emphasizes that the Board of Directors should start every meeting discussing
the customers. What are they thinking? How is our franchise doing? What are the
metrics of repeat business? And similar questions. Why? Because financials are
reasonably straightforward, most board members are good at understanding them
without conversation, and customers are the foundation of every organization.
The author points out this is equally true for educational institutions,
regarding alumni and students, often considered mere irritants in Board
discussions. Who is to be served? The management? The shareholders are those
The author points
out that close listening to the wants, dislikes, and desires of the customers
is the foundation of profit, as the great marketing companies have found—from
P&G, to Coke, to IBM. When Lou Gerstner, turnaround expert extraordinaire
from McKinsey, took over IBM, he penciled in 40% of his time to listen to
customers. What were they thinking? What did they want? A long-term customer of
a simple product like Corn Flakes or Cool Whip can mean thousands and thousands
of dollars over a lifetime—and a good news messenger as well. A loyal car
customer can mean 250,000 or more over a lifetime.
Start here. With
the customer. The great companies do from Apple to Amazon; the great
educational institutions do from Harvard to Stanford; the weaker ones get off
course such as McDonald's did (too pricey) but recovered. The magic of Apple is
their long term customers…like them. We all should take note.
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