Don Van Winkle

Special Projects

Now It’s Your Turn

Your revenues dropped, receivables slowed, banks cursed, employees thinned. Benefits were slashed, overhead cut, customers fired, suppliers replaced, processes adjusted, options explored… and your hair grayed.

You right-sized, refinanced, improvised, re-priced, relocated, or recalibrated. You fought with suppliers, bankers and your customers for cash to keep your company afloat. You lost sleep and a few good players. Some of those relationships will never be the same. You’ve cut to the bone and bled your company beyond what you ever thought possible. You will never be the same. Your company will never be the same.

Congratulations! You’ve pulled your company back from the brink. You survived.   Today, you’re seeing a new tenacity in your company and feeling new resolve. You’re tougher than you’ve ever been, leaner and more nimble. Your people have assumed a survivalist’s mindset. You’re weary of the economists and the press and tired of listening to the naysayers. You’ve kissed the mat and it’s time to move on.

Today you’re seeing opportunity where everyone else is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Bankers, lawyers and consultants are less intimidating and seem to offer more value. You’re gaining new clarity on who your real customers, suppliers and allies are. There’s an uptick in revenues and cash is beginning to accumulate in your bank account.

You’re taking quiet pride in your own strength and ability to adapt. Now it’s your turn.  What’s next for you under the new realities, rules and values? Buckle up for the recovery. We’re with you.

This is not Your Father’s Business World

The iron-willed “go-it-alone” CEO of years past is both rare and ill-suited for today’s complex and diverse business world. In this still-young 21st century, the world is more advanced, communication more accelerated, and technology more sophisticated than your father’s wildest dreams.

Employees, once dedicated, are now more autonomous and demanding–and less loyal.  Capital access is more guarded while the Internet allows access to information and comparisons in ways no one could have imagined 20 years ago. While “go it alone” may seem to some a romantic ideal reminiscent of an earlier golden age, in reality the lone-wolf CEO occurs as an anachronism.

Today’s successful CEO relies on more candid communication and broader peripheral vision, leveraged through the insight of informed and trusted peers under an unwavering canopy of confidentiality. This often leads to healthy introspection, including questions such as: Who am I and what is my purpose? Who will I align with toward mutual acceleration? Where are my blind spots?

The next-level CEO has learned to welcome the different perspectives and experiences of others, and recognizes the power of accountability. This is in sharp contrast to the old model of “go-it-alone” CEOs, many of whom continue to be paranoid, distrustful and insecure to the end. These CEOs often lack the emotional balance to give and get counsel within a well-structured peer accountability environment. Instead, they default to a position of relying on the biased input of others well-versed in telling the CEO “only what he or she wants to hear”—to the detriment of their personal growth; the wellbeing of their employees; and the success of their business. 

The late Steve Jobs was notorious for respecting only those who challenged him. Fortunately, sycophants are a dying breed. Far better to give new CEOs a wide and diverse range of input, thinking, creativity and support that makes them happy and inspired. Overlay this with the grit, perseverance, fortitude, vision and focus equated with great CEOs, and we see that today’s CEOs are more relevant, with huge leverage at their disposal.

Today more of my work is centered on shoulder-to-shoulder work with CEOs in a behind-the-scenes mentoring and development role.  This takes a commitment on the part of the CEO and an appreciation for constructive objectivity, vulnerability and unwavering honesty.  A fresh pair of eyes unafraid to challenge and ask tough questions without preconceived ideas or opinions in a dialogue punctuated by candidness and authenticity typically leads to profitable insights.

At a minimum, you and I knowing one another in the market will produce connections and awareness that we might otherwise miss.

Often, one of these CFO/CEO special project engagements evolves into a mentoring relationship and/or a Board Position.  Ideal situations are those Board positions that can efficiently utilize both Lead Director and Corporate Development skills.  If not me directly,  I have a bench of talented executives that stand ready and welcome that level of engagement.