The ugly reality in our industry is that we are fighting two wars. The first is the usual one of simply operating a printing business. Many of you have been fighting that one for years. You know many of the principles there. The second is doing combat with a tough economy—steering your business ship through the troubled waters of a sharp recession.
What makes the second one daunting is that it often involves making substantial changes.
When I’m not consulting in printing businesses I enjoy coaching boys varsity high school basketball. Here are two coaching stories involving turnarounds that apply to making business decisions and changes in tough times.
In the first, a new coach came into as dismal an athletic environment as one could possibly enter. Here is the school’s boys basketball history.
|Previous 4 Yrs||Previous 20 Yrs.|
|18 wins||62 losses|
What we have here is consistent failure. The team had but two overall winning seasons in two decades, and had never won a conference championship.
Now let’s take a look at the new coach’s record.
|First Year||Second Year|
In those two years under the new coach the team won a conference championship both times. I would call that a turnaround.
In the second story a new coach—one familiar with turnarounds—was brought in to reverse the fortunes of a program very similar to the first. Here is the history:
|Previous Year||Previous 4 Yrs.|
There were no overall winning seasons in those four years and none in the team’s division (conference). It went 1-9 in its division the year before.
Coach’s Record—4-12, (2-6 in Division)
He was released with five games left on the schedule in that first year. I would not call that a turnaround.
It was the same coach in both stories, and the coach was me.
So what happened? Did the coach (to keep it in the 3rd person) go soft in the head as he went from one turnaround situation to another?
Let’s take a closer look. In the first story the coach was also the Athletic Director, giving him administrative control over the program and job security in his role as coach. As such, he could ignore second-guessing fans; players troubled by being challenged to think differently; and parents uneasy as he drove his team through the stages of transformation.
More than that, he was able to surround himself with loyal, dedicated assistants to help him through it.
In the second story, the coach was brought in only to coach, to turn polluted basketball water into wine. His fate was in the control of an Athletic Director, one sensitive to player complaints, fan second-guessing, and anxious parents, while expecting improvement with a minimum amount of turbulence.
There was still another difference. In the first scenario, the coach had time. He was hired the previous spring and immediately founded a summer basketball camp.
In the second, the coach was hired less than two weeks before the beginning of basketball practice. Everything was new--the coach, the players, and the system.
That aside, the team in the second scenario did improve. As the year progressed, it went from being impotent in the face of frequent blowouts to becoming much more competitive and was actually on pace for a better record than the year previous. It also had only one senior and was a “team of tomorrow.” The previous squad was a senior dominated team. The team was slowly turning around. The coach, however, did not survive to complete the task.
Lead Your Team Forward
There are four principles that emerge from these stories that are applicable to making key major business decisions involving change.
1. Make certain you are the “Athletic Director.”
Be sure you are truly in charge and beholden to as few others as possible. You cede away your personal potency if you have to accommodate outsiders’ points of view and seek their good opinion of your decisions.