Each year the Harvard Business Reviewnames who it believes to be the 100 best-performing CEOs in the world. These are the movers and the shakers who have created measurable value. They know what they are doing, and if up-and-comers pay attention, they can learn what that is and apply it to their own businesses and start-ups.
The following are hard-earned kernels of wisdom for planting future business growth.
Steve Jobs, Apple Computer
It’s not much of a surprise that Apple’s Steve Jobs took the number one slot in the Harvard Business Review CEO rankings, but his words of wisdom are surprising, and sound a bit odd as well – until he fills in his reasoning for this statement: “Rational people give up.”
What’s that you say, Steve?
There are those who might imagine that Jobs had to be a little crazy to come back to Apple after they gave him the boot in 1985, but no, and that’s not what Jobs was getting at when he said this. Jobs was highlighting the necessary tenacity that entrepreneurs must have in being absolutely passionate about what they’re doing. Only with an extreme level of passion will they have the power to persevere, even when the odds are against them.
One piece of advice from Bezos echoes Jobs: entrepreneurs have to be willing to fail. He also offers come specific ideas that will help to guide budding business persons to success. Be obsessed with customers.
Bezos says, and anyone who has purchased from Amazon.com has certainly experienced that obsession. He also advises that you build a strategy based on things that don’t change. Find products and services that people will always need. This approach is especially important today when technology seems to be constantly rearranging the playing field. For example, Hollywood Video bet the farm that people would always need stores to rent video cassettes or DVDs. Wrong. Pay attention to upcoming trends that will extend beyond your business model and aim for the future. Re-adjust when necessary to veer along with the changing tech and culture.
That brings us to Yun Jong-Yong’s advice. While not forgetting Bezos’ advice to concentrate on things that don’t change, the former Samsung CEO stresses the need toadapt and adjust to new environments.
The quality that enables any creature to survive – and Jong-Yong includes businesses among his “creatures” – is not strength but the ability to make adjustments. In terms of very practical advice, he says that it is unwise to fight over low-end market share. That’s not where the money will be found.
While not a household brand like Apple, Amazon.com or Samsung, Angelli is CEO of Brazil’s Vale, the world’s largest producer of iron ore. As the major player in a vitally important global market, Angelli has a particularly keen view of economic development and opportunities all around the world. With markets already well developed and infrastructure needing to be built, Asia is a prime consumer of natural resources, he says. And, as a corollary to that, nearby Africa is the largest supplier of natural resources.
Investors are beating a path to Africa, and the continent should be transformed over the next 10 years, Angelli predicts.
Gilead is a huge provider of antiviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. And with only 4,000 employees, it generates some $7 billion in sales. The challenge for Martin has been to not follow in the footsteps of Big Pharma but to maintain the company’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. They work hard to make sure new employees understand thatthey’re not into empire building.
Further, Martin consciously keeps the hurdle bar high as the company sets goals for itself.
Considering the hard-earned wisdom of these top CEOs, there are good indicators that if one can commit to being passionate about one’s goals, obsessed with customer service, nurture an ability to adapt and not be overly focused on creating an empire, one can have the same outlook as some highly successful CEOs. I hear Africa is beautiful this time year.
Paul Moore writes on a variety of business topics and works with Bakken Residence Suites, a corporate housing provider in the booming oil region of North Dakota. You can find him at his Linked-in profile.