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Don't make up answers, listen to others: Tips from top CEOs

September 29, 2012 20:09 IST

Customers are conscious about prices but they don't want to compromise on quality, according to GE's main man John Flannery. Faisal Kidwai reports

Multinationals own 85 per cent of the healthcare market, says John Flannery, president and CEO of GE, an American conglomerate.

"There are companies that are coming up with innovative and cheaper healthcare products, but customers don't want to compromise quality over price and that is where an established brand like GE comes in," said Flannery at the TiEcon Delhi 2012 on Saturday.

He said what makes GE such a great company is its premium quality and the brand name.

Apart from that, GE and he personally believe that everyone, regardless of position, should be treated equally and work as a team, said Flannery.

He added that he believed in not replying to a question unless one knew the answer.

Flannery said he has seen many people just making up answers, improvising them instead of admitting that they don't know the answer.
Such an attitude is bad not only for the company's image but also reflects poorly on the individual, he said.

When asked whether the structure of an organisation helps or hinders innovation, he said it does both.

"Structure of a company, big or small, can play a major role in innovation, but it also makes it very difficult to kill an idea. For instance, if you have spent $500 million and seven months working on an idea, but then at the end of the day you realise that the idea will not work, what do you do," he said.

Flannery added, "Going back to the boss and telling him -- sorry for wasting $500 million and seven months, but the idea will not work and should be killed -- is difficult."

Running a company in a monolithic style is a wrong approach, believes Flannery. Chief executives should not be dictating and forcing their ideas, they should listen and encourage suggestions made by others, he said,

Flannery said CEOs should also not get too comfortable or believe whatever is written about them.

Adil Hassan of Harvest Gold, a major bread manufacturer in New Delhi, said he is driven by the philosophy that says "find a way and if it doesn't exist, then create it".

He said he decided to launch the bread company simply because he was not happy with the quality and hygiene of the existing brands.

But when he told others about his plans, they warned him that nobody will pay a couple of rupees more just to get better-quality and hygienic bread.

Hassan said he was not dissuaded by their arguments and launched Harvest Gold in 1993.

"The market already had several brands of bread, but slowly we made our mark and have now dethroned established players in Delhi," he said.

Sharing his experience, he said during the initial stage, he had great difficulty in finding an expert who knew the bread business inside out.

"People who had the knowledge didn't want to leave their jobs for a startup, so finding the right person was becoming a major challenge for us," said Hassan.

"One day, I told somebody about this problem. This man suggested a guy in Rajasthan who was an expert in this line and asked me to contact this bread maker, but I didn't because I thought why would an expert come and work for me, that too from Rajasthan," said Hassan.

"Few days after that, I was sitting in my office and was told that somebody was standing at the company's gate and wanted to meet me, so I met this man and he told me that he has come from Rajasthan and he is the bread expert I have been told about," he said.

"Now, you can call it luck, God's help or anything, but this man's decision to come and work for a startup changed the fortune of the company," said Hassan.

Faisal Kidwai