jennifer pellet and c.j prince


Competing in the Global Ideas Economy

Both the time and place of 2013’s CEO Leadership Summit could not have been more fitting. In December, in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and with the fiscal cliff still looming ahead, more than 100 business leaders from across the country gathered at the NYSE Euronext—an icon of free enterprise that later turned out to have been in the midst of a merger—to share ideas on navigating the challenges of the stormy global economy.

Five Execution Strategies That Work

1. Operational and Service Excellence
Covance’s Joe Herring 

Covance’s Joe Herring

“It’s the corniest, easiest to articulate strategy, but I think a very difficult strategy to actually execute against,” said Joe Herring, CEO of Covance, who explained that it’s been the execution model for the drug-testing and safety company for 10 years. “If you think about running a four-year clinical trial or drug safety testing for what could be a billion dollar drug for a sophisticated client, the data better be accurate and on time, and you better build a trust-based relationship. To put that strategy in a way that we could execute on it every day, we broke it down into people process and clients. And I can tell you, the effort we put into targeted selection, behavior-based interviewing, how we on-board, train, motivate, career path and terminate employees is fundamental to our strategy, absolutely fundamental. And since 1997, we’ve grown from about roughly $300 million in revenue to about $2.2 billion in revenue and from about 2,500 employees to 11,600 employees in 60 countries.”
2. Broaden Your Base
Ingersoll Rand’s Larry Wash 

Ingersoll Rand’s Larry Wash

“As a market leader in HVAC Systems, we were concerned about what would happen if the product commercialized or the market slowed,” recounted Larry Wash, who serves as president of Trane Global Services, a part of Ingersoll Rand’s Climate Solutions business. “So we looked at how to leverage our capability into doing something broader for our customers. In mature markets, we adopted a deliberate strategy of moving from equipment sales to system sales to solutions and then to services. We found that the journey of having a broader dialogue with your customers around systems and solutions inherently involves asking them about their broader business problems. As our understanding of those real problems accelerated, it allowed us to introduce many innovative service offerings so that now, when you fast-forward seven years, 40 percent of our revenue comes from services and solutions as opposed to equipment in mature markets.”
3. Blue Ocean Strategy
General Atlantic Partners’ Frank Brown 

General Atlantic Partners’ Frank Brown

“‘Blue Ocean strategy’ is simply changing the rules of the game, eliminating competition through a completely different construct of the way a business or market is attacked,” explained Frank Brown, a former dean of the leading business school INSEAD, who pointed to Cirque du Soleil as an example. “They did away with the competition of traditional circuses like Ringling Brothers by eliminating animals and turning it into performance art, a phenomenal success.”
4. Deliver on Customer Experience
Mike Ullman, former executive chairman of JCPenney 

Mike Ullman, former executive chairman of JCPenney

“To dramatically transform JCPenney, we had to build a differentiated experience that people would remember,” noted Mike Ullman, former executive chairman of the $17.8 billion retail chain. “We looked at the best of the best—companies like Wegmans, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks and The Container Store—that deliver the best customer experience in their respective industries. Then we identified our best 25 store managers and our best 25 sales people and looked at the characteristics that make them stand out. We found out there were some pretty simple principles. So we did several things at the same time. We used a modeling program that actually maps when the customers are in the store by hour and the hours of customer service against that. Using that model we picked up a 16 percent savings in salaries by actually putting people there when the customer is there—a novel concept. Then we essentially taught people that it was their responsibility to be themselves with a program called GREAT—Greet, Respect, Engage, Assist and Thank—and most of all, be yourself. We also adopted Southwest Airlines’ employee empowerment policy, which is that you only have to ask for permission to say no to a customer. Our customer service scores have soared. They’ve gone from 47 percent to around 66 percent. That’s key because in retail, highly satisfied customers come to your store 20 percent more often and spend 16 percent more.”
5. Leverage Your Core Assets
Wolters Kluwer Health Medical Research’s Karen Abramson 

