These past few months I have been interviewing CEOs for my latest book, Winning in The Trust & Value Economy: A Guide To Business and Sales Success. The idea for the book came to me as I watched the gap widen, in the last few years, between struggling and successful companies. One of my favorite things about being a speaker, trainer and coach is that I get to work with a variety of businesses across a wide range of industries, and it gives me a great opportunity to learn first-hand how leadership, marketing, and culture can really impact the overall success of a company.
What started out as simply a series of conversations with CEOs of successful companies quickly morphed into strategies I incorporated into my own coaching practice, keynotes and workshops for my speaking businesses, and lastly, a must-write idea for a book. The more I learned, the more I wanted to find a way to share it with my clients and readers. The more I observed, the clearer it became to me that since 2008, when this economy started to shift, there were very real changes in how businesses, executives and professionals reacted to that shift. By early 2010 it became apparent that while some CEOs were finding great success, others were struggling to keep their heads above water. The more I observed this trend, the more curious I became and the more I wanted to learn exactly what these leaders and businesses were doing to achieve success.
These interviews have given me an opportunity to spend some real one-on-one time listening to and learning from those executives, and to study exactly how they are guiding their companies through these uncertain times. These CEOs have been so open and have shared their insights and ideas on the economy, on business, and on strategies they are implementing to make this economy work for them. Interviewing them has taught me to crack the code to success in this economy, and given me great motivation to share what I have learned. Here is a just a small sample:
Embrace Uncertainty – Number one on the list for these CEOs is to not only accept, but to actually embrace economic uncertainty. A major key to their success is their commitment to continuous education and to understanding this economy — what is working and not working in the market. Every CEO I interviewed had a passion to learn and an unstoppable curiosity. They all agreed that leading a company now is different — far different — than it has been in the past, and it takes a new type of leader. It takes a leader who is confident enough to take risks; one who can put their ego in check and be humble enough to learn from mistakes and be open to new ideas. These CEOs closely monitor trends in the marketplace; listen intently to customer and employee feedback; and reward personnel for innovation and new ideas to ensure their organization stays ahead of the curve. Leading this way and embracing this new reality allows these leaders to be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with unforeseen challenges, sudden changes in the market place, and the ever increasing demands of their customers.
Identify The Gap – Another key component of the success of these organizations is their relentless quest to identify the gap — in other words, identify unique opportunities where they can better serve their customer base. The goal is to “do business in this gap” and by doing that they are able to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. These CEOs understand that in this economy, what their company offers — whether it is a product or a service — is a commodity; in order to edge out their competition they have to find a way to uniquely position their product or service. Let me give you an example. I interviewed the CEO of a healthcare organization that offers technology solutions to hospitals and large medical practices. Despite operating in a mature market, this company saw growth last year upwards of 40%. Competition in this industry is intense; competition not only for customers but for employees. In order to lead the market place in both hiring top talent and attracting the best customers, the CEO challenged his team to identify where their customers’ biggest challenges and best opportunities were as it related to their product and service. Armed with that information, they were able to identify significant strategies that positioned their company and their product as clearly different and highly valued by their customers. In other words, they found the gap: the need their customers had that their competitors were not meeting.
Radical About Service – These CEOs are plugged into their customers. They understand that the market has changed, and this change has had a major impact on their customers: who they are, how they buy, and what they want. Understanding that their customer is in control has made customer service priority number one in all of these companies. These CEOs do more than give lip service to service; several have brought customer experience to the forefront of their organizations. Strategies include making it a part of executive-level leadership meetings; attaching pay increases and promotions to customer satisfaction; quarterly focus groups with key customers in target markets; and prioritizing training in the area of customer experience for all employees at every level throughout the organization. As one CEO explained to me, “Never before in my 40-plus years in this business has caring for our customers been more important. Understanding and acting on that is a major key to survival and success in this economy.”
That is just a small taste of the strategies, tips and advice these CEOs have shared. Over the next few months, stay tuned as I share more of these CEOs’ truly remarkable stories. Everything from building a culture of success; to diversifying business strategy and product offering; to finding your niche and creating ways to outpace your competition. While my blog will share the ideas, the book will tell you how to make them happen. To learn more, visit www.motionfirstnow.com