Tag Archives: CEO

VISTAGE to Sponsor April FFBS – Free Bonus Program

From Jim Brewer, whose organization, VISTAGE, is the monthly sponsor for the April First Friday Book Synopsis

It is my pleasure to be the sponsor this month. Twenty years! It seems like only yesterday when Karl and Randy started this event.
I believe you are part of one of finest gatherings of business professionals in the DFW area. You are committed to new ideas, breakthrough processes, and having thoughtful dialogue about how to make our businesses and our lives better.
I would like to make a special invitation to each of you to stay for the one hour breakout after the session.  We will share with you a snapshot of why over 21,000 CEOs and business leaders participate in monthly Peer Advisory Groups and how this process differs from in-house skill development, consultants or private coaching.  From studies done in partnership with Dun and Bradstreet, we know it works.  Our members grow at two to three times greater than the average in their industries.  Perhaps more importantly, they build companies that last and are fun to work for.
Please respond to Randy or directly to myself so that we can accommodate everyone.  If you cannot stay, please feel free to drop me a note or give me a call.  I would be glad to get you information or spend time with you one on one.
Congratulations again to Randy and Karl!
All the best,
Jim Brewer
972.467.4463 mobile
“Make no small plans; for they lack the magic to stir one’s blood.”  
Daniel Burnham, Architect of the first skyscrapers and father of the 1893 World’s Fair


Mark Cuban Led the Way in CEO Blogging

Books that  predict the future are interesting, although perhaps preparing for it, and creating it, usually provide greater returns.

Nevertheless, a new best-seller does just that.  Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd recently published an HR-focused book, The 2020 workplace:  How innovative companies attract, develop, and keep tomorrow’s employees today.  (New York: Harper, 2011).  I presented a synopsis of that book at the October First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, and it is now available at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.

Among the many predictions in the book is # 7 – “Job requirements for CEO’s will include blogging.”  They state that:  “The level of authenticity and concern that can be communicated through a CEO-level blog can’t be matched by press releases or blogs written by the public relations department….Hearing the voice of the CEO through his or her own writing, when it feels authentic, helps foster trust in an organization” (p. 220).

They suggest there are three major styles of CEO blogging:  (1) deeply personal, (2) highly opinionated, and (3) product messaging.

If you live in the DFW area, you are well aware that the greatest example of the head guy being highly opinionated through blogs is right under your own nose.  Mark Cuban is the Owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and popularized blogs before, during, and after his team’s basketball games.  You could read his views on his players, the action, and his favorite target, the referees.

These blogs were highly popular, some of which demonstrate the problems associated with putting opinions in print.  A number of the blogs led to huge fines imposed by the NBA, especially those that criticized referees.  Ironically, in 2008, Cuban banned blogging from the Mavericks’ locker room.  According to Deadspin:  “Mark Cuban dislikes bloggers who aren’t him.”

None of that matters.  I think that Cuban led the way.  His blogging is highly visible. controversial, provocative, and interesting.  Go to a game, concert, or even corporate meeting, and see how many people have at least one cell phone or other mobile device in their hand.  Some are texting, some are sending e-mail, but some are also blogging.  Cuban was the first of his type to do this.

And, if you believe this new best-seller, Cuban was ahead of his time.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about this really soon!


From Soup to Nuts? Maybe Not Even From Soup!

On Friday, August 5, at our First Friday Book Synopsis, I will present a book entitled Touchpoints:  Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments (2011, San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass).  The book is part of the Warren Bennis series.

This book is co-authored by Douglas Conant, who is the retiring President and CEO of Campbell Soup, and Mette Norgaard, who is a strategic leadership consultant.

The new CEO of Campbell Soup is Denise Morrison.  She starts her new job on Monday, August 1.  You can read about her at this link from the June 27 issue of Bloomberg Business Week


As you will read in that article, the task she faces is formidable.  Not only is soup consumption down, but her own company sales have been down and no better than flat.  Nothing the company has done seems to satisfy consumers.

I don’t drink soup in the summer.  It doesn’t sound good to me. 

And, I don’t like soups that remove the sodium.  As you read in this article, Campbell tried that, and it violated the taste expectations of its consumers.

Let’s watch the developments here.  What will she do?

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it really soon!

CEO’s Who Never Learn What is Really Important

I thought a survey of CEO’s published in the Monday, April 18, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal underscores that many just never learn.  The survey was conducted by the highly credible Conference Board, Inc., a non-profit research organization.

