Many readers know I am a BIG fan of encouraging CEOs to spend a bunch of their time out with customers. (I recommend 20-25%). While I cannot yet prove this improves the performance of your company (Bob Johnson and I are working on a research project to test this theory), I have a LOT of anecdotal evidence to suggest a strong correlation and causality. Therefore when I find more evidence, I like to share it.
In a Fortune article on the World’s Most Admired Companies in the March 21, 2011 edition, they note that Samuel Palmisano has taken IBM to new heights building on what Lou Gerstner rebuilt. Of course, I cite Gerstner’s refocus on spending time with customers as a key to IBM’s resurgence. And now we find that Palmisano spent up to 70% of his time with customers when he first became business unit leader of Global Services. He still speaks to at least one customer every day. He is quoted as saying, “You can read all the economic data, but you’re not going to get a sense of your customers.”
As author John Le Carre said, “A desk is a terrible place from which to watch the world.” Get off your butt, quit making excuses and get out of the office and see what is really going on with your customers and in your market.