A Letter from Ted Gavin
A Letter from Ted Gavin
On October 8, 2015, I had coronary artery bypass surgery or, as my wife says, I entered the emergency action phase of my most important restructuring ever. During my first month of recuperation, when I wasn’t doing much at all, I had ample time to think about the similarities between what we do in the turnaround field and being a heart patient. It’s an axiomatic truth that 85 percent of company failures occur because of reasons that could have been addressed by management, while only 15 percent of companies fail because of purely external events outside of management’s ability to react. Coronary artery disease is, similarly, a combination of things we can address and things we can’t. Diet, weight and exercise are things we can address, and also happen to be some of the greatest influences as to advancement of coronary artery disease. Genetics we can’t change – and our family history plays a bigger role than many appreciate.
When my father turned 50, he had a rough time. I learned that 53 was the oldest age that any male in the family had ever reached. His father, a career Army officer, had a massive heart attack in the back of his staff car and died at that age. His grandfather was dead at 50. My father had his first heart attack, followed by a quintuple bypass, when he was 63. He died in January 2015 of heart failure at 71, and he had continued to smoke and eat poorly. So, the 15 percent I can’t do anything about was always a looming threat. I did a bad job at managing the 85 percent I could manage. Eating one meal a day is a heck of a way to ensure a lousy metabolism and, let’s be honest, the work we do is fast-paced, hard-driven and we come up for air when we can. Taking care of ourselves isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally when you’re trying to save jobs and preserve value.
So, like many of our clients, I have a new chance. I got the 15 percent taken care of with surgery that undid about six years of genetics wreaking havoc. And, now that I have a functioning heart again, I’m taking care of the 85 percent as well. Losing 45 pounds of water weight in the first six weeks after surgery was unexpected. And, like all turnarounds, there needs to be a moderated “Return to Normal” phase where the company starts to think about building profitable expansion. In my case, it’s a return to normal life, which now includes cardiac rehab three times a week to form the basis of a weekly exercise regimen of 150 minutes.
Yes, that’s what we’re all supposed to get now – 150 minutes of exercise each week. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if its 30 minutes, five days a week; 75 minutes, twice a week. Whatever. It’s like we’re made of spare time, or something.
As in any turnaround, there needs to be a management change – or at least a change in personal management philosophy on my part. As those who were around me shortly before surgery know, I discovered a wealth of things that I just didn’t care about. Not destructive nihilism, per se, but things tend to find their own priority when something like having your heart and lungs stopped for a few hours looms on the horizon. It’s the same attitude we have when we’re on the job – we prioritize things according to need and impact on the big picture so our clients don’t get dragged into the minutiae. That’s how I have to approach life now.
So, here’s to a new year of health, of success, of new opportunities, of second chances, of rehabilitation.