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Soegiono "Sugi" Hadiwijaya: Teachable Moments

Sufi Hadiwijaya, Teachable Moments

Soegiono “Sugi” Hadiwijaya, senior manager with Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP and senior vice president with Deloitte Corporate Restructuring Group in Dallas, has more than 10 years of combined experience in financial services and turnaround management. He has provided financial advisory and operational restructuring services, both out of court and during Chapter 11 proceedings, assisting companies with cash management, business plan assessment, M&A activities, financial modeling, and securing financing.

Hadiwijaya authored and serves as lead instructor for “Cash Is King,” Deloitte CRG’s nationwide training program on 13-week cash flow forecasting and liquidity management. He also has authored multiple articles and been interviewed on turnaround strategy and cash management. He is a board member of the TMA Dallas/Ft. Worth Chapter and chairs the chapter’s University Relations Committee. Hadiwijaya is a Certified Insolvency and Restructuring Advisors (CIRA) and a Chartered Financial Analyst, and holds the Certification in Distressed Business Valuation (CDBV).

Q: How did you gravitate into turnaround/restructuring work? Did you start out in that direction, or did you come to it through a series of career moves?

HADIWIJAYA: A lot of people have been in business for a long time and somehow gravitate to it by accident or by personal events or by a professional change of career. I’m more in the third category. I started my career in investment banking in 2000. With the dot-com bust, investment banking just didn’t work well. They closed down my group in 2003 and offered me a position with the restructuring group, which I accepted. That’s where I’ve been ever since.

Q: Who were you with at the time?

HADIWIJAYA: I was with Deloitte. I left in 2008 because I wanted to pursue more company-side interim management engagements. I joined CRG Partners Group LLP, and I came full circle when Deloitte acquired CRG Partners. As I’ve told a lot of people, I’m your perfect example of not burning bridges when you leave a job. You just never know.

Q: In the time that you’ve been there, I’m sure you’ve gained some perspective. If you could start your career over again, would you do anything differently? 

HADIWIJAYA: I’d probably go back even beyond that. If I went back to when I was about to go to college, I probably would have taken engineering instead of finance, because I’ve learned that, especially in our line of business, you can learn finance by doing it. But engineering is something that requires more formal study and a degree.

Q: There are two types of turnarounds. There are operational turnarounds and financial turnarounds—balance sheet work. The balance sheet work you can learn by experience, but for real operational turnarounds, especially in heavy manufacturing and companies like that, sometimes it seems that you need an engineering degree and experience in that field to accomplish them. That’s what I don’t have. 

HADIWIJAYA:At the same time, I don’t think too many people who do turnarounds and restructurings are former engineers. I’ve seen some people come over from the operational side, but there aren’t many with the kind of deep experience that you’re talking about. But you think it would help to have a more technical background?

HADIWIJAYA: That’s my personal perspective, that it would help me if I had a more technical background. But then again, if I had taken engineering, I may not have ended up in turnarounds.

Q: That’s probably true. What have been some of your favorite, important, or most gratifying engagements along the way?

HADIWIJAYA: I have had several engagements that I really liked. The first one was the first bankruptcy for Bally Total Fitness, and the second was Pilgrim’s Pride. Pilgrim’s Pride was the first engagement I was on when I joined CRG Partners and was a successful turnaround. However, what I enjoy the most is the company of my team members, my colleagues. We experienced several occasions during the engagement when we were under a lot of pressure, but we prevailed. That was due to us being together in the trenches. That develops a bond that will last for a long time. Those are the engagements that I really enjoy.

Q: What particular problems did you face in those engagements that were so satisfying and helped with what you’re talking about here?

HADIWIJAYA: At Pilgrim’s, when we first stepped into the engagement it was a very difficult situation. William Snyder was brought in as the chief restructuring officer, and I was part of his team. We got a lot of pressure. The company, of course, didn’t like us, and we had lender advisors hounding us all the time.

The team that was formed actually had never worked together, but we worked together well on the engagement. We developed an understanding and respect among the team members so that if somebody needed help, another person would step in to help them. We knew, “Hey, this is my wingman. We are in this together. If you fall behind, I’ll pick you up and help you move along.” We had that understanding among all the team members, which was great. That’s what I really liked.

Q: Who has inspired you professionally or personally along the way?

HADIWIJAYA: Professionally, I mentioned William Snyder, who was one of the managing partners in CRG Partners and also joined Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP as a principal. He taught me a lot. One thing I really learned from William was being humble and maintaining your integrity. I’d rather be called a person with integrity rather than being the smartest guy in the room, because integrity is critical when you’re dealing with a difficult situation, when you are pressured from multiple sides. You have pressure from the lender. You have pressure from private equity or the equity stakeholder. You have pressure from the employees and from the vendors. And you have to be consistent and maintain your integrity, try to do what is right, and that’s tough.

On the personal side, I would credit my wife for hanging out with me for this long. She definitely understands my situation. She always tries to support me through all the travel and all the professional obligations. It can be tough, and she works, too. She’s a litigation consultant, so she’s also a professional. It’s difficult sometimes for her to be alone at home and manage all the activities for our kids. We have a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, both girls.

