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From Tomcats to Turnarounds – interimCEOinterimCFO Features Chuck Gumbert, Interim CEO, Turnaround
Robert Jordan -- Author - How They Did It - President - InterimCEO Robert Jordan -- Author - How They Did It - President - InterimCEO
Northbrook , IL
Monday, March 21, 2011

interimCEOinterimCFO (www.interimCEO.com), the worldwide network of interim, contract, and project executives announced their newest Platinum member, Chuck Gumbert. Chuck, founder and CEO of The Tomcat Group, has over 30 years of business and operational experience with demonstrated achievements in top-line and bottom-line growth, and increasing cash flow in both stable and unstable environments. View Chuck's interview here.

Interview Posted at www.interimCEO.com:

Tell me about your current practice, The Tomcat Group, starting with the name.

The company was named after the F-14 'Tomcat,' which was the aircraft that I flew for the US Navy. I formed the company in late 2009 to provide businesses with short-term access to the tools, processes, and expertise to help accelerate their performance or take it to the next level.

You have said that many businesses fail to develop a plan or fail to communicate it effectively. What's a good example of that?

I was brought into an OEM and aftermarket company in Kansas. They maintained that they had a strategy, but every day you would get an e-mail from the CFO asking what was shipped yesterday and what were you going to ship for the month. As a result, the organization strictly focused on sales and that was the strategy.

How did you change or in this case create a strategic plan?

We set up a strategic map while marrying it up with a balanced scorecard, which helped shift the focus away from sales to on-time delivery. While corporate was still looking at what was being shipped, we focused internally on customer delivery deadlines. On-time delivery rose from 25 percent to over 90 percent in a relatively short period of time. I am convinced that if you ship all your products on time, the sales numbers will take care of themselves.

You use a lot of different models and tools, such as the balanced scorecard.

These tools create success. In a lot of places I've been, organizational alignment has been an issue. For instance, sales people are graded strictly on one thing: getting the sale. It is then up to the poor operations folks to figure out how to design the product, how to get it in production, and then how to meet the short-term or short-circuited delivery dates that the sales guys put out there. What I've always done with strategic mapping and the balanced scorecard is to drive organizational alignment from the top all the way down to the bottom so everyone knows what is important and where the company is going.

Why do you like turnarounds?

The biggest pieces of a turnaround are the process and system improvements, followed by business development, strategic selling, and new products and new product introduction. I thrive on the challenge. I've always enjoyed taking something apart, putting it back together, and making it better than it was when I started.

How did you figure out you were cut out for this type of work?

I finished college and joined the service where they were kind enough to give me the keys to an F-14 Tomcat for seven years. I had dreams of being an airline pilot, but once I got out and interviewed with the airlines I realized that driving a bus for the next 20 years wasn't going to do it for me. So I went into the business world.

Well at least it would have been a flying bus. You found something more challenging.

I went to work in a product support role for a large jet engine overhaul facility in Dallas. I was stolen away by a competitor and started in sales. I eventually moved to a company that did jet engine component repair as a sales manager, which was the first time I got involved with turnarounds. The president of the company saw me as an up-and-comer and gave me the opportunity to transition from sales into operations. I then became a general manager for a jet engine repair facility in Texas. The company was just acquired and it too was an operational turnaround. We turned it around and sold the company less than a year later. After riding it out for a year I took a president's role with an electromechanical company in Wichita.

That turnaround experience led to a president's role. But you started on the shop floor.

I started on the shop floor in college and have strived to keep my background well-rounded while spending time in sales and operations. I still live on the shop floor today. In the organizations I have worked with, I spend a minimum of four to six hours a day on the floor talking to employees, asking questions, and bringing them up to speed with what is going on with the business and where it is headed.

How has your experience as an F-14 fighter pilot contributed to the approach you take with companies?

The first piece of it would be that you have to have an overall situational awareness. When you are sitting in the front seat of an F-14, you have to know what's going on not only in your airplane, but also what's going on around you. And by around you, I don't mean just the immediate vicinity of the aircraft, but what is out there 10, 20, even 100 miles and beyond. At the same time, you have to keep track of your fuel state, your weapon systems, the radios, and everything else. Business is similar.

How so?

A lot of companies get focused on one metric and lose track of all of the others. Attention to detail is another contributor. When you are trying to put that airplane on the back end of a carrier at night, you don't have much margin for error. You are paying attention to all the instruments and gauges on the instrument panel. Business metrics are like instrument panels. If you don't keep track of all the metrics, you are really not in control of where the business is going.

What are your best leadership attributes?

Creating the vision and setting the direction, followed by setting the expectation, and, finally, leading from the front. I am a very hands-on leader and also have been considered a good coach and mentor to the rest of the organization. I have a successful track record in operational turnarounds and I am able to do it in a relatively short period of time. It's my no-nonsense approach.

When did you turn around a company in a short period of time?

A large freight company had bought a whole slew of airplanes that they wanted to convert from passenger to freight. The company they were working with was a small mom and pop that wasn't established with the infrastructure or the financial backing to incorporate the modifications. As a result, the program was two years behind schedule. The company put M7 Aerospace and the mom-and-pop organization together and hired me.

What were you faced with when you came in?

At the time the company had made a commitment to deliver 10 aircraft by year end. Once we got the work transitioned to the San Antonio operation, we found that the drawings and the engineering needed to be completely redone. We also needed to develop the parts pipeline and hire all of the technicians, engineers, and quality folks in order to get this thing moving.

That's a big list.

Yes it was. The biggest challenge was that the company didn't know what they didn't know when they committed to the program. They assumed the drawings were correct, they assumed the pipeline had been primed to be the parts supply, they assumed that labor was going to be relatively easy.

Did you successfully rescue the new product implementation program for the customer?

We ended up delivering 10 airplanes within the first six months. And we delivered the following 40 airplanes the following year, all on time. It was a good team effort.

What type of person do you look to bring on board when you are going into these types of situations?

I'm looking for folks who are like me: up to the challenge, focused, but also not afraid to get into some debates. I don't look for a 'yes man,' I look for someone who is going to challenge, not just the status quo, but also what I think we should be doing. I find it very, very healthy for both myself and for the organization.

About interimCEOinterimCFO (www.interimceo.com)

interimCEOinterimCFO is the worldwide network of interim CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CMOs, CTOs, CIOs, and turnaround specialists and offers corporations, owners, equity funds and boards of directors free, instant search for executive talent on demand. Find and directly contact highly qualified interim, contract, and project executives at www.interimCEO.com.

About Chuck Gumbert (www.tomcat-group.com)

A dynamic, driven, and visionary leader, Chuck Gumbert, the Founder and CEO of The Tomcat Group, has acquired over 30 years of Aerospace business, sales and operational experience with demonstrated achievements in leading successful operational and financial turnarounds and Accelerated Business Performance in both the manufacturing and MRO aftermarket segments.

Detail oriented, Chuck is an effective business builder and mentor with a keen insight into solving business and operational issues.

As an aerospace consultant, Mr. Gumbert is adept at creating synergies, gaining organizational alignment while enabling business growth through accelerated throughput, reduced product lead times, increased capacity, reduced inventory and increased cash flow in both stable and unstable environments.

Erin Clement
Marketing Manager
InterimCEO, Inc.
Northbrook, IL
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