In trying to understand business issues, case studies can serve as a useful tool to show us what we may not see at first glance in our own businesses. When I was doing the research that led to the founding of the Turnaround Management Association a number of years ago, I had the “opportunity” to compile, read, and review over 900 case studies on attempted turnarounds. As I read about companies from a variety of industries, geographies, and backgrounds, I was able to decipher certain trends and best practices. While I obviously don’t have the space (or your attention span) to delve into that level of detail in a blog post, I wanted to recount a case study and point out some lessons to be learned.
A $100+ million company lost 25% of its revenue during the period 2005 – 2010. Simultaneously, EBIT declined by 91%, dropping to 0.9% of 2010 sales numbers. A turnaround firm was retained to restore revenues and achieve at least 10% EBIT by the end of 2012. The results of the project were that 2011 revenue improved by 20.20% over 2010 and 2011 EBIT was 5.5% of 2011 revenue, an increase of 470% over that of 2010.
How the Results Were Achieved
By analyzing the markets served, rates of growth, and trends, the turnaround firm was able to highlight the very best opportunities for high growth. Historical analysis yielded insights into top customers and products, with breakout information by plant location. As insights were gleaned from the data, brainstorming sessions were held with the executive team to modify strategic and tactical plans.
As with many companies who suffered a decline in fortunes, this company had begun to compete on price rather than more strategic competitive advantages. As their products and services became commoditized, considerable price variability had snuck into the company based on local market conditions. With considerable (40%+) market share in its primary markets, the company in crisis had very few price comparables available from competitive intelligence by which new pricing could be developed. The consultants helped the company do the following:
- Make product groups by cost and technical specs,
- (For each product group) establish minimum, mean, and max prices,
- Determine products that were priced outside of guideline rages, and
- Identify customers who were not profitable to serve.
Margins were terrible, so the company implemented the following procedures recommended by the turnaround firm:
- Pricing for non-strategic customers was immediately increased,
- Held meetings with strategic customers to explain the fair price increases, and
- Future price increases were planned in unison with strategic customers.
Product Costing & Standardization
The old product costing model was jettisoned in favor of a more accurate, easier to maintain one. Product Standardization was accomplished by analyzing SKUs across key product groupings. A small list of products were designated as standard offerings. Everything else was labeled “custom,” with appropriate cost and pricing decisions.
Process improvements were instituted after plant visits. Highlighted items included:
- Supply chain improvements through TQM and JIT were achieved
- Minimum order quantity guidelines streamlined production runs and enhanced scheduling efficiency
- Setup and preventive maintenance routines were sharpened
- Paperwork and scrap reduction and recycling were instituted
The culmination of 2011 efforts was that higher contribution margin at the plant level. Production scheduling and materials requirement procedures were highlighted as areas for additional improvement.
When an outside team is brought in to focus on profitability and the executive team cooperates fully, great things can happen in a turnaround. Clear communications, improved decision-making, unified focus all lead to enhanced morale and the profitability becomes an outgrowth of good management.