CEO’s and Executive Leadership – Do You Spend Time on the Front Lines?

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Prospecting and client relationships are nurtured through more than social media. It takes staying in tune with their challenges.

When I started my web design business in 1995, the commercial internet was in its infancy. Today, most people who didn’t experience it for themselves probably wouldn’t enjoy operating in its environment today, and they most definitely couldn’t have predicted much of its evolution.

Back then, I was a Lone Ranger. I taught myself how to code, I answered the phone, met with clients, designed, did collections, negotiated contracts, marketed my business and I learned. I did it all because that’s what you do when you own a small business. Right? I loved those days.

Today, I have a company full of top notch employees. From channel marketing experts to account managers, account executives and designers, we’re all under one roof. They build web sites, manage online marketing for our clients, research, write copy, design, evaluate performance – and do whatever it takes to meet expectations – mine and the client’s.

So what do I do? Believe me, there are days I head home from the office feeling like I accomplished little. Sometimes the day just evaporates and I’ve spent little time at my desk performing any kind of meaningful task. Some days, I run around with a fire hose and others I’m up to my eyeballs in data. But honestly, my favorite thing to do is talking with prospects and clients.

If you own a growing business or head up a team, you’ll likely be able to identify with me here. The thing you loved most when you were starting out, is the thing you do least as your business and responsibilities have grown. I dig talking to prospects. I hear about their challenges, learning about their business, connecting on a personal level and figuring out if we’re a good fit for one another. It’s kind of like speed dating.

Although I can’t take sales calls as often as I used to or sit in on every pitch, it’s important that I do it as often as I can. Fortunately, I love doing it, but more importantly I need to do it. It’s critical that I stay in tune with changes in the space from a marketer or business owner’s perspective. How have their challenges changed from last year? What are their personal goals and their goals for the company? What have they tried? What’s worked and what hasn’t? Where do they think they should invest marketing dollars and why? Etc. And how do I need to adjust internally to accommodate their needs? How do I prepare my team for my client’s challenges?

Meeting and talking with prospects and current clients gives me a perspective I would otherwise miss out on. Learning from them improves our knowledge as a company. Get caught up in the management of your own world and the reason you’re there at all dissipates because you lose touch. It’s not easy, but remind yourself, whether you’re the CEO or lead a team, you have to spend time on the front line to connect with your clients – current or future.

Speaking of connecting, you can connect with me on LinkedIn (Lisa Wehr) or twitter @LisaWehr

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