and valuable. This company ended up
defrauding the consumers who were
buying the licenses.
It was a long engagement. There were
many different facets that needed
to be addressed. We were ultimately
responsible for many of the licenses
meeting the requirements to make
them valid, which resulted in a sale
to large communications companies.
It was situation in which people who
thought they had lost everything
ultimately made a profit on the sale
of their communication licenses.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to do
smaller assignments. I worked on a
family-owned poultry farm in a rural
environment. We were able to get the
bank to loosen the financial constraints
they were experiencing. It was a
traditional case. Here was a family-owned business that had religious and
cultural ties and had been established
by the owners’ parents. Ultimately
we were able to help them not only
sustain, but also to really grow their
business through the evaluation of
their business model. We brought them
forward in their thinking, allowing them
to communicate better with existing
customers and to sell to newer clients.
They had never really raised their prices.
They never evaluated their accounts
receivable. Convincing them to do
that—and that just because customers
had done business with their father
didn’t mean that they were good
clients—took some doing because
they’d been doing business with most
of these customers for many years. It
was a classic turnaround that resulted in
a very positive situation for the family.
Q Sometimes it seems like people lose sight of the fundamentals, and
a lot of what you do is to go in and teach
them to go back to the basics.
That’s exactly it. It’s always
being that outside voice, as in, “Listen,
I’m sure your friend’s son is very
talented, but this is not where he
belongs. He should not be running your
accounts receivable department.”
You go into businesses, and of course
one of the first things you do is look at
the disbursements. I really want to see
every check that goes out the door. You
find all the family members who are
getting paid or who are on the payroll.
What does this one do, what does that
one do, and why do they drive a Jaguar,
why are they driving a BMW when
they’re not contributing? It’s always a
sensitive issue that clients know about
already, but don’t want to confront.
A lot of people don’t understand what
we do. In my seven-second elevator
speech to people who aren’t involved
in our industry, I say that some people
view me negatively because I sometimes
have to lay people off, or I have to go
through expenses and people lose the
cars and other perks they’re used to. But
I try to explain to them that if I can keep
three-quarters of the workers employed
so that this business can be viable, that’s
just something that we need to do.
Q If they run it how they have been, everybody’s going to be out of a job
in six months.
That’s exactly right. When
I was at FTI, we represented a large
debtor who was a perfect example of this
situation. We had hundreds of
employees, and we laid off 300
employees. But I also kept the other 700
working for six additional months.
Someone asked, “How can you do that?”
I said, “We’re still selling. We’re still
manufacturing. We’re wrapping up the
business so that we can maximize the
recovery, and I’ve been keeping 700
people working. Would you rather that
we keep the whole 1,000 working for two
months and then let everybody go?”
We have tough decisions to make, but
at the end of the day, I can put my head
on the pillow and really feel that I tried
to contribute to make things right.
Q There are no easy answers?
there are no easy answers, easy
discussions, or implementations. I had a
client once that was one of the largest
remaining manufacturers in New York
City. They were still on Seventh Avenue in
the old garment neighborhood. Their rent
was sky-high. There was really one main
designer. It was a large business that was
still stuck in old-school managing.
I kept trying to explain that we had to
move out of Seventh Avenue. “Why are
we manufacturing here on four floors?
It’s too expensive.” Profits were being
strained and the owner controlled his
employees, but not his business. There
was no accountability. They were high-
end and sold to very expensive retail
outlets. They had a tremendous product
line with a tremendous name, but made
no money. Ultimately we had to sell the
company and the name to ensure the
owners would continue in the industry.
Q Given your experience, if you could go back to the beginning of your
career, would you do anything differently?
I’ve been very fortunate.
I’ve always left for better opportunities.
I’ve had well-rounded experience by
working in large firms and small firms
and having my own firm with two or
three partners. I think if I were starting
again with the hindsight that I have, I
probably would have stayed in one of
the larger firms because of the platform.
The platform of a large firm gave me the
experience of doing much larger cases.
In my large cases, there were always so
many more intricacies that needed to
be addressed and so many more
problems that were impacting larger
numbers of people.
I had an assignment that involved 458
convenience stores in the Midwest. It
was a fantastic assignment because
I had the platform that enabled the
client to see how we could contribute.
In some smaller firms, it’s hard to have
that same platform. It’s difficult to have
clients see you the same way, even
though you have the same experience.
The problem with being in big firms
is that you can’t do small jobs, and the
small jobs are where you really get into
the nitty-gritty. It’s not 20 people going
out to start an assignment anymore;
it’s myself and a consultant or two,
and we’re the ones who are walking
through the plant meeting the people.
You’re really part of the process, which
provides a whole different perspective.
Q Which do you like better, or is it comparing apples to oranges?
As much as many of the
basic techniques and skills are very
similar, it’s a different way of managing
your client. In those smaller jobs, you
really need to be doing a lot more
hand-holding. You really need to be able
to relate and communicate on a grass
roots basis with many of the owners and
the employees. When we’re doing large
cases, it’s all filtered through boards, the
CFO, and counsel.
Q On the smaller cases, you’re dealing with people on an emotional level,
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