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2014 CEO2CEO Summit:
Growing Your Business in Uncertain Times

Sometimes you have to get out of your office to be more effective in it. That, in a nutshell, is the premise behind events like December’s CEO SUMMIT at the New York Stock Exchange, where leaders gathered to share insights and brainstorm on solutions for their most pressing business challenges. These pages offer takeaways and highlights from the event.


CEO2-2IN KICKING OFF THE SUMMIT, Dow Chemical’s Andrew Liveris shared an optimistic outlook in his keynote address to peer CEOs—and challenged them to take part in the U.S.’s manufacturing revolution. “Manufacturing is an innovation-centric activity, which should be an American advantage,” he pointed out. “The ability of this country—because of its values, its institutions and the Constitution itself—to encourage individuals to be the best they can be, entrepreneurial action and be able to pivot according to the world we face is one of America’s greatest attributes.” The country’s geopolitical stability relative to the rest of the globe also strengthens that edge.

“The ability of this country to encourage individuals to be the best they can be, [to] … be able to pivot according to the world we face, is one of America’s greatest attributes.”

At the same time, he cautioned, today’s U.S. businesses must navigate an entirely new kind of competitor in the form of state-owned enterprises. “This is a quintessential issue in our times,” warned Liveris. “They have subsidized capital, subsidized energy, subsidized labor and a single goal that has nothing to do with EVA: employing people. They have a very different business model than you.”

The rapid pace of change today coupled with competition from this emerging force means that if businesses are to survive they must continually find ways to add value. “You need to innovate faster than the enterprises from these nation states that are commoditizing you at the speed of live,” he said. “As manufacturers, the biggest issue we have [in achieving that] is in training a new, technically skilled work force.”

Coming to the Summit fresh from meeting with President Obama in Washington, Liveris added that some progress has been made on that front as part of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee, on which he serves. “The critique of this Administration is hot and heavy, especially around things like healthcare, but you have to give this Administration credit for addressing the manufacturing revolution,” he said, pointing to the launch of five Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation where industry, academia and government partners co-invest and collaborate to nurture manufacturing innovation and accelerate commercialization. “These are national training centers that you can all contribute to, that will [enable us] to show high school kids and even younger generations that trades are noble professions, that not everyone needs to have a double Ph.D. in economics.”


CEO2-3CONCEPT: Three panelists weigh in on how best to nurture innovation and harness its power


“We accomplish what we measure, there is great truth to that. We also accomplish what we recognize, what is reinforced, what becomes part of our mythology. At Cardinal, we never miss an opportunity to talk about an innovation, including what didn’t work. I would also tie diversity to innovation. You cannot get innovation in a highly charged environment when everyone talks sounds and looks the same. You need to find different types of people to populate your leadership team. “Finally, we, as leaders, have to give voice to the heretics. We all have those people who can drive you and other people crazy, but that is where a lot of that innovation comes from.”


“You cannot overcommunicate. You may feel that you articulate your vision and your strategy to the point of nausea, but on any given day 3 percent or more of your people haven’t heard it before. “If you only have a $1 to spend, you want to spend 99 cents on people. My success is routed in the success, the strength and the collaboration of other people. “As painful as it is it is, it is always good to have a few internal activists who will challenge the status quo.”


“The thing that has spurred innovation for us is a deep conviction and shared passion that we have the chance to make a significant impact and change the world for good. The single most important thing we do is attract people of that ilk. We are in this together and linking arms. There is a tremendous foxhole bonding. Getting people who understand it, who live it and feel it in their bones is the most effective thing you can do.”


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