Chris Boue solves problems at CH Mack Inc

Chris Boue had a problem when he took over CH Mack Inc. last January.

The company didn’t have a strategic plan. It had about five. 

“But day to day, those strategic plans weren’t executed on. What was executed on was what they needed to finish out this quarter or this year,” Boue says. “We had to figure out what our horizon was.”

So the new president and CEO rebranded the company, which provides health care technology solutions. As a result, it saw $5 million in 2008 revenue, a 140 percent increase over 2007.

To fully understand what the company had to offer, Boue had to start with a clean slate.

“It’s real easy once you’ve seen market successes to put those market successes on as sunglasses and miss a lot of things,” says Boue, who leads 60 employees. “But when I came here, I had to put some of those successes away because your biggest successes can also be your biggest downfalls.”

Smart Business spoke with Boue about how to assess your company with fresh eyes to uncover your core.

Do your research. The worst thing a leader can do is have all the answers. I had to clear myself of my history so that I could have a better future. I relayed this to staff as I was talking to them, individually and in groups, that I love success and I love to take a group with me, but we need to figure out our winning strategy. I talked to some of the customers and the board members and investors and even some of the key employees, before I started with the company.

Anybody that is looking at changing a company, whether it’s new walking in or they need to see it with new eyes, needs to look at three categories. The past performance was the first one — things like why were they successful in some areas and why were they failing in some areas. The answers to both of those, and particularly the failures, can usually lead to how you have higher leverage in the future. The second major one was present strategies, where they are now. The usual suspects in there are the people that are involved, the processes that are used and the technologies that allow you to leverage your people and your processes. And then the third is future challenges and opportunities — things like barriers to your success, resources that are going to be needed, what type of culture changes need to happen in order to promote success.

A fourth one, and it underscores everything, is you have to know what land mines are there. The reason the enemies use land mines is that people aren’t looking for them. So as a leader of a company, you have to be looking for the problems. In fact, we had a session where we told all leaders we needed to have on our doors, if not in our language, to ‘Bring me the bad news.’ It was that type of attitude that I’d recommend anybody start with because you can’t really know what to improve or what to change unless you know what’s needed.