“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton
I recently had the privilege to speak to a group of young African American boys about leadership and what it takes to be successful. This particular program (put together and hosted by our own Rick Rodgers) was designed to help these young boys develop the skills necessary to become tomorrow’s leaders. It included a number of presentations with respected business leaders in the community (CEOs, CFOs, etc), as well as a group project to develop a business plan for a potential endeavor. In short, it was a multi-day course that will no doubt enrich the lives of these young boys.
For my piece, I discussed my views on what it takes to be successful. We talked about how the world views success (riches; prominence; notoriety), and contrasted that with how I believe success should be measured (making a difference; making an impact; achieving something meaningful with your life). I really enjoyed seeing their reaction to a viewpoint that counters what the world espouses. Not only did they embrace this perspective, but they also recognized how shallow the worldly view of success has become.
After some additional discussion around leadership and the importance of teamwork and culture in business, we wrapped up the session with a recap. I asked the young boys a few questions about takeaways from the meeting. Ever trying to be the effective teacher and reinforce my message of teamwork and culture, I asked the boys to tell me what they viewed as a company’s most important asset. For me, this seemed like a logical question, and one that should get a resounding answer of “the team; the people”. But that’s not at all what they said. Their response was much more revealing…
“So what you do think is the most important asset a company can have? [Kip Wright]
“The customer, right?” [13 year old child]
You could have knocked me over with a feather. Wow! How obvious is that? And yet, how little do we focus on the customer as our most important asset? Our tendency to focus internally speaks volumes about how we can often lose sight of what’s really important in business. THE CUSTOMER!!!
Isn’t it funny how it sometimes takes a child to state the obvious and put things back in the right perspective?
PS – Thank you again, Rick, for including me in this session. But more importantly, thank you for investing your time and effort in to a worthy cause that truly will “make a difference”!
-Kip Wright, SVP-GM