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Get a second opinion - References

How do things get started? The different engagement processes

After receiving your contact request, (or referral via lawyers or bankers) we will have responded within 48hrs, usually far sooner, even on a week end. Depending on the request different things will happen as we discuss below.

General ad-hoc requests

If we can help you immediately, with data, information, contact details, we will do so. If it is for a specific topic, say Inventory Management or a Value Chain for some industry, we'll dig through our archives and either send it to you directly or post it to the website for everyone to use.


Urgency is demanded, and if we:

  • have capacity - (check this, as in our opinion a rescue requires 100% focus and cannot be juggled with others as is the habit in SA unfortunately)
  • are intended to do a turnaround rescue - (we do not do liquidations nor wind-downs. These are not rescues in our opinion!)

Then we will conduct a "Prospect Assessment", the detail is available under the rescue section, but key points are:

  1. This is conducted within 3-5 days
  2. We form a very well substantiated opinion on the possibility of actual rescue
  3. We require the latest audited financial statements and the YTD actual vs forecast for the Income Statement and Balance-sheet
  4. We need the names and e-mails of management and staff, who will conduct an online (or via Android or Apple app) self assessment
  5. Access over 2 days to the leadership team, who we will meet on-site

The output of this assessment is rigorous and here is an example of the summarized output for initial discussions. This informs our immediate planning and the initial stakeholder management. Typically there are doubts about whether this can actually be accomplished, to which we have two responses "Don't judge us by the low standards of others, and how much would you like to wager?"

Once we have consensus, we follow the legislated process with confirmation in writing and we continue where we left off.


These engagements start with a discovery stage, for which you incur zero costs, but receive great value. This culminates in a workshop, conducted on site with only your business as participants.

Turnarounds - Stage 1 - Discovery

This phase can take a few days to as long as a month and entails us getting to know you and your business. It ends with a workshop, which can take as little as 2hrs, but some have taken longer than a day. This depends on how big the business is, and the range of issues that need addressing. In this hands-on workshop, you will receive an objective health-check, based on a a very simple "mental model": "If I were to buy this firm, or someone in my family were buying it, what would be my view on what would need our attention, i.e. what works, what is a concern, what is broken, where is the risk?" Obviously, we don't talk about the dollar/rand value of the business, but it allows us to frame things nicely.

There are two broad areas of focus:

  1. The technical day to day business management, and how its economic engine works.
  2. The personality of the firm, demonstrated in the pace, manner and cohesion of the business in general

Here's a little detail on what these areas encompass.

Simple questions with complex answers

Again, we frame the main areas of review into simple questions, any 10 year old would understand. Here's a sample of what we think about.

  • Does the business have enough cash to grow? Are these sources of cash stable? Where is waste and value destruction happening, where is the value generated? Does the business have data on which to base decisions? Is their data reliable and clean? etc
  • How does the business fit into the market? Does it have a clear plan for the future? Is everyone in the business on the same page and working toward a single outcome? Can everyone's contribution be measured? Are the right time-horizons considered? Is there rigor in the thinking, does this translate into planned actions? etc, etc
  • Are people happy and engaged? Do they care about the business and treat it as their own? Are customers loyal and satisfied? How are intrinsic motivators understood, and what is the remuneration and reward structure? Is the income statement reflected in a value chain which has its key parts owned and accounted for? Is the business's brand lived by the business? Is there cultural alignment between people's individual behavior and what the business claims to be? How was my own customer experience?
  • Are the functional areas of the organization in line with the needs of the business and its clients, are there skills gaps? Are people hired for technical ability, cultural fit or on reputation and connections? Would everyone be hired again without a moment's hesitation?

How do we get his done?

