PETITION: What is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given in your career?
TS: I’ve been doing this for over 35 years and have received a lot of advice. Sifting through the years the advice, what sticks out the most was the line, “Successful people are prepared to be lucky.” There is an enormous amount of wisdom packed into those seven words, starting with the word “prepared.”
PETITION: What is the best book you’ve read that’s helped guide you in your career?
TS: I am not a fan of business books as I think they are largely written by people who simply re-package common sense and put a fancy name on it, like ‘transformative leadership.’ Having said that, early in my career I read “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury, which, as a young professional, I found very instructive as it focused, in part, on what motivates people on personal and emotive levels in negotiations.
PETITION: What is one notable trend you expect to see in the second half of ‘18 that not enough people are talking about?
TS: The bankruptcy and restructuring process has become very costly, especially in light of the fact that so many Chapter 11s today are almost exclusively focused only on the debt stack with little attention paid to fixing the operations of a debtor which often requires more time although it is where enterprise value is created. The profession needs to get more efficient, demonstrate better case management skills and therefore drive up the value equation. A soon-to-become-classic line from the 2017 movie, “Molly’s Game” sums it up. After Molly’s father, a psychologist, delivers very deep and meaningful insights to her, he says, “It is amazing what you can can accomplish in three minutes when you are not billing by the hour.” Nuff said.
PETITION: What is the most under-appreciated service restructuring professionals can provide a distressed client?
TS: Helping management redefine success, both for the organization and, perhaps just as importantly, at the personal level for the company leader. While restructurings and bankruptcies don’t have the “taint” of 30 years ago, they are still for most individuals and organizations seen, initially at least, as a failure. Many if not most clients have not been through real corporate trauma. There is fear and shame permeating the organization and its leadership. Restructuring professionals sometimes don’t fully appreciate this as we have already “seen the movie” many times. Therefore, helping re-define success as early in the process as possible can be a key element of a successful reorganization.
PETITION What is the biggest disservice that restructuring professionals are doing to clients? Don’t pull any punches.
TS: Clients need to understand what will happen in the beginning, middle and end of the restructuring, and understand it from several vantage points. Restructuring pros sometimes fall short on that front. The most obvious one is what is the legal and court process. Second, is fully explaining what the likely obstacles to a deal and what should be expected as to the behaviors of various constituents. Third, what are the implications to operations, employees and customers and how and when can they be addressed? All these are sometimes not done well by restructuring professionals, resulting in less efficient and effective restructurings. Or, in some instances, these things are done once, but not repeated enough. Or, in other situations, the professionals cannot explain all three, as they haven’t done their own homework and simply aren’t knowledgeable enough.
PETITION NOTE: Yikes. Sure sounds like clients are getting a ton of bang for that $1,750/hour buck.