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BLOG: 4 things RIM can learn from Apple and IBM

Rob Enderle | July 2, 2012
After a disastrous quarter, Research in Motion is in a free fall.

3. Rebranding That Assures Customers You Can Succeed

The second most important person in a turnaround is the CMO-and we saw Jobs effectively step into that role initially on his return to Apple, building a view that there was in fact a future for that company. Meanwhile, to stop the flood of departing customers and investors at IBM, Gerstner hired a marketing dream team, which worked on creating an image of a successful IBM that built products people wanted to own.

Slideshow: Is RIM Ruined?

Critical to both turnarounds was the premature belief that the companies had been turned around. The reality followed the image, and that belief helped assure the positive outcome for the firm. On the other hand, if people believe you are going to fail, reality will make little difference, and both investors and customers will abandon the firm.

4. Leadership with Vision, Willingness to Do Anything

Finally, you need a CEO who can articulate a vision. That vision isn't necessarily of a new product or service, but of a future world where the company is successful and the pain that employees and investors are experiencing is a thing of the past.

News: 10 Things to Know About Thorsten Heins, RIM's New CEO

This is where you really need someone who can give an "I have a dream" talk that customers and employees alike will believed. Someone who can articulate this message and who has a history of creating a bright future can go a long way toward creating it. That's why turnaround CEOs are so highly valued.

In addition, these CEOs must be willing to do whatever it takes to make the turnaround happen. Look at Jobs. Swallowing his pride, he begged rival Bill Gates for money-but it was Microsoft's $150 million that got other large investors interested in Apple again, and it drove the turnaround. CEOs (or those who think they will become CEOs) often think there are certain critical tasks that are beneath them. Those people will fail as turnarounds CEO.

Wrapping Up: Fixing RIM Not Impossible

You can look back at how Apple and IBM were turned around to see how RIM might be saved. While it may seem easy from the outside, inside is a whole different matter.

When a company needs a turnaround, you often have a board that's a mix of old-timers and revolutionaries who can't agree on anything and who tend to put friends or mere warm bodies into the critical jobs. The boards at both Apple and IBM had to step up, and step in, to fix their respective firms. If RIM's board isn't willing to do that, then the company will likely follow Palm into the history books or become a small, and likely failing, subsidiary of a larger firm.


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