Turning around an SME in crisis
• An Irish-based SME in the software/content space
• Turnover of €4 million
• Suffering from stagnant sales, high debt and a dysfunctional board
• Seeking a pathway to strong leadership and high growth
NB: Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality throughout.
John first came across Company X in 2011 while working as a consultant. He’d spent most of his career working in a large multinational corporation operating in the same space as Company X, compliance knowledge management and had only recently decided to set up as a consultant. Company X brought him in to help grow sales, and the board was so impressed with his work that they asked him to come in and replace the founder as CEO.
Once he got in, John discovered that things were not as good as had first appeared.
“For one thing, the money they were taking in from operations wasn’t covering costs,” says John. “They were stuck in an eternal ‘raise money, spend money’ cycle, just to keep going. So my focus immediately went on trying to right-size the ship; getting sales up and expenses down.”
Within eighteen months, John had done a lot of good work at Company X. But there were other problems, deep seated ones, which were proving considerably more intractable.
“I realised during the summer of 2014 that something needed to change drastically, but I was so deep in the business I couldn’t see the forest from the trees. I knew I needed to bring in somebody from outside.”
John wasn’t the only one to realise that external help was needed. Colin was one of the people John had brought in to work with the company on sales channel development. With a software background and an impressive track record building and running his own businesses, Frank says that it was pretty clear that not everyone in the organisation was pointing in the same direction.
“The sales team all had different ideas about different things. They wouldn’t help each other and there were maverick initiatives happening all over the place. It was very difficult to get anything done because you were getting into battles at every turn. Even the board had disagreements about the fundamental direction of the company…It was poor leadership, through and through.”