restructuring professionals could
make significant improvements on
My background had been startups and
turnarounds. In turnaround consulting,
as opposed to being a startup or
turnaround executive, people only
do what needs to be done if you’re
persuasive, if you have good analytical
skills and good communications skills.
Q From this vantage point in your career, if you were just starting out,
would you do anything differently?
I look at this as a calling,
and it’s an opportunity to be of service
to others. I think when you’re looking
at it that way, you always orient
yourself to what needs to be done to
save the company, save jobs, and get
the best return you can for the
company that’s involved. So in the
distressed and underperforming
businesses world, there are multiple
opportunities to be of service.
Q What have been some of your most gratifying or favorite engagements
along the way?
Pin ‘n Pay stores, which had
453 stores in 23 states, was interesting
and challenging in that everyone
thought there was going to be a big hit all
the way around, but we managed to do
well by both the lenders and the trade
creditors in that assignment.
The Athlete’s Foot (shoe stores) was an
interesting one. That’s still around after
our work. It has 400 stores worldwide
at this point. The company was losing
around $20 million a year when we
were called in. This engagement took
a major transition in multiple steps to
get to the point where the company
is now making a lot of money.
Most recently, I was called into a textile
manufacturer that everybody, including
the owners, the employees, the lenders,
and the lawyers, thought would be
history in less than a month. But with
cooperation from customers and
suppliers, we returned the company to
break-even and operated it for several
months until it could be sold. That’s
gratifying when the expectations and
the ultimate results are so far apart.
However, in some situations it’s really
too late. There’s not enough time or
money left to save the business. Yet, one
of the most gratifying situations involved
another manufacturer where a portion
of the business did not continue as a
going concern. One of the employees
who was going to lose her job came in
to see me unsolicited and said, “Even
though we didn’t survive, I know you
did everything you could and I just
wanted to stop in and say thank you.”
That was very touching. You sometimes
get feedback in ways you don’t expect.
Q I imagine that doesn’t happen very often. You guys are too often seen
as the bad guys.
When we’re walking in the
door, they occasionally see images
they’ve picked up elsewhere that our
toolbox consists of slash and burn. The
fact of the matter is, it’s normally more
complicated than that, because if it were
that simple, we probably wouldn’t have
gotten the call.
Our toolkit has many implements, and
there are many procedures we follow. It’s
not a simple one-step process. Cash is
always the driver in this industry. Cash
is what we’re monitoring, it’s what we’re
trying to impact, because if the company
runs out of cash, it’s like a person who
bleeds to death—they’re just gone.
People aren’t always skeptical about the
tools, but they are sometimes skeptical
about whether this is this going to work.
They generally have some experience
in that they’ve attempted to fix the
company before and it never happened.
That’s the origin of their misgivings. But I
think the tools we bring for that need are
implementation tools, not only ourselves
as third parties, but also a meaningful
plan—not just a general plan, but a
detailed plan with specific milestones
where certain operations have been
assigned to particular individuals with
a set timetable to accomplish them.
Certainly as consultants we have
lots of advice to offer based on our
experience, but I’ve learned that one
of the most important tools is to be a
good listener. Otherwise, you’re not
going to catch everything you need
to know to figure out what to do.
Q Who inspires you professionally and personally? Who have you
admired along the way, and who do you
There are a couple of folks
who come to my mind. Daniel Morris
saw my potential and gave me the
specific tactics, experience, and advice to
transition into turnaround work. As one
of the pioneers of the turnaround
industry, he taught me everything he
had learned. He trained me in the basics
about communication and cash
management, those essential skills for
the turnaround consulting business. He
also inspired me in another way—he was
very generous with his time and his
consulting practice. I eventually
partnered with him because he was
willing to share to make the practice
grow and flourish. His open-handed
attitude impressed me as a key to the
success of any turnaround practice.
Another person who inspires me is Carl
Pergola at BDO Consulting. He saw a
need as part of a bigger picture, where
he took the BDO restructuring group to
the next level by creating a more robust
platform to help owners turn around
their businesses. He’s very astute about
how to deploy turnaround talent where
it’s most needed. His vision and the
way he’s worked with each of us in that
consulting group dovetails very nicely
with an overall BDO corporate goal of
being the business world’s go-to middle
market consulting and accounting
firm. I’ve learned a lot from him about
how to bring out the best in people.
Q What advice would you have for someone who was new to the
industry or was thinking about getting
into the industry?
I do get calls from a lot of
people who want to get into the
industry. They’re attracted to it for a
variety of reasons, and I always share
that involvement in TMA is critical,
based on my experience in chapter,
regional, and national programs. I
think participation in TMA activities
helps you, as a person new to the
industry, figure out how the profession
works. You learn to speak the language.
You become familiar with the key tools
and metrics. You learn how business is
generated. TMA members typically go
the extra mile to help newcomers.
People always say, “Exactly how do you
get involved?” If somebody wants to
get involved, rather than just asking
to be put on a committee, they need
to specifically offer to help with a
particular program or project. When
that happens and they’ve exhibited
their interest and capabilities, then
additional opportunities will follow.
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