By H. Irving Grousbeck, Sara Rosenthal
2013 | Case No. E491 | Length 9 pgs.

The MobiChair case describes the story of Lucy Ahn and Josh McKinnon, graduates of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business who are also in a relationship, who take on the role of co-CEOs of a power wheelchair company after being offered the position by a mentor who is on the company’s board. MobiChair is facing stalled growth and the board hopes to revive the company with new leadership. Though hesitant at first, the couple decides to take on the challenge and soon find themselves faced with a series of interpersonal issues and conflicts that threaten to overwhelm them. From their very first meeting with MobiChair’s top three vice presidents, Ahn and McKinnon pick up on red flags that indicate the company operates with a “good enough” culture where 6-hour workdays, a focus on the tactical rather than the strategic, and reluctance to change are all the norm. In the second vignette, McKinnon must deal with an HR manager who defies instituting an employee recognition program McKinnon has requested. On a trip to the company’s East Coast office, Ahn and McKinnon are alarmed to find that several top managers are underperforming and need to be replaced, after having assured the West Coast staff that they will not be shutting down any offices of undergoing layoffs. Finally, the co-CEOs are faced with an ultimatum from the controller which forces them to decide whether they can manage without her, or whether they must tolerate her antics until a suitable replacement is found.

Learning Objective

This case presents students with a series of complicated interpersonal issues which they must decide how to confront. Students are asked to put themselves in Ahn and McKinnon’s shoes, and think through the consequences of their decisions in the context of a turnaround situation where they are trying to establish their place in the wake of a beloved CEO’s departure. With both immediate and long-lasting impacts, the decisions and how they are handled, will be critical to determining the company’s culture and Ahn and McKinnon’s success at its helm.

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