What Types of Executives are Attracted to Struggling Companies?

Jason Hanold shares three ways you can tell if your company requires a problem solver.


Many executives considering a career move are attracted by a company that’s strong, growing and looks like it will be around for a while.

However, those who I refer to as “problem-solvers” view security and stability as boring: the messier, the better. How do you know if you – or someone you’re recruiting – are the type of leader who is more likely to run into a burning building rather than away from it?

Here are three ways to tell if your company might require a problem-solver:

  • Major challenge: problem-solvers are wicked smart and assume they can fix the hairiest of problems. It doesn’t scare them that there’s a lot of pressure to produce in the C-suite or a key management position. They’re like first responders in a way: they live for the adrenaline rush and would be bored out of their minds if they were put into a maintenance role at a stable company.
  • Long odds: when I recruit for positions at challenging companies, the executives who are intrigued are those who like to have their backs against the wall. They don’t let others’ lack of success or their own potential failures hold them back. Instead, they’re propelled by their confidence that they’ve beaten the odds before and can do it again.
  • Limited commitment: problem-solvers aren’t in it for the 20-year gold watch. They know they won’t finish their careers at this company and are more concerned about getting their mettle tested. They assume the turnaround will happen within a few years – if it happens at all – and then they’ll be on to their next adventure.

When I talk with potential problem-solvers on behalf of a struggling company, they want the unvarnished truth, not rose-colored glasses. I balance the attractive parts of the job with the ones that might make a typical person say, “No, way.” That’s why it takes a special person to predict potential success where just about everyone else sees an impossible mess.