Category Archives: John Hartman

3 Strategies for Overcoming the Threat of Disruption

The topic of the April CEOtoCEO Breakfast was “Can You Survive the Age of Disruption?”

In the current business environment, operational excellence has become an imperative for business rather than a competitive advantage. The ability to rapidly adapt to a change in circumstances is what really sets companies apart today.

Consequently, chief executives need to deliver more than quality control, cost control and continuous improvement. They need not only to manage the continuous threat of disruption and ride the waves of change, but to overcome them, rather than be overwhelmed by them.

Here are 3 ways chief executives can out-fight the disruption beast.

“Companies should not fight disruptive ideas, but try them out on a small scale to see if they work.”

  1. Reinvent your company, don’t just optimize it.As Theodore Levitt explained in his classic “Marketing Myopia”, one of the reasons for the decline of the railroad companies in the U.S. was that they saw themselves as railroad companies rather than as transportation companies. This led them to a focus on optimizing their companies, while the entire railroad business model was being outflanked by newer means of transportation: car, trucks and airplanes. So define your business on the basis of the customer need you are trying to meet, not the product or service you are currently offering.
  2. Disrupt your own business.As Arie de Geus documented in his “The Living Company”, one of the keys to corporate longevity is a willingness to trying out new things. Using what essentially is a lean approach, companies should not fight disruptive ideas, new ways of meeting the customer need, but try them out on a small scale, see if they work, and take things from there. (I would recommend undertaking such activities in isolation from the core business. Let it be done by different people and house them in a different building. As Kodak experienced when it came to the digital camera business too late, new ideas have a habit of not developing well or soon enough when surrounded by those they could potentially disrupt.)
  3. Manage your company as a “portfolio of opportunities”.This includes moving away from the traditional, linear strategy process. Strategic planning should not be about identifying the most likely future, but the range of possible futures, including extremes. (Often it is the extremes where your competition makes advancements, so it’s critical to keep informed about these.) Strategy formulation discussions should then be about how your company could best position itself, and which business to give prominence in each of these futures. Final commitment of resources should be delayed as long as possible and, thus, made part of strategy execution, when you know how the market is really changing. This enables you to optimize utilization of the resources of your company whatever the future turns out to be.

GE is an excellent example of how this is done in practice. It recently launched “Current”, bringing together its various businesses of relevance to Renewable Energy – LED, Solar, Energy Storage, Electric Vehicle and Predix, its predictive analytics technology. It had been developing and trying these technologies for years, and now feels the time is right to push them forward and make them a focus for the company.


How to Avoid Hiring and Recruiting Mistakes

CEOtoCEO Breakfast speaker Benson Porter CEO of BECU shared the “BECU special sauce” that has brought BECU into an era of unprecedented growth in member service, community giving, and technological development.  A key ingredient of BECU’s success is hiring for attitude over skill.

According to a groundbreaking study by Leadership IQ, 46% of newly hired employees will fail within 18 months, while only 19% will achieve unequivocal success. But contrary to popular belief, technical skills are not the primary reason why new hires fail; instead, poor interpersonal skills dominate the list, flaws which many of their managers admit were overlooked during the interview process.

The study (reported in Fortune and Forbes) found that 26% of new hires fail because they can’t accept feedback, 23% because they’re unable to understand and manage emotions, 17% because they lack the necessary motivation to excel, 15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job, and only 11% because they lack the necessary technical skills.

The typical interview process fixates on ensuring that new hires are technically competent. But coachability, emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament are much more predictive of a new hires’ success or failure. Do technical skills really matter if the employee isn’t open to improving, alienates their coworkers, lacks drive and has the wrong personality for the job?

To improve the success of your hiring practices by hiring for attitude and training for skill click here

What are the unique qualities of an excellent leader?

The round table question at the February CEOtoCEO Breakfast was “What are the unique qualities of an excellent leader?”  Attending CEOs offered a variety of responses including a compelling vision, active listening, rational decisions and strong relationships were offered by participants.

One of our speakers, Karen Lee, CEO of Pioneer Human Services who has previously excelled in leadership positions in government, utilities, education, law and the military offered Courage as the unique quality of an excellent leader.

Thought you might be interested in an expert from a post by Bill Treasurer that speaks to why courage is a central quality of excellent leaders.

Aristotle called courage the first virtue, because it makes all of the other virtues possible. In addition to being the most important human virtue, it is the most important business virtue, as well. Think about it: Other important business concepts like leadership, innovation and sales wither in the absence of courage. Leadership takes making bold and often unpopular decisions. Leadership takes courage. Innovation involves creating ground-breaking but tradition-defying ideas. Innovation takes courage. Sales requires being repeatedly rejected before closing a deal. Sales takes courage. Take away courage, and sales, innovation and leadership lose their potency.

