What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Lucky or Unlucky? Winning Leadership Traits

A significant reason for writing this blog is to hopefully prevent companies from developing any of the 9Stucks conditions talked about.  When I see or read something worth sharing, I will share it here and on social media.

Author Morten Hansen is interviewed in the very brief HBR Facebook clip featured below.  He teamed up with Good to Great author and leadership expert Jim Collins to write Great by Choice. If you haven’t read the book, the 5-minute clip is a good introduction to their research findings on sustainable leadership.

What can leaders do to succeed when having good or bad ‘luck’?

They need to have what the authors term “Productive Paranoia”.   The discussion also addresses an approach to innovation – creating the future via ‘empirical trials’.  Good stuff.  ‘Good to great’ actually. Enjoy.

What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

5 Pesky Plights Hurt a Family Business (Part 3): The Handoff

HandoffI ran outdoor track both in college and high school. Since I was a fast runner (back in the day) I always ran one of the legs of the 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams. Our relay teams practiced daily on perfecting the handoff – passing the baton. We had the relay leg transitions down pat. Unfortunately family owned businesses may not plan for a leadership transition and may bungle, delay or simply avoid the handoff to the next generation of family leaders or to non-family executives.

This is the mid-point in my multi-part series that explains how 5 particularly disabling conditions unique to a family business can exacerbate business underperformance.

This post is about companies with non-existent succession/transition plans. When owners can’t or won’t let go, four of the 9Stucks (Ditch, Moment, Slow Lane, and Another World) get really amped up and push the stuck company into a deeper hole.

Family company leaders often stay in their roles too long.  But staying too long is not the problem; being in a zone of leadership indecision creates troublesome ripples throughout the entire company.

FamilyCo was one of my stuck manufacturing clients. I was hired by the company/family to do a ‘fresh eyes’ assessment of their business. The company wasn’t in trouble but it had hit a wall and was stagnating. It didn’t take me long to figure out there were issues with the senior team, the company’s competitive position and a number of important operational functions.

Some facts:

  • Jack (second generation) was the CEO and the son of the founder; at age 70 he worked full time at FamilyCo
  • Jack’s 2 children (son and daughter) both worked for the company. The son (Bill, age 42) ran operations (manufacturing and engineering). The daughter (Susan, age 40) was head of marketing. Bill and Susan worked well together.
  • Sales was led by a non-family member and he reported directly to Jack. In the last few years, the sales team had experienced significant turnover.
  • The CFO was also a non-family member and had worked for Jack for many years. He was nearing retirement. His duties included many administrative functions and human resources.
  • There was no Board of Directors/Advisors

The children told me: “Dad was the driving force to get the company to where it is today, but now we think he has blinders on; he doesn’t acknowledge all the changes in the industry, the shifting customer demands or the need to upgrade our facilities, systems and equipment. He is living in the past. You (me) need to talk to him about letting us run the company.”

Okay…now what?

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What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

How Scrooge and Marley Became Unstuck

Scrooge and Marley PLC was stuck.

I don’t identify my clients by name, but given the widespread publicity and overall notoriety of this particular company, I felt it would be beneficial to reveal the real ‘story behind the story’. This is a case study about how Scrooge and Marley PLC became unstuck.

Background

Scrooge and Marley was a mature, privately-held ‘counting house’. The company was founded by Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge, two aggressive, entrepreneurial clerks. There were no outside investors and no cash awards from any business accelerator programs. (Hard to imagine who might have wanted to hear their elevator pitch!)

What is a ‘counting house’? Marley called their business a ‘money-changing hole’. It was a closely held, secretive financial institution that charged high interest rates on all transactions. They were loan sharks…predatory lenders operating out of a dingy warehouse. It’s a good thing their home office was in London, otherwise they probably would have been targeted by Dodd-Frank or The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

Jacob Marley died while he was still employed at the company. There was no key man life insurance; they were too cheap to buy a policy. After Marley’s death, Scrooge became the sole shareholder and he decided to run Scrooge and Marley as he saw fit.

Little did Scrooge know that Jacob decided to maintain a Board observer role.

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What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

CEOs: How To Deconstruct A Stuck Company Stew

Is your company’s value ebbing or declining?

Do you know ALL the reasons why your company is underperforming, or can you only pull apart some of the reasons?

Figuring out why shareholder value is deteriorating can be easy if the issues are really obvious. It can be hard and confusing if the overall situation is a quagmire.

The 9Stucks collection identifies the most common causes of why a company isn’t meeting shareholder expectations. For those of you who have looked at the 9Stucks, each standalone Stuck is straightforward and uncomplicated. Most of the significant, contributing issues that cause a company to be stuck are not hard to uncover if you know where to look.

However, the 9Stucks are usually not limited to just one or two. A stuck company always has A COLLECTION of the 9Stucks. The breadth of the collection determines the overall organizational ‘stickyness’.

This tangled, unique mix of the 9Stucks acts as a significant impediment to figuring out the real, challenging issues in the organization because it is often difficult to extricate and isolate the individual components of the mix, let alone fix them.

I call the mix Stuck Salmagundi.

Salmagundi…?

