Carry through a turn-around and assess market prerequisites

A Swedish international industrial enterprises have in for over a decade operated in another European country, but made no profits. After an office relocation market share decreased. The owners decide discontinue with the former CEO and appointed an interim manager in order to make a turn-around and to investigate the company’s future operations.

The interim manager began the assignment with staff meetings. The “no shows” were called in. The discussions were open, where the employees got tell about how they perceived the situation.
– I described myself as an interim manager and an “alien” who did not know or understand this business, but wanted to grasp the situation and have the problems explained to me”. It was a great way to build confidence and I was told what needed to be done.
It turned out that there was a trust issue and the staff was not aware about the poor economic situation. Even the customers were dissatisfied.

Meeting the customers and staff workshops
The second step for the Interim Manager was to conduct a two-day staff workshop, with an overnight stay to achieve more relaxed conversations. There was consensus regarding the need to restore the service centre with its own stock and to re-recruit competent staff, a prerequisite in such a “complicated” industry.
– E.g., I managed to re-recruit a valuable employee by contacting people in which he trusted. At the same time, we replaced a few that did not measure up.
The third step was to visit some 40 customers, often accompanied by a seller. The product was considered to be of good quality and reasonably priced – but the company did not keep its promises, and wasn’t trusted.
– I explained our new strategy and the customers said that if this is going to be, we will come back to you as your customers. They gave us a few months to fulfil our promises.

New premises with a service centre and a brand new style of leadership
The “reboot” was marked by the inauguration of the new premises – with a service centre, educational facilities, workshops, and warehouse. We proved that an order booked before 3 o’clock meant delivery the next day, instead of the previous 3-4 days later. The word spread, and very soon sales doubled.
The game was on. The increased confidence led to increased motivation and work satisfaction.
– It’s like having a new coach. I had a different style of leadership, I socialized with the staff on their turf. You cannot enforce a hierarchy style here wearing “a monkey suit” – it is not that kind of customers.
Today, one third of the staff has been replaced, and the new staff have the necessary skills. A new marketing plan is in its place. The customers are back, and several new ones have been added to the database. This quality product is perceived good value for money and sells 60% better. However, figures are still red.

Speed up by hiring an interim manager
– An interim manager must indeed be results-oriented and have a limited timeframe to deliver. They also need to have a strategic capacity and understand what is important in the long term, not just to save money right now. Equally important is people management, the ability to create trust by being humble and able to listen to people. You cannot believe that you know everything, because you don’t.
This interim manager lived abroad with international assignments for more than 15 years, and previously made turn-arounds in very large organizations, and he summarizes the mission as fun and exciting:
– An employee had perhaps been able to do the same turn-around, but not as rapidly as they have to relate to the internal political game. With only 6 months to deadline you need to be more direct and sometimes even a bit brutal.