Contrary to popular belief, courage is a teachable and learnable skill, and most everyone has the capacity to be courageous. Moreover, nearly all courageous acts represent one or more of three types of courage:

TRY Courage: The courage of initiative and action— making first attempts, pursuing pioneering efforts and stepping up to the plate.

TRUST Courage: The courage of confidence in others— letting go of the need to control situations or outcomes, having faith in people and being open to direction and change.

TRY Courage: The courage of voice— raising difficult issues, providing tough feedback and sharing unpopular opinions.

8 Characteristics of a CEO With a Great Reputation

Those are among the conclusions of a new CEO Reputation Survey by public relations firm Weber Shandwick, whose respondents included 1,700 senior executives across 19 countries.

What are the elements of a solid reputation that can elevate a CEO or company owner and, thus, his company? The executives surveyed offered up this list of 8 characteristics that help determine the difference between a “highly regarded CEO” and a “poorly regarded” one.

The executives surveyed attributed nearly half (45%) of their company’s reputation to the reputation of their CEO, and half of them predicted that CEO reputation will matter more to company reputation in the next few years.

In fact, “company leader reputation” placed fourth among the factors that “influence a great deal” a company’s overall reputation, with 49% of those executives surveyed citing it. The No. 1-cited factor was “quality of products and services” with 66%, followed by “financial performance” 57%, and the company’s industry’s reputation 50%. “Marketing and communications efforts” also were cited by 49%.

Less-important factors included “company reputation for innovation” 48%, “what news media says about company” 45%, “what employees think and say about the company” 42%, and “what is said about the company in social media” 32%.

Also, CEO reputation is very consequential for the bottom line Executives estimated that 44% of their company’s market value is attributed to the reputation of their CEOs. “This extraordinary interdependence between CEO reputation and market value demonstrates that leadership is a resource worth investigating in and cultivating,” Weber Shandwick said.

“Business leaders are at a pivotal point,” the report further concluded. “They are emerging from a period in which CEOs kept fairly low profiles, raised to the public spotlight only by crisis or scandal. While they were keeping quiet, the media landscape exploded around them, effectively crowding out carefully crafted message points and spawning increasingly distracted audiences only interested in 140 characters at a time.”

Fortunately, the report advised, “CEOs have entered a golden age of opportunity in which to tell their company stories. They are far less dependent on traditional media to profile their biographies and echo their future strategies. CEOs can now take their storytelling content directly to stakeholders without negotiating with the media,” through content marketing and social media.

Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications.

Customers talk to others about the brands they trust

At the CEOtoCEO Breakfast last week Kurt Dammeier, CEO of Sugar Mountain shared the brand tenets his company beechersembraces that naturally converts customers and clients into passionate Mavens (brand ambassadors) and who in turn spread the positive buzz for his businesses.

Kurt stressed how important it is to gain your customers trust as a key to increasing word of mouth promotion of your business.  One way to gain trust is to emphasize who you are (your company) more that what you are (products and services).  If customers like who you are and what you’re about they will trust you more and share that with others.

Kurt’s demonstrates transparency to build trust with customers by locating his company Beecher’s Cheese  is in downtown Seattle and New York with ample windows for customers to view the cheese being made.

Speaking of windows Kurt spoke to how charity is also an important tenet to the Sugar Mountain brand as it provides customers a “window into the soul of the company”.  To walk the talk Beecher’s created and manages the Beecher’s Flagship Foundation that provides educational programs on healthy eating to Puget Sound schools.  One-percent of Beecher’s sales dollars helps fund the foundation.

What are you doing to build trust and your brand with your internal and external customers?  Answers to that question may start a word of mouth epidemic for your business!  Now that’s really something to talk about.

Avoid these common mistakes!

I don’t know about you but I find that the changes in healthcare benefits are murky and confusing at best.  Pat Chestnut, AAOA Healthcare, provided a candid peek under the tent of what is going on with the politically charged Affordable Care Act. One of the valuable nuggets Pat shared at the CEOtoCEO Breakfast is identifying the… Continue Reading

Back To the Stone Age? New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Bans Working From Home Good idea or bad idea? What are your thoughts?

We recently asked members of the online CEO Discussion Group what they thought of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayers decision to ban working from home.  Thought you might be interested in some of the comments from your peer leaders. “It is all about creating cultures for the new reality of business.”  “Hire the best people, wherever… Continue Reading

How Blue (Ocean) Are You?

No I am not asking about your politics!  I am referring to the Blue Ocean Strategy that presents a theory, tools, and frameworks to allow your company to break away from the competition and create a new market space. As part of our Innovation Team session last week participating CEOs collaborated on how to create… Continue Reading

Sometimes a good question is worth a thousand facts.

Thanks to his participation at the CEOtoCEO Breakfast I’ve had the pleasure of getting acquainted with John Meisenbach founder and CEO of MCM. MCM has grown to become one of the largest privately held benefits consulting and insurance brokerage firms in the Northwest. John is well known and respected by many due to the individual… Continue Reading