An Interview with Matthew Quade, CTP and CEO of TSL
CTP TALK is an interview series where we ask senior CTPs to share details of their careers, motivations, challenges and advice.
In this interview, we spoke with Matthew Quade, a CTP, Member of the EACTP, and CEO of TSL. Before taking up the CEO position at TSL in August 2022, Matthew spent the previous 15 years working in leadership positions to transform, improve, and turnaround businesses across a variety of industries.
Matthew’s career in turnaround has given him invaluable experience in running companies and tells us how he has used his knowledge of others’ mistakes to avoid making them himself.
Question 1: How did you first become involved in turnaround?
Matthew: I started out in formal insolvency in the UK and obtained my Joint Insolvency Examinations Board (JIEB) qualification, but pre-Enterprise Act and the advent of the pre-pack, many of our jobs were trading receiverships where we ran the company with the primary aim of turning around performance and finding a buyer as that invariably produced a better return than a liquidation. I was introduced to the TMA Midlands chapter through Eddie Kerr and Tyrone Courtman and, because I always loved the operational side of the work, as the UK insolvency market became pre-pack dominated, I focused on a career in solvent (and occasionally still insolvent!) turnaround to satisfy my preference for leading operational improvement and preserving stakeholder value.
Question 2: What impact do you think your turnaround knowledge and experience has had on your ability to run your own business?
Matthew: Incalculable! There is no doubt that a grounding in insolvency and turnaround with experience of leading in distressed situations equips you with a great range of tools to lead any business in any circumstances.
In particular, the ability to make difficult decisions with imperfect information, to stay calm in chaos and focus on the right priorities, to put cash flow first, to have a plan, but keep it flexible and to ensure you identify the key stakeholders you need and obtain their buy in to the plan. Learning from reviewing and working out others' mistakes is invaluable to ensure you avoid those same mistakes.
The variety of industries and businesses you get exposed to is also hugely beneficial.
Question 3: What is the most challenging turnaround case you have worked on and why?
Matthew: This would be a distressed beauty products manufacturer who had a great sales and marketing operation and a dedicated production workforce, but no concept of profitability or cash management and serious issues with overtrading.
The difficulty was a founding leadership team who were never really invested in my engagement and had no interest in listening and learning as well as a ridiculously extended and complex shareholder group who seemingly were happy to throw more money at the problem meaning there was no incentive for management to change.
I actually resigned from the role as I was not allowed to add value and had an insufficient mandate.
Within 2 years, despite further injections of cash, the business was in Administration. This was a real shame as there was a great product and brand and so definitely a situation I could see a viable turnaround plan for with better use of that shareholder cash.
Question 4: What do you think is the number one challenge business leaders are currently facing?
Matthew: Uncertainty – in supply chains, inflation, interest rates, tax policies, global markets, currencies, geopolitics, you name it!
Planning is very difficult in the post pandemic world and all investment feels like it has heightened risk in an era when you naturally want to preserve cash to ride out the next crisis.
Any negative connotation/impact is manageable when there is degree of confidence as to the direction of travel. Currently that is very hard to pin down and almost every day brings an unexpected challenge, but then that's where all that turnaround experience comes in handy!
Question 5: How important do you think continued education is for career progression?
Matthew: Both formal and informal are vitally important. You cannot progress in anything in life without being willing to listen and learn, not just in a formal setting, but from everyone and everything around you on a daily basis.
It is important to take learnings and apply them with agility to your specific circumstances though. Implementing a single learned methodology 100% and rigidly will rarely produce the best results possible, but that is also why continued education and learning a variety of ideas, methods etc is important, so you can then cherry pick the best ideas from all you have learned to apply the best hybrid solution possible to a given scenario.
Question 6: What advice would you give to your 25 year old self?
Matthew: Be more patient. Sustainable success comes from incremental improvements, not giant leaps. But otherwise continue to trust your gut and accept not every call will be right but be honest when it's not and learn from it for next time.
For over 30 years TSL has worked directly with the world's leading broadcasters and content creators to design, manufacture and market a range of broadcast workflow solutions that serve to simplify operations within the television broadcast, cable, satellite, IPTV and IT industries.
About the EACTP
The focus of the European Association of Certified Turnaround Professionals (EACTP) is to educate, train and certify turnaround professionals and for the CTP qualification to be recognised as an industry-standard ‘kitemark’ of quality in the practice of turnaround and restructuring.
It aims to promote turnaround ahead of insolvency, thus saving more jobs and value in the public and national interest.
The EACTP promotes the benefits of turnaround ahead of insolvency through engagement with shareholders, company directors, business management organisations, creditor groups and governments.
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