You can Accomplish Amazing Things with Little or No Money

by Ronald K. Wills

Life Lessons from Turnarounds and Non-Profits

This could be one of my most valuable Life Lessons learned. Coming from the for-profit world, everything costs money. Any change is calculated in cost, time cost, labor cost, etc. When working with a non-profit or when you are in a turnaround situation, there is never enough money or resources. You have to make due with what you have.

Lack of resources forces you to become creative. Leveraging technology in several companies, we were able to communicate inexpensively. We drove involvement of our staff in every way to have an impact on the bottom line and that involvement led to an amazingly successful turnarounds.

In one non-profit, within a two year span, we had set the stage for a massive capital raise and our constituency was prepared for our ask, and ask we did. With minimal dollars invested, our Campaign netted over four times the original Campaign projections collecting $13.75 million which provided the funds to rebuild the institution and put it back on track to becoming one of the most successful non-profits in the region. There is much to learn working with scarce resources that can benefit small business owners in growing their firms without breaking the bank.

What the $1,000,000,000 problem taught me

By Ronald K. Wills

“There is much to be learned by going the road less traveled”

I had the good fortune to work for one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs and CEO, Charles M. Cawley, founder of MBNA, who created the world’s largest independent credit card company with 28,000 employees world-wide and $12 Billion in revenues when the company was sold to Bank of America for $34 Billion. I worked for Charlie at Maryland National Bank where Charlie and his counterpart in Baltimore created a $1,000,000,000 division that, unbeknownst to me, was to result in the biggest challenge of my then, formative career.

The problem resulted from the quickly increasing cost of funds exceeding the yield on the $1 Billion loan portfolio. With a fixed yield of 7.5% and cost of funds estimated to approach 10%, the division was forecasting a $25,000,000 annualized loss. This deficit was several times the profitability of the bank itself.

While many of my counterparts in the division jumped ship or took other jobs within the bank, I was asked to join a team to resolve the problem and resolve it quickly. I was the youngest person on the team; about 25 years old at the time. This team reported to another amazing business man and future CEO of Maryland National Bank, Bill Daiger. Mr. Daiger was president and CEO of MNB from 1983 through 1992.

Within days we had working plans to solve the increasingly dangerous spiraling of the cost of funds. With approval from the top, we began implementing a six month turnaround plan to reverse the mounting losses we were experiencing. Working on this team and having the opportunity to report to two of the industry’s finest CEOs, changed my outlook and created a desire to take on the toughest challenges while others look for safer opportunities.

Lesson learned from a Multi-Billion dollar bank turnaround

By Ronald K. Wills

“People want to do better: they just need Vision and Leadership to get there.”

John Morton, III, a former Maryland National Bank executive was asked to take over Perpetual Bank when the leadership of the bank was asked to step down. John is an outstanding businessman and entrepreneur who is the former Chairman of Maryland Stadium Authority and previously Chairman of Fortress International Group, Inc. and president and CEO of several financial institutions. John took on the challenge and began hiring his team.

I was hired by John to join the team of 8 with the goal to save Perpetual Bank, or if we couldn’t, conduct an orderly shutdown for the regulators. Perpetual Bank was one of the largest banks in the region, approximately $15 Billion in assets in today’s dollars.

This was a daunting task where the bank was suffering from brain drain as most of the A and B level employees had left for other jobs in the industry. What we had left were the C and D employees that needed to be rallied to save the Bank from failing. And they did rally.Unfortunately, Perpetual Banks loan portfolio losses quickly stripped the institution of any viable alternatives and we sold the Bank to Crestar.

However, the systems I developed for Perpetual Bank during our turnaround efforts: systems that tracked all the assets of the institution with data from an antiquated mainframe computer spilling into our newly designed systems, was so good that the Resolution Trust Corporation asked me to bring my team over to track 12 institutions from Maryland through Florida.

Given the right Vision and support, the team developed rapidly and became a true “A Team” for the company and subsequently the Resolution Trust Corporation. The lesson I learned is that there are many good employees languishing throughout companies across this country that just need the Vision and Leadership to become productive and valuable. Give your staff the Vision and Leadership they deserve and they will serve you well.