While the business landscape has been subject to sustained uncertainty relating to geo-political changes and the declining performance of the economy, nobody in 2019 could have seen the current storm brewing. With the Covid-19 pandemic having shunted the world into the deepest recession since the Second World War, BOLD Managing Partner Klaas Wagenaar has chosen now as the time to share important lessons from his career in the turnaround profession, with his new book.
It is well-known that companies which want to survive must transform. The lightning-fast digitisation of society means that analogue business models are less and less sustainable. This year, however, the struggle for survival has taken on a whole new dimension: the coronavirus crisis has left many companies on the brink of collapse.
However, this does not mean that the necessity for transformation has suddenly disappeared, Klaas Wagenaar argues in his new book. If anything, he suggests, these conditions create a kind of perfect storm where transformation is even more important.
Wagenaar explains, “The classic job of a turnaround manager is to get out of financial trouble and bring your company into a safe haven. This is of course quite a challenge at this time, also because many companies are not only dealing with a decline in income but also with increasing debts. But now there is not only a considerable economic shock, but also an enormous acceleration in digitisation. A company must therefore also transform in record time. It’s really Darwin in a pressure cooker.”
Having previously written ‘Brand’ – a book on his years in the turnaround business – the BOLD Managing Partner determined that the current situation is so special that it was time for a follow-up. The title ‘Business Unusual’ refers to the unique combination of measures that companies now have to take to keep their heads above water: turnaround and transformation. In the book itself, he comes up with five principles that help companies survive in extreme conditions.
It may sound as if companies are facing an impossible assignment, but according to Wagenaar, the extra urgency also causes changes that previously seemed unthinkable. He argues that the combination of turnaround and transformation services is probably “one of the greatest challenges of our time,” but also one that “offers great opportunities.”
By way of illustration, Wagenaar points to the lockdown months, “We soon saw all kinds of creativity emerging to shape this transformation. Top restaurants started to provide takeaway menus and quickly built up a digital infrastructure; office workers in government and business exchanged physical meetings for Skype, Zoom, Teams or other applications; and psychotherapists started video calling with their patients.”
At the same time, however, there are also companies that are suffering. As directors are not always able to keep a cool head, decisions are sometimes taken hastily and little confidence is radiated towards employees. ‘Business Unusual’ aims to help companies overcome such problems, with Wagenaar providing entrepreneurs, management boards, consultants and other stakeholders with practical advice on how to take the lead in crisis situations.
He illustrates his tips and guidelines with recognizable examples of turnarounds in which he himself was involved. In this way Wagenaar hopes to help companies to weather the current storm and to prepare for the future.