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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?

    艾伦•穆拉利当初接手福特公司(Ford)并成功实现逆转,靠的就是当时注入福特公司的一大笔现金。2006年,艾伦•穆拉利加盟福特,第一时间就筹集到了230亿美元的资金,这也为穆拉利的复兴战略争取了时间。但更让人信服的是,人们一步一步,亲眼见证了这一战略的成效。穆拉利曾表示他将在保证福特高利润率的情况下,生产令顾客满意的汽车。为此,他关闭了福特公司业绩不佳的工厂,停止生产包括捷豹(Jaguar)和路虎(Land Rover)在内的令公司亏本的汽车品牌,并开始研发消费者负担得起的节能汽车。

    从某种程度上来说,追踪汽车行业的盈利状况改善情况相对而言要容易得多,在这一点上,穆拉利比其他行业的CEO更具优势。福特公司生产销售的是有形产品,这更便于投资者跟踪其生产成本的变化。

    相比之下,如果处在阿姆斯特朗这样的处境,CEO们要啃下的骨头就硬得多。因为衡量一家数字媒体公司的成败往往要看它的广告收入,而广告收入源于广告浏览者的数量和点击率,但到目前为止,业界在这方面还没有形成明确的模式能确保实现目标。因此,阿姆斯特朗不仅要整顿AOL的财务状况,还要致力于公司的转型——终止其盈利不断亏损的网络拨号接入业务,将公司转型为数字媒体巨头。因为数字媒体行业的盈利模式极其不确定,所以衡量阿姆斯特朗成败的标准,比如网站的关注度,就略显空泛。

    如果CEO想让自己制定的战略站得住脚,就不能简单地套用一些衡量标准,关键是让人明白为什么要达到这些标准,无论这些标准是什么。例如,如果某位CEO宣布重组公司的销售队伍,并坚持到最后,当然可以赢得一定程度的信任。但是,如果这位CEO能用实实在在的数据说明这一举措将有助于公司在竞争中取得优势,他将更容易赢得股东的信任。

危险信号

    事实上,任何行之有效的复苏策略都不仅仅只是一组数字那么简单。严格以收入为目标的复苏策略是危险的。施恩最新力作《力挽狂澜》(Reversing the Slide)向人们讲述了电子数据系统公司(Electronic Data Systems)的故事。在上世纪90年代,这家公司苦苦挣扎,希望能够跟上科技产业蓬勃发展的步伐。当时公司业绩持续萎靡不振,该公司的CEO最后放手一搏,于2000年开始与海军合作,达成了一项价值为69亿美元的工程协议,试图取悦众多投资者。但令人垂涎的巨额数字并没有转化成实实在在的盈利。最终这位CEO被迫让位,而为有能力真正挽救公司命运的人选让路。

    挽救公司危亡时常见的另一个错误是将公司的困境归咎于外因。“全世界的零售商都会将销售业绩不佳归咎于糟糕的天气。这个理由当然经典。但在某些时候,CEO必须超越这个层面,找出导致失败的真正原因所在,”企业管理重建管理协会(Turnaround Management Association)主席兼CRG管理公司合伙人丽莎•波琳如是说。

    然后,CEO们需要做的就是循序渐进地解决这些问题。进度越快,效果越好。在当今社会,尤其如此。

    译者:李淑玉/汪皓

    A big cash influx helped fuel Alan Mulally's turnaround at Ford (F). When he took over in 2006, he immediately raised over $23 billion. That bought him time, but the most compelling part of Mulally's strategy was that people could watch it work, step by step. Mulally said he would produce cars that customers want at better profit margins. To do that, Ford closed down under-performing plants, but also began to design affordable, fuel-efficient cars, and discontinued brands that were losing money, including Jaguar and Land Rover.

    

    In some ways, Mulally had an advantage over CEOs in other industries in that it's fairly easy to follow the profit progression of a automaker. Ford sells a tangible product and investors can track changes in production costs.

    A CEO in Armstrong's situation has a much tougher row to hoe -- success for a digital media company is often measured in ad revenue, which comes from viewers and clicks, but the formula for achieving that goal is unclear. Not only does Armstrong have to clean up AOL's financials, he also has to switch from the dead dial-up industry to digital media, an industry with a very uncertain revenue model. And his metrics for success, like more eyeballs on a website, are somewhat wishy-washy.

    The key to a solid strategy is not to just meet metrics, whatever those may be, but also to communicate why meeting those even matters. A CEO that announces that he or she is going to reorganize the company's sales force and then follows through will win a certain amount of credibility. But shareholders are more likely to trust a CEO that can explain, with real data, how that action will help the business gain an edge over competitors.

Red flags

    In fact, any true turnaround strategy must go beyond the statistics. A strictly revenue-based turnaround strategy is often a red flag. In his book Reversing the Slide, published this year, Shein describes how a company called Electronic Data Systems struggled to match pace with the booming tech industry in the 90s. With flagging financials, the CEO made a last-ditch effort to please investors by winning a $6.9 billion project with the Navy in 2000. But impressive top-line numbers didn't translate into a profitable business. The CEO was ousted to make way for one that might actually fix the company.

    Blaming outside sources for your company's problems is another common turnaround pitfall. "Every retailer in the world will blame the weather for sales," says Lisa Poulin, chairperson at the Turnaround Management Association and partner at management firm CRG partners. "That's pretty classic, but at some point, you've got to get beyond that and see what the real issues are."

    Then, little by little, CEOs need to fix those issues. The faster they can, especially these days, the better.

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