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Publisher's Outlook
June 2001


Who Needs A CEO Anyway?
If You Have To Have Them...
How To Make The Most Of Them


First Things First
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many wonderful readers who have sent me complimentary and supportive letters regarding my recent editorials. Your letters have told me that you are very interested in what our leaders in Washington, D.C. are doing and their affect on your businesses. You are also very concerned about what the leaders of your own businesses are doing (or not doing, in the case of advertising and marketing). It seems many of you have experienced the frustration of having either your CFO or CEO slash marketing and advertising budgets because they simply don't understand that such an action will most likely have a devastating affect on the company's long-term prosperity.

Unfair Treatment Of Some CEOs By The Press
In fairness, most CEOs are bright individuals whose contributions to their corporations and their employees are positive, which is why it disturbs me that in recent articles in the national press, several CEOs were attacked as being responsible for the decline of the value of their shares in the stock market. In fact, such declines had nothing to do with the CEOs, but very much to do with the totally uncalled for rapid rise in interest rates directed by Alan Greenspan to fight non-existent inflation (as explained in my March 2001 editorial).

One such newspaper article appeared in the New York Post on Sunday, April 29, 2001 on page 54. The headline for this article was "The Big Executive Rip-Off: While CEOs Get Big Bucks Shareholders' Returns Sink"! In this harshly worded article by Emily Lambert, the CEOs of several major corporations were portrayed as villains or tyrants who paid themselves very high salaries ranging from $48 million to $225 million a year while their stockholders lost anywhere from 22% to 61% of their portfolio values. The article also included the following quote:

"When Business Week releases their list of the 10 companies with the highest paid CEOs for 2000, that would be a good list of stocks to sell short."

When you consider the true achievements of many CEOs of major corporations, you realize that the article was totally unfair and as the saying goes, "It was barking up the wrong tree"! The attack should have been directed at Alan Greenspan, whose completely foolish action of rapidly raising interest rates in the year 2000 caused the turmoil on Wall Street, thereby creating over 5 1/2 trillion dollars of losses in portfolio values from 401Ks, employee pension plans and all other investments from a variety of small and large investors. In my opinion, the executives mentioned in this article, such as Sandy Weill of Citigroup, John Chambers of Cisco, Jozef Straus of JDS Uniphase and David Wetherell of CMGI, to name a few, should be considered as some of the greatest chief executives and visionaries of our time. It is truly a shame that some authors cannot see the forest from the trees. As I have stated in many of my editorials, it is unfortunate that trash journalism sells newspapers!

Putting Matters In Perspective
Having risen from extremely modest beginnings, i.e., delivering Manhattan phone directories in New York City and getting attacked by dogs and selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door and later working in plastics factories to currently CEO of Technology Marketing Corporation, I feel I have observed a great deal about what a CEO should be or should not be. I therefore would like to share some of my views that are gained from firsthand experience.

What An Ideal CEO Should Be
A CEO, like anyone else in any corporation, must earn his or her pay. The CEO must be a strong leader and lead by example. In addition to being a good businessperson, an effective CEO should have most, if not all, of the following attributes.

