Great CEOs Mind the Details

Sep 28, 2011

Lou Gerstner resurrected IBM with no previous knowledge of IBM’s business. He proved that a lack of company, even category, experience can be overcome. Gerstner was the exception.

A CEO with the full body of knowledge about a company and its category has a huge leg up. CEOs who grow up in a company know the pressure points at every level. They know where each job fits in the total scheme. They know the industry. And that means they know the competition.

If you’ve never experienced the basic levels of a company, it’s hard to even identify the important details. Great CEOs define perfection, and they know perfection is the product of execution.

Forty-four years ago, my boss owned a sizable company. Still he personally mailed each customer proposal. Steve Jobs of Apple fame called a Google engineer on a Sunday morning. The Google logo on the iPhone was a problem. “The second ‘O’ in Google,” he told the engineer, “doesn’t have the right shade yellow gradient. I’ve assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow. ”

Great CEOs never outlive their dedication to details. And career players know where the important details are hiding.


John Malmo is a marketing consultant who concentrates on helping business owners grow their businesses with effective marketing. To reach Mr. Malmo, hear and read more of his commentaries, or ask him a direct question, go to

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