Interim executives, by definition, come into difficult situations, assess them quickly, and create a plan for success. That means they have a front-row seat to the most common business mistakes companies make in the areas of leadership, operations, human capital, strategy, business finances, and change initiatives.
Focusing on these fundamental business needs is a good starting point for any struggling business.
First, the good news: Corporate bankruptcies in 2022 have been running below average. Now, the bad: That is about to change. Big time.
Government stimulus, post-pandemic demand, and historically low interest rates combined to give companies the edge during the first half of 2022. Organizations that survived the pandemic shutdowns thrived as the world recovered.
In fact, Cornerstone Research, which tracks business bankruptcy trends in Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings by companies with assets of $100 million or more, says in its midyear 2022 update report that there were only 20 bankruptcies filed by companies with $100 million plus in asset during the first six months of the year. It’s the lowest midyear total since the second half of 2014.
But the US Federal Reserve is waging war on inflation with historically fast increases in interest rates – more than 3 percentage points in just six months. That, coupled with the threat of a global economic recession, is spelling trouble for highly leveraged companies and underperforming firms.
We asked two turnaround specialists to walk us through the highly charged bankruptcy landscape as 2023 looms.
Way back in 2009, the Great Recession hit America. And it didn’t pass me by.
In case you don’t remember how bad things were, let me refresh your memory: Bear Stearns failed. Lehman Brothers failed. Merrill Lynch sold for next to nothing. Countrywide Mortgage sold for pennies on the dollar. AIG had to be propped up by the federal government. General Motors went bust, was put on life support thanks to the federal government. People were worried. They wondered whether they would go to the ATM one day and no cash would come out because their bank had failed.
And me? I was at a startup called PV Powered. We were developing the next generation of commercial and utility grade solar inverters. We had about 100 angel investors and we were burning $750,000 a month when the Great Recession hit despite as much bootstrapping as possible. The next thing we knew, 98 percent of the investors had backed out, equity stake be damned, announcing they would no longer support the company. And who could blame them?
Humans are hard-wired to resist change that we don’t like or fear. Our brain interprets that sort of unwelcome change as a threat and readies us for “fight or flight.”
Given that, it’s easy to see why companies find implementing change management initiatives so challenging. When evolution is desperately needed, employees dig in their heels and cling to inefficient systems and outdated technology.
This weakens the company’s competitive edge, slows its go-to-market opportunities, and wreaks havoc internally. The end result is that these organizations remain stagnant, fueled by a lack of internal alignment and frustration among employees who are not empowered to make decisions.
Growth strategies are one of the three topics that are top of mind for US CEOs in 2021, according to a study by PwC. Yet 86 percent of CEOs will fail at creating sustained growth, according to Bain & Company.
Should you call in an interim chief innovation and growth officer (CInO)?
Engaging in person may have been the go-to sales tactic for decades, but COVID-19 has amplified what many in the industry have felt for years: Buyers and sellers want a digital and remote experience. No office drop-by, conference room pitch, or long dinner necessary. But it doesn’t just check the social distancing box. Adapting to an online sales structure makes for easier scheduling, cuts travel expenses, and can often be more efficient. And there’s no looking back.
According to an October 2020 McKinsey survey, more than 90% of buyers expect to continue with a remote or digital model even after COVID-19, and only 20–30% of buyers want to “ever interact with reps.”
Those kinds of numbers prove just how disconnected much of the industry is from the zeitgeist, explains InterimExecs RED Team executive, Philippe Lavie, who specializes in sales transformation and helps high growth companies more effectively plan, accelerate, and manage their revenue growth.
According to Lavie, selling in 2021 (and beyond) calls for a deeper understanding of the buyer, the seller, and just how drastically the marketplace has evolved.
Here, he dissects the four critical ways inside sales teams need to change in order to stay afloat and succeed in our new normal.
In every business there comes a tipping point when change is needed to get to the next stage of growth. While as a company owner or CEO, you may be adept at running the day-to-day, at some point you may start to feel that you need to be more tuned into your finances.
