In 20 years of closely watching businesses large and small, I've come to the conclusion that while there's no certain recipe for success, the formula for failure is crystal clear.
Step 1: Go public before you are really ready.
Step 2: Keep most of your prepublic management staff in place after the IPO.
Step 3: Believe your own PR.
Step 4: Overextend.
Step 5: Get greedy.
This formula hits the wall—and the CFO—at
Step 6: Pressure finance to make the numbers work.
The two companies in our feature stories this month, Krispy Kreme (see "Kremed!") and HealthSouth (see "Keeping Secrets"), could not differ more in industry, business model, or history. Yet both followed the formula precisely, dragging no fewer than eight CFOs to their downfall.
What's remarkable is that companies continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. It's as if each new generation of business leaders is determined to ignore or rewrite these lessons, only to learn (too late) that the past is indeed prologue.
Which is why, in honor of Father's Day, we asked a number of readers to tell us about their fathers. What did they do, and how did that influence you? (See "What Dad Did.") Full disclosure: this is an idea borrowed from former CFO editor S.L. Mintz, who
always asked that question during interviews because, he said, he learned so much from the answers.