash, reward all of the parties who have cooperated in the effort (at a sensible level,and not just to the senior most executives and directors, but to all of the participants, sacrificers and compromisers who have made it possible. Everyone enjoys a participatory celebration of success and a feeling of having participated in a victory…everyone! The object:
Demonstrate in distributable dollars and cents that the tough cuts have paid off in terms of solvency, stability and a positive cash flow. A great leader (as opposed to a basically attired career politician) rallies his forces for a job successfully done, reminds them that their efforts need to continue, and also reviews the victorious results of the variance analysis — show them how inflows have increased and how outflows have decreased. Make them all feel like stakeholders.
10) Promise to continue on course, and to remain vigilant and practical, as well as honest and tough. Continue to restructure and turnaround the business periodically with a “no sacred cows” and a zero-based budgeting approach. These techniques and tools work.
There are all types of tools, terms and radical actions used to describe techniques, protocols or proceedings at law for businesses that are troubled, and these terms tend to be tossed around loosely in a crisis management panic mode; the most popular ones are turnarounds, restructurings, bankruptcies [actually protection pursuant to Chapter 13 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code] trustees, “Chief Restructuring Officer/Advisor” [a title which is becoming increasingly popular and that I increasingly wear], bulk asset transfers, immediate cutbacks (or summary firings, usually of the wrong individuals).
The first step to undertake if you are a concerned party – a possible litigant, a person or fund who/which stands to lose, even an employee labor organization (formal or otherwise) which has a vested [no pun intended] interested in being able to permit its members to provide for their families’ basic needs. The air is filled with tension and fear. Clear thought is rare.
Before getting to the Checklist, be certain to do the following, as an involved person and as a key decision maker:
1) Think things through quietly and with complete focus;
2) Engage in financial triage – prioritize — assess the possible extent of the damage (be pessimistic in your estimates), and what five measure must immediately be taken to stop the situation from worsening. Don’t look at cause and effect or shaming and blaming; you haven’t the luxury of either time or immaturity;
3) Do not take action yet;
4) Assemble your core team or “kitchen cabinet” an advise them, in confidence, that a crisis is has occurred (and is still occurring);
5) Arrange an emergency meeting with your attorneys and accountants, as well as your core team. Then explain the situation in plain, noninflammatory language, appoint or hire your Chief Restructuring Officer and have him or her chair the meeting, wherein you review the points or topics set forth hereunder:
Conglomeration Or Other Business Combinations Of Expedience
The Chief Restructuring Officer now has to coordinate the efforts of the team for optimum, timely performance and corrective action.
As always, thank you for reading me, and for turning around (deliberate, contrived but funny choice of term) and sharing my articles with your colleagues, connections and topical groups through your social media platforms using your ever-expanding arsenal of social media sharing tools.