Monthly Archives: April 2013

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Turn It Up… Not Just Around

In early 2002, I took over as CEO of a technology business that was in trouble. The company was losing money, running low on cash and performing way out of covenant with the banking group. There was no time to waste. We had a triage situation on our hands and had to stop the bleeding…

Within 3 months, we had the business rationalized and on sufficiently firm financial footing. This is what many of us in the business would term the classic start on a business turnaround. But the charge from the Board of Directors going into this venture was not to just turn this business around. It was about taking it to a very different place, one where the company’s potential was fully realized. They wanted to Turn It Up, not just turn it around.

Turn-Around-Management is a term to describe reversing a downward trend. And turning around or reversing a trend is certainly a critical part of the job when engaging with a business on a downward trajectory. As we know, it often requires a lot of heavy lifting, tough decision-making, and galvanizing a team around the effort.

Most business situations are not just about reversing a trend- they are about advancing the company’s business performance; in other words, Turning It Up. Advancing business performance like many things is a process- a process that has worked successfully in many company situations. It involves 3-steps- Analysis, Actions and Results- just as the chart below indicates:

While much of the process for advancing business performance may seem perfectly logical, it is often not followed. But when it is, and when there is solid execution behind it, the results will be there.

So let’s return to our troubled technology company, and how we turned it up. We followed the process of Analysis, Actions and Results, and executed well. Within 2-years, the company had developed a market focus that resulted in new and improved products to grow organically. We developed measurements for success driven by strong financial management. We built up a cash war-chest that allowed the company to grow strategically. In 4 years, through a combination of strategic and tactical moves, the company grew more than 4x to over $270 million in annual sales.

How we thought about the challenge was the key to success- we were Turning It Up, and not just turning it around.

My colleague at Dock Square, Rich Lettieri, suggested a fuller discussion on “what exactly did we do” to affect the results. Good question… for those of you wanting to know the same thing, I’ll answer the question in my next blog post.