  1. Must Be A Facilitator -- Perhaps one of the most important functions of a CEO is to be a facilitator and help make the job of everyone else easier, not more difficult. Believe it or not, I have observed a number of ego-driven CEOs who have no common sense and have actually made life extremely difficult for their employees and colleagues, thereby damaging the corporation.
  2. Must Be A Visionary -- In the dictionary, a visionary is described as one who is given to seeing visions; one who indulges fanciful theories. In my opinion, a visionary is one who can see a path of the future, which is not obvious at all to non-visionaries. Without a clear vision, a CEO will not be able to provide a direction for the rest of the organization to work toward.
  3. Must Sell The Vision -- Once a vision has become worthwhile for the CEO to take action on, he or she must then sell the vision by providing convincing and compelling evidence and reasoning to the entire company so that everyone is on board and on the same page. Without this action, the vision will go nowhere.
  4. Must Keep Everyone Focused And Call For Action -- In many organizations, when leadership is too creative and a CEO is unable to prioritize the many ideas and work on them one at a time with 100 percent focus, the ideas often get nowhere because no one in the organization has a clue as to what to do or what not to do. In many organizations, you will find that several ideas are floating around due to lack of focus and nothing gets done on any of these ideas. Thus, ideas without action are worthless. In my opinion, this is even worse than having no idea because the results are the same.
  5. Treat Everyone With Respect -- A great leader must treat his or her employees, customers and vendors with the utmost respect. In my judgment, the greatest assets of any corporation, in alphabetical order, are customers, employees and vendors. I call this group of three crucial components the golden triangle (see the September 1999 "Publisher's Outlook").
  6. Must Help All Employees Grow -- As the CEO, you must be extremely prudent when hiring employees, always looking for people who have a positive, flexible, can-do attitude. You want to surround yourself with people who are true team workers, dedicated and resourceful (see my editorial on hiring in the February 1998 issue). Once you have a team of competent, creative and ambitious people in your organization who are anxious to accept greater responsibility, it is the job of the CEO to help every employee grow and position each for greater responsibilities.
  7. Promote From Within -- If a CEO truly follows the above, the next crucial ingredient for building a successful organization is to promote from within. I can state categorically that at TMC, some of the best performers are those who were promoted from within. If a CEO is truly interested in keeping his or her outstanding employees, nothing is more powerful than developing them, preparing them for greater responsibilities, then promoting them.
  8. Don't Let Egos Get Out Of Control And Destroy Everything -- I have made a few observations about egos and how they affect business. On one hand, a person who does not have a strong ego will rarely, if ever, get anywhere. On the other hand, if someone has a powerful ego, but this ego is out of control, he or she will create more enemies than friends and this type of person will never get anywhere either. We have all heard the great proverb, "You can catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar." Therefore, CEOs must keep their egos in check.
  9. Allow No Politics In The Organization -- You may be thinking, "Nadji, you have got to be kidding me. Every organization is loaded with politics." My answer is politics are like a cancer to any organization and playing politics is a game played only by incompetents. Experienced leaders know this and are rewarded with stable organizations that are not likely to go out of business. A truly experienced manager does not allow politics in any organization. Period.
  10. Must Use No-Nonsense Management Practices -- A successful CEO must keep things very simple and make it clear to all employees that the bottom line is results. Those who produce the greatest results will rise in the organization and those who do not will not stay in the organization. Here at TMC, I love nothing more than promoting our outstanding team members.
  11. Competent People Are Compensated Well -- It has been said that you cannot hire first-class employees with second-class compensation. Top performers are smart people and they know how much they are worth. It has been my personal experience that those who make very little money prior to joining you are not really bargains; they make little money because they have little to offer. I recall one year we hired a salesperson who had been making $17,000 a year in his previous job. I was extremely reluctant to hire this person because of that, but the sales manager talked me into it by saying, "What do you have to lose?" We hired that person, and after three months, no sales were made! In short, you get what you pay for!
  12. Use The Management By Walking Around Technique -- This is the best part of my job as a CEO. I truly enjoy it the most. By going around and getting to know everyone by their first name and learning something about their families, friends or pets goes a long way toward building a relationship between the CEO and the employees. Ironically, CEOs always talk about CRM, but very few talk about ERM (employee relationship management). Yet, without ERM, customer relationship management is nothing more than wishful thinking!
  13. A CEO Should Be A Door Opener For The Sales Department -- One of the greatest things a CEO can do is to assist the sales and marketing departments to open doors to new customer opportunities. Believe it or not, most people have tremendous respect for the high position of the CEO of any responsible organization and, therefore, having the CEO around in sales meetings with customers will produce wonders. To say the least, the CEO's presence convinces the customer that you are seriously interested in their business because most CEOs do not travel with their sales departments. Trust me, your customers will be extremely impressed and sometimes honored to have the CEO included in the sales team. In short, there is no greater door opener for new sales and no greater relationship builder in any organization than the CEO. Unfortunately, this extremely crucial function of the CEO is often neglected, whereas, in this slowing economy, nothing could be more effective than having the CEO along to reinforce relationships with the customers and communicating the CEO's appreciation for the business that the customer provides him or her all along.

A Word Of Caution -- Taking The CEO Along Could Be A Double-Edged Sword
Unfortunately, there are egomaniac CEOs who do nothing but harm if you take them along to meet customers. Such CEOs only serve to destroy customer relationships and the company loses sales in the long run. Unfortunately, employees or sales staff cannot do very much about taking such individuals on sales calls. Indeed, I have observed several CEOs who fall into the outrageous category who actually embarrass staff and customers and make horrible scenes in front of customers and as such, they create more problems then they are worth. If you have a CEO of that type, avoid taking him or her anywhere. In fact, you have to question the wisdom of the board of directors of such corporations that would keep that kind of CEO. Bottom line, if you are fortunate enough to have a CEO who is charismatic and compassionate, one who is blessed with a great deal of empathy and enthusiasm and is politically correct, take him or her along. There is no better way to open doors for greater sales and to reinforce customer relationship management. On the other hand, if your CEO is of the other variety, you have every right to say who needs a CEO anyway!

As always, I welcome your comments.

Nadji Tehrani
Executive Group Publisher

[ Return To June 2001 Table Of Contents ]

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