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临危受命:CEO必须和时间赛跑

Shelley DuBois 2011年09月22日

高管们一旦接受挑战,承担起扭转企业颓势的重任,就必须在日益迫近的最后期限之前做出成绩。那么,让一家濒危公司恢复元气到底需要多长时间?

    人人对商界东山再起的神话总是津津乐道。毫无疑问,成为某企业的“救世主”同样也会给个人事业的发展大大加分,这也是众多高管愿意加盟“问题公司”,并期望大展身手的原因。

    但是,接受这种挑战的CEO们所要承受的时间压力也许是他们之前从未经历过的。尤其是当今社会“及时满足”盛行,一旦涉及投资回报,他们必须在短时间内就能有所建树;要知道,在获取信息异常方便的今天,监督企业的发展进度并非难事。

    最近,一些CEO们终于耗尽了股东的耐心,被“扫地出门”。例如,雅虎(Yahoo)前任CEO 卡罗尔•巴茨在本月早些时候不幸被解雇。在股东们的眼里,任职两年的巴茨并没有让处境艰难的雅虎重振昔日雄风。

    同样,美国在线(AOL)的股东们正对蒂姆•阿姆斯特朗的复兴战略忧心忡忡。据悉,AOL最近几个季度的收入情况很不理想,许多业内人士都迫切希望看到AOL取得积极的进展。

    但是,一家企业的复苏到底需要多长时间?高管猎头公司Wyatt & Jaffe总裁马克•谢斐给出的答案是8个季度。他说:“我记得以前的期限是16个季度,不过那是互联网泡沫出现之前。二十世纪90年代,我们会给人们更长的时间,因为,我们认为,要做成一件事就得花费更长的时间。”

    美国西北大学凯洛格管理学院(Northwestern's Kellogg school of management)的管理学教授詹姆斯•施恩称,8个季度算是很慷慨了。新上任的CEO最多在四个季度之内就要做出显著的成绩。他不但要实现盈利,还要制定目标明确的计划,而这个计划要同时让专家、公司董事会和股东信服。

    当然,扭转公司不利局面所需的时间与公司手头上可支配的资金直接相关。濒临破产的公司大多没有时间来追求重塑品牌这样高远的战略目标。但对于AOL这样的流动资金相对充裕、经营模式却过于陈腐的公司,回旋的余地稍微充分一点。

明确的衡量标准是关键

    Everybody loves a corporate comeback. They sure look good on a resume, too, which means that the prospect of a turnaround often lures executives to take charge of troubled companies.

    But CEOs who do accept the challenge are on the clock in a way that they may not have been before. In a society accustomed to instant gratification, especially when it comes to a return on the money we invest, the timeline for turnarounds are shorter; everyone has access to more information, and they can monitor a company's progress.

    Recently, some CEOs have borne the brunt of shareholder impatience. Yahoo's (YHOO) board ousted Carol Bartz from the CEO chair earlier this month after what they saw was an unsuccessful two-year attempt to revive the struggling tech company to its former Internet glory.

    Likewise, shareholders are getting restless about Tim Armstrong's turnaround strategy for flagging digital brand AOL (AOL). The company's most recent quarterly earnings report was dismal, and many in the industry are anxious to see positive results.

    But how much time should a turnaround take? Eight quarters, says Mark Jaffe, president of executive search firm Wyatt & Jaffe. "I remember when it used to be 16," he says, "but that was before the Internet bubble. Back in the 90s, we used to give people more time. We simply thought it took longer to do things."

    Eight quarters is actually generous, says James Shein, a management professor at Northwestern's Kellogg school of management. A new CEO needs to show significant progress in four quarters at the most, he adds. Not that the company needs to be profitable, but there has to be a plan with clear goals that convinces experts as well as a company's board and shareholders.

    Of course, the amount of time a CEO should realistically have to turn a company around is directly related to the cash a company has on hand. Companies headed for bankruptcy simply don't have time to bounce around a lofty re-branding strategy. Companies with a relatively reliable stream of cash but a stale business model, such as AOL, have a little bit more leeway.

Clarity is key

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