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The Company Killers

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BY MARC A. BRINGMAN

When an ousted CEO is invited back to address the corporate decline since his departure, he poses a straight-to-the-point challenge to his attentive audience. Enjoining them to help him slay the company killers that have brought the company down, he introduces a new way of thinking, extends a promise of commitment and redefines the concept of teamwork in the process.

Hector approached the podium with mixed emotions. He had made the trip many times before, but that was four years ago – before he had retired from the top job in the same company he was about to address. As he drew near the platform, he recalled past days when he had stood on the same stage and bragged about the company and its employees. They had enjoyed success for many years until a squabble with several new board members had resulted in Hector’s ouster.

Leaving the company hadn’t bothered him all that much, but watching the new board members form a coalition management team that made one mistake after another filled him with sorrow. Saddest of all was one increasingly obvious fact: The new team didn’t seem to learn from its mistakes.

The company’s decline had become apparent two years after Hector’s departure, and by the end of year three, the struggling company had begun implementing routine cost cutting and downsizing measures. By year four, the newly transformed “lean machine” had proven itself to be a big loser. That’s when the board panicked.

The result? The newly re-organized board had approached Hector to return for a short period to “right the ship.” Hector had agreed – not because he wanted to but because he simply could not stand the idea of “his baby” failing. He also didn’t like the bad reputation that today’s CEOs had earned in part but didn’t deserve in general.

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