America’s Turnaround Man – Patrick Rettig

Hi, welcome to this week’s program. The man I am interviewing this week is none other than America’s Turnaround Man. He is Patrick Rettig, the head of the Rettig Corporation. The mission of this organization is to provide guidance to CEOs, so that they can take their businesses from insolvency to profitability. Patrick sees his job as crossing the line. He does this with his motorcycles, one of his two planes and his terribly street-smart advice. He calls it “The Fix.” He doesn’t just fix the company, he fixes the CEOs. This is one of those shows that I wish was being televised, then you could experience visually the character of a man that I’m interviewing. Patrick is definitely unconventional from his hair to his office that appears more like a music studio, electric train showcase, then your scattered workplace. His language is as rough and tough as the businesses that he’s called in to save. Now don’t let his street-beat get to you. He refers to women as girls, don’t be fooled. This is not out of disrespect. It’s actually a term of difference to the gender he believes as the upper hand when it comes to taking a business back to profitability. So my advice to you listening to this week’s program is not to become triggered by his reference to girls or his raw style of telling us like it is. Listen to the wisdom that comes from a hundred plus success turnarounds, his track record is definitely worth paying attention to. Let’s tune in to my conversation with Patrick Rettig.

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Lesley:  So welcome, Patrick the master of turnaround, to this show and let me start with this question. How do you define a turnaround?


Patrick: Oh come on. Nobody pays any attention when you got 20-dollar bills in their pocket. Nobody’s listening to anybody. They’re like “I got this.” Come on. The one that maybe listens is the one that are flat on their butt. Then we’re all teachable, right? “Help me I have no…” Nobody listens. I think anybody calls me, and says, “Hey, you know what, Pat, I just recently made an additional million dollars, and I just wanted to be able to do it right. So I thought I’d call you and we’ll set things up.” No.


Lesley:  So, you know what, I brought a book a few years ago on turnarounds in Canada, and I was interviewing one of the guys that was in the profile of this story. And at the time that I said to him, “Bob, at what time did you know that you were in trouble?” He said, “Well, Lesley, I knew I had a problem the day we couldn’t make payroll.” And the day he couldn’t make payroll, he was 998 million dollars in debt.


Patrick: I know bob. Bob is a good friend of mine.


Lesley:  So how does it happen that we get so far down the dirt hole that we are not even conscious that we are in such serious trouble? What goes on in the brain that stops us to reckon?


Patrick: You know it’s so close. It’s like I’m invading your personal space but I’m not. You’re like a billion miles away, where I got you right here. I’m like, “Excuse me, am I in your way? Excuse me, am I? This zoom thing is the coolest thing.” “Hello. Hi, you’re right there. You know, wow that’s so cool.” Okay, so, well, God is a funny guy. You have to know where you end and where heaven begins. We have to know that. That’s part of the process. That’s part of the reality of living. You got to know where you end. I got a cellphone in front of me, right?


Lesley:  Yeah.


Patrick: It got a battery, right? Without the battery, it goes dead. When I push this cellphone every day, and I think to myself and it got like it’s telling me 10 percent. I’m on a call, I know it’s going to take 45 minutes. I’m thinking of myself, “I can do it. It’ll make it. It’ll make it!” Of course it’s not going to make it, right? But I got to know, now I say 10 percent, I’m like, “Dude I got 10 percent left. So if you’re going to give me any grief try to get at it now, because I’d hate for you to call the truck and you didn’t get to tell me. You’re mad at me right?” And they laughed. Because people really get mad at me because I have to tell them the hard news but it’s going to make my point. We must know the end of us where our power is over.


Lesley:  So, how do we know that our power is over? Like we’re in a panic mode, are people that come to you in a panic, or they’re just cold turkey, or what’s the outcome?


Patrick: I use to say that people come to me and they’re at their worst, right? When people come to me, they’re at their best. You’re out of money, you’re out of time, they’re in trouble up their eyeballs, people are mad at them, screaming at them, and they’re looking to me going “What do I do?” That’s their best, because I’m going to say, “I told you before and nobody ever asked me.” I’ll tell them, “Hey, you know what, let’s go get a cheeseburger and take the hill.” Nobody ever says, “Excuse me, before we do this cheeseburger thing, can I see your resume because I like to know if you’ve done this before. You know, I’m not really sure I’m on my ass, I don’t have any money and I don’t know what I’m doing. But before I go any further, I don’t want to make another mistake by inviting someone in.” They go, “Okay.”


