Going Down with the Ship

In my career, I have had the not-so-fun experience of a company turnaround effort. We were a private firm, had been around 40 years, about 600 employees, and we were essentially in a luxury services business.

When they say there are signs of trouble way before the trouble really starts, it’s true. I think one of the biggest red flags I saw a year before was that the company didn’t think there was too much money to be made in the government.

It was as if they wanted to cut out a whole market just because of procurement difficulties. On the other hand, that market was releasing Requests for Proposals constantly. Filling out proposals took a lot less time than the six-month selling cycle for our commercial clients.

We fought tooth and nail to bring in amazing government clients, growing 20% in the year I was selling and providing extremely profitable projects to the office. Two of the top 10 company clients were federal agencies. And yet we couldn’t get corporate support.

This seems like management and strategy warning flags.

We know all companies have problems, that’s a given. However, if the financial proof is there that they’re misdirected, do you keep fighting it?

I look at our TTI case and Dave, seeing how he felt things were so right and that there were some financial indicators that he was right. But then those indicators also said he was wrong.

Maybe hindsight is 20-20. Maybe you need to have a lot of people who have analyzed failure to see that you might be heading for an iceberg. Or you could be in a position where every hiccup looks like an iceberg.

Turnaround is not fun. However, there are things that can make it less painful, and it is tough to think of those solutions. I guess the biggest lesson from my own experience and reading through this chapter is that you need to ask for help sooner rather than later.

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