Q: That’s a handful all by itself. Add to that two busy careers, and it’s a lot of work. What advice would you have for someone who was new to the industry or was thinking about getting into the industry?

HADIWIJAYA: It’s not so much in the technical details, such as working on the financial modeling and analysis, shuffling the moving pieces, and coming up with a turnaround plan. Those skills can be learned over time with experience. The true learning comes from two things: don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and be humble about yourself. You are as good as the last engagement you did. You may have been known as the greatest turnaround professional, but then something blew up. Your engagement blew up. Sometimes it’s not your fault. That’s how you learn. Be humble about it, try to learn the facts and move on.

Q: There are variables that sometimes spin out of control, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, right?

HADIWIJAYA: And that variable is human. The numbers will say 1 + 1 = 2, but human emotion will say 1 + 1 = 0. 

Q: And sometimes, like you said, they’re not happy to see you coming in, so they’re not always the most cooperative people, are they?

HADIWIJAYA: That’s true for management, stakeholders, vendors—all kinds of different people with their own agendas.

Q: What role has TMA played in your career?

HADIWIJAYA: I wasn’t really involved in TMA until I joined CRG Partners. I think TMA serves two purposes for its members, as everybody knows. First, it provides a network. As I became more active in TMA, I was able to leverage it to gain new contacts. I started the NextGen initiative in Dallas with Matt Lupton and Kelly McDonald. We were able to host events and invite people beyond the turnaround professional network, such as private equity professionals and lenders. Being active and hosting events create reasons to touch base with your contacts. “Hey, we’re hosting this event. Why don’t you plan to attend? If you can’t make it, let’s schedule lunch to touch base.”

And the second purpose is the knowledge base. Whenever you get together, you meet your competitors and discuss aspects of an engagement. I am fairly open about what I learned about the case, and I usually get a similar response as well. So it’s mutual learning.

Q: What do you do outside the office? What are you passionate about?

HADIWIJAYA: Right now, it’s all about the kids, so I guess I’m passionate about my kids. I like to travel. When our kids were babies, we actually took a trip to Europe. Imagine hauling a double stroller with two kids—one baby and one toddler—at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

I like to try different food as well, because I think food defines the culture and the people. Like my favorite TV host, Andrew Zimmern with “Bizarre Foods, says: “If it looks good, eat it.” Alongside overseas travel, we are kept busy with the kids on a weekly basis—birthday parties, soccer practice, softball practice, and things like that. It’s just really enjoyable when you go home over the weekend and just be with your kids and see them happy.

Q: It’s a whole new world to them. It’s kind of fun to see things through their eyes. What might people who only know you in your professional capacity be most surprised to learn about you?

HADIWIJAYA: I’m from Indonesia, and a majority of my extended family still lives there. A lot of people don’t know that I have a very large extended family back home. My mother had 10 siblings, and her eldest brother is old enough to be her dad as well. So I have nephews and nieces who are actually older than me. On his side, my father has seven siblings. So whenever we have family gathering, I probably have about 50 direct cousins. If you see the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” it’s like my extended family gatherings at home.

Q: That must be a lot of fun.

HADIWIJAYA: Yes, it is a lot of fun. It’s a lot of people.

Q: What about you? How many siblings do you have?

HADIWIJAYA: I have two siblings, and the three of us are here in the States.

Q: Something else you have mentioned is that you hoped someday to be a college professor. Did I understand that correctly?

HADIWIJAYA: Yes, that’s correct. Teaching is always my passion. Knowledge transfer, teaching—that’s how we as humans make the world better. That’s my view. At TMA, I wrote the section on cash flow management in the Body of Knowledge. I’ve written articles in the Journal of Corporate Renewal. I’m the chairing University Relations for the Dallas Chapter, so therefore I get the chance to develop relationships with the universities around the DFW area. I built a workshop for MBA students. I mentored the MBA student who won the Carl Marks Student Paper Award back in 2011. I’ve developed a cash flow class used at Deloitte CRG. So, it’s always my passion to teach, and that’s also how I manage engagements—knowledge sharing, knowledge transfer, and teaching—because I know that I need to learn, too. 

Q: What items are at the top of your personal bucket list?

HADIWIJAYA: I mentioned that I like to travel. The one destination that I would like to see is the pyramids of Giza, particularly the Great Pyramid, because it’s so old. Some people say it’s 4,000 years old, some people say it’s 10,000 years old. There are even some people who doubt that human beings built it. It’s just amazing to see there’s something so old that’s like a mystery of history on Earth.

Q: Are there any other sites that you have your sights on?

HADIWIJAYA: Another place I’d like to travel is China, particularly to see the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army. A little history 101: the two destinations were built by one man’s ambition, the First Emperor. On a more personal note, since I am Chinese by ethnicity, I want to stop by my ancestral village in Fujian, China, to see where my great-grandparents lived before they boarded a boat with virtually nothing except clothes they wore to come to Indonesia about 100 years ago.

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