Turning ‘Round and Looking Up


Just like the horses and riders on a carousel, American businesses are turning around and looking up. 

Lynn Tilton - Graphic credit: Kevin DeSoto - Photo - courtesy of Patriarch Partners

Graphic credit:  Kevin DeSoto – Photo – courtesy of Patriarch Partners

And when it comes to the art of the  turnaround few do it better that maverick CEO Lynn Tilton of Patriarch Partners.  This month I had the opportunity to chat with Lynn when she was honored as an Extraordinary Leader during the launch of Amilya Antonetti’s new book The Recipe: A fable for leaders and teams in New York City.   (Here comes the FTC disclaimer, one of my companies, CorePurpose Publishing, published this book.)

Over the past week, at the CorePurpose Business Blog and at Amilya.com, Part 1 and Part II of the interview with Lynn Tilton focused on what she is doing and why.  Now it is time to take it one step further as we share that most important lesson of all…HOW to turn things around and how Lynn is doing it in the 70 companies within the Patriarch Partners portfolio.

I asked Lynn what were the FIVE key factors of successfully turning around individual firms and our nation’s economy.  Here is what she had to say…

1.  Search for the Truth

If we do not understand where we are and what we are facing, there is no way to find solutions to the challenges we face.  This is true in our businesses, our communities, and our country.  You must have an understanding of the truth of the situation; you can not fix what you do not understand.  We must all persevere in our search for the truth even when we don’t like what we find.  It is the answer that has value.  Once you find the truth, you can do something about it.

“Truth is cold and hard but it is also the first step on the path to hope and salvation.” ~ Lynn Tilton

2. The American Dream was built upon the concept of living with dignity.

Dignity and pride come in many forms.  One of the most basic is a job with a decent wage and the ability to take care of your family.  In America, the vast majority of jobs come from small and medium sized businesses.  Entrepreneurs are America’s job creation engine. Yet in recent years we have failed to provide them the fuel this engine needs in the form of capital.  Each of us must let our representatives know that we expect and require that they address direct lending to small and medium businesses so that they can do what they do best, create the jobs our economy and our people need so that they can do what they do best and live a life of dignity.

“Until job loss turns to job creation, we have little chance for a true economic recovery. Absent job creation, little else matters.” ~ Lynn Tilton

3.  Women, working together, will make a difference.

One of the greatest resources we currently have at our disposal to turn things around is America’s women.  If there is a need right now it is for talented women to band together and build. Trying to tackle huge projects alone is fraught with challenges and a hard and lonely task.  But if two women come together, combining their talents and their experiences, success and jobs are the result. The more we build together as teams, the better the opportunities for success.  Find a colleague, explore how you can make a difference – and do it. Too often as women we have felt the need to compete for relationships, for jobs, for opportunities.  If we stop competing and start partnering ,we can move the recovery forward faster.

“America’s greatest asset is human capital. Women, shoulder to shoulder, can be the driving force that leads to the economic healing and requisite transformation of our great nation.” ~ Lynn Tilton

4.  Focus on helping others and you will find you have helped yourself.

Lynn shared that one of the biggest lessons she learned along her personal journey is that when you help others, you ultimately help yourself.  How we help others is relative and ties back to our own skills and talents. Finding the  truth, identifying what we are best at, and then putting that to work on behalf of creating good outcomes for others, creates a positive spiral up for all of us.

This is especially true on the case of innovation.  Based on the concept that innovation is doing something in a new way to make life better for others, we can each look at how we do what we do and how we can improve upon it.  By shifting away from “what’s in it for me” thinking and focusing on what’s better for them, we increase our customer base, increase our sales of goods and services, and need more people to support the subsequent growth.  The end result is a life of dignity for our teams, more job opportunities in our businesses, and sustainable economic health for our country.

“The key components of a successful turnaround are rationalization and innovation.” ~ Lynn Tilton

5. When the day is darkest, look up and find the light

Today there is so much darkness and negative energy.  Negativity creates a downward spiral that leads to greater problems and more negative outcomes. Simply look back over the last two years and you will find too many examples of this.   The way to combat this is with light and positive energy. Each of us has the ability to create this through our actions.  What we can do is relative to what resources we have, but if each of us does one thing for someone else each day, the aggregate impact would be enormous.  Each thing we do to create a bit of light for another makes a difference. It can be a small bit of praise, a few minutes of mentoring, a shared resource, or a winning idea.  But each of these things builds positive energy and it is positive energy that moves us forward just as negative energy hold us back.  As Lynn shared with me “the tree grows from the seeds you plant.”  If our seeds are positive and our actions support them – we reap the benefits.

“We must all strive to be better people and to demonstrate those qualities that create light in a world gone dark.” ~ Lynn Tilton

Not what you were expecting?

Perhaps you were expecting more of a tactical approach and a how to list made up of the more traditional answers like watch your cash flow, manage your inventories, provide great customer service, monitor your markets, and invest in R&D?    These could readily have been Lynn’s answers.  In talking to members of her team, I learned that she does all of those things.  But so do thousands of other firms.  It is the leadership and life philosophy of Patriarch’s matriarch that has supported the firm’s growth to unprecedented levels where today Lynn and the Patriarch team manage a portfolio of 70 companies representing 250,000 jobs gained or saved and with over $7 Billion in assets under management.

To follow along as the Lynn Tilton story continues, you can find Lynn on Twitter and Facebook.

Author’s note:

I hope you enjoyed the three part series from my interview with Lynn Tilton.  I really enjoyed getting to know Lynn better.  Don’t miss Part I here and Part II at Amilya.com.  This post (Part III)  was originally written to appear on Going for the Brass Ring my Member Blog at  Fast Company.  The post is appearing here since Fast Company has chosen to no longer support new posts from Fast Company’s Member Bloggers.  It’s a shame –  really – when it comes to running in fast company – nobody tops Lynn Tilton.

About Joan Koerber-Walker:

She is an entrepreneur, an executive, an investor, and an active volunteer in her community. You can find her on Twitter,  on LinkedIn, on Facebook, and lots of other places.  Just check out her Google Profile. Joan’s career includes 20 years in executive roles within a Fortune 500 company, entrepreneurial ventures, angel investments (starting in 1989), non-profit and community leadership, and as an advisor to universities, corporations, entrepreneurs, and non-profits. A popular keynote speaker, blogger, and friend to over 100,000 across social media platforms, she is also a wife and a mother to two BIG boys. Joan and her family make their home in Phoenix, Arizona.


Posted in Leadership, Real World Inspiration.