When CEOs identify too completely with their business, they often refuse to take necessary actions – whether it's eliminating a failed product or firing a manager – because it feels like it would be tantamount to cutting off a part of themselves. To overcome this paralysis, Mr. Tuzman says, the CEO must divorce himself from those issues. And while experts have written extensively about the so-called "entrepreneurial personality" that can launch a company, Mr. Tuzman says they spend little time writing about the very different personality that is required to save a company. "You are not the business," he says he counsels clients. "You must do the right thing, ethically and financially. If the business doesn't make it, you will make it. Even if you have to file bankruptcy, we live in the United States, and you will make it."
Brent Habig is one of those who have gone to Mr. Tuzman for advice and Mr. Habig says Recognition Group helped him negotiate the acquisition of his supply-chain consultancy Tigris by VerticalNet for a reported $10 million in January. "I was really looking at [Mr. Tuzman's] skills as a banker and a negotiator," says Mr. Habig. "But his own experience at govWorks, having been in my shoes, lent him additional insight into my point of view."
Now, for Mr. Tuzman, a successful turnaround involves two parallel efforts. "Having walked through the minefield and gotten blown up, I can tell you that getting through a crisis in business is half strategic. The other half is emotional therapy."
These days, though only in his 30s, Mr. Tuzman now only has accrued the experiences at govWorks, but nearly two decades of business experience since starting his first venture at the age of 18, making custom corporate apparel. In addition, he has a history of involvement in Hispanic-oriented public policy and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an advisor to the World Bank's Gateway Development Project, and a board member of the MicroMentor Program at the Aspen Institute.
Currently, 30 percent to 40 percent of Mr. Tuzman's business focuses on Hispanic or Latin American companies. "I am a firm believer in having a strong and proud Latino identity; it's part of my professional and advocacy life. I personally seek out well-run Latino companies to work with," says Mr. Tuzman.
Mr. Tuzman cautions, however, that too often, he sees CEOs use their ethnicity to cover problems. "I come across Latino businesses that blame their problems on their [ethnic status]. I acknowledge that there are a lot of sectors where it's hard to get that first customer or supplier. However, I don't like to see that used as an excuse." And, he says, the Hispanic family often works to the advantage of Hispanic entrepreneurs during downturns and successions. "Families tend to be close and have a degree of loyalty that helps in resolving disputes," Mr. Tuzman says. "They are less prone to enter into family feud mode; they tend to keep it within the family. If you look at statistics on business formation in the Hispanic community – and they are quite good – you can attribute it to that level of trust."
Today, to share the lessons gleaned from his govWorks experience, Mr. Tuzman is planning to launch a kit for entrepreneurs in November. The kit, published by St. Martin's Press, includes CDs and a workbook with advice on how to create and grow a small business. Ultimately, in reflecting on his comeback from the dot-com collapse, Mr. Tuzman says it has given him deeper knowledge of business and himself: "I give thanks for the crisis. I value investment dollars more. And I can do my job today with credibility. I work hard, but I attribute a good amount of any success to luck."
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