Customers hold key to entrepreneurs’ success


  • Business
  • Tuesday, 11 Feb 2003

BY K.P. LEE

ENTREPRENEURS can still succeed in a globalised economy dominated by large corporations as long as they focus on and meet the needs of their customers, said Jeffrey A. Krames, author of The Jack Welch Lexicon of Leadership

Krames, who is also the vice-president and editor-in-chief of publishing house McGraw-Hill's trade division, said during his lecture on Lessons on Leadership at Menara Star in Petaling Jaya yesterday that the common trait which transcended America’s most successful business leaders was their “obsession with success”. This inevitably translated into the need to meet customers’ expectations, he said. 

According to Krames, it was customers that ultimately determine the success or failure of a business, and effective leaders know that customer satisfaction is the key element in ensuring their companies could withstand the test of time. The most effective business leaders took an “outside in” perspective to their business, he added. 

Jeffrey A. Krames

“As Herb Keller, CEO of Southwest Airlines said, if you look after your customers, profits would follow,” Krames said. “Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, meanwhile built an organisation totally focused on satisfying customer needs.” 

Both Keller and Dell are listed among the seven “exceptional leaders” in Krames’ upcoming book, 7 Exceptional Leaders and their lessons for transforming any business, which will be released in April. Other business leaders and CEOs featured are Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jack Welch (General Electric), Lou Gerstner (IBM), Andy Grove (Intel) and Sam Walton (WalMart). 

According to Krames, who started with a list of 50 names when he began researching the book five years ago, there are certain characteristics which made these seven business leaders stand out among the many in corporate America. 

He said they set out first to build businesses which were long term and that outperformed their peers. “At GE, Jack Welch devised his ‘number one, number two’ strategy which called for all GE businesses to be either number one or two in their respective markets,” he said. 

Krames said these CEOs had an “evangelical leadership gene” which he translated as a charismatic element that motivated their employees to carry out their vision through the forcefulness of their personalities and sheer weight of their convictions. 

He added that successful CEOs also understood the critical role of culture and difficulties in bringing about meaningful cultural change in an organisation. 

“Ultimately, what made these CEOs special, in my opinion, was that they advanced the leadership body of knowledge in some meaningful way,” he said. 

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