Lesley:  Yes. So, is there a difference between the women that come to you and the man? Is there a different reality in which they’re offering?


Patrick: Yeah, women are better at it but let’s talk about yin and yang for a minute. But let me tell you, when people come to me because there isn’t anywhere else to go that’s the best place to be, there aren’t options. When we finally get to a place where there are no options, we’re at our best because we can put out all our energy into this direction. When I think, “Well you can’t do anything.” You’re maxed out in your credit cards. You’re maxed out in your house. You’re maxed out with your friends. You’re maxed out with credit with your vendors. You’re in trouble everywhere. The bank, you’re over exceeded everything and you can’t deliver because you can’t buy product to make your product. So when you finally get to that spot, there is only one way to get out –my way. There’s only one hallway out, and I’m the guy with the flashlights. Okay, so two, women in business… I have daughters so please. I’m qualified to be able to say a few things about girls. God gave me three. God said, “Pat, I think that you have some issues…”


Lesley:  So you need to have the female touch.


Patrick: Yeah. “…so I’m going to give you three little charming gifts called “girls/daughters.” I have three daughters with my blood at them. Oh my God, I am out of my paying scale. They start at one month old, wrapping the wrap of my blood around me from a daughter. Okay, so I’m qualified to say the following. Women in business actually are faster at turnaround than men.

Lesley:  And why is that?


Patrick: Because I believe that women have much more of a mindset of survival than men because they create life. It’s a very amazing thing when we think about, you know, we take it for granted. “What? You’re pregnant? What? Pregnant?” We think about that you’re creating life is an amazing thing. Your body creates another life. Oh wow it’s big! And I think that that alone requires an ability to survive. To eat right, to survive, to secure that kid when that kid comes. That little girl is a little tiny thing, you know. With my first daughter, I thought to myself I was young and my first daughter came, and I was like, “This is going to be an interruption, right? Oh yeah this is temporary.” I think that that little girl, I thought this little switch went off of me –this dad switch. And I thought, “this is temporary, right?” I want to get back to rock and roll. My motorcycles and my crazy way of life, like, that switch never went back and I was better because of that little girl. From that moment, single second, I picked her up and that switch went off.


Lesley:  So you never looked back from that. And yes we are very different, I totally agree with you there.


Patrick: But girls have a serious… Uh, always have yin and yang. Okay let’s agree on that concept. Let’s not argue about that… You know, I don’t know why people argue with me. You know, I’m the guy with the job, my bills are paid. Their bills are upside down and won’t argue it. Now women yin and yang, men yin and yang, in the big book they talk about iron sharpens iron. You know, our shortcomings make us better—if you can overcome your shortcomings. I forgot to tell you that part. You don’t overcome your shortcomings, get your ass beat. But, in the case of girls, there is something inside of girls that all of you if you’re listening to me, it is not necessary. And that is that little thing in there that says you’re not good enough.


Lesley:  Okay there you go.


Patrick: That little thing who says you’re not good enough, that’s not bullshit. Are we going international? I can’t say anything wrong.


Lesley:  Yeah you’re doing fine. So you witness this in your clients that I’m not good enough?


Patrick: Yeah. And it is bigger than me, it is bigger than you. It is better than everything. The only thing it’s bigger than is heaven. If you are a beautiful thing created that can create life, you can manhandle any situation. I used that term clearly, “you can manhandle.” You have the power to run the world, because you have the power over everything including men.


Lesley:  So let’s just put this in this situation. A female small business owner is on the skids, what do you do to start to deal with this “I’m not good enough” sensation?


Patrick: Well, first of all, I’ll tell her that there’s a list, and however you feel there still have to be the list. So I can’t take the feelings away. I mean, I’m just, like I told you, I’m a guy. So, I mean, I’m the recipient of billions of years of evolution of stupid, okay? See what I mean? I can’t do anything about it. In evolution I’m stupider of the two and it continues to be that way. I’ve confirmed by that on daily basis.


Lesley:  But you have a list. So tell me, what’s on this list?


Patrick: Um, the things that you have to do today, and those things I tell them are blessings. I tell them the things they have to do today that there are hard things, there are some of them aren’t fun. For men and women, sales can be fun or hard depending on what kind of personality you have, right?


