Deryck Spence is the Executive Director of the SA Paint Manufacturing Association (SAPMA)
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The definition of marketing defined by the American Marketing Association Board of Directors describes marketing as ‘the coordination of all the resources and processes of the company, for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large’.

A good definition, I feel, endorsed further in the 1970s by Professor Sandra van der Merwe’s doctoral thesis: “The profitability of a company is directly proportionate to the marketing expertise of the Chief Executive”.

This philosophy was further endorsed by Colin Adcock, former CEO of Toyota South Africa, who – when I asked him about the major role of a company CEO – answered: “The chief representative of a company must be aware of what is happening in his company - good or bad. The CEO should never forget that the customer is why the company is successful - and the reason why he or she is CEO”.

Harry S. Truman, former American President, had a sign on his desk which endorsed Adcock’s view. The sign simple read: ‘The buck stops here’.

In essence, this meant that the responsibility for something cannot - or should not - be passed on to someone else.  "In the past, you could spread the blame, but now the buck stops here, with me."

Truman didn't originate the phrase, although it’s not likely that we would ever have heard of it had he not adopted it.

So, what is my point?  

Well, to put it simply: a company CEO is the President of his company. And yet have you tried to make contact – via any means - with a South African CEO lately?

Despite the age of technology with emails, WhatsApp, Messaging, Facebook and a myriad of other applications:

  • Have you been able to communicate with a CEO lately?
  • Do you ever see the email address or mobile phone number of any CEO on his or her company’s webpage?
  • Have you been able to talk to, or obtain, the CEO’s email address from the receptionist of Telkom, MTN, Vodacom, Eskom, any of our esteemed banks, insurance companies or medical aid companies?

I haven’t even included municipal offices, or government departments. In the case of the latter, the phone connection is usually terminated before you can ask.

I recently had to establish the name of the CEO of a leading book seller in South Africa from Who’s Who and LinkedIn. I was lucky. He responded to my third email - probably because it was not very polite.

What’s the problem CEOs? Are you too scared to find out what is going on in your company? Too scared to talk directly to the public? Talk to your customer?

It’s time for you to stand up and be counted: to become true chief representative of your company more than just in name. You might just learn something valuable by reconnecting with your market.