What Does a Turnaround Specialist Do?

Mary McMahon

A turnaround specialist works with a failing company to improve operations and make it profitable again. These consultants are not always successful, but when they are, they can help a company position itself more securely in the market for the long term after the initial recovery. They can also show companies how to prevent future problems of a similar nature by identifying the issues that led to a failure or near disaster, and providing information about how to address them if they emerge in the future. Turnaround specialists may have degrees in business along with extensive experience in working with failing companies.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

Sometimes a company will call on a consultant to determine if it is possible to turn the firm around. In other cases, turnaround specialists are freelancers who may acquire companies that interest them, fix their organizational and cultural problems, and then resell them at a profit. In both cases, the work of a turnaround specialist starts with a very thorough review of conditions at the company. This can include inspections of financial records, interviews with employees, and other measures to get a complete picture of the company's current condition, and what might have led it there.

In the process of evaluating the firm, the turnaround specialist seeks to uncover information that will help revitalize it. The consultant can make a series of recommendations, or may undertake turnaround measures directly, depending on the level of authority. These can include restructuring, firing members of management, and instituting new policies. Companies may find they need to refocus; for example, a turnaround specialist may recommend divesting divisions that do not pertain to the core mission of the company. This can allow personnel to concentrate on the products and services they know best.

Responsibilities often focus on getting a company back on its feet and establishing a framework for future stability. Once the company is in order and appears to be successfully managing its affairs, the turnaround specialist can move on to a new project. Continuity can be a concern, as staff members may feel more confident with the consultant at the helm and may be reluctant to deal with a new authority figure, so the transition must be handled carefully.

An evaluation of a company may determine that it cannot be turned around, or that the chances of success are slim. In this case, the turnaround specialist could recommend that the company liquidate its assets before getting into further trouble. This may create enough capital to organize and start an entirely new firm that can work on key projects from the ground up.

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