  • Two online self-assessments that you can access via an Android or Apple app or simply online though a webpage. One takes 10 minutes, and covers the well know Rockefeller habits, the other is longer and covers data, voice of customer, planning, comms, leadership from a behaviour point of view. These we are then submitted online and collated into a single business view point. Generally we like to get more than just the management's feedback. Anonymity is guaranteed.
  • Structured interviews and questionnaires with various internal stakeholders (front line staff, direct reports etc). We have a "prospect tool" which we use to go through the financial data and identify uplift opportunities, which we quantify with the business. The outcome of this is very quantitative and is about tangible outcomes that we can measure on your bottom line.
  • Mystery shopping, which can entail everything from buying your products, using your services, making a complaint, using the call-center channel, visiting a store or branch
  • Engaging with external stakeholders - regulator/ombudsman, suppliers, customers

Our effort vs your effort

Except for a meeting or two, the whole point here is for us to be as un-intrusive as possible and to form an independent opinion. Obviously we need access to certain people, but this is all planned and done after hours if necessary.

Turnarounds - Stage 2 - Delivery

Once we have agreed on what can be done, what should be done, what the priorities are and agreed on ownership and accountability, we target Cash Flow and Value Management (both removal of value destroyers as well as enabling value creation). This is when the austerity measures also begin, these are always needed in some sort of measure. This is important as it sends a strong message to the business, and we will need to build a momentum that is hard to stop. For example, we have insisted that Board Meetings no longer take place off-site in lush conferencing facilities, but on site, and expensive catering gives way to board members eating in the canteen with everyone else. We have more on this documented in the Turnaround section. Everything we do here can be tied back to your income statement or balance-sheet directly.

Turnarounds - Stage 3 - Sustainability

By now, the bleeding will have been stopped, the business stabilized, and very credible signals sent to staff, management, suppliers and customers on credible intent and delivery. The business will now have to address the longer term sustainability issues, People, Culture, Process re-engineering, Structure, Scaleability, Strategy etc. All the while however, delivery continues, but in segmented focused chunks.

Turnarounds - Final points

Our approach is to coach you through YOUR turn around. There is no roll on of teams of consultants. This will be YOUR turnaround, under YOUR leadership, for which YOU get the recognition! This is about Personal as well as Business Growth. Don't get us wrong, we don't sit on the side-lines pontificating. We roll our sleeves up and get stuck in, but never without you. In our opinion change cannot be outsourced. We don't work with the Chairman of the Board, we work with the Executive who we expect to fulfill these duties. This is not everyone's cup of tea, it demands a lot, but there really is no other way. If you disagree, then we really are not the people for you and your turnaround. In this instance we have nobody to recommend you, but finding consultants who'll roll on lots of "resources" and walk away with your turnaround a failure shouldn't be too difficult. Good luck.

Debt Workouts

This depends on whether you are the creditor or debtor,and because initially so many stakeholders need to be considered this is very situation dependent. We'll meet with you and take you through the 4 phases of a workout, initially our discussions with you will cover:

  • planning - addressing the enablers of a successful workout and putting these in place
  • addressing any immediate business stabilization issues
  • formal communication to the various stakeholders and getting alignment
  • signalling intent with the internal austerity plan

And we take it from there, each case is different. But you will be intimately involved through-out the process.

Performance Coaching

If the contact request is to investigate options around our coaching services, then we will have to meet face to face, but a good chat beforehand with as much background info as possible is necessary. We'll discuss what you wish to achieve or what is bothering you. If the root cause is something to do with performance or a role related skill or competency, then we'll discuss a road-map, which we will tailor for you and then meet to refine. If it turns out that the issue is related to career management or work-life balance, i.e. those domains not directly related to actual delivery at work, then we'll persuade you to seek help elsewhere. If there is a match then we'll make sure that we manage expectations around how we work together. It is important that we also agree a trial period in which we get to see if there is a personality and style match. Every one of our coaching sessions concludes with work and actions to be done by the next time we meet, it requires dedication and commitment, and it must be something that is fulfilling and fun. Because we want to create a rhythm and momentum we are flexible and often conduct sessions outside of work hours.