The board was dominated by the founder, former CEO and then chairman, Frank, and his brother Tony, who ran the software development company which partnered with Company X in the delivery of their services. The problem here was that the two brothers did not see eye to eye, at all.
Frank freely admits that his relationship with his brother degenerated sharply after they began working together, and that that breakdown had a serious detrimental impact on the business.
“We had brought in John as the CEO because what became known as ‘The Frank and Tony Show’ was just so upsetting for everybody. I’d say, ‘Yes’, Tony would say, ‘No’. I’d say, ‘Black’, he’d say, ‘White’, he’d say, ‘Up’, I’d say, ‘Down’. It was really ugly and I was having a lot of personal difficulty coping.”
Board meetings were as fractious as they were unproductive, and that poisonous stasis had infected the entire organisation. Cynicism and politics were rife, and nowhere more than in the sales team. Despite the fact that the core proposition of the business was sound, sales remained stagnant and operations were running to standstill.
Colin had worked with Padraig Berry in a previous venture, and it was he who set up the first conversations between Berry and CEO John.
“At the time,” says John, “I was talking to many different consultants, trying to find the right one. I had a Skype call with Padraig. About half an hour into our conversation I knew he was the right consultant for us.”
“It was his approach,” he continues. “He spent time listening to the problems and asking probing questions. The other consultants just told me what they could do. Padraig worked on a mind-map as I talked, then held it up to the screen and said, ‘Okay, these are the problems that I’m hearing…’ That was his approach, to listen first and really understand what was going on.”
Padraig Berry’s engagement with the company began with a BMR, a Business Management Review, which was a full day fact finding-exercise with the board and the executive team. The purpose, Berry explains, was to see if the company had any perspective on its future. What are the big issues? The big unsolved problems? The major obstacles? The interpersonal issues? What can we do to resolve them? What’s morale like? Where does the business see itself in five years time? What opportunities are out there?
“When I got involved, I discovered a few things,” says Berry. “The first was that there was a fundamental communications problem, and I mean that in the broadest sense of the word. They had a dysfunctional board, one that had become dominated by recrimination and acrimony.”
Financing was also an issue. “The company had raised more than 10 million quid over the previous 10 years and had spent most of it foolishly. They were turning over between 3 and 4 million a year and it should have been 30 to 40 million. That, in a nutshell, was the challenge.”
Within a couple of days of that initial meeting, Berry began a year-long engagement designed to take the company from its meandering trajectory to a point where it had piercing clarity and focus. Everybody would be galvanised into action. He would deploy his key tools, the Hedgehog and One Thing Plan, to align personal goals with corporate ones, while both CEO and chairman would get one-on-one coaching to help embed the process.