Troubled situations require swift and substantial action, which is the focus of the first three rules of the Sinclair Range turnaround methodology. 

The rules are:

  1. Admit you’re in trouble.  Most companies initially react to bad financial performance by blaming one or more non-recurring events, thereby relieving management of the need to shift strategy and implement an aggressive turnaround plan.  Troubled situations will not be fixed, and stakeholders will not regain trust in the company, until leadership makes the mental shift to fix the problem at all costs.
  2. Change leadership.   No one is indispensable.  Regardless of the true blame for the current trouble or crisis, replacing (or augmenting) leadership communicates to stakeholders that the company is serious about change and goes a long way to building confidence and support.  New leadership brings new ideas and breaks ties with the baggage of the past.
  3. Plan and execute. Now. Build an optimistic, but realistic, plan today and start executing.  It doesn’t need to be a complete plan or even a fully thought out one.  It needs to be directionally accurate and include a limited number of key performance metrics (not revenue) that drive your business and that can be used to quickly monitor the turnaround.

In prior posts HERE and HERE, we discussed the failure of CannTrust Holdings to use these rules when faced with a crisis.  In contrast, we now look at the successful actions of Aphria Inc., another publicly-traded cannabis company in Canada, and their response to a short attack in late 2018/early 2019.

Specifically, certain members of the leadership of Aphria, and other company insiders, were accused of self-dealing, front running acquisitions and in general diverting roughly $700 million of shareholder value to themselves in 2018.

Aphria’s response was strong and immediate.  In approximately sixty days, starting the same day the short attack became public, they:

  • immediately attacked the integrity and motivations of the issuer of the report;
  • set up an independent committee with a specific mandate (thereby defining the problem), made up of people not related to or accused of the self-dealing;
  • removed their CEO and Co-Founder and replaced them with an interim Chairman and CEO from outside the company;
  • cut off ties to every person and entity accused in the short report;
  • issued a series of good news press releases, demonstrating business as usual;
  • received a hostile bid, from a possibly related party, and rejected it based on value;
  • announced the results of the work of the independent committee and a specific five-point plan to improve governance in the future.

What was the result of Aphria’s aggressive response?  They weathered the storm and the crisis seems like a distant memory.

Want some more detailed discussion? Check out Episode 18 of Martinis With Scott.