If you read my weekly blogs, you undoubtedly also know that I host a weekly on-line radio show called The Growth Strategist™. I’m in my seventh year hosting it and just LOVE hearing about what people have done to make growth strategies like acquisitions, franchising, market expansion, etc really work. My guests are all Presidents/CEOs of midsized companies (typically $20 -200Mil/yr) so they are all bright and experienced. Most convey enthusiasm and are articulate. We are coming up on our 300th show soon (YEAH!) plus I’ve provided strategic guidance to over 800 consulting clients over the years. The point is…by now I can hear some distinctive patterns. Some of the patterns may not be surprising. But in a way, if they are so predictable, wouldn’t you think that more executives would be addressing them by now?
For example: When I am rehearsing with the President/CEO of a family-owned business, I usually get candid responses to questions about target markets, primary customers, and key products.
Don’t get ahead of me here. Of course, I can’t start with questions about succession, exit strategies, or executive compensation. Heck…an executive doesn’t have to be running a family owned business to be reluctant to talk about all of that.
Take a step back from all of that. The answers from executives of family owned businesses seem strained when the topics of strategic alliances, joint ventures, or acquisitions come up. The implication is that internal relationship issues make negotiations with outside entities more difficult. These days, that fact would certainly turn “family owned” into a handicap because customer expectations are going up and up. The cost of trying to do everything yourself is becoming prohibitive. Plus the world is getting smaller and smaller. Today, a family must proactively address relationship issues that slow down strategic analysis or decision-making. It sure comes across in media interviews. The radio guests who attract new business opportunities as a result of appearing on my show have conveyed openness, clarity of direction, a capacity to interact with a wide range of people, and an understanding of how deals are struck.
I’ve also noticed that most of the female executives avoid directly answering questions about strategy. I repeat, my guests are all Presidents/CEOs of midsized companies. These are accomplished executives! I’ve been amazed how many times I have had to encourage (no, plead) with the female guests to share the logic behind major decisions like acquisitions, new products, or geographic expansion. Several have been reluctant to directly respond to the straight forward question about their gross revenue… even though the numbers are plastered all over press releases and resources on the Internet. And when these reluctant female executives do share their gross revenue, they provide too much explanation. It sounds almost like an apology. Some of them are running $Bil businesses! Why on earth are they apologizing to anyone?
There are undoubtedly several understandable reasons for the reticence to just talk, but frankly, my experience as a talk show host has given me new insight about why so many corporations have been reluctant to appoint successful women business owners to their corporate boards. The major search firms who are looking for board members screen shows like mine. They must be concluding that the female guests CAN’T think strategically or CAN’T keep up with a high level discussion. That’s very sad.
Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions. Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability.™ Ambler is in her 7th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer on line radio program at www.Business.VoiceAmerica.com and www.growthstrategistradioshow.com that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. Family owned businesses will be emphasized in 2011. Ambler can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com