Which Diet is Right for Your Business?

I’ve tried a lot of diets over the past 20 years: low carb, South Beach, you name it. I’d lose a few pounds but none of them really helped me keep the weight off. Then last summer I decided to go vegan. More than just a diet, giving up meat and dairy products was really a lifestyle change for me.

This new way of eating worked for me. I lost 35 pounds without suffering and the weight has stayed off.

I didn’t add the extra weight over a few self-indulgent weeks. It was gradual — I added a half-pound here and there, and 10 years later I realized I was uncomfortable with my weight and wanted to make a change.

Companies do the same thing. They get fat gradually just like I did. They add a few employees, buy an additional manufacturing facility and new equipment and find out 10 years down the road that the business has gotten a little out of control and it owes too much money.

With big companies it’s easy to cover up these mistakes. Like I did, you can kind of ignore it for a while, and in my case, just buy a bigger pair of pants.

But you want to do something about the situation before it gets out of control. One of the first things I do as the Turnaround Authority when I’m called in to help struggling companies is put the business on a diet. But the diet will be different for each company — just like different diets to lose weight work for different people, one size does not fit all when it comes to selecting a diet for a company.

First, I need to determine where the fat in the company is by looking at every element. We may need to eliminate product lines that aren’t margin contributors. We need to take a fresh look at all the personnel as some people may no longer be needed or may not be working efficiently. We may need to sell some equipment to reduce expenses. We may need to renegotiate debt.

So while a diet heavy on the grapefruit may work wonders for one person to eliminate fat and feel healthy again, cutting product lines for a company and renegotiating its debt may work to get a company back on its feet again.

Companies are often resistant to my telling them we have to cut back, just like people are when told they may need to slow down on the bread and potatoes. But it’s all about getting the company healthy again and on the right track.

I tell my clients that my goal is to get to somebody before they have a heart attack, or a bank calls a loan. I was once meeting with a potential client and he was flustered and his face was red. I mentioned that he looked stressed and I wanted to save him before he had a heart attack. He told me he would think about it.

A week later he called me and told me that he had been standing in line at the Varsity for a chili dog when he collapsed. Fortunately, two EMTs were standing next to him and rushed him to Emory Crawford Long. You guessed it — he had a heart attack. “I should have hired you last week,” he said, and hired me on the spot.

Every company needs to take a look at reducing waste and cutting fat. The key is to remember that when it comes to putting your company on a diet, it needs to be a customized one that eliminates waste and gets it on a healthy path.

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