June 2002

The Six-Month Fix

By Gary Sutton (John P. Wiley & Sons; 2001; $27.95; ISBN: 0471036269; 256 pp.)

Reviewed by Thomas D. Hays III

Although the author lacks an overall conceptual framework for approaching the turnaround process, The Six-Month Fix will be interesting and helpful for its target audience: CEOs of troubled companies. Once you get past Sutton's self-promotion and accept how he skips from point to point, the book provides many useful insights.

The book is divided into 69 chapters: 14 for companies hemorrhaging cash, 52 for companies drifting toward problems, plus an introduction, a checklist, and a review of the author's background. As in a real turnaround, Sutton preaches there is no right or wrong, only the need to start. His 31-item checklist in the back of the book is a useful starter, but ignoring the remainder of the book is a mistake because it presents some real gems.

Sutton concentrates on operations, emphasizing customers, sales, and reducing costs while improving quality. Although several examples aren't highly relevant, all of them are useful. The CEO of a troubled company may want to focus first and foremost on the chapters clearly identified in bold in the table of contents:

The would-be turnaround CEO should read The Six-Month Fix closely because it accurately lays out the frantic pace of a turnaround and the need to take control and immediate action. Sutton's greatest contribution may be to identify the problems in turnarounds and to subtly suggest that anyone undergoing a turnaround hire a turnaround manager (he gives solid recommendations for the process) rather that do it themselves.

Thomas D. Hays III, CTP, is a past chairman of the Turnaround Management Association and currently vice president of the Association of Certified Turnaround Professionals. He is a principal of the national turnaround consulting firm NachmanHaysBrownstein, Inc. (www.nhbteam.com).

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