Strategy Focused CEOs See Growth and Opportunity Even in Crisis

While many companies are facing new challenges and increasing volatility, we’ve found that most leaders’ responses and outcomes tend to be unique. While quarantined with COVID-19, Todd Herman, author of The Alter Ego Effect, decided to interview 29 CEOs to hear how they described their circumstances.  

Each company was experiencing a downturn. Herman analyzed each CEO’s word choice and language to see how they were reacting, noting the importance of a leader’s pronouncements: “words create reality.” He saw big differences in how executives were wired and reacted to the economic rollercoaster. His findings led him to divide the CEOs into three groups:

Fear-Focused CEOs – emotional, concerned, and overwhelmed. Tended to use negative future pacing words like ‘struggle’, ‘fear’, ‘hard’, or ‘difficult’. Spent the most time watching media or finger pointing rather than what could be done.

Unfocused CEOs – dismissive, uncertain, wait and see. Talked about getting a plan, but tended to use the word ‘plan’ in a negative or needs-based way.

Strategy Focused CEOs – take and use what’s given, focused on growth/opportunity. Positive. Spending time leaning into networks.

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RED Team Executives: On Call to Help Now

Uncertainty is growing in the US with coronavirus cases mounting. California, Illinois, Michigan, and other states have taken serious actions with shelter-in-place orders, leaving many people wondering how this will impact them personally as well as their companies and the economy as a whole.

At the same time, we’re reflecting on how much there is to be grateful for, including the strong relationships we’ve built over 10+ years with inspiring leaders. These are women and men who focus their careers on running into the burning building – the company in trouble – learning fast, listening, assembling resources, providing fresh and objective insights, developing new plans and actions for survival and ultimately blueprints for a brighter future.

We recently convened a call with some RED Team execs who shared how they are adapting to new ways to work. Many executives shared experiences on the front lines figuring out how to help combat the virus and also help people work smarter and safer:

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Surviving Zero Revenue: Thoughts from a Turnaround CEO

Surviving a period of zero or near zero revenue is extraordinarily difficult. The fundamental challenge is how to use time and capital purposefully. Most businesses have multiple constituents with diverse and conflicting interests. There is no one correct course of action. What is beneficial to one constituent is likely to be harmful to another.

Consider the following: The shareholders, owners and founders of a business have invested their own capital, have taken risk and have worked hard to create equity value. These owners could be individuals, institutional investors, private equity groups and hedge funds or could be a publicly owned company. They could be US citizens or foreign entities. Should the protection and retention of owner and shareholder value be the primary and controlling objective?

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Inspiring Ways Companies are Reacting to Coronavirus

The worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is showing that crises tend to bring out the worst—and the best—in people.

Amid frenzied panic buying, supply hoarding, and finger-pointing, we’re also seeing individuals and businesses step up to help others. If the cloud hovering over the economic system has a silver lining, it’s that temporary changes to how companies define their mission statement could become permanent. Instead of focusing only on their bottom line, businesses might emerge from the crisis more focused on the greater good. In fact, many companies are already leading the way and providing inspiration during these uncertain times.

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The Leaders Response to COVID-19: Confidence in the Face of Fear

Anxiety is in abundance this Friday the 13th. We write from our mostly empty office building where both cautiousness and outright fear from COVID-19 seem to be in full effect.

Stock markets worldwide have become nonstop rollercoasters, now mostly plummeting downhill. Grocery stores are packed as people stock up on supplies. Panic seems to be at the root of many news articles and communications. As an owner, investor, or member of the management team it can be difficult to navigate the chaos to determine what this means for the future of your company and employees.

As owners and leaders it’s our obligation to step up during crisis –  to be a light to those around us. This is at the heart of what we do. InterimExecs RED Team – an elite team of executive change agents — often run straight into the fire, doing what is necessary to listen, diagnose, set plans and execute. The successful leader must be the calm in the midst of the storm – a point of stabilization for the team and a trusted partner for those around them. So how should we react to the events around us?

