Interim COO Files: The Case of the Sinking Ship

e first in a series of adventures based on real client assignments. The situation and results are real. The story is just for fun. Enjoy.

Marc paused on the stairs cooling off after his run. Snatching his towel he glanced back at the raw power of the Pacific Ocean and thought of the many oceans he had crossed as a Navy Commander. He sighed. Like the waves he watched, his memories washed over him in undulating pulses.

The tune on his cell broke the reverie. Cerius was offering him a mission –parachute in, gather facts, diffuse the bomb that threatened to sink this business. He would need to teach and lead the client’s key personnel in necessary procedures to make this happen. He’d have to be strong. And quick. Time was running out for the company.

Would he accept the mission? With a verbal salute Marc replied, “When do I leave?” His Cerius contact replied, “Your packet is on the way. You leave at midnight”.

For the next six months Marc would be in the role as Interim COO. He started packing.

Putting the Ship Back on Course

Marc never slept on planes so he took advantage of this red eye flight to study the packet Cerius had prepared. He studied the information carefully. Not much he hadn’t seen before. The company’s management team had lost its drive to be the best. As he made his way through the 27-page strategic overview from the company he could see why. The company managers were overloaded with direction and inundated with their product mix. They lacked the right resources or clarity to get the mission right. His goal was to get the team focused, whip the financials into shape and leave them with a proven set of processes to follow.

On his first day at the foundering company he identified the real leaders and started working with them first. Over the next few days they came up with direction that could be passed down to all levels of team regardless of background or expertise. There was talent and initiative in the company. Marc’s confidence in the outcome was growing.

The financial problems were caused by too many under-performing products and razor-thin margins. So, with Marc’s direction the managers focused on those issues first. He had been in similar situations facing similar challenges so the process and discipline necessary for the task was familiar to him.

Steaming Ahead

Ninety days later, Marc was packing his bags again. Mission accomplished. The ship and its financials were healthy once again. Under his guidance the team had removed non-performing products from the product line; increased prices on their top-sellers; and slashed COGS by a whopping 50%. The impact on the financial statement was equivalent to a tripling of revenue.

The CEO was relieved and grateful, “Marc was a key part in bringing the group together and coming up with the game plan going forward.” He knew that his company and his team were stronger now following Marc’s engagement.

On the flight home Marc thought about the personalities, the meetings, the challenges, the late-night number-crunching. What a blast! He wondered how many more teams like this are out there and how he could help them? This is what he was born to do and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Read a full account of Marc’s mission and results, click here.


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