Case Study: Turnaround for a PLC divisional company

Dawson Books

Interim MD, Dawson Books Ltd, part of Dawson Holdings, PLC

As Interim Managing Director, my task was to turn around a substantial business (£45M) that had been the global market leader but had recently lost ground to competitors and market change. I rapidly got to know the business, its staff, culture and markets and assessed the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses. With this analysis, I established a robust agenda for operational and cultural change. I created a temporary Senior Management Group (SMG) and together we analysed the situation from a number of perspectives, establishing a clear set of business objectives and developing the best plans for the necessary changes. This loose management structure meant that I could assess the calibre of each senior member of staff and temporarily co-opt others, in middle management roles, to the planning group. This approach also facilitated the essential process of culture change.


The top priority was to develop effective sales and marketing capabilities and to achieve a quantum improvement in performance in these key areas. I negotiated Holdings Company approval for the plans and created the roles of Sales and Marketing Director and International Director, internally appointing two capable middle managers. I upgraded expectations, drive and energy within the sales team by establishing achievable yet stretching targets and by supporting staff with appropriate sales training. I introduced a customer relations management (CRM) system. Appointing a new Marketing Manager further strengthened our capabilities and we rapidly saw improvements in sales performance in all market sectors. Simultaneously, I worked with the finance team to improve our cash collection and to upgrade the quality of management information available to the SMG, developing their skills in using key financial tools effectively. I agreed clear and measurable accountabilities with each member of the SMG and supported them in extending this discipline to each of their direct reports. With these developments in place, the company’s overall financial performance improved and, within 5 months, exceeded the Holdings Company’s expectations.

I built relationships of trust very quickly with staff throughout the organisation: I made sure I was as visible to and approachable by staff in the warehouse as those in the boardroom and I took time to fully understand the specialised work of each employee. I established a new standard of open communication and personally kept everyone in the company informed of plans and changes – and targets and achievements – as we began to implement the turnaround process.


Key achievements:

  • Successful business turnaround
  • Transformative development of the management team
  • Improved revenues and profit