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D.F. Krause
  D.F.'s Column Archive


June 25, 2007

Watch Your Back When the Turnaround Specialist Shows Up


You do what?


“I’m a turnaround specialist. I’m called in when companies are in trouble, and I turn them around.”


Wow. That sounds like a hard job! You must be a genius!


Ah. That’s what they want you to think. The turnaround specialist has set himself up as an amazingly talented Houdini who can pull seemingly doomed companies out of the jaws of the market beast. Why do you need him? Because he’s a specialist! If it wasn’t so hard to do, anyone could do it, and you wouldn’t need him.


I’m on to his scam. He is not a genius. He is an opportunist in a no-lose situation. If all the CEOs in America understood how this works, they would all resign from their jobs tomorrow and get turnaround gigs.


This would of course create an incredible market opportunity, as all their former companies would theoretically start tanking without their expert leadership, and they would need to ride in on white horses as turnaround saviors. (Of course, a few of the companies might be better off without their CEOs. No. Wait. That can’t be true.)


Here is why the turnaround specialist has it made:


  • The company is already failing. If it ultimately fails, no one can blame him.
  • He can do absolutely anything he wants, and no one can get mad. All he has to say is, “Do you want me to keep doing the stupid crap they did before I got here?” What can anyone say? He can fire everyone. He can eliminate the coffee budget. He can make you work at a coffee table. You just have to sit there and take it.
  • He gets to call banks who are waiting for money and tell them they’re not getting all of it, so they will have to make a deal. That’s the most important part of his job. Of course, a close second is . . .
  • Calling suppliers and telling them they have to cut their prices, or they will lose a customer.
  • Most of the time, it isn’t even the company that’s paying him. It’s either a huge customer, which can’t be without the parts the struggling company makes, or a huge creditor that knows the worst-case scenario is for the company to go completely belly-up – at least before said huge creditor gets paid off.


And since it’s not the company who pays the turnaround specialist, it’s not the company whose interests the turnaround specialist is really there to serve. It’s the customer or creditor whose interest in seeing the company stay alive is entirely self-serving.


So if your executive vice president calls a meeting one day, announces that the CEO has been escorted out of the building by security, but not to worry because a turnaround specialist has been called in to fix everything, here are a few survival tips:


  1. Remember on the “X-Files” when the shadowy conspirators made a deal to help the aliens so they wouldn’t annihilate them – like they would everyone else – when they invaded the planet? Something like that might work. Name names and tell the bloodsucker where the bodies are buried, and he might give your resume to well-connected friends after you become the last person he offs. Never watched the “X-Files”? Rent the DVDs.
  2. Tell the turnaround guy you are in charge of office supplies. He will need those, so you’ll buy yourself some time. Then tell him the old CEO was always making you buy way too many, and you wished he would stop. Hatchet Man will like you.
  3. Offer to digitize all the bank statements Hatchet Man is always sifting through. Estimate how long it will take and multiply it by five, then tell him you’re working on it for him as hard as you can. Around the time you know he’s going to ask again how it’s coming, bring him something to drink. Oh, by the way, don’t actually work on it at all. He’s going to fire you anyway.


Finally, track down the old CEO and see what he’s up to. CEOs can never help themselves from jumping back in, and this one apparently spent money like a drunken sailor anyway, so maybe he will give you a job with the “new venture” he is surely undertaking.


That should buy you some time until you can find a real job, or until Hatchet Man shows up once again, pretending to be a genius. And once again, you pretend to believe it.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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