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Meeting the Challenges of Disruption, Change at TMA

As turnaround professionals, we deal with crisis or near crisis situations almost every day. The world of turnaround is not for the weak. The pace can be unrelenting and the stakes extremely high: businesses can shut down, equity holders can lose their capital, creditors can be left unpaid, entire workforces can be laid off, supply chains can be disrupted, and whole communities can be impacted.

My first major restructuring was almost a quarter century ago. I was pulled into an all nighter at the last minute to negotiate and finalize a transaction against a very short, court-imposed deadline. Negotiations were intense and adrenaline constant. Significant decisions had to be made in real time, relying on the experience, instincts, and intuition of the turnaround professionals involved. Creativity was encouraged.

From that moment on, I never looked back; I was hooked. Many clients, colleagues, and occasionally family members have remarked that they do not know how we do what we do. I even recall once having an officer of a debtor company shed a few tears of relief at the closing of a long and challenging out-of-court restructuring, explaining that it was the most stress he had experienced in his entire professional life.

Turnaround professionals are often underappreciated in the world of business. We are unfairly equated with dying businesses rather than with businesses resurrected from the brink of death or steered away from a path toward failure. Even when we are acknowledged for successfully restructuring a business, we occasionally hear unfair criticism that the costs were too high or the process too lengthy. These critics fail to appreciate that dismantling or reorganizing a complex business structure that took years to build is not a simple, quick, or cheap process. The challenge for turnaround professionals and TMA is to better educate and expose prospective clients to the skills and value that turnaround professionals bring to businesses and the economy.

As I enter my final months as 2018 Global chair and reflect on my tenure over the last two years, it seems my time as president and chair has evolved like many of my turnaround files, involving disruption, change, and a successful turnaround.


 

Many clients, colleagues, and occasionally family members have remarked that they do not know how we do what we do.

 


On top of dealing with a challenging restructuring environment and membership challenges, TMA experienced its own disruptions with the unexpected departures of our CEO and other senior staff. As a result of a true team effort by our headquarters staff, including COO and CFO Marie Fahrenbach, who worked tirelessly with the Operations Committee and TMA’s other volunteer leadership in North America and internationally, these disruptions were successfully navigated and minimized. A heartfelt thank you to our headquarters staff and volunteers for all that you do to ensure TMA’s continued vibrancy.

The 2017 Annual in Fort Worth, Texas, brought back excitement to that conference, as evidenced by the resounding success of this year’s Annual at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, which exceeded both attendance and sponsorship targets. The 2018 Distressed Investing Conference was the most successful ever, and we all eagerly look forward to the 2019 installment.

With our new CEO, Scott Stuart, at the helm, assisted by headquarters staff and 2018 TMA Global President and soon-to-be 2019 Chair Kevin A. Krakora, CTP, as well as 2019 TMA Global President-designate Jeffrey Hampton and the 2019 Executive Board and Board of Trustees, I am very excited and confident in TMA’s future, and you all should be, too.

Milly Chow, 2017 TMA Global President

Milly Chow

Blakes Cassels & Graydon LLP

Milly Chow is a partner with Blakes Cassels & Graydon LLP in Toronto and served as the 2017 TMA Global President and 2018 TMA Global Chair.

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