Maybe you have a Controller or bookkeeper keeping transactions up-to-date so you can run reports for your banker from time to time. But what happens when transactions start to get more difficult to deal with or you need more insight into financial metrics that will drive strategic decisions? If the following situations sound familiar, it may be time to start thinking about hiring a Chief Financial Officer (CFO):
You are growing fast and looking to acquire or attract new capital
Investors or financiers are requesting more sophistication in reporting
The company doesn’t have the internal capabilities to consistently (and accurately) close out the books every month
The business is facing declining revenues, stagnant growth, or rising market competition that calls for someone to provide more strategic leadership and set out a direction and action plan
You feel like you don’ have a full handle on the metrics and KPIs that ultimately drive the business and measure your progress
There are plenty of new challenges to keeping a company afloat while the world endures the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Here are just a few:
Applying for government assistance to keep paying payroll.
Developing a work-from-home system for employees following stay-at-home orders.
Working out accommodations and new digital venues with customers and suppliers that will help everyone come through a cataclysmic crisis still in business.
Add to the list a new one: Cyber security threats to business.
InterimExecs RED Team executive and CISO, Zeeshan Kazmi, says times like these are prime for opportunistic hackers.
Just look at financial technology company, Finastra, to see a cyber security nightmare in action. After coronavirus hit, the company was in the middle of developing an emergency plan to operate when hackers found a backdoor into their servers. Malware quickly spread locking down server after server on their network, taking down many of their customers which include 90 of the world’s top 100 banks.
“We haven’t taken cyber security threats as seriously as they should be taken,” says Kazmi, who has spent 15 years working in the cyber security space. “Companies have been reactive. They protected their business transactions and their reputation. It became a corporate risk management function.”
World War II was devastating Europe. Bombs unleashed death
and destruction across London. The Allies could barely secure a beach head in
Normandy. Undaunted in those dark days, visionary leaders dreamed of a brighter
future when the world would emerge from the deadly carnage, and imagined the
structure of a post World War II world.
Businesses throughout the world now confront a different kind of mortal enemy, but equally deadly and disruptive in its own way. This microscopic virus is virtually invisible, knows no borders, and is agnostic to any demographic. It confines us all to our homes, burying loved ones dying senselessly for no cause and way too soon, and upending our work and home lives. Just as our forbearers prepared for a new world order once the terror of their present one surrendered, we now have some time to humbly roll up our sleeves and get ready for what awaits us on the other side once the pandemic is finally vanquished.
Many of the thoughts in this article are hardly novel, and really simply continue if not accelerate existing trends. Some ideas may seem like logical outgrowths of the pandemic provided they remain emblazed in our consciousness. Others may be dismissed as unrealistic or overly dramatic and alarmist.
No one, however, can doubt a few things. Our lives and approaches to work, our society and business will change, some for the better, others not. Like inventions, there are unintended consequences and manifestations, many of which we cannot now foresee. Finally, and most obvious as we emerge from this Act of God– man may make plans, but God just laughs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in ways that seemed
unimaginable just a short time ago. Within a matter of weeks schools have been
shuttered, sporting events and conferences have been canceled, air travel has
ground to a halt, over 16 million workers have been laid off, and those able to
work from home are now doing so almost exclusively.
Commentators are already proclaiming that coronavirus will
permanently change the world. Many of the expected shifts, however, are hardly
new. They were nascent prior to coronavirus and emerging stronger than ever due
to the pandemic-led paradigm shift.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the migration to remote
work and the technologies that enable it. In the United States almost a quarter
of employed individuals already were working remotely, and
while this trend has steadily increased over the past decade, with coronavirus
forcing millions to work remotely, we may have reached a tipping point.
If remote work is indeed the new normal, how can businesses embrace it? Alonso Vargas and Andrew Andrews-Ramirez provide digital transformation, helping organizations with everything from ERP implementation to outsourcing, to migrating to cloud technology, utilizing platforms including NetSuite, SAP, Salesforce, Hubstaff, and Office 365. They have seen a shift in how organizations are operating and have keen insights into how companies can get ahead in the digital curve.
First-year Change Agent members have access to the Interim Institute’s 4 hour audio program on the Fundamentals of Interim Management, and a one-hour strategy session to help jumpstart their interim career.
*$200 additional charge for Accelerator Program only applies for first-year members. After the first year, membership renews at $485/year.
Interim Nonprofit Executive
Join our InterimExecs eNewsletter