Insights from the Global C-suite Study by IBM has Implications for Small Business Owners

The most recent published C-suite study from IBM, from their IBM Institute for Business Value, is their Customer-Activated Enterprise report. (Note you will need to register to receive this free report.) After more than 4,000 conversations with C-suite executives world-wide, what they found is highly interesting – and rather applicable for the Small Business Owner.

Their first finding is just common sense: one of the features that distinguishes outperforming corporations from underperforming corporations is how well the C-suite works together as a team. Not surprisingly, the CEO is at the center of the team’s interactions, but there were strong interactions between the CFO, CHRO and CIO as well. A well-functioning team results in higher revenue growth and profitability.

CEOs consider technology to be the single most important external force shaping their organizations. Dynamics that have been birthed in social media continue to grow and are emerging as a new set of dynamics for the C-suite to manage. For example, customers expect to be treated as individuals which is requiring a much closer collaboration between organizations and their customers. Increasingly, even the largest of organizations are finding that they can’t “go it alone” – they now must collaborate with customers, partners and employees in order to be successful. CxO’s foresee major changes in the next 3-5 years:

  • 73% see a larger partner network
  • 68% see increased social/digital interaction
  • 61% see partnering to increase value
  • 54% see focus on customers as individuals
  • 52% see increased organizational openness as essential

Notable Quotes:

“CEOs say customers come second only to the C-suite in terms of the strategic influence they wield.”

“We want to hear everything and anything our customers have to say. That will help us establish one-on-one relationship with our customers and offer them better services more efficiently.”

Small Business Owners Pay Attention

When you stop to think about it, small business owners and large Fortune 100 companies face similar dynamic changes. It’s just a matter of scale. What large organization have over small businesses are more resources to invest in the social and digital areas of customer relationship management. But small business owners can pay attention to these signs as well. In fact, small business owners might be better placed to develop strong customer relationships than many of the impersonal processes that form customer touch points at the larger organizations.

What can learn if you’re a small business owner?

First, pay special attention to the customer and employee relationship. While not all relationships will be rosy 100% of the time, many can be great nearly all the time. But it will require your effort and attention to detail over time.

Secondly, learn how to build alliances with partners to provide your customers a fuller, more expansive set of solutions so that they have fewer buying choices to make as their solutions grow more complex.

Thirdly, take time to show how your organization is giving back to the community. Be open and ready to resolve problems on a moment’s notice. When your company screws up – just admit it and find a way to make it right with your customers. No one expects perfection, but they do expect your effort at resolving problems swiftly.

Finally, figure out ways to listen to your customers for strategic insights into where your company should be going. Your customers may have excellent ideas about new products or directions your company can take that will help you be more successful while strengthening your relationship with your customers. Everyone likes to be heard and understood. Especially your customers.

Bill English