The old expression that ‘the only constant is change’ is germane to both living organisms and companies. Each continuously goes through changes, whether they be incremental or fundamental.
In business situations, we call the process of encouraging, directing, or managing change by many names, depending on the factors that have may have caused it. Sometimes called “change management,” it’s also common to hear terms that include “turnaround management,” “corporate restructuring,” or “workouts,” depending on the situation.
With small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs), change usually involves a handful of key players among ownership and employees. When implementing new strategies, I believe it best to appoint one individual with the primary responsibility of carrying out the steps that facilitate the changes. Frequently, that individual is an outside expert brought in for their change management expertise (in larger organizations the expert may be referred to as the change management or chief restructuring officer and may be a permanent, full-time employee).
TAP’s Restructure Group is headed by Senior Partner Bill Fickling. Mr. Fickling is a former chair of a community bank and has spent most of his career in operational turnarounds for distressed small to medium-sized businesses.
In the smaller organizations it’s often necessary to bring in this temporary consultant to ensure key performers performing critical day-to-day tasks stay focused where they should. Tasking these individuals with additional responsibilities likely delays the change-making process and may be the reason the necessary steps haven’t already been taken, even if everyone agrees they need to happen.
The consultant needs an important job title so that everyone understands the importance of the work and that he or she has the authority to make decisions. Many employees don’t like change and resist it in subtle or overt ways. Often, they don’t even realize they are impeding change, especially if doing things the same way has seemed to have worked for them in the past. But if it’s an important enough situation to bring in outside expertise, staff needs to understand and respect that changes will be made, regardless of whether they like the decisions or not.
Empowering the consultant ensures things will get done. Without it inertia sets in and what needs doing never seems to get done.
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Bill Fickling’s career spans nearly five decades in the finance sector. Currently managing partner at TAP Financial Partners, Mr. Fickling has also served a key role in the restructure of the nation’s first preferred provider organization (PPO, a managed healthcare organization) and served in an M&A capacity with a major hospital management chain. He also founded, was chairman of the board, and a significant investor in a federally-insured, state-chartered bank. While working with a large SME lender, Mr. Fickling managed a portfolio of distressed assets that grew in value from $15 million to more than $100 million and oversaw the restructure of one of the nation’s largest community solar garden developers, a marine diesel propulsion service and repair company, and a military aerospace contractor, among many others.