The Five C’s of a Successful Turnaround

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5 C’s to Change Direction

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a Distressed Investing Conference in Florida.  It’s really a turnaround conference designed for professionals focused on fixing troubled companies.  Since I’ve had plenty of crisis management experience in turning around troubled businesses, I was asked to share war stories and strategies.  I also enjoyed the opportunity to network and learn from the 200 industry leaders in attendance.

Here are the five major points I shared:

1. Control.  I’m not a big proponent of top-down, autocratic management systems.  I much prefer an entrepreneurial environment with lots of input and a leader with a persuasive style.  In a crisis, though, it’s often necessary to ramp up the control level and increase the speed of decision making.  I tend to move very fast anyway, and I like to seek opinions and then make a decision and move on.  If you are in trouble, you don’t have the luxury of numerous meetings and extensive analysis.

Delivering Happiness — At Zappos and Beyond

I recently visited Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in Las Vegas.  Sitting in his condo in a room lined with hundreds of plants and overlooking the Vegas skyline, we talked about his success and what’s next for Zappos.

Zappos.com is an online retailer with a specialty in shoes.  It has branched out into other clothing lines in recent years.  It is known for its exceptional customer service.

A Very Different Company

Zappos is different in many ways.  Here are three:

When Books Fly: Lessons from Lessmore

One of the most creative, and inspiring short films I have ever seen is “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”  I’ve seen teenagers cry and toddlers mesmerized when watching this fifteen-minute film.  Adults barely contain their sense of wonder.

There are so many messages from this short film to consider.  If I were an English professor, I would assign this film as an essay question just to see what students would write.  What makes it so powerful is not only the emotion it evokes, but also the different lessons everyone takes away.

Here are a few:

Shifting Gears: Ann Patchett from Writing to Selling

Avid readers know the name Ann Patchett.  Her work—from Bel Canto to State of Wonder as well as many other books—has won numerous accolades and awards, and she regularly tops the New York Times bestseller list.

When Nashville recently lost its bookstores, Ann decided to do something about it.  She opened Parnassus Books, an independent store, with partner Karen Hayes.  I was there for its grand opening and watched the crowds swarm in to celebrate the return of a local bookstore.   The excitement over Parnassus quickly spread beyond the city’s borders—in fact, a bestselling author opening a bookstore landed Ann not on the book page, but on the front page, of the New York Times.

Ann recently gave an inspiring keynote address for booksellers in New Orleans.  I sat down with her to talk about her success as a writer and her new career as a bookseller.