By James Bennett
The world of chief executives is a deep, dark, murky and often lonely one where long-term survival and success is rare. Many CEOs themselves tell me that they only expect to be in the job for two years. I always reply, ‘that long?’ There are a plethora of trapdoors execs can fall through during their time at the top. Avoiding those is the biggest challenge you face.
|~||~||~|The world of chief executives is a deep, dark, murky and often lonely one where long-term survival and success is rare. Many CEOs themselves tell me that they only expect to be in the job for two years. I always reply, ‘that long?’ There are a plethora of trapdoors execs can fall through during their time at the top. Avoiding those is the biggest challenge you face.
The first thing to steer clear of is corporate espionage. In other words, never spy on your board. Sadly, Patricia Dunn, ex-chairwoman of IT giant Hewlett Packard, was found to have used false identities to download phone records of directors and journalists, with the aim of possibly uncovering the source of leaks that allegedly led to former CEO, Carly Fiorina being ousted last year. Complicated stuff. Still, she was fired anyway.
The second piece of advice is never think your CEO will stay forever, there are always temptations out there. Take Nicholas Hegarty, former managing director of the MENA region at Barclays Capital. He achieved a great deal during his short stint at the investment bank — the US $10 billion Sukuk for Dubai Ports World being his greatest coup.
Almost immediately after our chat together, however, he was promptly poached by Deutsche Bank to head up its GCC arm. Clever them, not so clever Barcap.
The third tactic titbit is never take anything on that you can’t handle. Robert Strodel, former CEO of Etihad, lasted ten months during which time he managed to break the dual record for the number of hours consistently spent at the office everyday: 18, and amount of full strength cigarettes smoked during an interview: I lost count, both sure fire signs that things aren’t that rosy in boardroom meetings.
With that in mind, and rather like David Brent in the BBC comedy ‘The Office’, I’ve spent most of my time planning a reality television programme entitled ‘I’m a CEO, get me out of here’. Not that I’m copying an already proven format or anything. Naturally I would host it and take all the glory, but as with most fly on the wall programmes, the contestants would make or break the show.
The aim though would be to break them and find an eventual ‘super CEO’, while the camera crew and I left to enjoy a ten-course meal at a five-star boutique beach hotel somewhere on an idyllic paradise island.
The year-long business boot camp would go something like this: Ten blindfolded CEOs would be bundled out of a Cesna light aeroplane somewhere over a tropical island and left to find their way to base camp.
Once there, they would discover an area of land transformed into a fake company’s HQ filled with all the pitfalls they would face in the real world. But with a twist. They would have to hunt for food armed only with sharpened USB ports and luxury fountain pens, fend off wild animals and insects while sleeping in beds made of old PDAs uninterruptedly blaring out ‘that’ Nokia ring tone and complete certain missions in order to win a monthly bonus of fine wines and Cuban cigars.
The only way to get off the island would be to shout the phrase, “I’m a CEO get me out of here”. Cruel, but very much in tune with the modern business world. And let’s face it, you’d all watch it. I can think of plenty who should be the star attraction.