Saturday, August 15, 2009

HBR: What Are CEOs and Managers Talking About Now?


"But recently, I've noticed a change. One day, a reporter asked me what mistake every CEO should avoid making during these times and what opportunities they should be pursuing. Before I answered the question, I thought I should informally survey some of the peer-group CEOs. I suspected their answer would be in line with mine, which focused on planning for profitability and cash management.

But when I asked about 30 CEOs the questions, few mentioned cost cutting or profit management at all. I was shocked and relieved with their responses as they implied that the layoffs and cost cutting are behind them! Then I noticed a change in some of the Strategic Business Cases that I have seen in the groups over the last three months. Compare these to the ones above:

• Strategy to invest in web 2.0/social marketing to capture consumer market share
• Sales channel strategy to ramp sales of new products while driving down long-term costs
• New service positioning pitch to capture an emerging market in the telecom space
• Opportunity analysis--which projects to accelerate, which to cut?
• New "Software as a Service" product roadmap
• Investments in Marketing--where to experiment, how to allocate funds?
• Taking advantage of a "fire sale" acquisition and plan to leverage it
• Financing strategy--which term sheet, if any, to take?

Even the words contained in that list--strategy, ramp, opportunity, roadmap, experiment--are promising. Let's hope the projects can be sustained. Already, it suggests that there's some truth to that old saw that a bad economy is full of new opportunities that the best companies will pursue. I got the sense from these CEOs that the challenge isn't in believing that a bad economy is a time of opportunity, but rather in executing on the opportunities while staying prudent with day-to-day operations.

Finding that balance is the hard part given all the unknowns, but it's important and requires time and attention so that good companies can come out of this stronger in the end. I believe many will."

1 comment:

P said...

great questions to ponder as a manager. leading a small startup, those are the tough questions to ask oneself