Turnaround highlights of Mal Bass

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At 29 years old he was assigned the leadership of a 700-person maintenance department in GM’s biggest auto assembly plant and achieved dramatic performance improvement. This was a turnaround situation that resulted in better service at lower costs. These skilled trades persons (millwrights, welders, pipefitters, electricians, etc.) were sorted into 3 groups – breakdown repairs, construction, and preventative maintenance/reserve. Those allocated to repair were assigned to areas versus being stationed centrally. Overtime work was carefully planned to avoid paying wasteful premium wages to unneeded personnel.

 

At 34 years old he was found by Heidrick & Struggles, the worldwide executive search firm, and recommended to become the general manager of an unprofitable division of what today would have sales in the range of $100,000,000. The division made a modest profit in year 1 and became the most profitable division in the corporation during the next 4 years. This division was the most advanced facility for producing sintered metal friction plates for heavy duty transmissions and clutches for the construction, mining and agricultural equipment industries. There were good people but too many of them so a carefully planned lay-off occurred that reduced the 600 person workforce by 100 employees without any reduction of production or service to the customers that included Caterpillar, John Deere, GM and Eaton. There were several businesses under one roof and in one of these the sales were increased from $16M to $20M and the operating profit was improved by $12M over a 4-year span. In this specific business it had taken 75 people to produce 45,000 units for week. After implementing numerous problem solutions 45 persons could produce 75,000 widgets per week.

 

Then the company got a new CEO and president, and Mal reported directly to the new president. The president asked for ideas for improving the whole company. Mal presented his ideas, and 6 months later Mal was elevated to a position over his former general manager peers implementing a major turnaround strategy for the entire company. Today this would be a company of approximately $1,000,000,000 in sales. The strategic theme of this project was to realign all resources and equipment for a particular market served into a single location. This plan involved 5 factories in the US, one in Canada, and one in Germany. Literally $100,000,000’s of businesses were realigned and relocated without a single delivery or quality problem. The project objectives were achieved and improved the company’s ability to serve the needs of customers that included Caterpillar, John Deere, GM, Ford and Chrysler.

 

After 20 years Mal left the corporate world, formed his own company and for the next 15 years bought troubled companies that he felt he could improve, turned them around, and eventually sold them. The last was a division of the former RadioShack which was sold to a customer in the late 90's.

One of these companies was at the forefront of applying CAD/CAM technology to the design and production of large and complex plastic injection molds for companies such as IBM, HP, RCA and Xerox. He personally developed a system for computer simulating the complex manufacturing process for multiple simultaneous projects and to foresee problems and solve them in advance of them occurring. By using this proprietary system this company gained the reputation of being the fastest deliverer of large complex plastic injection molds in the world. Also at this same time Mal developed a customer tracking system that became the forerunner of modern Customer Relationship Management systems.

After exploring several options Mal then formed a unique peer executive group where president/owners of small-medium sized businesses (typically $500K to $50M in sales) met monthly to resolve serious problems and learn from experts in area valuable to leaders. In addition Mal had private 1 on 1 meetings with each of the members and much of what was discussed in the group and private meetings were various forms of turnaround projects. This business started with 3 chapters in Texas and later added 2 chapters in OH and 3 in MD, some of which included international business leaders in US universities(with similar problems).