Kevin Chin is an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member in London and the author of HyperTurnaround! He is founder of Arowana, a B Corporation which invests in, operates, and grows sustainable companies. Kevin’s team received the Turnaround Management Association’s global best turnaround award in the sub-$50 million revenue category for leading the hyper-turnaround of NASDAQ-listed VivoPower International. Martin Bell, who sits on Arowana’s advisory board, founded 100tasks.com to democratize entrepreneurship and is an expert in launching and hyper-scaling companies.
We asked Kevin and Martin about key learnings from turning around and scaling companies at pace in high-pressure environments to achieve 10x outcomes:
Most picture hyper-turnaround and hyper-scale as polar opposites, thinking that leaders need skills in driving only one of those to succeed. That could not be farther from reality.
Aspiring 10x entrepreneurs must excel at both—hyper-turnaround and hyper-scale because of the inevitable ups and downs faced in the quest to rapidly build a 10x company that’s made to last.
To illustrate, here’s a couple of legendary examples:
In 1996, the Apple founder returned as CEO only to find his company in tatters. “We need all the help we can get,” Jobs said, while the audience loudly booed after he announced that arch-rival Microsoft had invested $150 million in Apple. Jobs staged a remarkable hyper-turnaround by drastically re-focusing the company on innovative consumer products. That laid the groundwork to shift Apple into its prolific hyper-scale phase, launching a series of home-run products like the iPod and iPad—all of which transformed Apple into the world’s most valuable company.
In 2019, Tesla faced death “within single-digit weeks.” To thwart it, Musk nano-managed the organization and made hardcore changes: he removed the “barnacles” of expensive contractors, closed stores, laid-off staff, and solved the “production hell” of Model 3. This hyper-turnaround quickly bore fruit. Finances, production, and thus investor confidence bounced back, allowing Musk to shift into hyper-scale mode. He ramped up Model 3 production and sales, catapulting Tesla into the world’s most valuable automobile company.
These stories demonstrate that hyper-turnaround and hyper-scaling are really two sides of one coin. Both circumstances will manifest within the same company, often more than once in the journey of building it at pace into a sustainable enterprise.