Man about town

Managers fail to crunch numbers before board

The CEO did not provide air cover, he just sat
The CEO did not provide air cover, he just sat back and let the board tear into us. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

I want the first quarter to end — it has been nothing but drama. It all started at the start of the year.

The CEO called us into his office and challenged us on the forecasts for 2019.

Most of us had submitted what we call a ‘cautiously optimistic forecast’ with projections of about two-three per cent growth. We had even enlisted the help of a research agency to provide insights on economic projections and how they fit into our plan.

The CEO appeared convinced about the numbers and agreed that we should share them with the board. Two weeks ago, we presented to the board and that is when things went haywire.

For starters, the CEO asked that all the managers make the presentation to the board. This was a bit weird considering we never present to the board. Our CEO told us, “I want you guys to develop leadership and engagement skills with the board.”


This put additional pressure on us for we kept revising our presentation to make sure that it was “board worthy”.

The day of the presentation started off badly. For starters my suit was a bit too tight — it seems that I have put on a few kilos — I really need to hit the gym. So, as we walked in, I kept feeling somewhat uncomfortable, but I was determined to give it my best shot and make an impression with the board.

The session started with our sales manager giving what he called ‘a peek into the future’ with details on his slide.

Things were going well until he got to the third slide when one of the board members asked him, “are you sure about those numbers and your computation?” Gary, the board member then proceeded to unleash a calculator and pounded furiously as he tried to make sense of the numbers. This kind of interrogation caught the sales manager off guard and from there everything went downhill.

It is as if the rest of the board sensed a chance to finish us for they started asking all manner of questions. Even my presentation on business development was torn into shred as they seemed to question everything from my assumptions to expected growth areas.

The annoying bit was that the CEO did not provide air cover, he just sat back and let the board tear into us.

At the end of the presentation, the board chairman said, “you need to go back and rework your strategy, it does not make sense”.

We walked out of the meeting room feeling battered and bruised. One hour later, the CEO called us to his office and said, “sorry guys, that did not go well”.

I was tempted to call him out for not providing us with support when we needed it most. I came very close to reminding him that he had given us his go-ahead in December to proceed with the numbers and the agreed, direction — but I thought about it. So, we ended up sitting for close to an hour as the CEO gave us a lecture on the need to improve our performance.

He then told us that we would be going away on a retreat for two days to ‘rework the numbers and review the strategy. I did not think that was necessary but at this point, my view was not needed.

So, we ended up away for two days rehashing the same things we had said as we changed a few lines here and there to make it sound like we were making changes. At the end of the two days, we came out with our ‘revamped strategy’.

To be honest, there was nothing fundamentally different about the new strategy — we just played around with the words and figures.

However, I hope the board approved this fast enough, we need to be implementing not discussing.