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What Bad Loans and Management Shortfalls Mean for Investors

U.S. Banks are growing concerned — if not alarmed — and are reevaluating just how lax they are when it comes to handing out commercial loans. With sour loans on the rise, that’s not a pretty picture for companies that rely too much on credit lines or commercial loans. This is, in essence, a self-imposed business risk, as they are more dependent and susceptible to any fluctuations that occur.

A recent Financial Times article reported that non-performing loans increased by 20% at ten large commercial lenders. How much of an impact is that on the bank industry exactly? According to the Financial Times analyst, that’s a hefty $1.6B in the first quarter alone, a significant shift from credit quality since 2016, an era where the dust had settled from crashes and subsequent defaults on loans. The future started looking bright. Lending portfolios and credit quality began to improve. 

With merely three years of positive momentum, fast forward to present day and all that has changed and not for the better.  “Since most businesses utilize a credit line or other commercial loans, any slowdown will impact all types of commercial lenders – banks, asset-based lenders and factors,” said Yoav Cohen, an interim executive who has spearheaded eight turnarounds and liquidations, each one successful in paying off secured lenders in full. Cohen has seen it all, serving in roles as varied as interim CFO, COO, and a Chief Restructuring Officer.

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National Radio Show Marketplace Features InterimExecs: Temps at the Top

In an interview with Marketplace reporter, Nancy Marshall-Genzer, InterimExecs’ CEO Robert Jordan, shared his insights on the increasing use of interim executives in public companies, privately held companies, and nonprofit organizations.


The piece discussed how in many cases interim executives are brought in during critical transitions – both in times of crisis and rapid growth. A good Interim CEO or other C-suite executive builds trust within the organization, and often serves as a mentor to set up the team for future success.

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An Interim Executive Helps Native American Economic Development

Native American economic development is critical for tribes seeking to effect a positive long-term impact on their communities. Federal 8(a) programs have been a great resource for Native American owned business, but tribal communities have evolved with an increasing focus on sustainable strategic economic development.

Tribal nations not only focus on the importance of cultural preservation and protected lands, but aspire to overcome big challenges facing their communities. From poverty to limited access to high-quality education, minimal healthcare resources, and inadequate workforce development, tribes work to solve these problems through economic growth. Tribes that thrive economically can better support funding for education, housing, and a multitude of crucial basic services.

Some tribal nations have excelled in the face of these challenges. Tribal economies have had a profound economic impact by growing Native American enterprises, increasing revenue, and acquiring operating companies. Prosperous tribes have also developed strong internal and external business partnerships.

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Interim Management Helps Businesses Plan for Brexit Uncertainty

The UK — and everyone else – are anxiously awaiting March 29 when Article 50 will either be extended or revoked. If neither occurs, the UK must leave, deal or no deal. Only a few weeks away, one thing is certain. Everything will change. Brexit could turn UK trade on its head.

Brexit is forcing organizations to cope with immense uncertainty. How does a business strategically plan with an unknown number of unknowns? The anxiety of Brexit has halted UK companies’ transformative efforts in their tracks.  Many experts are hypothesizing just what consequences will result, from ports unable to process inbound or outbound shipments, to decreased operational inefficiencies, to economic stagnation.

“Scenario planning in today’s 24-hour information culture and the dynamic global nature of business means that CEOs are being pressured by investors, the business media as well as the increasingly influential special public bodies, to explain their strategic direction and the benefits this will bring to customers as well as shareholders. This was challenging before Brexit but is now more so and a lot of CEOs are struggling with this,” explains Gaby Weidlich, a UK-based interim CEO.

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2017: Done. Predicting the Future in 2018 and Beyond

2017 offered daily excitement. The markets continued an unrelenting upward streak. While some debate the strength of underlying fundamentals, valuations public and private rose all year long.

In our business at InterimExecs, demand for interim management continued strongly while gaining momentum in the US. We had fun matching inspiring companies and executives together that were focused on growth, transformation, or taking on big initiatives and goals (see some of our favorite moments of 2017 here: www.interimexecs.org/2017-review).

Thanks to Peter Diamandis and the Abundance360 team, I now know 2018 will prove to be even better in all respects.

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