Guns for Hire: Turnaround Specialists

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For senior professionals looking to replace a C-suite role, the idea of working as a turnaround professional can often be an attractive move, especially for people who thrive on change. Whether it’s a few months or a year, the assignment is short-term. Typically, private equity firms scour for turnaround specialists to run portfolio companies. So, having connections in the industry can be invaluable.

According to John M. Collard, chairman of Strategic Management Partners, a turnaround firm, board of director members, corporate council, investment bankers, the management team or CEO will bring in the turnaround specialist. C-suite professional recruiters and headhunters are sometimes used to find turnaround specialists.

In essence, turnaround professionals are interim C-suite executives, and they can serve in the role of temporary CEO, restructuring officer, COO or CFO. Often, a turnaround specialist will advise management in order to bring a company back to financial viability. Turnaround specialists may help a company to work through an M&A or other major transaction. The turnaround specialist may even be charged with finding a permanent replacement for the role they temporarily fill.

Think Short-Term

But whether it’s operational, financial or strategic advice, turnaround professionals constantly need to think about the next job down the road, given the short-term nature of assignments. If you’re working for a private equity firm, they most certainly have an exit strategy, Collard says. That means your post will be around only until the portfolio company is sold—anywhere from a year to a few years down the road.

In an interview with eFinancialCareers, Collard noted that turnaround professionals often “happen” into the field. “I don’t think that I've ever met someone who started out to be in the turnaround profession,” he admits. “For one reason or another, people usually back into the profession.” Turnaround professionals come to a company and sometimes work under a prepaid retainer, so that even if a company cannot be rescued and may end up in bankruptcy, you do get paid.

Risk, Change and Travel

Turnaround managers can fall into two categories, according to Collard. “There are interim managers—those who will go into a firm and take on management and decision-making control,” he says. Or, you might serve as a management consultant, offering suggestions and advice to those in charge at the company.

But whatever role you assume, Collard says that turnaround professionals have to be “risk takers”—individuals not afraid to take on a difficult and short-term assignment. Turnaround managers also need to thrive on change and travel, as the job is fraught with challenges and often requires quickly flying to company locations across the globe. Diplomacy is also a necessary trait for the role, given the need to communicate what Collard calls “ the tough decisions” to senior management and investors.

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