I asked a bunch of CEO’s around the world the following question:

“As a CEO we all have our own, sometimes strong, opinions, so what the top three things that YOU think you must get right if you want your business to be successful”?

Quality, Commitment, ‘n an eye for the receivables! – just my two cents –        Manoj Chandran

Getting the right people on the bus, getting the wrong people off, and getting the right people in the right seats – Robert Donnelly

Focus on PEOPLE as suggested by Robert above (in all three versions on, off, right) Focus on VALUE to clients
Focus on PROFITABLE revenues…don’t chase every order for the sake of making top line goals – Jacques J Marcotte

I agree with Robert. Then … treat them well – Fran Kruc

The first is vision clarity
The second is focusing on high-leverage acitivities that produce results
The third is execution via clear communication at every level – Jim Norman

As a small business working with other small businesses, my primary focus is understanding my clients’ immediate needs. My secondary focus is ensuring that my clients implement the best solution to solve their needs. My tertiary focus is to follow-up with my clients to ensure that they are working on meeting their goals – Gaines Harrell

Focus, Commitment and People – Sudhakar Shanbhag

I agree with Jim – vision is where it all begins. Without it you have no idea what people are the right people – Neville Pokroy

“The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Father Theodore Hesburgh (former President of the University of Notre Dame). A powerful vision provides inspiration, challenge, and purpose. It gives meaning to your work and purpose to your business. Your business gives you a place where you can satisfy your need to achieve. Everyone’s life needs a purpose, something important to strive for. One way to add both meaning and context to your vision is to establish values. Clearly defined values simplify decision making. They also help ensure consistency as well as ethical and behavioral congruency – Surya Ganduri

The Gulf oil spill ought to make it very clear that vision and leadership need to focus on providing massive value to society and our environment, customers being part of society; with profit being a byproduct.

TEAM leadership, people are partners, not slaves. Even the person pushing a broom often has great ideas to improve the overall operation,

Let’s Co-Create a sustainable environment and better world for all of us. Let’s focus on creating double wins and everyone can come out winning. Exploiting our environment and / or other people is not winning in the long run – John Crockett

Create the Vision, communicate it, and then have the ability to execute it. Most CEO’s fail to execute. Great people, creating value, and …. is all part of the vision – Ali Fartaj

Many good points above. I will shift the focus which are my specialties:

- Shifting the HR function from a cost center to a profit center;
- bridge the gap between departments by creating better communication and by creating a better understanding of the needs in other departments; and
- improving productivity, morale and customer satisfaction (your employees are your greatest asset and, if treated properly, will be far more productive. Every company has its own unique culture so it is critical to avoid making assumptions. That being said, when productivity and morale are up then customer satisfaction is also typically improved. That translates to real dollars from both ends. It should free up budget for R and D, marketing and acquisitions – David Gabor

Some great comments guys and I agree with the emphasis on VISION, PEOPLE, VALUE, however it seems that making a PROFIT is not high on the list. I can tell you that when you are running a publicly held company, making a profit is pretty high on the list of the shareholders, so I would be pleased to hear thoughts on profit! – Jack Sims

From a business point of view, all businesses are in the business to make money. How to go about achieving that goal is all up to the individual businesses (their values, vision, culture etc). And, that is what makes it very interesting.
There are many companies that were in the news over the last several years that clearly operated and made decisions with no values and we are all aware of how it impacted people’s lives. However, there are a lot of companies who have well defined values and make decisions with those values ever present – Surya Ganduri

No offense to any of the previous posters, but much of it seems to me to be more chest beating, political correctness and what I call “for Mom, Dad and apple pie”.

IMHO, the CEO must manage the company, first and foremost. You can’t be the CTO or the CFO or the Program Manager or be fully billable. You have to manage the company if you want it to succeed.

Second, you must demonstrate leadership. The CEO must LEAD the company and make the tough decisions.

