Listening to the Customer – The Secret At DeWALT and Black & Decker

Having heard him speak before, I was somewhat hesitant to go.Dewalt Power Drill  Previously he was less than electrifying.  But this time he was different.  He was talking about something that he had a passion about. 


Last night we got to listen to Nolan Archibold, the CEO of Black & Decker.  He told the story of being a self conscious student who was oozing self doubts and insecurities while attending Harvard Business School.  Later he found out that 80% of those who were at school had the same challenges.  Each found themselves wondering why they were in this prestigious school and were they good enough to compete with the other gifted students.  One day he was sitting in the bathroom and looked up and on the stall wall were the words . . .


The only place at Harvard where I know what I am doing.


When he graduated from High School he was carrying a 2.0 GPA.  But he determined that he wanted to do two things.  One, run a Fortune 500 company and two play basketball in college.  The problem with the second goal was that he had been cut and not even made it on the High School team all three years.  He not only made the team at his junior college, but he also got 100 scholarship offers.  He took one that allowed him to finish his University career in his home town.  He pointed out that he felt a certain amount of joy knowing that the High School Basketball coach who cut him all those times would hear and watch his exploits, as he was a key part of his university team that went to the National Championship.


He went on to talk about his wins and setbacks as he climbed the ladder at several corporations until he ascended to the top position at Black and Decker.  When he was asked what he felt his greatest success was he pointed to the introduction and brand launch of Dewalt power tools.  His team took it from a non-existent product to the leader of industrial grade products to the construction industry, eclipsing both Makita and Milwaukee brands. 


When asked why he felt him time at Black and Decker was so successful (while there he has a track record of outperforming the S&P by double) he indicated that it was all about listening to the customer.  He said, “A lot of people say they listen to the customer, but they don’t have the tools, focus groups, culture, reporting structure and a lot of other things that allow them to really LISTEN to the customer and then do something about it.” 


Ah, the rub.  Most people go through their whole life never working in an environment where they are even aloud to listen to the customer or find the creative culture that allows them to do anything about if they did. 


Customer Focused cultures are proven to be more profitable, fun, creative.  Why then are more cultures fostered by organizations? 


I guess they need some tools.  Maybe they need some  . . . Black and Decker.  Grin.

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