Create a strategy
Once you know what’s important to people, then you have to formulate a plan going forward to actually move your company in the right direction.
“Have a clear strategy to do, really, a couple things,” White says. “One, typically if you’re in the middle of a turnaround, there is a financial component to the turnaround, so setting realistic financial targets, both internally and externally, to improve the short-term performance of the company would be job No. 1.
“The second one is what I would describe as the strategic turnaround — identifying and addressing the most critical issues in the business and pointing the business in the right direction or setting the right course for the business.”
You need to first look at your financials.
“I always want to clearly understand the financial drivers inside the company, but I always want to compare those also to the best known practices of comparable companies,” White says.
White picked two key targets to focus on — improving the overall store financials and right-sizing the overall overhead costs. He and his team set goals around these targets.
“The most critical thing is that the targets are realistic,” he says. “I think one thing that many underperforming companies do is they overpromise and underdeliver. My governing principle is I always underpromise and overdeliver on any target that I put before the organization or share externally.”
But how do you know if a target is reasonable or not? White says you have to look at two factors to know.
“Either they’re targets we’ve achieved at some point in the history of the company, or if I look externally, and this is where the benchmarking becomes important, looking at what other companies are achieving in the same industry,” he says. “Those are typically two great places to start.”
You also need to focus on just a few initiatives — no more than three to five — and you have to balance looking long term with putting out the fires of the short term.
“There always has to be an orientation that says that the things that you do in the short term should never disadvantage the long term,” he says. “We never take any actions that would be inconsistent with the longer-term game plan.”
Instead, he actually started with the end in mind by laying out a three-year plan.
“We brought that back to what had to happen in 2009, and then we further broke that down into a series of quarterly priorities,” White says. “Then, with my management team, we worked through those priorities on a weekly basis in the form of milestones and updates.”