Lesley:  Yes.


Patrick: The point is, there are fun things on the list and there are not so fun things on the list. And everybody does the fun things on the list, and they don’t quite get to the non-fun things on the list. I can tell you the things that are not fun for everybody. Negotiating your taxes, nobody calls the IRS first. “Oh guys it’s eight o’clock, I can’t wait to call the IRS and renegotiate my tax that I’m behind on for three years.” Nobody ever does that. Taxes are a real problem. People don’t do that. Renegotiate or talk with someone who is mad at them like the creditor. People don’t do that first. Employees they’re having problems. You know, just because you’re the elder of the company doesn’t mean you have the instruction manual on how to handle a situation as a CEO. You wake up one day with a company and now all these problems you’re supposed to be an expert, at and immediately what happens? The list becomes a gargantuan enemy. And for a woman, she says, “This validates that I am in some form.” Not exactly good enough but it hits that cord, and that cord is a bad cord. It’s a bad cord for man but it’s different. A girl, it seems to the CEOs that I have can go like a steam locomotive, and one thing can happen and it just derails a steam locomotive freight train coming down the road. But I have to tell you in the flipside of that before that happen, before she has a bad day, she is more done than any five men in five years. She can get stuff done if that’s what she has a mind to do. Now that’s the other thing about girls. I have a lot of CEOs that could talk right now that would laugh at me right now, and say, “You’re an idiot.” But they stay with me because my aim is true and I want them to succeed, and I believe in them because of historical evidence. I look at them and I say, “Look, you have a history of doing well, you have a bad time. You have to figure out why you did well unless repeat that. Let’s get back to your core customers, let’s take care of the list and I’ll help you. I’ll do it with you. We’ll call the IRS together. We’ll do this thing, or I say quit acting like that.” Now to a girl, if I say, “Quit acting like that.” She’ll go, “Okay.” Because I’m not saying anything like, “You can’t do it” or “What do you think you are?” Girls have a button in there that gets in their way, but it also strengthens them. Now here’s the key part, I’ve learned a lot having three daughters and I don’t know how many girls I’ve had as owners of company but less than men. You know, there’s been less CEO’s, company owners as girls as they’re happy with men. Over the years, I have seen that cord make money for girls. I have seen when they’re having disagreements with life and that button gets hit, I have seen it rightly. And that’s why I say our shortcomings can make us better. And in my customer list right now, I have five CEOs and I have two girls on my team, and I carry them up. But when it comes right down to it, when I say to my CEOs, “You got to knock it off. We can’t let this win. We can’t let this thing beat us.” If I say that to a man, a man says, “Well, you know, I don’t know if you actually know my business. As a brilliant guy, I’m negative five million dollars but that doesn’t take away from my brilliant time.” But a girl will say, “Okay just tell me what to do right now.” And I will say, “Right now let’s forget everything.” The entire list that a man can take a line item at a time, a girl takes the entire list and five years from now. She dimension jumps every time, “But where will I be in five years.” I’m like, “Could we just go to lunch? When we get done, I’ll pay for lunch. You pay next time. Can we just get through lunch?” “How will I pay for lunch in five years?” Girls go right to the future, and nobody knows the future. Have you ever heard a girl come back from the future with a good story? “I’ve been in the future and I’m going to be great.” No, they come back and they go, “It’s a mess! I’ll never be able to make payroll. I’ll never be able to buy this. I’ll never have another sale again. How am I going to? I only have a million dollars in the bank.” “I have that girl. I only have 1.3 million dollars in the bank… I have lived the rest of my life…”


Lesley:  So there’s this thing about seeing a future, operating in a future because it goes back to what you’re saying about creation. When we create… we think about the entire lifetime of that child. We don’t just think about this moment in…


Patrick: I can tell you that a man can say, “I saved up my money and I got a 67 Plymouth with a hemi in it. I’m good. I can live in the backseat.” A man can stay in a moment “I got a cupcake, and a hotdog and a beer. I’m good. I got this.” Right? But a guy when he goes sideways, this is true. I mean, this is my experience for 20 something years, you know.

Lesley:  …You’re young enough to have this 20 years.