The article is by Joe Light, entitled “Most CEO’s Prize Growth, But Other Priorities Vary” (p. B8), surveys ten key priorities across three types of industries:  manufacturing, financial services, and other services.

Across the board, the # 1 priority was “business growth.”  Also, # 9 (international expansion) and # 10 (investor relations) were unanimous choices.

Perhaps you will be as shocked as I was to learn about where the CEO’s ranked  “customer relationships.”  In manufacturing, this ranked 9/10, while in financial services and other services, it was # 6.  Overall, it received a ranking of 7/10.

What?  How can relationships with customers be in the bottom half of the list?  How can these CEO’s expect to grow their businesses (unanimous # 1 choice) while not developing relationships with their customers?  Perhaps this explains why manufacturing is a commodity for many consumers – since there is no loyalty, customers just buy at the lowest price.  When there is not a relationship, issues such as quality even matter less than price. 

And, do you really want to work with people at a financial services firm whose CEO is more interested in growing the business (#1), government regulation (#2), talent (#3), corporte brand and reputation (#4), and cost optimization (#5) than you – the customer? 

Over the 14 years of the First Friday Book Synopsis, we have delivered many books about customer service.  But this survey was not about perceptions on “serving the customer.”  It was on “customer relationships.”

In addition, the article does not even discuss or elaborate upon customer relationships.  Even to its author, the survey result does not seem important.

Yet, we have seen many years of published advice on how to develop customer relationships, yielding loyalty, even in the face of changing conditions.

Wouldn’t you really like to sit down with some of these CEO’s and ask how they plan to grow their business (# 1 priority) without developing relationships with their customers (# 7 priority)?  Is cash really king?  Is the price more important than the person who pays the price?

Are you surprised?  How do you interpret this?  Let’s talk about it really soon!

Passing the Baton – One Woman at a Time

Cheryl offers: October’s HBR article “Why Succession Shouldn’t Be a Horse Race” describes how Xerox’s former CEO Anne Mulcahy successfully identified, developed and eventually passed the CEO baton to Ursula Burns, the first African American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company while also marking the first ever woman-to-woman succession. What was most interesting was how Anne deliberately worked to avoid Jack Welch’s famous departure when two of the three top candidates left with him once they learned Jeff Immelt had gotten the job. She said “I don’t believe in having people face off against each other for the CEO job in a classic horse race.” Kudos to her on two fronts: first for recognizing that losing valuable talent in this day and age is not good business and secondly for seeing collaboration is better for the business than competition when putting the best person in the job. GE lost 3 very talented employees when Jack left. Anne managed to retain her 3 top contenders after Ursula was named CEO, although one has since retired.  This article reinforced a message I read in Women and Leadership by Barbara Kellerman and Deborah Rhode.  In chapter 9 written by Marie C. Wilson, she notes “We need to fuel each other’s ambition, to give women the encouragement they need, and the courage embedded in that word. With our help, they can and will step forward and say, “I’m here. I can do this, and I want to lead.” This was written in 2007, just about the time Anne and Ursula were starting to write business history.  Those who support the laws of natural attraction would say, “Of course!”

What will I invest?

I met Captain Sam as I was flying  home last week – we sat beside one another on the flight.   Sam (I have changed the name because his business environment is really not healthy) has flown for American Airlines long enough that he has seen lots of change and 3 or 4 CEO’s.   We talked about a lot of things but what struck me was how the culture at airlines  was chipping away at Sam.  At one point I asked him about his relationship to his employer.  He said he feels like a 40 watt light bulb – cheap and easy to change.   Whoa!  Note to Gerald Arpey – you have a lot more to worry about than just  falling revenues!  Mihaly Csikzenthmihaly says it very well in his book Good Business:  Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning, “…if management views workers not as valuable, unique individuals but as tools to be discarded when no longer needed, then employees will also regard the firm as nothing more than a machine for issuing paychecks, with no other value or meaning.  Under such conditions it is difficult to do a good job…”   Mr Arpey,  I assure you that Sam is the best pilot he can be every time he enters the cockpit, but what is the burden on your workforce when the best of the best feel like a 40 watt light bulb?   Those who lead – whatever size the company – need to balance the needs of the business with the needs of their workforce.  Jim Collins reminds us in Good to Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t,  “Greatness is not a function of circumstance.  Greatness…is a matter of conscious choice.”