Archive for the ‘Change Agent’ Category

The secret to a successful startup? A great idea being worked on by people with three characteristics you’ll not find on a resume

11 September 2010

Through the MassChallenge Mentoring Program, I’ve been spending three hours each week advising RelayRides, a company with a great idea – peer-to-peer car sharing – that’s smack in the middle of a strong new movement, Collaborative Consumption as written about in The Economist and by Leigh Buchanan in Inc, Clive Thompson in Wired, and Jenna Wortham in The New York Times.

Late on Tuesday, the founder, Shelby Clark said, “Instead of just advising me, why don’t you just join us to accelerate our growth?” After a handshake agreement, I started that day as part-time interim COO.  By 9 PM I was reminded that what it takes to turn a great idea into a successful company is (more…)

Report: 8 Cases When VC’s / Boards Should Hire An Interim CEO

25 February 2010

The Economist recently reported that venture capitalists and boards of directors of European companies are far ahead of their US counterparts in understanding when it makes sense to hire an interim CEO.  Now, a new report out of the UK – which has perhaps the most sophisticated interim management services in the world – details eight cases when a board should consider putting in an interim CEO.

I’ve listed them below, but first three other key points from the report:

  1. Interim CEOs are not consultants; rather, they are hands-on workers.
  2. Interim CEOs are not potential employees; the good ones do interim work as a way of life (and not as a “filler” until a poor economy improves.)
  3. Interim CEOs can be taken into the confidence of a board (as an interim person has the advantage of impartiality.)

The report also talks about why younger and younger executives are turning to interim management as a way to achieve a more flexible and rewarding career.  While delivering significant benefits to the client, interim managers provide themselves with (more…)

Three Reasons Interim Management Works

6 June 2009

Brass number 3In an earlier post, I give my view on the six things it takes to be a good interim executive.  In another, I discuss the four cases when, in my view, a business should consider interim executive management.  Today I was asked, “Why does interim management work?”  Here’s what I said.

No Ulterior Motive: For the interim executive, it’s never about “What’s in it for me?”  Or, “What’s the impact on my bonus/options/future job.”  Rather, it’s always about, “What’s best for the company?  What’s the best way to fix this up so I can move on?”

Key Players Engage: It’s never me that turns a place around.  Rather it’s key players – many of them junior managers or individual contributors – who are the ones who make the biggest impact.  (In this post I talk about how, in the first week on each assignment, I figure out who those key players are.)

Prior Knowledge: I never cease to be amazed how often I’ll use something that someone taught me, often a long time ago and / or often in a seemingly very different circumstance.  This prior knowledge from so many varied situations is key.

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My 1st Interim Assignment a Decade Ago, E Ink, Was Just Successfully Sold.

2 June 2009

Kindle2My very first interim assignment a decade ago was at E Ink, the maker of Amazon’s Kindle. I am pleased to see the company was successfully sold and will remain in Boston. Congratulations to Russ Wilcox and the great team at E Ink

Here’s what I say about E Ink in my resume:

“Reporting to the CEO, Jim Iuliano in an interim role as General Manager of a 22-person group within a 100-person Atlas Venture funded company that originated out of MIT.  Was charged with determining why divisional revenue targets had not been achieved.  Although I possessed no prior knowledge of the product space (electronic, centrally controlled signage) or the target markets (retailers and consumer package goods companies), within weeks determined that success could not be immediately achieved with the current product in the existing markets.  Created and managed four SWAT teams which rapidly conducted exhaustive research to find a new market opportunity for the Company’s technologies, the Ink-In-Motion line which is still in use today.  Currently, E Ink’s technology is the display in the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader wireless reading devices.  Eink was sold for over $215 million.”

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Three Things to Demand Before Going to Any Business Meeting

16 February 2009

meetingoneDuring my first day of each interim CEO / COO assignment, inevitably I’m invited to what I’m told is an important meeting.  And often I refuse.  Agreeing with the points made by University of Chicago professor Reid Hastie in his NY times article, “Meetings Are a Matter of Precious Time,” one of the first things I suggest changing at each company is how meetings are handled.

1231The approach I use is simple; I usually refuse the very first meeting to which I’m invited – no matter how important the subject may appear – by stating that I’ll only accept meeting invitations that include three things.  1.  The objective we will achieve by the designated end time; i.e., the purpose of the meeting  2.  The agenda we’ll follow during the meeting.  3.  And the homework required of each attendee before the meeting starts.

