Friday, August 12, 2011
First a customer, then CEO
I've read a great deal recently about how Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, helped broker the agreement with the players' union in the National Football League. Players credited him with building bridges between the sides, despite dealing with the death of his wife, Myra, during the negotiations. Kraft has talked repeatedly about how the two sides owed it to the fans to get a deal done. I do not think that those comments are just platitudes. I'm struck by how Kraft has built an organization that truly concerns itself with optimizing the fan experience. I think the reason is that Kraft was a long-time fan before buying the team. He understands the customer because he lived, as a fan, through the horrid years the team experienced. He knows the frustrations of the customer firsthand. I'm not saying a CEO has to be a customer before taking charge of an organization, but I do think it's an advantage. I also think CEOs who were not customers prior to joining a firm must go the extra mile to try to walk in the customers' shoes. That sounds easy, but it's not because the CEO is never treated as an ordinary customer once they have taken charge.