When to Consider Corporate Restructuring

Times are tough, and they’re likely to get tougher, so my question is this; Should you, or should you not, consider a move toward corporate re-engineering? Whether directly or indirectly, your business will likely face negative repercussions of the struggling economy at some point, and there will be tough decisions that need to be made. The mere discussion of corporate re-engineering can cause fear, anxiety, and in some cases even panic. This is so much the case that some CEOs will avoid restructuring initiatives at all costs. There are even some business theorists that warn against undertaking complex restructurings because of the great risks involved. My question is this: Since when have fear and avoidance become prerequisites for success as a CEO? Give me real leaders who possess courage, vision, and a bias toward action, and spare me the timidity of mediocre managers posing as leaders. In today’s column I’ll examine the benefits of, and the need for corporate re-engineering. Anybody could be a CEO if business were a static proposition. If change and innovation weren’t critical success metrics, and the enterprise could just run on auto-pilot, you could replace the CEO with a General Manager. The fact is that business is not a static endeavor. Quite to the contrary; there are few things that require as much fluidity as effectively increasing profit, growing revenue, and driving brand equity in today’s global marketplace. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you as a CEO are not consistently re-engineering elements of your business in today’s business climate, one of the following two conditions exist; 1) You have a perfect business, or; 2) You are an ineffective CEO. What do great CEOs do when the business model, the strategic plan, and the revenue hurdles don’t seem to be in alignment? They make changes. They don’t sit idly by and watch the business lose market share, suffer margin erosion, see their competitive value propositions vaporize, or watch their brand go into decline. Great CEOs are willing to make the tough decisions…that’s what they’re paid for. Facing reality and being able to make what are often times very painful organizational/structural decisions are the hallmarks of great CEOs. In an attempt to avoid confusion as to what I’m speaking about, I put together the following definition of corporate re-engineering: “Corporate Re-engineering is simply leadership recognizing, taking ownership over, and acting to correct strategic or tactical business flaws, and/or to realign elements of the enterprise with current or anticipated changes in market conditions.” This isn’t rocket science, rather it’s just plain-old, good leadership. It is actually the fiduciary obligation of a CEO to make the needed changes to protect shareholder value. So why is it that so many CEOs shirk their responsibility, stick their heads in the sand, and avoid making necessary changes? It is my experience that they either lack the personal skill sets, or haven’t built the right executive team to lead change, they just don’t recognize the need for change, or they just don’t care. The good news is that there is a cure for all four of the preceding problems: Items one through three can be solved with an emphasis on leadership development and talent management, and item four can be solved by holding the board of directors accountable for CEO performance and firing the CEO who doesn’t care. Following are five representative tips that will help you recognize the need for a re-engineering initiative: 1. Unusual declines in revenue, margin, marketshare, customer loyalty, or brand equity.2. Even if the above areas are not yet in decline, but you are witnessing unusually slow growth or zero growth you still have a problem.3. The inability to recruit or retain tier-one talent.4. Current or anticipated changes in market conditions that will adversely impact your business model.5. Obsolescence of intellectual property, products, services, solutions, or competitive value propositions. The bottom line is this…Bleeding is not a healthy thing. Whether you’re experiencing a slow bleed or you’re hemorrhaging, both instances can be fatal without treatment. If your company is in products, services, or businesses that you wouldn’t enter into if you weren’t in that particular arena today…Get Out! Stop the bleeding, and reinvest your financial and non-financial resources into more profitable endeavors. I don’t believe corporate re-engineering to be evil, but even if it is, it is a necessary evil.