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Turnaround artists branching out

Turning companies around is a booming business.

Consider this: Membership in the Turnaround Management Association, a trade group, has grown by 25 percent in two years. It now has 4,000 corporate and individual members.

"The irony is that it's happening while the economy is at one of its highest levels ever," said Jennifer Doughty, a spokeswoman for the 11-year-old group in Chicago.

The reason? While fewer companies may be failing these days, investors have less patience than ever with underperforming companies.

Turnaround artists used to concentrate on companies on the brink of extinction. But now, they're also hired at companies trying to jump-start earnings and regain investors' confidence.

Several turnaround management firms specialize in sending in short-term executives who stay at a company 18 months or less. But turnaround executives such as those at leading companies in the Tampa Bay area are in longer-term positions, often handpicked by institutional investors.

The Turnaround Management Association has grown with the trend. It has three national meetings a year, puts out a monthly magazine called the Journal of Corporate Renewal and runs a Web site (www.turnaround.org).

The association also can make you a Certified Turnaround Professional. About 200 people carry the certification, earned with an all-day test on topics such as analyzing a company's books and formulating a plan of action. The cost: $1,000.

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