I have mused on the downfall of Postie Plus twice recently: when trading was halted on the stock market, and then when an administrator was appointed. Today, a third instalment: an initial impression of what went wrong, and what boards can learn from the case.
The Postie Plus board and management appear to have lost sight of the company's purpose. The company's genesis was as a provider of good quality, affordable clothing that was good value for money. However, in recent years, the company has found itself competing in a higher fashion segment of the market, something that the chairman—remarkably—is on record as saying that the company did not aim to do. On this information, the company was operating at variance to its strategy. Gosh. The questions that emerge from this revelation flow thick and fast. Why did the board allow this to happen? Was the board watching? Did the board know? What was the board thinking?
The board is responsible and accountable for the achievement of business performance outcomes in accordance with the wishes of shareholders. Yet in this case, decisions were made (or, not made?) that resulted in the company performing less well over an extended period. Sadly, the board took little, if any, action. The Postie Plus board knew something was amiss two years ago. An interview with the chairman in December 2012 corroborates this. At that point, the board should have gone back to basics—to purpose, values and strategy—to find out what was going wrong and to make some serious adjustments. However, it appears that the company simply tinkered around the margins (while the patient was dying).
Other boards should take note. Boards need to set strategy, and they need to review business performance against strategy on an on-going basis, to determine the appropriateness of the strategy. To do this effectively, boards need to understand the business of the business they are responsible for. They need to understand the market, the competition and the emerging trends, lest they get blind-sided by competitors, completely disruptive technologies, or, more simply, a change in buyer preferences and behaviours. On the evidence to date, the Postie Plus board does not appear to have done these things—or if it has, then it has not done them well. It is little wonder that the Postie Plus business has unravelled as it has.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.