Have you ever wondered what’s top-of-mind for leading CEOs? Below are direct quotes from a recent discussion I had with some of the most admired CEOs on key topics like uncovering emerging changes, CEO priorities and what’s around the corner. The CEOs in the discussion all have 100-plus-year-old companies that lead their specific industry.
- Hikmet Ersek is CEO and President of Western Union, which might actually be the world’s largest retailer with 520,000 storefronts and more than 1 million agents. Ersek was cited as 2012 “Responsible CEO of the Year” by Corporate Responsibility Magazine.
- Shivan Subramaniam is a 14-year CEO and Chairman of FM Global. FM Global is the 185-year old insurance leader with no actuaries — only engineers — where 30 percent of the Fortune 1000 are clients.
- Jim Hackett, 19-year president and CEO, Steelcase. He transformed Steelcase from a West Michigan-focused business to a global leader in workflow, services and innovative work products.
1. How do you uncover emerging changes?
Jim Hackett, Steelcase: “We take an intense look at the most abstract level of ‘why’ things are as they are. In other words, we try to understand complexity and the dynamics we can isolate what ‘emergence’ is taking hold in our sector. We saw the implications of mobility when we were studying the first placements in the U.S. of PCs in American MBA programs. The students wouldn’t turn off the PCs between classes because they took too long to boot up. The emergence of tablet-based software was playing out right in front of our eyes. The year was 1996.”
Hikmet Ersek, Western Union: “For many years, Russia was an inbound country, meaning people sent money into Russia. Now it’s a different environment. Russia is much more of an outbound country, where we are seeing people sending money from Russia to Central Asia and other countries. We knew about the shift in Russia before any newspapers or economists.”
Shivan Subramaniam, FM Global: “Every month we look at data from our Fortune 1000 clients, in terms of the facilities they are buying or building versus those they where they’re actually contracting. So we could have told you back in the 1980s, based on our client data, that consistently Fortune 1000 manufacturing companies were reducing their manufacturing capacity in North America and increasing it outside of North America. And that allows us to position our engineering forces all around the world as our clients expand. For instance, approximately 30 years ago we started to hire Mandarin-speaking engineers because our data clearly showed more of our clients in North America and Western Europe were pursuing growth opportunities in China by either buying facilities there or building on greenfield sites.”