The heads of businesses need to get back with the customers. Tight
business conditions over the past several years have caused more chief
executive officers to make sure the internal workings of their
organizations were humming correctly.
CEOs also were pressured by fallout from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act,
which essentially makes them more personally liable for the validity of
their company’s results, forcing them to spend more time inside to make
sure that is the case.
But now, senior executives and managers say it is time for their chiefs to get back out with the customers.
While almost half of senior executives and managers say that their
chief executive spends most of his or her time internally focusing on
the business, only a quarter of them say the chief spends his or time
externally focusing on customers.
As to where the CEOs should spend their time, the majority of
executives and managers feel it should be externally with the
customers, according to our nationwide survey. Less than a third of
respondents thought the CEO should be spending the majority of time
internally focusing on the business.
“Focusing on your customers has to be the primary goal, because
without them you have no business,” said one survey respondent.
In organizations with more than 10,000 employees, a third of senior
executives and managers say the chief executive spends most of his/her
time externally focusing on investors, although only four percent say
the CEO should be spending his/her time focused there.
“Wall Street demands the attention, but clients deserve it,” said one survey respondent.
The reality is that the CEO has to balance many constituencies,
including investors, employees, vendors, associates, customers and the
“In public companies, too much time is spent on managing short-term
results and analyst expectations,” said another respondent. “A well
thought-out business plan and good long-term results should negate
unnecessary short-term focus.”
The grander, long-term approach can come from moving each
constituency along in tandem. Otherwise, too much emphasis and focus
can rest in one arena to the detriment of others.
“A true leader would find a way to balance their time,” said one
respondent. “In order to keep their finger on the pulse, it is critical
that he/she focus on both the internal (business and employee) and the
external (investors and customers) view. Otherwise, they become
one-dimensional and lose their competitive advantage.”
Said another: “Ideally, CEO focus should be balanced to both
customer and employee opportunities that support the business value
proposition and returns on investment, including human capital.”
The CEO must focus both internally and externally. “Focused,
motivated and dedicated employees remain the only sustainable
competitive advantage any company has,” said a respondent. “An emphasis
on them will result in the resolution of internal issues and will
result in delighted customers.”
Said another: “There is an important balance to be struck between
being keen on what is happening internally and spending quality time
interfacing with external constituents. Hiring a trustworthy internal
leader and establishing routine communications protocols that allow
both officers to share their internal and external views is critical to
allowing both to be successful.”
With too much time being spent internally these days, it is time for
the CEO to get back out with the customers, to improve that balance.