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The Chief Executive's handbook

From the Business column, Newcastle Journal 2 August 2006

The classic 21-point career plan for a new Chief Executive goes like this:

1. Agree an amazingly generous salary, bonus, perks and LTIP package.

2. Settle your bottom comfortably in a swivelling chair behind a very large desk.

3. Order an even bigger desk and a better-padded chair in a more luxurious office suite.

4. Recruit a surprisingly attractive PA.

5. Announce that you have inherited a company in crisis. Issue a shock profit warning accompanied by massive provisions, setting a conveniently low base for recovery.

6. Appoint highly paid management consultants to conduct a top-to-bottom strategic review.

7. Sidestep questions on what exactly a Chief Executive is for, if management consultants need to be appointed to determine the company's strategy.

8. Replace your finance director and auditors, to help cover your tracks.

9. Negotiate an even more generous salary to reflect the massive challenge of turning round the company that you now unexpectedly face.

10. Agree new LTIPs to reflect the enormous drop in the share price since your appointment.

11. Announce results of the strategic review, which has cost over £1 million and taken six months to state the bleeding obvious.

12. Botch its implementation, so that the expected recovery does not take place. Issue a series of further profit warnings (traditionally, a minimum of three).

13. Start sleeping with your surprisingly attractive PA to alleviate stress.

14. Bring in a new set of management consultants, who recommend 'focusing' the business through the sale of any remaining assets that actually make some money.

15. Achieve lower than expected returns from this fire sale.

16. Recommend acceptance of a derisory takeover bid for the rump of what was once a half decent business.

17. Exit the smoking ruins with a £1 million pay-off to cushion the pain of redundancy, and the thanks of grateful shareholders for getting the appalling company you inherited into a saleable condition.

18. Join a Government taskforce to advise on why British business is not fulfilling its potential.

19. Gain a suitable honour (CBE or above) for your important contribution to public life.

20. Apply for a new job as Chief Executive.

21. See 1.

This is, of course, a completely theoretical scenario, and any passing resemblance to any actual Chief Executive, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Keith Hann is a financial PR consultant with few clients and even fewer friends. www.keithhann.com

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