The objective cannot be “to discuss…”; it needs to be a decision or an action.  Not “We’ll discuss why sales are 20% below plan” but rather (more…)

Report: “Need for Interim Change Management Increases Dramatically in One Year.”

4 May 2008

Executives Online, a firm specializing in placing interim C-level executives in Europe, reports today that the demand for CEO / COO to perform Change Management has increased 220% in on one year. They attribute this dramatic increase in demand to a combination of the impact on all types of businesses of the problems in the financial markets, as well as the US recession.

This is good news for people (like me!) who specialize in interim ‘Change Agent’ type assignments.

Why I’ve Said, “No” When – On Day Ten Of Each Interim Assignment – I’m Asked To Make It Permanent

14 January 2008

ten.jpgI don’t consider myself an ‘interim kind of guy.’ But I’ve completed numerous turn-arounds in the last decade, usually as interim CEO / COO / GM. Earlier posts discussed the benefits of interim executive management from a company’s point of view, as well as from an executive’s. Another post described the process I use my first week to determine the real problems and to begin to come up with solutions.

Though each company’s situation has been different – different products, different markets, different problems, and different teams – each situation has been the same in that, somewhere around day ten, the ‘powers to be’ ask to switch the role from interim to permanent. Why do they ask? And why do I say, “No?”

They ask because – for the first time in a long time – they like what they see happening. They like the transparency of knowing what’s really going on. They like seeing that bad apples in the management team have been shown the door. And, most importantly, they like seeing key players revitalized and charged up about the company’s future. (It’s these ‘revitalized key players’ who are the foundation of any turnaround.)

So why do I say, “No?” Because, though things have changed for the better at each company, what’s not changed is the reason why the assignment was made interim in the first place. Did they want to keep open the option to sell the company? Did they want to clean the place up to attract an industry-specific, name brand CEO? Did they want to have more time before committing to significant further capital investment? At each company, the reasons for making the assignment interim in the first place have still been valid, hence my response.

Columbus Day Weekend; Another Three-Day Holiday Weekend Wasted By So Many Americans

8 October 2007

columbus-day.jpgIn an earlier post I related how the Irish enjoy three-day holiday weekends so much better than we Americans. In America, if you’re involved in retail – either as a retailer or as a customer – these weekends are not a holiday.

When I described the Irish way to a friend, he suggested I try to change America one family at a time. So we started with our family – a retail-free weekend spent with family and friends. Very enjoyable. Give it a try come Veterans Day this November.

Anatomy of a Turn Around: The First Five Days

16 September 2007

untitled1.jpgHaving completed a dozen turn-arounds – usually in the role of Interim CEO / COO / GM – I’m often asked, “Are there consistent actions you take the first week at each company?” to which I answer, “Yes…and no.” ‘No’ because each company is unique, with it’s own set of problems, strengths, and market constraints; therefore each company requires a unique set of actions. But ‘Yes’ because I have settled on a consistent process for the first week, a process that helps me determine the real problems and possible solutions.

That said, there is one action I always take the first day; although the companies I’ve helped turn around have been in very different industries – from electronic ink to wireless mesh to software (of many types) to heart defibrillators to video games – each company needed cash to survive. So the one action I always take the first day is… (more…)

Six Things It Takes To Be A Good Interim Executive

4 May 2007

number sixMy post, “Three Cases When Interim Executive Management Make Sense” focuses on Interim Executive Management from the company’s point of view.  An article published in the UK focus on Interim Management from the person’s point of view.

I’m still a little surprised when I find myself recommending that, under certain circumstances, companies should make interim appointments at the executive / C-level.  “Short-term” is simply not my nature.  But some of the comments in the article help explain why, for the last decade, I’ve enjoyed success in a handful of assignments both in the States and in Europe:

  1. Fixing Things Fast:  Interim executives need to enjoy fixing / changing things in a defined period of time.
  2. High-Pressure Situations:  Interim executives need to be passionate about the task at hand, with a strong ability to succeed under high-pressure situations.
  3. Hands-On Role:  Interim executives need to become an integral part of the organization; most employees open up to them, providing key support for a rapid solution.
  4. Loyalty:  Interim executives develop a keen sense of loyalty to the organization, particularly to the need to improve it.
  5. Prior Knowledge:  Interim executives bring to each organization the learnings from many other enterprises, allowing for rapid improvement.
  6. Permanent Interim:  The best interim managers are those “who do it for a living” and are not simply “between jobs.”

The article’s not particularly well written, but it’s a quick read if you are so inclined.