In this article, we describe the experiences we in EWDK have acquired since the beginning in 2008. From the very start we were quite unsure and hesitant in relation to the screening task and in relation to forming and using a corps of volunteer advisers.
As training and education needs are closely related to the roles and main challenges for the consultants respectively the volunteer’s we have included a short description of the roles and the most important competences. In EWDK we usually have a yearly replacement of about 20 volunteers (app. 20 percent). This means that education and training have to be relevant for both very experienced volunteers as well as new/less experienced.
This paper includes links to web pages in Danish. We have not yet translated these pages, as we do not know if this is worth the effort. Target country’s: please comment.
- The consultant and the volunteer’s different roles
It is essential to underline the fact that the consultant and the voluntary adviser have different roles. The consultant has the initial dialog and screening of the companies. He/she needs to, in a very short time together with the owner, create an overview over the company and the owner’s situation, and clarify which efforts is needed or possible. The consultant need to be able to serve all companies, no matter the size, industry and so on. In principle, all consultants have the same fundamental task.
The consultants’ most important contribution is to secure that a proper assessment of the situation has been made, and to secure that efforts are made in the most important areas.
Our corps of volunteers can be divided into two types:
The broad generalist that has great managerial experience, most frequently supplemented with profound insight in specific industries and management in different parts of a company’s life cycle. Furthermore, we have several specialized volunteers for example lawyers, accountants, bankers, and psychologists. The last-mentioned group does usually not have the broad management experience that qualifies them to being a lead volunteer for a company in crisis, but they are extremely valuable as a supplement to the broad generalist. For instance, if a company does not have control over the accounting/bookkeeping, a brief initial connection with a volunteer with a background of accounting may be very helpful to get a clear overview of the situation just like an experienced volunteer with a background of banking may be valuable to have onboard regarding solutions of financial challenges.
The specialized volunteer is affiliated for a short while, where he/she make use of his/her specialized core competence. The lead volunteer is most often affiliated for a longer period, typically 1-1,5 years. His/her essential competence is the knowledge he/she has gained through a long professional career.
Therefore, the volunteers come with great knowledge and experience. What Early Warning needs to supplement with must be precisely targeted the professional fields that one might encounter in a company in crisis.
The purpose of the training days etc. is not only development of competences. It is also for networking among the participants, sharing experiences and in a way, acknowledge the great role they have in the project.
All consultants, and most volunteers, are aware that they need a certain overall insolvency overview. However, the consultants and the volunteers have a tendency wanting to participate in the training that develop an already existing core competence. And this is rarely useful. It is important that the consultants and volunteers develop their weak skills, because it is important to have a certain width in competence to succeed with their tasks. That is why most ‘soft’ subjects are wrapped up in other, more concrete (‘hard’), subjects.
- Meetings and training days in EWDK
Our experience is that the following correspond to most wishes and needs:
- Obligatory introduction day targeted new volunteers and new consultants. The purpose is to introduce the new ones to the network, explain the organization and practice, share experience with experienced volunteers and get at overview over which areas the individual needs to obtain more knowledge. An example of the latest obligatory introduction day can be found here : http://startvaekst.dk/file/633201/introdagprogram.pdf
- Insolvency day has the purpose of giving everybody the opportunity to get a solid insolvency overview. There is always great support for these training days, and people often participate more than once, both to get a brush-up, but also to get a deeper understanding than they had the first time they participated. An example of the latest insolvency day can be found here: http://startvaekst.dk/file/633202/insolvensdagprogram.pdf
- An annual national meeting (one day). There are more purposes, among these are networking, enhance the relation and knowledge for each other, get relevant professional and process inputs. Examples of the national meetings can be found here:
- A national meeting over 2 days. The purpose is the same as the abovementioned, but with better time and more social contact. Examples can be found here:
- 1-2 regional meetings for volunteers. The purpose here is to strengthen the network and the relations between the volunteers, and share experience and in some cases supplement with relevant presentations.
Usually, there is also an annual meeting over two days for the consultants only.
3 Concluding comments of the most important areas
As mentioned earlier, we like to build on the knowledge the volunteers bring, when he/she joins EW. However, EW needs to make sure that the volunteer is professional equipped in the following areas:
- A certain insolvency overview.
- A certain knowledge regarding turnaround management.
- Understanding of what financial opportunities there is, including knowledge about how ‘a banker thinks’.
- Financial and accounting understanding. This has, however, proved to be a subject that most volunteers already have a sufficient knowledge about.
As it appears in some of the program examples, the weight is on the things that have to do with the process: How does one handle the meeting with an owner in deep crisis? How do you deepen a conversation and how do you then bring it up to the surface again? How do one avoid that the personal affairs take up too much time and in that way, overshadow the talk about a solution to the company’s problems. Which advisory positions are most suited to an owner with a certain person-profile?
4 The humane basis – cut to the bone
It is possible to have different backgrounds and person-profiles and still become a good consultant or volunteer. The condition is that he/she possess a well-developed emotional intelligence. And it consists of the two following basis elements and neither can do without:
- He/she need a great capacity for empathy to understand others emotions and where they are coming from.
- He/she need a great understanding regarding experience with and reflection over his/her own emotional life.
Personally, I believe that all healthy people have an ability to develop the two abovementioned if they want to do so and dare to do so. If they do not, and if they do not meet the criteria, they are not suitable for the Early Warning’s task.