May 6 and 7 marked the fourth InterimExecs’ RED Roundtable (Rapid Executive Deployment), a gathering of top interim executives in Chicago. Executives across a range of specialties from CEO to CFO, COO, CIO, CMO, and CRO met for a mix of speakers, discussion, and sharing best practices on creating high performing companies.
The event kicked off Monday morning at William Blair’s headquarters where innovation expert, Jeff Leitner, drew on extensive research and 20 years’ experience improving operations to share why most change initiatives fail and what we can do about it. Interim executives discussed how Jeff’s findings applied to assignments they jump into where they often are called on to drive disruption, innovation, and powerful change.
We just experienced possibly the largest wave of CEO departures in recent history. Was it due to falling profits? Poor succession planning? Or is there more drama behind the scenes? Think firings, hurt egos, politics, and personal infighting. Author Isabelle Nüssli uncovers one of the big reasons for turmoil at the top ― the fractious relationships between egos at the executive level, particularly between CEO and chairperson. Hence the brilliant title of her new book, Cockfighting: Solving the Mystery of Unconscious Sabotage at the Top of the Corporate Pyramid.
“When you read the news, usually the reason [given for the CEO leaving] was strategy misalignment or different leadership style or different chemistry, etc. But the story that is not put out to the public is that there was a relational conflict, which apparently is the case most of the time,” says Nüssli.
Everything seemed to be going well for a public software company. Growing at a rate of 50-100% for three years straight, the company was gaining momentum until one day it all came to a screeching halt. Just weeks before the annual 10-k report was due the board uncovered that the CEO and CFO had been taking a few too many creative liberties with expense reports and were stealing money from the company…yes, they were embezzling funds – a nightmare scenario for a public company.
The board went to work, firing both of the full-time executives for cause. They immediately appointed an Interim CEO and reached out to us at InterimExecs to bring in an Interim CFO to help them navigate through murky waters.
“It was a full-fledged crisis that included issues with culture, staff, investors, analysts, debt holders, Board members, auditors, the SEC and activist shareholders,” said a board member.
Basketball legend Magic Johnson has made a success of his career as a business owner and investor. But it didn’t come easy or naturally. One of the mentors he credits with imparting priceless lessons is Creative Artists Agency co-founder Michael Ovitz. When Magic was just about to embark on a career in business, the legendary Hollywood agent told Magic that he’d never become any better than the people around him.
This made sense to Magic, and the next day he fired his entire staff. Magic detailed this recently at a speech delivered to the Association for Corporate Growth in Las Vegas, showing the audience by placing his hand at chest height and saying “my team could take me here” and then raising his hand to head level and saying “but they couldn’t take me to here.”
The best private equity funds talk about backing great CEOs, entrepreneurs, and management teams. But in the lower middle market ($2-$15 million in EBITDA), what’s a private equity fund to do when the company they are acquiring lacks resources and the management skills to earn great returns?
What if serious talent doesn’t extend beyond the CEO or founder?
Douglas Song, co-founder of Prodos Capital Management and an investor in lower middle market companies, says that “there’s always a way to think creatively and unlock value in any lower middle market company.” He especially finds common themes among companies where entrepreneurs or families have built a great business over time, but are lacking in certain areas where partnering with additional resources will help them take the business to the next level.
2015 has been an amazing year here at the Association of Interim Executives. We parachuted executives into companies worldwide and saw powerful collaboration taking place among the RED Team, an elite group of interims.
As we reflect on the past year, we are more confident than ever that together we can better the world by deploying great leadership. Please enjoy these 5 highlights from 2015.
Hosted by the Association of Interim Execs, CXO Chat is where top company founders and top leaders have real conversations around the high points and challenges in building and transforming a business.
October 5, 2015 @ 10am CDT
Join us as leaders discuss where Internet of Things (IOT) is going and how it will impact your company. Machine intelligence and connectivity is becoming embedded in your washing machine, your light bulbs and even your grandmother. Is your business ready?
Hardik Bhatt was a Senior Director with Cisco and led market development for Internet of Everything for their Global Public Sector. He is now CIO for the State of Illinois, charged with the modest mission of transforming, aligning, and streamlining all state agencies in their use of technology to better deliver services.
Imad Mouline, co-founder and CTO of Everbridge, heads up market strategy, product roadmap, innovation, and R&D, including current IOT product launches. Imad has served as CTO and co-founder of several technology companies that achieved home run results.
After exiting my first company, I was asked to join a merchant bank. Over several years, I participated and/or managed several acquisitions where we deployed over $40 million of capital, and realized almost $180 million in gains. Every year I learned more about sources of funds and what the point-of-view was from the other side of the desk. The Chairman and CEO of the merchant bank came to appreciate the duality of my experiences. We became partners in several ventures over the following decade. I once asked why he trusted me with his money, his answer was that of all the employees of the merchant bank, only I had made a payroll, invested my own money, and signed a personal guarantee.
I have lost count of the number of company owners I’ve met who need help but are scared to death about hiring a consultant. Owners say it all boils down to shoveling out a lot of cash to an outsider without being sure that it will pay off.
“I think a lot of times when the consultants come in, their big advantage is that they come across very self-confident and sound great,” a former Fortune 50 CEO recently told me in an interview. “But I’m always very worried about what I refer to as the articulate incompetent.”
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