What’s In A Name?
: a solid figure formed by irregular planes in three dimensions. Definitions vary depending on contexts and are often without universal agreement.
How Polyhedron’s Managing Director, Charlie Cheng, chose the firm’s name:
I was a student at Cornell in the early 1980s when I learned of my advisor, Dr. Scott Walter’s polyhedron collision detection algorithm: 100x speed improvement by reducing convex surfaces into concave ones.
This insightful simplification helped NASA simulate the space shuttle’s cargo door operation with a rather modest engineering workstation instead of several air-conditioned mainframe computers.
Over the last 35 years, each time I have faced long odds and expiring time, this half-hour discussion with Dr. Walter has always helped me focus on what a leader needs to do: focus and simplify the problem so it can be solved in time before the collision with business failure occurs.
By naming our turnaround consulting firm Polyhedron, we strive to approach every turnaround project with the same philosophy: breaking down complex problems into simpler ones so the business can visualize the possible collision and create a path to safety.
A business facing existential threats looks like a polyhedron in space – multiple complex surfaces each likely to collide with another moving object.
Turnaround requires expertise and experience to reduce problems so the business can overcome the crisis.
About Charlie Cheng
Thriving in Crisis
I was 10 years old when I first experienced crisis management. On an errand to pick up groceries, my younger sister fell, landing on top of a barrelful of eggs and breaking many of them. I offered the shopkeeper all the money we had with us – but hardly enough to pay for the damage. He refused and sent us home.
The walk home was somber as we worried about our mother’s reaction. To our surprise, our mom was grinning ear-to-ear. The shopkeeper had called to tell her how impressed he was that I calmly approached him with an offer to make things right.
At the time, it seemed just like a one-off bad day that ended well. However, as these crises occurred from time to time in my life, I realized that I thrive on crises moments.
Turnaround is an all-consuming process. Therefore, we believe in a high-touch, hands-on approach to each assignment.
At Polyhedron we take on only one turnaround CEO assignment, or up to two turnaround executive roles at any given time.
We carry out the recommendations we make to the board in actions that we are accountable for, and we work side-by-side with the management team to bring the business back to health so it can either grow organically or as part of another business.
Our business model includes a monthly retainer fee and a success fee. We usually do not stay with a business for more than 18 months, especially if the business has successfully resumed its growth. We believe growth business requires different skills from that of turnaround business. The business deserves to hire the team that’s best suited for growth after our successful turnaround.