And third you must learn how to delegate. I have yet to meet a CEO who excels at every aspect of running a company. You have to pick your “assistant CEOs”, let them do their thing, listen to their advice and then make the decision.- Walter Wise

The best line I ever heard was from Loral Langemeier when I was at CEO Space and she said: “if it’s not your genius, it’s not your job!”. She said that of all the millionaires she knows (she is one of them) and a few billionaires she knows, the only common denominator was this. If you are the vision guy and not the finance guy, get a finance guy that his genius is finance. It is similar to good to great as mentioned above but the team is what makes or breaks a company.

The next most important thing is to figure out what the customer wants and then give it to them better than anyone else. You can have an average manager but take care of the customer better than anyone else and you still win. Those are my two power points. – George Ishee

Further to Walter’s comment, the CEO has to assemble a team. That team has to advance the business. The suggesting I made were for the team to accomplish and not for the CEO. However, a successful team needs a CEO who is fully engaged in the process and the business of the company. – David Gabor

Should a CEO behave and think like a pilot or like the owner of the plane ???

Good CEO should think like the owner… Flavian Raymond D’souza

Cashflow, Team, Marketing! The 3 Keys – Rustam Urani

Love the “if it’s not your genius, it’s not your job!.” Thanks George for passing it along. No business needs to apologize for being in business to make a profit, but not at any price which unhappily we see in some public companies. For me, the comments around vision, values, and leadership ring true. While it is an over simplification, if the organization has those three secured, profits will follow and, I believe, continue to grow.

I am also a fan of Jack Welch’s well-known advice: “Don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you are.” – Dave Opton

I agree with Robert and Gaines,its all about people,their immediate problems or need and how you deliver them…. Osa-Maxwell Osaregie

Innovative product or service desired by marketplace, shared company values and positive working capital – Michael Corcaron

1.                   Have a full and clear understanding of the MISSION and PURPOSE of the company and be able to effectively COMMUNICATE this to the entire team of the company. This is the sole key that dictates the success of the company. Unless you know where you are going, how do you plot a course to get there? EVERYONE (down to the housekeeping staff) in the company needs to not only be able to parrot the company’s mission statement, but to successfully execute their part in fulfilling the company’s mission and purpose. Who is on your team? Where they are on the team? Why are they on the team?

2. Build a strong and effective team. All pieces of the puzzle must be focused on one common goal. It is the same a fine tuned car. Each car part has its singular function, but they all work together flawlessly in the successful operation of the car. If any part is not fulfilling its function, the entire car ceases to operate. Make sure you hire those people who are passionate about what they do and who are committed to the vision pf the company – for these individuals will consistently go above and beyond the call of duty without you having to sit on their shoulders.

Cheap parts/ personnel = Yugo company
Adequate parts/ personnel = Hyundai company
Above standard parts/ personnel = Lexus company
Quality parts/ personnel = BMW/ Mercedes company
Superior parts/ personnel = Bentley Rolls Royce/ Lamborghini company

3. Know how your company is of service to the individual, the community, society, the world. Unless your product is answering a need in society, who do you plan to sell it to? BE RESPONSIBLE to oneself, the company and its team, the community, and the world. Their ultimate concern of any company has to be for others.

You get these things correct and the profits will surely follow. Anytime a company’s main focus is solely on profits, disaster is sure to follow. Focus solely on profits translates into reckless behavior in how a company operates. The most visible case and point: the current BP tragedy. BP did not exercise respect for the earth when pursuing its goal to get oil. Thus, it did not consider or prepare for all possible scenarios of its actions. The result: the entire ecosystem is in distress in The Gulf; and soon so will humankind in this cascading effect. BP may pay financially, but the environmental costs will be irreparable in this calamity.

@Flavian: When it is a new company, a successful CEO will need to be both until the piloting will can be successfully handed over to others.Susie Johnson

My experience in working with numerous organizations, listening to colleagues and insights from extensive reading is the top three things the CEO must get right is:
1. VISION embodied as a strategy that,
2. can be communicated to PEOPLE in a way that motivates them to effectively implement the strategy that in turn
3. creates PROFITS – Ray Halagera

Lead from the front, have the right People & Process in place – Hemal Manek

Aforementioned + Branding - Rafael A. Cabrera

1–superior performance
2–customer satisfaction
3–measurable results – Jennifer Frazier

Always maintain a high margin

A base of small clients can bemore effective than a few big clients

Listen to the client’s need, build strong relationships with them and have the best client services dept in the business

Keep a strong eye on your DSOs – Patty Sipes

You need to know what you don’t know and then assemble the right people in the right seat. Leadership starts with a vision and ends with clear delegation.

