Leading A Brand - Creating a Category
When he took over as CEO of Zipcar, