Many members contributed to the findings and I was pleased to be one of them – concentrating on our specialist market – SMEs; principally owner-managed and often family businesses. As IFT’s CEO, Milly Camley says “Turnaround and restructuring is high stakes, high pace and high stress. It is also hugely important to society. It protects people’s jobs and livelihoods, ensures continuity of service to customers, supports suppliers and a return to UK plc.”
Whereas all business turnarounds have some common traits, an SME turnaround has some specific challenges – mainly through a limitation of resources, both physical and financial. Rapid transformation usually needs both to be available, but in SMEs, staff and capital are often limited, and therefore the process is usually slower. Additionally, an SME is usually owned and run by an owner-manager and they may initially be resistant to change and need much discussion and data proof and persuasion before some changes can be made.
All of this adds to the time taken to achieve a completed turnaround. Add in family to the business equation and the complexities usually multiply. On the other hand, one of our clients lost 60% of his revenue overnight; the family pulled together strongly and have come out ‘the other side’ with a stronger, more resilient business.
SMEs and Family businesses therefore can suffer from the limitations above but have shorter decision lines and with family, strong ties to also make them unique. Our job is to encourage and coach the best out of them and this approach is probably the biggest difference between SME and Corporate turnarounds.
At Playfair Partnerships we work in this ‘high pace, high stress’ environment and it is important that we bring calm and order to what is always a challenging time for the business owner. We need to stabilise the situation, assess the problem, arrive at a plan to solve it, and communicate with and reassure the stakeholders that provided we work together, we can find a solution and return the business to ‘normal life’.
To do this requires a broad range of skills and usually a significant amount of both general business and turnaround experience, and this is much in evidence in the IFT report.