It includes responsibility and accountability in the mix. I believe in today’s time the vision has to include fiscal expectations (PROFIT). Henri Bermel

Excellent question and some really great answers. I’ve always tried to get theses 3 aspect right.

1.                   The Vision – Cleary enough stated that every person in the company repeats it flawlessly in word and action. To do that you need…

2.                   The right people.

3.                   The right process. And to do this correctly, the process must be specifies formally in a continuous process improvement approach embodying; Think, plan, Do, Measure and repeat.

During the think stage you set objectives. Profit is one for every company (apart from non-profits). Another should be “Highly satisfied customers”, and quality should factor in there too. And then the process should be written to suit the specific people who are going to perform the specific tasks so that their specific goals and metrics and rewards can all be focused on the objectives.

If you get this all right your process will get better and better over time. So your objectives will be reset when you repeat – pushing profitability to the next level, raising quality, making clients even more delighted….and then repeating it and doing it again. – Eric Goldman

I think the COE is like the conductor of a jazz band, he is not a player, but he knows how to weave in the music with a bunch of talented guys in a way that each guy gets to play in his top zone and in a way raises the bar for everyone. – Soni Umakent

1.                   Internal space: Keep a clear and open mind – it’s the only way to notice and appreciate what’s going on around you.

2.                   External environment: Make decisions based on the reality, not a prejudice.

3.                   Positive movement: Eliminate hesitation (Hesitation fear)

Mike Balcom-Vitello

Customer, Business Model and Cash Flow – Desmond Cleary

I believe that there are just four basic high level concepts that if properly applied will yield the results that you desire at every level in the organization:
1.“Clarity of Purpose”
2.“Alignment”-of the Organization

Doing these four things well at every level – corporate, division, team, program/project, etc… will deliver maximum results.

I have added some, OK a lot, of discussion below to clarify.

Clarity of Purpose:
Clarity in general accounts for probably 80% of success. Lack of clarity is probably more responsible for frustration and underachievement than any other single factor. Clarity of purpose is the key to maximizing our results. Clarity of Purpose will guide us to be more effective with the effort we expend – Brian Tracy.

What is our purpose? Who are we and what are we about – what do we do? What business are we in? What business are we not in? Our Vision, Mission, Values?

The clearer you are about who you are and what you want, the more likely you are to do more and more of the things that are consistent with achieving what you want. Meanwhile, you will do fewer and fewer of the things that don’t help to get the things you really want. Having a clear purpose better promotes alignment of the organization (the people) around achieving the results that matter most.

Organizational Alignment:
We must align the organizational structure to promote efficient operation. Divide the responsibilities and accountabilities between roles that make sense to get the result desired in the time required. An organizational chart can define the work flow through the organization and identify specific areas where focused leadership is needed. Roles can then be defined and responsibilities and accountabilities assigned. The responsibility increases as the roles move higher up the organizational chart. To fulfill our roles as we move up the organizational chart, we must transition from a mindset of micro-controlling every task to one of oversight which will still effectively and efficiently control and meter our most valued resources (people and money) by assigning clear responsibility and accountability down the organizational chart. Once we have alignment, the day to day task of the leadership (“us”) is to drive focus by removing the obstacles and distractions that reduce the organizations focus.

Focus: (Make Things Happen)
Focus single-mindedly on execution. Focus on identifying the problems and obstacles that must be overcome to be successful. Focus on defining a plan of action, detailing the steps that must be taken to overcome the problems and obstacles.

Do not focus on creating busyness by adding bureaucracy, meetings, controls and then valuing perceptions over reality.
Focus is directly proportional to results/success

Employee Engagement:
Every business is in the “People” business. We do things for people through the efforts of people.

Employee Engagement is the fuel that drives the organization. You do not achieve engagement by driving busyness. I have found that if you pay attention to two simple things you can get people to work longer and harder every time.
1)Make people feel like they sincerely matter.
2)Make people feel, understand and know that what they are currently doing really matters.

