Eric Edelson and Fireclay Tile: An Unusual Path to Entrepreneurship

By Jeffrey Chambers, Jason Luther
2013 | Case No. E490 | Length 23 pgs.
It was February 2009, when Eric Edelson wondered to himself how he had gotten into this situation. Less than two years earlier, Edelson had been an MBA student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business ready to market a footwear product to the elderly. Since then, he had been unemployed, fired from his first job, and had acted as an underpaid consultant for a series of small and struggling companies. At present, Edelson was an operator at Fireclay Tile, an insolvent tile manufacturer with revenues of less than $3 million. Much had changed for Edelson since his pre-GSB days at Lehman Brothers. As Edelson sat in Fireclay founder Paul Burns’ car driving what would become a daily commute from his home in San Francisco, California, to Fireclay’s headquarters in San Jose, California, he evaluated the challenges that lay before him. Edelson had initially been brought in by Burns and his partner to evaluate BottleStone, one of Fireclay’s product lines. Over time, Edelson had become more involved in Fireclay’s strategy development and operations, eventually helping Burns highlight Fireclay’s inefficiencies and providing him with actionable recommendations on how to address them. Little did Edelson know then that his work would result in his potentially joining and operating the company. Edelson had provided Burns with his turnaround plan just a few weeks before with the expectation that Burns would execute the recommendations himself. Now, Edelson was in a position to take charge and assume the responsibility of turning around the flailing organization. Pulling up to Fireclay’s headquarters in San Jose, and with his game plan in hand, Edelson knew he had his work cut out for him.

Learning Objective

This case discusses the personal and professional choices Edelson made when joining a struggling tile company and guides students through an example of a turnaround situation. The case involves analyzing financial statements, preparing a turnaround plan, and evaluating different forms of entrepreneurship. Students dive into a balance sheet and income statement, assess revenue-growing and cost-cutting strategies, and evaluate the dynamics an entrepreneur experiences when managing relationships with employees and founders.
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