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What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Hostess Brands: Stuck in Their Own Twinkies

“Serving up family time, one smile at a time.”

- Tag line from the home page of the Hostess Brands website

Today I’m announcing that …

Hostess Brands Joins the Top 20 Stuck List

The creator of Twinkies becomes the latest iconic corporate brand to ‘get listed’. Here is my Top 20 Stuck List ranking so far:

  1. Hewlett Packard – Call the Handyman: These Garage Doors are Broken
  2. Yahoo – What Marissa Mayer Should Do To Unstick Yahoo
  3. Hostess Brands
  4. TBA (Hint: baseball team from Boston)
  5. Numbers 5-20…More to Come (any suggestions?)

Hostess filed Chapter 11 (again) this year. Do you Wonder (sorry, bad pun) what happened to drive them back into court a second time? How is it possible that a well known, ubiquitous US corporation that sells millions and millions of sweet, spongy, crumbly, powdery, chocolate and squishy things each year can’t pay its bills?

Find out why Hostess is Stuck and my Top 10 recommendations to fix the company once and for all.

[Read more…]

What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Emotional Venting in a Stuck Company. Episode 1: Leadership

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”— Ernest Hemingway

When you are trying to figure out why a company is underperforming, where do you begin? What should be your starting point?

You can learn a tremendous amount right away by simply talking with, and listening to, the company’s people — the CEO, the management team, the employees, the investors, the Board, and other key shareholders.

Although that sounds obvious or even trite, it’s just common sense.  Listening carefully to what people are saying, absorbing it, and twirling it around a bit is a necessary prelude to delving deep into data.  If a company is stuck, emotions may squelch thoughtful, deliberate action, especially if the stuck situation has been going on for some time.

During CEO coaching, people of stuck companies talk and I hear three big themes:

  • concerns about LEADERSHIP
  • angst and arrogance about EXTERNAL FORCES
  • confusion about OPERATIONS

Episode 1 illustrates the emotional reactions of a stuck company’s key people about leadership – the unfiltered, raw, spill your guts variety. Their voices express what they live everyday.

Episode 2 will be the angst caused by External Forces; Episode 3 will reveal confusion about Internal Ops.

Consider this one emotional exchange…

Brother A: My brother’s head in the sand attitude is going to strangle this company!
Brother B: My brother’s outlandish growth ideas will destroy all we have worked for.

Where do you go with that opening salvo? The real story was someplace in betweenand that’s the essential point here.

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What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

What Marissa Mayer Should Do to Unstick Yahoo

What do Hewlett Packard and Yahoo have in common? Each company:

  1. has a very new or relatively new CEO
  2. is in the heart of Silicon Valley (they are almost neighbors!)
  3. has an internationally recognized brand
  4. is STUCK

Back in May I wrote about Hewlett Packard’s long, steady slide to become a stuck Company. That blog post was entitled: Call the Handyman: These Garage Doors are Broken.

Today, Yahoo officially joins HP as a member of the 9Stucks club.

Becoming stuck isn’t an instant event for companies whether they are large or small. Stuck develops subtly over time and is more insidious than a sudden, severe crisis. It’s like falling asleep at the beach and waking up to see the water swirling all around you and your belongings. Added to that is the cumulative negative effect of one stuck leading to another, and another, until the organization is in a veritable stew of stucks, also known around here as Stuck Salmagundi.

A bit of history may illustrate why Yahoo, like HP, has reached the exalted ‘they’re stuck’ designation.

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What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

From Bored to Ballistic: The Bell Curve of Board Behaviors

The constant, meddling actions of a controlling, outside investor/board member in the day-to-day affairs of a company can have a direct, negative impact on the organization’s performance.

A while back I was retained to help develop a new strategic plan for the management team and the Board of Directors of an angel-backed technology company.

Soon after I started the project, the CEO told me that a significant angel investor/board member (Moneyman) called either she or the CFO every day at 4:45 for an update on the company. Every day, not kidding…

Was Moneyman, “Just checkin’ in…?”

Was he simply showing enthusiasm, expressing interest, acting curious, proffering sage advice, coaching the senior team and being ‘hands on’?

He wasn’t calling to coach or offer operating advice. Moneyman was meddling.

Meddling can cause a company to be Stuck in a Ditch.

[Read more…]

What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Sacred Cow Disease aka Bad Bovine Blight

 

Let’s have a roundup and herd some cattle together.

I know you’ve run across Sacred Cows (“SCs”)…we all have in our business careers or personal life.

Dictionary.com defines a Sacred Cow to be: “an individual,organization, institution, etc., considered to be exempt from criticism or questioning”

There are good Sacred Cows, like Fenway Park, or long established brands or business practices that should not be changed.

There are Sacred Cows that are not good…these bad bovines are the people, rules, business processes, habits and/or policies that hurt company performance.

This is my first post about the ‘bad’ SCs, the ones that:

  • are difficult to change
  • are hard to get rid of
  • can’t be spoken about

The hush hush aspect of these SCs is like when Lord Voldemort (“You-Know-Who” or “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”) is mentioned in the Harry Potter books – they can’t be openly discussed for fear of what might happen.

You might be thinking: “What’s the big deal – SCs will always exist so move on.”

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