Leadership Counsel: It really is lonely at the top

The CEO of a mid-size professional services firm, with offices across the country, realized his company needed to make major changes to its structure, strategy, services and brand in order to succeed in the future. Over the prior 10 years, they’d slowly been losing market share to new competitors and profitability was suffering as costs rose and customers pushed back hard on pricing increases. He couldn’t put it off any longer – the company needed to evolve, or die. And it had to be done quickly.

But, where to start?

It truly is lonely at the top. The CEO was not just the chief executive, he was also a major shareholder. Other shareholders on the board included his CFO and an angel investor who’d provided most of the capital to acquire the company from its previous owner. Everyone was busy keeping the ship afloat and time for strategic thinking was hard to find. To make matters worse, the CEO hadn’t done a major change in years and wasn’t completely confident in how to make this one happen. In fact, he wasn’t completely sure he knew what changes were necessary. And, he didn’t want to disappoint the board or look uncertain to employees who already knew the company was wobbling.

If only there was somebody to confide in, to bounce his ideas off, to take some of the analytical and strategic thinking off his shoulders. That’s when a golfing buddy mentioned the work he’d done with an advisor from Ballacaine. The CEO set up a meeting and immediately felt comfortable with the Ballacaine consultant – he was senior, experienced, attentive to his needs and proved to be an excellent sounding board.

The company hired Ballacaine to provide six months of strategic advice and support to the CEO, for a flat monthly fee. They worked together to test and confirm what changes made sense and develop a common sense, straightforward plan to make those changes in the most effective, least disruptive way. Just having someone to provide an alternative perspective was invaluable. Having someone to do some of the deeper analysis was a lifesaver.

The CEO was able to keep the board up to date and present a well-considered plan of action with confidence. The board approved the plan and the CEO executed it on time and on budget. With the helpful support of the Ballacaine advisor when and where required. The company has finished the major change phase and is beginning to see the benefits of its evolution.

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