Mergers and Acquisition:
Situation: In a 2001 $3.2 billion deal, the American poultry giant Tyson Foods, acquired beef and pork producer International Beef Products to form the largest US meat company in the world. The transaction resulted in the combined company selling approximately 28 per cent of the beef, 25 per cent of the chicken, and 18 per cent of the pork in the United States, making it the largest protein producer on the planet. I was one of only eight people who worked directly with John Tyson on this successful merger of Tyson Foods and IBP.
Intervention: As he indicated in the Harvard Business Review account, John Tysons’ efforts to produce a talent pipeline had not supplied enough quality leaders. In 2002 he formed a senior executive task force that included himself, his direct reports, and eight succession-planning experts. We mapped out a leadership development system, ensured objectivity in assessment, and facilitated buy in. We made recommendations to John Tyson and his leadership team about the best candidates for key positions and then offered coaching and training to help them develop in their new roles.
Resolution: The task force ensured that promising leaders had opportunities to become well-versed in all aspects of the company’s business and helped shift accountability for succession planning and leadership development to John Tyson’s direct reports and those in their chain of command. Additionally, after our intervention, the stock price rose more than 50%. Fifteen years later, Tyson is a $30 billion organization, making it one of the most successful M & A deals of the 21st Century.
Situation: A $1.5B manufacturing company acquired another, smaller company that produced a similar line of products. The CEO of the target company was nearing retirement age, and performance, growth, and stock prices had stagnated. The board of directors began a search for a new CEO, one that could put the newly-formed organization on an aggressive growth path. Once the search committee had identified two possible candidates, the chairman asked me to assess the two finalists.
Intervention: Through a proprietary process that is unique to my practice, I interviewed the final two candidates and assessed each on strategic thinking, quantitative abilities, learning capacity, people skills, and business-related personality measures. I determined the better of the two candidates (the other was subsequently hired by another firm and fired six months later). I coached the new CEO for the first six months of his tenure, assessed his entire executive team, and delivered a succession plan that ensured the continuity of leadership. A year later I conducted a board evaluation of the new CEO.
Resolution: Because I have the capacity to assess beyond past performance to determine the strategic success of a new leader, within the first year of the new CEO’s leadership, the stock price tripled. Since then he has expanded international operations by orchestrating four major acquisitions in Asia, Europe, and the US. The client reported an improvement in hiring and development, which ultimately influenced millions of dollars. The chairman of the search committee commented: “Dr. Henman was instrumental in the successful selection of an outstanding CEO for our NYSE organization. Within a matter of months, this individual dramatically impacted our market capitalization while also positioning this global enterprise for enhanced levels of growth and profitability. Her insights and guidance were extremely valuable and critical to our success.”
Situation: The general manager of a $500M Midwest manufacturing facility had started resting on his laurels. Although the company produced at a rate comparable to most others in the industry, the CEO knew it could do better. Most of the employees were “good citizens” who showed up to work and did an average job, but the general manager didn’t push for much beyond that.
Intervention: To support the CEO’s goal for each manager to identify two replacements for his or her position, the leadership hired us to develop a succession plan for those who had been identified as high potentials. We assessed high potentials beyond past performance to determine their future success, and then, using a four-point scale, made recommendations to the company about whether each should be promoted and how quickly the person should progress, We then gave each participant feedback about his or her results, coached each person, and developed and action plan that included options for development.
Resolution: After we completed the succession planning phase and identified the gaps in the talent pipeline, the CEO determined he needed to replace the general manager and CFO and restructure the business. With our help, they hired exceptional people who put the company back on track and kept it from slipping into the low-productivity realm that most other manufacturing companies have found themselves in during the current economic downturn. Through our effective succession planning efforts, we influenced the dramatic growth of this company and ensured its solid footing before the economic downturn.
Situation: After the integration of three companies, an East Coast manufacturing organization continued to lose market share, even in a good economy. The CEO determined the company’s president needed to be replaced and a new strategy formulated. They lacked a clear mission statement or vision for the next five years, even though a global vision to double the business in the next 3-5 years existed.
Intervention: I assessed several candidates for the president’s position and recommended a top performer for the role. He, in turn, hired me to select his new CFO and COO. Once the new leaders were in place, I met with the new team to set their strategy. Working together, we analyzed the company’s current tactics and strategies, examined its driving forces, evaluated the current allocation of resources, explored opportunities for growth, and pinpointed their competitive advantage relative to their top three competitors. We identified the five major strategic objectives for the year, and each member of the leadership team took responsibility for driving a specific goal. I coached the president and each member of the leadership team individually following the strategy formulation meetings.
Resolution: The reorganization of their product lines effectively completed the integration of the three companies. Along with the launch of a simplified product portfolio, the company began plans for targeting vertical markets to help their customers select the best product for their specific needs. Even though the good economy quickly soured, this company remained vibrant while their competitors lost market share.