Turnaround specialist Howard Tullman talks about how to bring about change--and avoid needing it in the first place. Plus, why you need employees who don't bathe.
How I Did It: The Turnaround
How do you reinvigorate a business that is failing? Hear how Howard Tullman did it and how to avoid needing a turnaround in the first place.
00:00 Howard Tullman: I'm Howard Tullman and I am the president and CEO of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy in Chicago.
What challenges did you face when taking over an existing business?
00:11 Tullman: I took over a college about eight or nine years ago now. It had been around for 75 years and it was losing its place. It was losing money. It was losing its vision or focus of what it should be. I ended up moving it, selling the property, building a new place. But I'm really proud is that about 92% of the people stayed and the reason was if you can reinvigorate people and get them excited, that's the best thing. Giving them a vision of the future was really most important to that process. And one of the things you also learn is that people no longer commit to an institution, they don't sign up for a company, they commit to other people. And so if you're going to be a leader, if you're going to bring about change, you have to embody it, and you have to model it, and you have to do it every day yourself. And then it's a lot easier to bring people along with you because people commit to other people.
What is the most difficult part of doing a turnaround?
01:20 Tullman: Well I've been doing turnarounds for maybe 20 years and one of the things about a turnaround is it's actually harder to do a turnaround in a company that doesn't know it's in trouble than it is when you're brought in after the company is already in trouble. That's fairly easy. When a company is already in trouble and you come in, of course, the first thing everybody says is, "Let's spend more money on marketing." And I call that the lipstick on a pig problem, so why would you want to spend more money to bring people to buy or visit or use a service that sucks, right? The theory is let's fix it first and then we'll get really nice new marketing brochures.
What are the best ways to avoid needing a turnaround?
02:02 Tullman: Well, the biggest difficulty that a young entrepreneur has is not understanding that you have to make room for people in a business. They're never all going to be type A. They're never all going to resemble you entirely. You need people that don't believe in bathing. You need people who want to work overnight. You need people who just want a job. If you're trying to build the company in your own image, you're going to fail because you'll blow yourself apart. The trap for too many entrepreneurs is trying to be perfect. If you're trying to be perfect if you wait too long, you're going to miss the opportunity. So that's another one, to just keep getting a little better all the time. It's like ironing. You have to sort of go back... I don't know, I've never ironed anything, but I'm told that that's how you do ironing.