Turnarounds: Definition, Strategies, and Real-Life Examples


Turnarounds are pivotal moments when entities, whether businesses, economies, or individuals, transition from financial adversity to recovery. This comprehensive article explores the concept of turnarounds, their significance, and the strategies involved. We delve into how turnarounds can occur on various scales, their catalysts, and real-life examples. Additionally, a FAQ section addresses common queries about this topic, and a pros and cons section offers a balanced perspective on the subject.

What is a turnaround?

Turnaround, in finance and economics, is the process of a company, economy, or individual transitioning from a period of poor financial performance to one of recovery and growth. These pivotal moments mark a significant shift from adversity to success, bringing stability to the entity’s future. The concept of turnarounds applies to various levels, from businesses and national economies to personal financial situations. It signifies a phase when an entity begins experiencing consistent and positive financial or performance recovery after a period of decline.

How to affect a turnaround

Achieving a turnaround is a fundamental aspect of business and finance. These are pivotal moments when an entity moves from a period of financial adversity to one of growth and profitability. Turnarounds can also be observed on a larger scale, affecting national economies, and even individuals looking to improve their personal financial situations. The essence of a turnaround lies in the transformation of losses into gains while ensuring future stability.

The following steps illustrate how a turnaround can be achieved:

Acknowledge the problems

The first step in initiating a successful turnaround is recognizing and acknowledging the issues that have contributed to the decline. In a business context, this might involve evaluating changes in management, identifying problems, and developing strategies to address them. Sometimes, when the situation is dire, liquidation may be the most appropriate action to take.

Implement necessary changes

After identifying the issues, the entity must undertake necessary changes to rectify the situation. This could involve restructuring the organization, revising business strategies, or making significant changes in operations to improve efficiency.

Develop a problem-solving strategy

A well-thought-out problem-solving strategy is crucial for a successful turnaround. This plan should encompass short-term and long-term goals, financial management, and a path to profitability. An effective strategy may also involve cost-cutting measures and finding new revenue streams.

Special considerations

Identifying the need for a turnaround often involves recognizing specific signs and situations. For a business, these may include:

  • Declines in the price of its stock.
  • The need to lay off employees.
  • Revenues that do not cover requirements to pay creditors.

Additional signs that a turnaround may be needed include changes in a firm’s competitive advantage, outdated products or services, and mismanagement of resources such as labor and capital.

It’s important to note that turnarounds can also offer opportunities for stock speculators who accurately anticipate the recovery of a poorly performing company. Buying stock at a low point during a turnaround can lead to significant profits when the entity recovers.

Turnaround catalysts

Turnarounds rarely occur in isolation; they are often the result of both internal and external forces. These catalysts can influence the direction and success of a turnaround:

Internal catalysts

Internal catalysts primarily focus on addressing issues within the entity that have contributed to the decline. These can include:

  • Identifying problems in internal processes.
  • Addressing excessive spending and inefficiencies.
  • Revamping management strategies and practices.

Internal catalysts aim to rectify issues and improve an entity’s operations and profitability.

External catalysts

External catalysts, on the other hand, are factors outside the entity that can positively influence the turnaround. These may include:

  • New regulations that reduce production costs and lead to higher profits.
  • Changing market conditions that create new opportunities for the entity.

An effective turnaround management team will assess both internal and external catalysts to determine the primary causes of the entity’s failure and devise a strategic plan that may involve restructuring or repositioning the business for success.

Real-life example of a turnaround

One of the most notable examples of a turnaround occurred in the aftermath of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, which led to the collapse of the U.S. housing bubble and several major banks. The crisis had a domino effect on the global economy, causing a recession in 2009.

During this period, the U.S. auto industry faced severe challenges. Declining sales and a tightened lending environment significantly impacted revenue and earnings for U.S. automakers. General Motors (GM), one of the largest American automakers, was particularly affected.

In 2009, General Motors filed for bankruptcy due to the crisis, and its stock was delisted from trading. However, this bankruptcy paved the way for a remarkable turnaround. GM received government bailout funds and underwent a comprehensive reorganization. The company used these funds to restore its manufacturing production and sales. In 2010, GM’s stock began trading again, signaling the successful turnaround of the company with increased production and sales.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Transformation of losses into profits.
  • Securing an entity’s future.
  • Opportunities for stock speculators.
  • Recognition of problems can be challenging.
  • Implementation of necessary changes may face resistance.
  • Success is not guaranteed; some entities may not recover.

Frequently asked questions

What is the significance of a turnaround in the business world?

A turnaround in the business world signifies a positive shift from financial adversity to recovery. It involves transforming losses into profits, securing an entity’s future, and often requires acknowledging problems, implementing changes, and developing problem-solving strategies.

Are turnarounds limited to businesses, or do they apply to other entities?

Turnarounds are not limited to businesses; they can apply to various entities, including entire economies, nations, or even individuals. It’s a term used when an entity begins experiencing financial or performance recovery after a period of decline.

How do external catalysts impact turnarounds?

External catalysts, such as new regulations or changing market conditions, can have a positive influence on a turnaround. They can create new opportunities and reduce costs, contributing to the entity’s recovery and success. Effective turnaround management considers both internal and external catalysts when developing a strategic plan.

Can individuals experience turnarounds in their personal finances?

Yes, individuals can experience turnarounds in their personal finances. This might involve strategies like budgeting, debt reduction, and improving financial literacy. Overcoming financial challenges and achieving stability is a form of personal financial turnaround.

Key takeaways

  • A turnaround is a transition from financial adversity to recovery for entities at various levels.
  • Acknowledging problems, implementing changes, and developing a problem-solving strategy are essential for a successful turnaround.
  • Turnarounds can happen in business, economies, or an individual’s personal finance.
  • Internal and external catalysts play significant roles in influencing turnarounds.
  • Real-life examples, like General Motors, demonstrate the potential for successful turnarounds even in dire situations.
View article sources
  1. Business and Financial Turnaround Strategy Planning – Asian Institute of Management
  2. The Three Steps of Successful Turnarounds – Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires
  3. Turnaround Management – Columbia University
  4. Strategies for Business Turnaround, Survival and Exiting – Washington
  5. Complete Guide to Small Business Loans – SuperMoney
  6. Average Collection Period Formula: How It Works and Example – SuperMoney