Patrick: Or I get my other way, “Well I think it’s about 20 something.” When a girl can switch so quickly… If you’re listening to me, I’m going to tell you the assets of being a girl in a normal set. Girls can change their mind in a nanosecond for the better. Girls are not into being sad. They’re not into it. They may seem like it but they’re not into it. Girls want to succeed, and they want to succeed right now. They have no patience for failure. Now if you just think of that right now and you’re saying yourself “No, he doesn’t know me,” I do too. If you think anything else in what I just said, you’re just having a bad day.


Lesley:  So if we have these capabilities and I agree with you by the way, what is it that lets us get ourselves into the state where as you say there’s no more else to go? We are down and out, what has allowed us to get to that moment?


Patrick: Feelings.


Lesley:  Feelings about what?


Patrick: I have to keep my employees on because without me they will not be able to feed their children. There is a God and you’re not it.


Lesley:  So there’s this secure taking characteristic that they want to make sure that everybody’s okay. And even if that’s the detriment of the future of the business, they still hold on to that.


Patrick: Now, would you give me the latitude of saying that that particular sentence I said covers a lot things besides employees, that it covers what I should do here, and there, and over here and my business should stay and the offices that I have? That thinking kind of permeates a lot of different areas. Would you give me that latitude?


Lesley:  I totally get it. And then, therefore, given that emotional attachment to taking care of things, what is it that they have to do in that first day?

Patrick: Well let’s get the rest of it, it’s not just that one. Here’s the other one, the feelings that someone has firstly that’s an independent woman, okay? Now we come to the overachiever superhuman woman. She’s going to try to do things so that her man thinks he did it.


Lesley:  Okay hold on just a second here. So, there’s this type of… I mean I don’t have a high achiever, but there’s a part of me that might be wanting to do that because I want to make sure that my man is successful. Really?


Patrick: Well and I use “successful” loosely. It’s okay. Whatever okay means to you. So that might mean that it’s his company and she’s trying to run it because she is not doing so good at it, right? And so she’s trying to manipulate him and the company, right? And if she does something that he doesn’t agree with, that affects his self-esteem and she doesn’t want to do that. So suddenly she becomes that caretaker thing you’re talking about blows up into this wild, complicated mess instead of doing “Here’s they key.” What does everybody need to do? What needs to be done? Let’s get clear with the list. The list is what needs to be done.


Lesley:  And on that list there are the things that obviously I haven’t done, because if I have done them I wouldn’t be in this situation. So, what you’re saying is that women when they see that list, rise to the challenge and say “Damn it, I’m just going to have to deal with this list.” And how do they go, is that true?


Patrick: Yeah. Let me clarify something. Now listen I’m on real thin ice because I have had to say to women CEO before, “Look, I’m just a guy, I cannot think like a girl and don’t expect me to. Can you give me some grace for trying?” My aim is true and I generally can get a girl to laugh, because I cannot begin even having three daughters to understand how a woman thinks entirely. I do on the other side of it. I have seen things that work and things that don’t work. So, whenever I’m saying “Please give me some grace” because I am, as I said billions of years of evolution above a man and we come down to the best man pretty stupid. Let me just say the combination of a man CEO, woman CEO in this environment that I’m telling you about. A good man wants to take care of his wife, and when he’s failing he feels very bad because he want to take care of them. Now, to a man taking care of his woman is making money, going home and paying the bills and trying to navigate whatever is going on at home, right? That’s a very basic and that is a good man. If all of the male population would think like that, we wouldn’t have a lot of trouble. A woman in the same spot who wants to take care of her man, it’s not as simple as that because her man has to believe that he’s the strong guy taking care of her. And if he’s not doing that, it complicates things for a woman. So if she’s running the company or it’s her company, it becomes more complicated because it’s not the standard man-woman dynamic. So what I’m telling you is a woman wants the answers right now. And when she’s alone, like her girlfriends are saying to her, “What are you doing?” but they understand. So now we have more girls understanding what she’s doing but that’s not paying well, and she’s getting more, and more and more in debt. So let’s get back to what’s the solution even if whatever I’m saying to you, you’re saying, “This guy is out of his mind. He’s just a guy that does that way.” Okay this is what I do know, what I do know is that for a man and for a woman the list for a corporation is the same. In my experience, a woman can hit that list faster and understand it faster than a man. Why, I don’t know. I think it’s nature. That would be my theory.


Lesley:  Because we’re almost at the end of our time, I’m curious about how many of them sustain the upward loop? In other words, there are certain patterns in us that when we get into crisis, we have the potential to repeat that crisis.


