November 9, 2017

The (often forgotten) ultimate driver of success in business

Mika Sutinen

Businessman of the year 2017 and the former CEO of Musti ja Mirri

What is the key driver of managerial success in business? It is the skill to passionately think about the best of the customer all the time, in every occasion. It keeps surprising me how often this is forgotten in many companies, at times also the ones I’m involved in.

It’s super easy to turn your focus onto either internal stuff, or even worse – yourself. Sorry to provoke, but a lot of the people I meet in business spend 10 times more time thinking about themselves than their customers. “Monitoring me” never gets boring, but in business it doesn’t create much value.

The recipe for success is that 80 per cent of your working hours should be dedicated to thinking how to add value to your customers, 20 per cent to other stuff. The successful ones learn to become passionate about this, and they slowly infiltrate their organisations to become alike. I often find my imagination lingering into a theatre, where I imagine being a customer and have actual dialogues and situations. It’s like an ongoing movie, and I’m lucky to have a portfolio of companies to work with so that I never get bored.

It’s necessary, of course, to take care of yourself, but that doesn’t pay the bills. Being a CEO or somebody in top management, you need to commit to constantly increasing the value you provide your customers. To make this even more difficult, you have to get the people working for you and with you to adopt the same mindset. In case somebody doesn’t understand these priorities, you need to find a legal way to go your separate ways.

Sound harsh? It does, at least to me. At the same time, it’s fair: companies exist for the best of their customers, not for you or the employees.

Over the years, one of the biggest reliefs to me as a CEO has been to understand that the best companies people want to work for have the highest professional demands and standards. The urge to improve is built into their genes.

Sustainable job satisfaction is not bought with free Coke and pizza. Sustainable job satisfaction comes from the inner feeling that we do stuff we can all be proud of, something worth fighting for.

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