Once people are clear on these two emotional feelings, you maintain high performance by recognizing their efforts and rewarding for their results. Effort is not a result and should be recognized vs. rewarded! However, results are achieved through focused effort.

Defining a clear purpose and aligning the organization to delivering that purpose should reduce the panic that strangles execution when things do not go as planned. Thus, eliminating the time and focus wasters that can be built into an organization will allow more Freedom to “Make Things Happen”. – Mike Houston

1st – Vision                                                                                                                    2nd – Ethical Standards                                                                                              3rd – Resiliency and Consistency – Kevin Nolen

Your question is great but, I don’t know 2 successful CEO’s having the same ingredients for success. From what I see frequently, they have a real leadership, a great dedication and a constant sense of adaptation. It never goes exactly as it was expected but the real leaders take that to their advantage.- Stephan Boutboul

To use an analogy I tell all associates and clients that I am the writer/conductor of the symphony, but I have the best violinist etc around me. I give them the credit they deserve (or get another violinist) and let them take their bows. – Jack Salvato

A CEO in order to be successful has to install their beliefs into their Execs team so they execute correctly and not in need of micro management but rather macro managed so they have a role in the growth process as well. This has served me well, and now have over 150,000 people in 16 countries working in my company with 30% growth month over month in this economy. Treat people how you want to be treated its real simple. Antony V Powell

Strategic Leadership has four components: Defining the relevant market place, establishing an effective culture, setting a clear vision, and setting measures to guide daily activities toward achieving long term objectives.- Margaret Reynolds

True Talent Shapes Business – True Knowledge Finds It

Leadership On Many Levels

In order to be ready to lead a growing company, you need to have the foundations in place. Just as a house/home or a factory needs to be built on solid foundations, so do business leaders. Business leaders seldom arrive fully formed. They learn that leadership has at least three levels;

• Leadership of self

• Leadership of teams

• Leadership of businesses

Leadership of self

In my view, personal leadership comes from taking responsibility for your own development and behavior and most importantly, from taking action. Action is the step that achievers take and dreamers do not. Once you have begun a course of action, it often seems that the resources you need have a habit of turning up just as you need them.
Our beliefs may provide the impetus to take us forward into action but just as often (if not more often) it is our beliefs that hold us back. Limiting beliefs lead to limited action and limited action leads to a lack of achievement. Coaches often ask the question, “what would you do if you knew you could not fail?”. Too often we look at action from the opposite point of view – we expect to fail and therefore never try.

Goals are very useful in this context, so long as they are SMART, that is they are `Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Based`. The more you work on each aspect of the goal, especially on being realistic and setting target dates for each goal, the more you will begin to develop a winning habit of making and delivering goals. They must also be consistent with your own values if you are to commit fully to them and to go on and achieve them.

The consistency comes from your own inner compass and allies with the values that are central to your own spiritual values. These are moral and human values, sometimes but not always derived from religion. Operating at odds to these deeply held values can lead to stress and, in the long term, to failure.

Self leadership is a continuing process and is unlikely ever to be complete in your lifetime. So achieving perfection at this level before moving on is not an option.

Developing business leaders who can aspire to reach this top level whilst still remaining human and true to their own internal values, is the purpose and passion that motivates me and keeps me striving to improve my own performance.
What is your purpose and passion?  – Colin Thompson

If you would like to have Jack address your corporation or association on business success, contact him by phone or e-mail.

Contact: info@jacksims.comwww.jacksims.com – 914 509 5170

NOTE: All rights reserved, but please feel free to use this article in any of your marketing communications as long as you give the following credit:

Jack Sims: Voted as one of the best keynote speakers in America, by meeting planners, he is the founder of two international corporations including America’s largest marketing agency. He is also the author of two business growth books including “Growing small Businesses into BIG Brands” and “How to Seriously WIN at Business & Golf”.  He is a guest lecturer at the Institute of Business (Trinidad), a member of the National Speakers Association and is a Professional Golf Teacher in New York.

He can be contacted at info@jacksims.comwww.jacksims.com – 914 509 5170 – www.jacksimsbusinessgolf.com