Patrick: Let me tell you something. You know, a woman in love who loves her husband, it’s a jam. It’s hard to find. A real woman who really loves her husband or wants her husband to do well and truly dreams for him, it’s hard. Because in a husband-and-wife team if he’s running the company, or presumed or perceived around the company, it’s very hard for a woman. So let’s just say it’s very hard for a woman because the list is the same. Now let’s talk about—because we have such brief time together—the women that do not succeed, okay?


Lesley:  Yap, yes.


Patrick: The women do not succeed and the men who do not succeed. Men might not succeed because they’re lazy. They might not succeed because they don’t feel like doing it. They might succeed because they believe that they did well in this area so they can be well in any area. They might branch out, get too thin, right?


Lesley:  Yes that’s a big challenge, absolutely.


Patrick: But women who don’t succeed. It seems to me I have seen on my life resentment, that thing inside that resents everything when we all get that inside of us, it doesn’t pay you well. But a girl, who is an overachiever, can take resentment and it can murder her life. And so if you’re listening to me out there, money is money, it’s cash-in/cash-out. We have to rely on the fact that 2 & 2 is always 4. When we’re in an organization, it seems like 2 & 2 can equal 3 1/2, 5.6, 6, but 2 & 2 might equal 9. We start saying these things that are crazy. But math is math, it’s the easy part. The part that makes us successful is the beating heart inside of us all. And there is no greater love than a woman for her man, and a woman for the things that she loves in her life. Man can’t love like that. And when they decide, when my clients decide that they’re going to make this happen, in the worst of times they become very optimistic because they’re doing what they want to do. And for better or for worse it’s going to lead them somewhere, because women believe not only in the future but they believe in surviving well. They believe it and they want that. A man doesn’t have those assets, not as much. Now, will you buy that for me?


Lesley:  You know what I’m going to buy every aspect of it. And for a guy that thinks that men are dumb, I actually think that you’ve done a brilliant job in getting inside what I’ve actually experienced in every example that you gave, and can relate the fact that you’ve actually hit the nail on the head. And so, Patrick, I have to say goodbye and I wish I didn’t, but time has run its course and I got to go to the list, man. I got to get to the list.


Patrick: Let me leave you with this. We have not even scratched the surface, reorganization is of the heart. And if you’re out there and you’re in trouble, you got to call right now and not somebody that thinks they’ve got an idea, not someone perhaps that you love that things they have a good idea for you. You have to find someone who has done it today, yesterday, last week, not five years ago, 10 years ago, someone who has done it and is doing it right now. If you can get a hold of me, I know probably far away, I will have things for you that are helpful right now because this is what I do every day. We have hardly scratched the surface, and I wish you good luck. And I wish you and pray that heaven shine on you and give you wisdom to find the correct path which was given to you by heaven. Find it and clean it. Amen.


Lesley:  Got it. You’ve got the last word, babe.

I consider myself a modern woman, a member of the independent and high-achieving tribe of women called “leaders.” And yet as I spoke to Patrick, I found myself deep inside of my own experience 16 years ago, as my late husband and I struggled to bring our company back after a client defaulted on a one million dollar receivable. At the time I would’ve been reluctant to express my sentiments in the “stand by your man” way Patrick expressed. But in truth it wasn’t because it wasn’t true, it was because my British upbringing wouldn’t have allowed me the latitude. Resilience, future-focused thinking, get-to-itness are definitely characteristics of successful women, who are able to take on the death-defying task of turning around a company in distress. But I also can relate to those characteristics that are not in our favor, not feeling good enough, caring too much for others and that creeping sensation of resentment that comes when we have to face our mistakes and make the tough decisions required to survive. I truly enjoyed my time with Patrick, and I felt refreshed with his get-to-itness way of expressing himself. Wisdom comes in many forms; those of us who are wise recognize it no matter how it comes to us. Patrick means it when he says he’s there to help. To find out more, go to that’s T-H-E-R-E-T-T-I-G-C-O-R-P-O-R-A-T-I-O-N, and phone him at 7-6-0-6-6-2-9-6-6-8. That’s in California, United States. I told Patrick that I believe if my husband and I had been able to reach out to him 16 years ago my husband would still be alive today. You know how to reach me and at, also on facebook at “Women who lead radio show.” Remember this is your show. I am your host Lesley Southwick-Trask. Thanks for listening, see you next time.


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