How Ilana Diamond Turned Sima Around

By Paul Toscano

When Ilana Diamond took the helm of Sima Products in 1993, she stepped into the middle of a corporate mess in which the company was moving towards an assured demise. Sima was involved in two big-budget projects and several years of confused management, which pitted Sima (then a company with $20 Million in annual sales) against two Multi-Billion dollar competitors already heavily committed to delivering similar product lines. Sima seemed to be on its last legs and the upper management was pushing the once successful company in the wrong direction.

Ilana’s first move for Sima was to immediately “Kill” those fated projects. Her decisiveness didn’t come overnight, as she eventually inherited the company in the wake of her father’s death in 1990, and throughout her life had gradually learned the art of management from the man who built Sima from the ground up. The several years of uncertainty following her father’s death was a rough transition for Sima and almost burnt the company to the ground, but when Ilana became President in 1993, she set out to completely overhaul the failing business.

Ilana was initially reluctant to head up the company, fearing that she could never live up to her father’s legacy. When she finally took control, she evaluated the situation. For instance, Sima had been the leader in home video editing products, but had fell behind and was no longer making the large profits they once had. Ilana also realized that the interim President, previously the #2 man at the company, also did not have the long-term vision necessary to bring the company back to top of the industry, although he could masterfully handle the day-to-day operations.

The Board of Directors soon shared her vision and soon realized that Ilana was the only one who could save the company from sure failure. Once she took the job, more dramatic changes were soon to come.

After her husband took a Professorship and Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Ilana presented the Board of Directors with the notion that she’d be living and working in Pennsylvania and that she may have to be replaced. Wanting nothing of the sort, the decision was made to move the company to its current home in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.

Ilana recalls that the smartest thing she did in this process was to get in touch with someone who has handled a transition like this before. Hiring a consultant with this sort of experience, Sima avoided problems that they would have faced otherwise. Still, they faced personnel issues during the transition and new hires, but Ilana was able to navigate the company through these difficulties by getting assistance from local specialists and residents… hiring these sorts of people she considered an investment into the company’s future.

Not only that, but Ilana also managed this transition while caring for her small children, one of which required her to scurry between the nursery and the boardroom during the pivotal times during the company’s move.

Questions? Comments?