Step by step Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2010

When Christopher H. Atayan arrived for his first day on the job at AMCON Distributing Company, he was met with utter chaos. The business had negative availability of $2 million on its bank lines, it was being sued in four separate jurisdictions, it was being delisted by the American Stock Exchange, it was behind on taxes, it was losing business, and it was more than $65 million in debt. Those are just some of the details.

Atayan was brought in as chairman and CEO to get rid the mess and save the Omaha-based company from total destruction. That was in 2006. In 2008 and 2009, AMCON, a wholesale distributor of consumer products to retail outlets and convenience stores and an operator of health food stores, achieved two record years of profitability.

How did he do it? Atayan developed a simple strategic plan. The strategy was divided by needs, with the first priority being crisis management, followed by debt reduction and growth. Atayan created a small corporate staff that would handle the crisis, while the operating units would focus on their respective businesses and customers.

To quell the crisis, AMCON shut down a money losing division and sold a bottled water operation. Atayan installed a new team of auditors and developed a financial department that had seven CPAs on staff. The attention to detail allowed the company to gain reinstatement on the NYSE and begin down a path of financial stability.

While these decisions took place, Atayan installed a culture centered on putting one foot in front of the other. It was his ability to align management to the corporate financial and cultural objects that proved to be the key ingredient in turning the company around.

In 2009, Atayan bought out the company’s founders and made a significant personal investment in AMCON.

How to reach: AMCON Distributing Company, (402) 331-3727 or