It’s Friday, and I figured it was as good of a time for a guest post as any. This time, however, we have someone that obviously doesn’t get it. But that’s not all, while this guy seems to be in touch with whats going on, he also appears completely ignorant of the fundamental change that has happened to the world of business. That fundamental change, in case you have not recognized it yet, is that the customer is in charge, not the corporation.
I’ll offer you his loosely paraphrased thesis, though I encourage you to read it in its entirety:
“CEO’s that ask their customers and partners for advice in public are weak “community CEO’s” whose openness leads the customer to lose faith in the product and leave the company staff without confidence in their leader.”
He goes on to further insinuate not only that the feedback should not be solicited at all, but should also only come from peers/equals and compensated third parties. Doing it any other way makes for a Community CEO who projects a weak image of the company to its customers, weak leadership to its staff and overall lack of leadership ability. He cements his opinion by citing that he has never seen a Fortune 100 CEO ask for public advice on how to run their company.
I must admit, he makes a very valid point. For aspiring entrepreneur class of 1907, that is.
Welcome to 2007. In this day and age, the companies that make it big are the companies that are in tune with their customer, their partner and their community. The good ol’ boy club of business leadership, behind the closed doors with lit cigars contemplating the collective stupidity of the consuming public, with no regard for rules, fairness or ethics… well… those days are gone, long gone, and the days of business decisions behind closed doors without public input are numbered. Those that dilude themselves with the illusion that they are not almost entirely driven by the customer are on the way out. Those that embrace their clients and open their practices are winning.
I have many (many, many, many, many) coleagues that feel the exact opposite way. To them, only the nice things are voiced out loud, the dirty laundry is kept hidden, far, far away where it is ignored because I guess they think nobody will figure it out eventually. The public image is only a positive, beautiful, glowning one meant to hug you with one hand while reaching into your pocket with the other. Yet, they are surprised when it backfires.
So, let me offer you my thesis: People don’t give a damn about you, your opinions or leadership skills. They do business with you because you have a product that fits their needs and the more that product fits their needs, the more involved they are in the process, the more they understand the outcome and leverage it to their benefit. Even if its full of holes and shortcomings, people will find a sense of belonging in it, spread it for you, offer others help with using it…They become product fans but they do so because of the product and the process, not YOU. It is not about you. It’s all about the customer:
Customer is king.
Customer has a choice.
Customer can choose the status quo that has always taken them for granted, abused and irrelevant, that has constantly been in trouble and caught red handed over and over….. or
Customer can choose a company that is open and willing to listen to its feedback.
Not only do the Community CEOs work, they are the only ones people want to work with/for.
You have no idea how often I am asked to reserve myself in these blog posts, to not talk about certain things, to sweep some things under the rug, to not say anything bad about Microsoft as to damage our relationship, to not say anything too good about them either because I sound like a fanboy, to not talk about the upcoming features because people will take them away, to refrain from snide remarks and just be the happy go lucky Vlad who can only be honest behind the closed doors, sweeping the ugliness under the rug so everyone can live in a happy, but dishonest/unrealistic/nonexistant, harmony. And I ignore them. Proudly. Loudly.
Yet my company grows exponentially beause my focus is not on what people think… because only people that get compensated based on what people think of them are the beggars who want people to feel sorry for them. I choose to focus on delivering what people want, and I’m damn proud to ask the people what they want because its ultimately the clients that pay the bills, not my fan club.
Now… Do you finally get Vladville?