When a company is struggling with success, it's hard to know exactly the right next move. Many leaders feel inclined to simply cut losses and move on to the next venture. Restructuring can be hard work, and even then there is no guarantee it will work.
Serial entrepreneur Steve McKean, CEO of BillShark, faced exactly such a dilemma with his previous lead generation company Acceller, Inc. During a recent episode of my podcast, 10 Minute Tips from the Top, McKean related how Acceller went into a tailspin that put it in a precarious situation. He was then forced to make the decision of letting the company die or finding a solution to keep it going.
McKean, a member of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), eventually opted for a full restructure of the company, making a number of difficult decisions that he never anticipated along the way. Eventually he got the company back on its feet and was able to secure a merger with a competitor, Bridgevine, which does customer acquisition and retention in the home services industry. The company has now exceeded expectations for all stakeholders.
Here are McKean's tips on the best way to get things back on track and moving towards success.
1. Seek advice from other leaders.
It's difficult to be objective about your company when in a fast decline. Looking for advice from outside experts helps gain fresh perspective. "I spoke to two dozen YPO members and Verne Harnish of Gazelles," said McKean about his first steps toward restructuring. Talking to Harnish allowed him to realize that he had a bigger problem than he suspected and needed to gain mental clarity to devise a real solution instead of just a band-aid.
2. Be transparent with your team.
Talking to your team members about such a difficult circumstance is a tricky situation for any leader. Remaining silent is unfair to employees who might otherwise get an opportunity to look for a safer landing, while opening up could push them away as well. For McKean, transparency was of utmost important. He laid out the scenarios to his team and let them know what was at stake. This way he could openly work with them to find solutions to the problem.
3. Re-evaluate the leaders in your company.
When the company is in trouble, leaders might be unable to focus on how the situation is affecting those around them. McKean, however, was quick to note that the adversity surfaced the shortcomings of his existing management team. "When my management team, essentially the top four guys of the company after me, when they are telling you, 'I don't want to take a pay cut and I don't care if you're bankrupt,' they're sending you a message. The message is we don't care about your company." McKean fired those very team members.
4. Build culture together.
When rebuilding his company, McKean worked with the next level down of management to ensure a smooth transition. The key to working with this new team was to create a strong culture. "I had worked with this team quite a bit... I didn't stay isolated as a leader. I was very engaged. We did a lot of education...And we focused on culture. We committed to win together or die together as a team.
Each week on his podcast, Kevin has conversations with members of the (YPO), the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.