Jeff Sands ’89 knows what it’s like to lose everything. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, he lost his home, neighborhood and business, and was forced to file both personal and corporate bankruptcy.
Sands transformed that experience — and subsequent recovery — into an award-winning career as a turnaround specialist and managing principle at Dorset Partners LLC. In a timely coincidence given the coronavirus pandemic, his first book, Corporate Turnaround Artistry: Fix Any Business in 100 Days, was published in February.
Corporate turnarounds, Sands explains, are a balance of art and science. While he practices management, finance and insolvency law, he also uses plentiful persuasion techniques to “convince the lenders to keep lending, the suppliers to keep supplying, the workers to keep working and the customers to keep consuming,” he explains.
For organizations that are currently dealing with financial distress because of the pandemic, Sands explains that “speed and precision are key.” He offers several steps that challenged business owners can take, including:
- Running the business on a rolling 13-week cashflow forecast for the foreseeable future.
- Completing a liquidation analysis, so you know how your bank is valuing you.
- Cutting costs to support reduced revenue.
- Retreating into your core business.
“These strategies can help you to preserve strength and be prepared to rebuild once the storm passes,” says Sands. He also notes that “radical surgery on a business is always better than hope” and advises business owners to “focus like a laser and try to ignore the chaos around you.”
For organizations facing an uncertain economic future, Sands recommends gaining strength where you can, paying down debt and looking for opportunities. “Economic shocks like the coronavirus pandemic widen the range between the top and bottom performers in any industry,” he says. “Business leaders have to be on their toes and paying attention when these tectonic changes take place.”
An economics major and member of the football team, Sands credits his Hobart education with preparing him to write his book. “No one gets out of HWS without being a very proficient reader and writer, which are skills that last for life,” he says. Corporate Turnaround Artistry is available on Amazon.