Wolters Kluwer Health Medical Research’s Karen Abramson

“Our job for 200 years has been to print articles about medical research, bind them in a magazine, and send it out once a month on behalf of societies like the American Heart Association,” explained Karen Abramson of Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, the division of Wolters Kluwer she runs. “I came on board during a time of contraction in the pharmaceutical market and falling print subscriptions, when the entire industry is under enormous pressure. But at the same time 92 percent of physicians said their medical journal is the No. 1 resource they go to when treating a patient, so the content—the information—was very, very valuable. “Right around that time the iPad came into the market and we realized we had a disruptive technology that was going to be a real solution for us. This year we turned eight of our largest medical journals into iPad applications. By doing this, we’ve been able to deliver a much more interactive experience for our physicians. There’s video. There are interactive conversations. You can have social media discussions with other physicians. If something changes, we can send out an alert. “These were all wonderful things, but when we were scenario planning we had to question our revenue model, because our biggest revenue model was print advertising. Once we delivered this wonderful electronic system that everybody loved and wanted to convert to, what happens to the print revenue model? We decided that we would need to take the risk of telling our advertisers, ‘You’re buying an audience, you’re not buying circulation. So effective now, if we have an iPad ad out, we will not break the price between the digital pricing and the print pricing, we will make you buy that audience.’ I’m happy to report that in January, which was our first bundled sale for advertising, we have not had a single advertiser refuse to pay for this new bundle, which in some cases comes at a 30 percent to 50 percent premium.”

Aligning People with Business Strategy

Dick Flanagan, Emmet Keefe, Lars Bjork, Christine Jacobs

Dick Flanagan, Emmet Keefe, Lars Bjork, Christine Jacobs

Dick Finnegan

CEO, C-Suite Analytics Founder and President, The Retention Institute
“How important is retaining and engaging your teams? On a one-to-ten scale most of you would probably say ten. But while managers are held really accountable for [sales or revenue] metrics, they’re not held so accountable for retention and engagement. Yet 70 percent of how engaged your people are and whether or not they stay is about their boss— not about HR or employee programs. If you want to change your company to make retention and engagement metrics important, to drive them down to the first-line supervisor level, enforce them with reports that have names and tie outcomes to bonuses. Convert turnover percentages and engagement scores to the language we all know—dollars— so that now they’re really meaningful in your company.”

Emmet Keefe

CEO and Co-Founder, iRise
“The single biggest challenge for CEOs around alignment is how do you get business and technology people aligned and communicating and marching in this direction of automating business process and generating new things that will affect the top line? That’s huge because you have a fundamental communication problem between business and IT stakeholders; and as a CEO, if you’re going to really automate the business, drive it forward, make it more profitable, make the top line better, somehow you have to get the IT and business folks aligned.”

Lars Bjork

CEO, Qlik Tech
“What it all comes down to is you’ve got to motivate people. Why do they come to work? How can you assure yourself that they will come back to work the next day? Payment is not the No. 1 driver for young people today. It is feeling motivated, being engaged, making sure that they can contribute to the overall cause of the company, doing something that’s meaningful to them—which could well be financial success, but I don’t think that’s the sole driver.”

M. Christine Jacobs

CEO, Theragenics
“If I’d say anything based on my experience [maintaining alignment though a massive strategic shift that involved reorganizing and downsizing], it would be don’t you dare delegate this. Don’t let the HR people say, ‘I can do it for you, Chris.’ No, they can’t. You have to sit with the folks. You have to not delegate away your messaging to your people, because they are going to need you at that moment. I followed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and I said, I’m going to change the company; this is how I’m going to change it; and here’s how it affects you. I spent the majority of my time on the employees, because I felt these folks were the most important to the long-term success in transforming the company into a diversified medical device company.”

CEO2CEO Summit: The Challenge of Sustaining Long-Term Growth

In December, Chief Executive magazine gathered more than 100 CEOs at The New York Stock Exchange to explore the challenges they've encountered during these times of economic uncertainty and political upheaval.
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -


New Poll: CEOs Find Challenges In Using Customer Data To Drive Innovation

Ability to harness and sort through data for meaningful insights remains a hurdle, many say. “The key is...finding what is actually relevant.”


Sign Up to Receive Chief Executive Magazine

Chief Executive’s publications are designed to help CEOs do their jobs better and run their businesses more effectively. Subscribe here.


CEO Confidence Falls To Decade Low, But Few Predict Recession

Chief Executive’s June survey of 278 U.S. CEOs shows leading confidence indicator now at 5.5/10, the lowest reading in nearly a decade. Majority forecasts worsening conditions in the year ahead, though not a recession.