Strategy

8th September 2016

Satisfactorily Underperforming Companies

“Satisfactorily underperforming companies need turnarounds” argues the renowned turnaround guru Greg Brenneman. It was the first time I had come across the phrase “satisfactorily underperforming companies” and it rephrased a concept that has always fascinated me.

What does high performance look like and where does it end? Why settle for anything other than the best? Brenneman states that broken companies need turnarounds. That I think is obvious, Satisfactorily underperforming companies? Well that is a different concept. His argument is that there are many satisfactorily underperforming companies. He describes them as the corporate equivalent of a cardiac arrest waiting to happen, which may be a bit strong for my taste but a satisfactorily underperforming company is one that is not achieving its potential and although it may be fulfilling the basic requirements of the stakeholders is not setting the heather on fire for any of them.

In the metaphor of the triple bottom line it may be providing the customers with an adequate product or service, it may be providing the investors with an adequate return and the employees with reasonable employment, it is not the best in class in any of them. It is satisfactory at best and as you may remember from your school reports satisfactory is no great compliment.

What we are referring to here is unfulfilled potential. Is there anything more disappointing than potential that is unfulfilled? I don’t believe that we were put here on earth to be mediocre, to give anything less than our best is a sin. To be less than we can be is the worst type of waste.

Some of my clients, only a few thankfully, have had businesses which were broken, more have had businesses which were not making rapid enough progress and a large number have had satisfactorily underperforming companies and have realised the potential that they were leaving on the table and have decided to do something about it.

They have decided to put the effort into learning what it takes to turn their business from a struggle to a joy: To turn it into the supplier of choice, the investment of choice and the employer of choice. Thereby bringing significantly more joy, meaning and reward to all stakeholders. People deserve peak experiences and as leaders and business owners we have a responsibility to deliver these peak experiences as fully and as frequently as we can.