Steps to nursing a sick firm back to health

Dr Michael Teng

Review by: HAN AI LEEN 

Title: Corporate Turnaround – Nursing a Sick Company Back to Health  

Author: Michael Teng 

Publisher: Prentice Hall 


YOU know times are bad when you come across at least two of these following phrases in the papers everyday: economic slowdown, falling profitability, poor organisational performance, slow growth, incompetent management, impending war, and global slump. 

In precarious times like these, it is encouraging to know that there are strategies yet to tackle these challenges. Singaporean Dr Michael Teng’s Corporate Turnaround – Nursing a sick company back to health is one such book.  

Using medical analogies, Teng infuses the wisdom of Asian and Western philosophy with his own personal experience and proposes techniques and concepts which are realistic and applicable. In a recent interview with StarBiz, Teng explained his rationale for using the medical analogy of a sick person. 

“Many books on corporate turnaround are esoteric in nature while I wanted to use simple concepts to share with readers. I thought the analogy might work as a tool for readers to grasp and understand the subject of corporate failure and turnaround. So far, it has,” he said. 

For starters, the reader is introduced to Teng’s three phases. Phase 1 comprises Surgery where the objective is to restructure troubled organisations and improve cashflow.  

This is followed by Phase 2, the Resuscitation stage. The aim at this stage is to revitalise the business to improve sales revenue and profits.  

In Phase 3 – Nursing – it is necessary to rehabilitate a strong and healthy corporate immune system to sustain long-term growth. 

Chapter 2 then introduces further analogies: At the antenatal stage, just as in the case of the impregnation of the human embryo, a company is formed through a concept ... a healthy and living person is like a profitable company, full of vitality (expanding) and energy (contributing) whereas a patient or sick person is akin to a company plagued by problems. Teng equates internal virus attacks with management problems, bad financial control, operational weaknesses, human resource problems, major project fiasco and over-leveraging. 

On the other hand, external viral attacks are liken to government intervention, economic recession, political turmoil, low-cost competitors, appreciating/depreciating currencies, changes in consumer behaviour, environmental/health issues, technological changes, natural disasters, shortage of workers/ raw materials, labour unrest and terrorist attacks. 

In the chapters that follow, Teng pens his thoughts on the importance of a holistic cure. He then describes, explains and expounds the three phases and provides case studies whereby he examines and shares his observations with the reader. By introducing and explaining the benefits of the Asian belief of qi (energy), Sun Tzu’s Art of War and other Chinese beliefs, Teng provides thought-provoking insights. 

Teng, who has handled four turnaround cases successfully, also shared with StarBiz the days when he thought he was in the deep end and how he “got out of the rut”. He cites his family and his faith in a higher power as two things that helped him pull through. 

On his thoughts on the current economic situation, Teng says: “Things are going to get worse before they turn for the better. However, we shouldn't lose sight of what is important – our fundamentals. As the greatest enemy is within, we should never lose hope”. 

Overall, the book reads well with the help of many tables and illustrations. The currency and variety of the case studies provide another reading pleasure. Teng is the managing director of a US multinational company based in Singapore. He is also the president of the Marketing Institute of Singapore.  

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