Faust: The Turnaround Mindset

War–it’s what many people propose as the key to business success. And thus, there is a need for strategy. But even the best warriors know the ultimate strategy is avoiding battle or, better yet, war altogether. For all that, business strategy isn’t about killing. It is about creating. Often, the ultimate creation tool in business is the turnaround mindset.

Why a turnaround mindset? A secret CEO turnaround geniuses know is the right mindset is key to turning around a dying company. The same secret applies to growing a healthy company. Control the mindset, and you control the rudder that controls the ship. The angle of a mindset is much like the angle of a sailboat. A sailor can use lateral resistance on the water and actually sail twice the speed of the wind.

Every leader aims to optimize his or her organization’s speed of growth, and the best turnaround CEOs have taught me if you can create the turnaround mindset within even just a few key individuals, it can build momentum and direct a good company to a higher echelon of achievement.

To accomplish this, a leader must ask the right questions to stimulate the right thoughts that lead to clearer priorities. Greater clarity leads to actions that facilitate ever-greater results and, ultimately, the transformative change characteristic of any turnaround. 

All companies have momentum—a mix of both good and bad momentum. Getting yourself and a core group into a turnaround mindset will ultimately propel your company toward new growth. This will lead you toward finding and pulling the high-growth levers that can begin a growth revolution.

Strategy is the primary growth lever, and often, it’s the most powerful of all growth levers. When a company has conceived an excellent strategy, and when it has been tested and refined, evidence will prove its effectiveness. Strategy may yield a distinct and defensible competitive advantage. When customers are given all relevant facts about a company with a good strategy and all relevant facts about alternatives, a preponderance of those qualified customers will consistently choose the company with a good strategy. With good strategy, marketing is more effective, selling is more effective, profits are optimal, competition is kept at bay, and perhaps barriers of entry are established to prevent competition.

Excellent strategy can be the ultimate growth lever, but to enter this nirvana, some sacrifices must be made. In other words, strategy is also about what you will not do, markets you will not enter and practices you will abandon. Many issues prevent good strategy. Often, the biggest is companies are not willing to let go.

There are misperceptions strategy is set in stone, determined at an annual event and a concern of only top management. However, it’s a false assumption that strategy, strategic insights and strategic adjustments only come from owners, boards, CEOs or executives. This is far from reality. On the front lines of sales, marketing and other business functions, innovations very strategic in nature allow for a business to consistently outmaneuver the competition and repeatedly secure higher margin business. I’ve seen folks on the front lines do this in direct disobedience to management’s directives.