In today’s precarious international markets, CEOs face increasing challenges in leading companies. But great CEOs know they can learn from other successful businesspeople and look to those who came before them for lessons they can apply to their own situations.
Here are a few tried and true lessons from the masters.
“A company is people…employees want to know…am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted.” -Richard Branson
The brash Richard Branson clearly understands that employees are key in a service business. Anyone who ever flew Virgin Airlines during the turbulent industry years of 2000-2005 immediately saw the difference between Virgin employees and every other carrier. While flight attendants working for the competition were frowning, Virgin staff was smiling in beautiful red and purple uniforms that were colorful and fun.
In fact, although he certainly always flew in Upper Class — the Virgin version of First Class — Sir Branson regularly hopped on a Virgin flight rather than take the corporate jet just to check in with his employees. This air version of Tom Peters’s “Management by Walking Around” concept was a great morale booster. Employees like to have contact with the boss and know that they matter. Branson takes employees’ needs to heart, and the result is service that has customers raving about his companies over the competition.
“Long ago, Ben Graham taught me that ‘Price is what you pay; value is what you get.’ Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down.” -Warren Buffett
Providing real value to customers is a lesson that will build brand loyalty for years. Warren Buffett articulates this concept in his usual homespun language, but the message is clear. Competing on price alone is a tough business.
Although his emphasis is on buying stocks, Warren Buffett’s lesson to look for quality can be transferred to many aspects of business. With creative product development, brands such as Starbucks take commodities and instill them with value. The value of the successful coffee chain goes beyond the consistently good flavor from store to store to the entire experience of sitting and enjoying your drink with free WiFi. And for that, customers will pay a premium.
Of course, if you take after Warren Buffett, you’ll also be sure to know when quality items are on sale.
“Recognize that your success is not yours alone. Recognize the hand of God, the support of leaders and colleagues, the impact of external circumstances, and a lot of luck in your success. Take responsibility when things aren’t going well, and acknowledge the role of others when they are.” –Gary Crittenden
Perhaps the greatest lesson comes from Gary Crittenden, a business leader who sees that all people do not work or live in a vacuum. Recognizing that you are part of a team whether your role is CEO or receptionist will expand your horizons as to what is possible, build upon everyone’s successes, and help a firm rally everyone to get through tough times.
Sarah Boisvert writes on a wide range of business, travel, social media, and technology topics. She has flown over 1/2 million miles on Virgin Atlantic, which was only possible because of the smiling staff!