Face Time

I’m not a huge fan of big business – that is to say the prototypical bloated, top-heavy, publicly traded company.  I would trade agility for brand any day.  By and large, the bigger the company, the harder it is to get everybody to row in the same direction, and thus the more difficult it becomes to anticipate your customers’ needs and add value.

All that being said, Fortune magazine published a very interesting article this week on Sam Palmisano, the CEO of IBM, and leader of the biggest (and perhaps least efficient) IT company on the planet.

The nugget I discovered, buried among pages about history and strategy and product mixes, was this single sentence:  “When [Palmisano] became head of global services back in the ’90s, he blocked off 70% of his calendar for customer meetings, and he still speaks to at least one customer every single day.”

So here’s a guy, who at the time, was running a multi-billion dollar division of IBM, and he spent 70% of his time with customers.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’m not even close to that number, and that’s my day job.  It’s what I’m on this earth to do.  Embarrassing.

The next time you are tempted to check your LinkedIn account, or fill out a forecast, or straighten your desk, remember this:  Your customers are buying something from someone.  And if you’re not spending time with them, you’re risking a loss to a big, bloated, inefficient behemoth that’s got it’s priorities in the proper order.

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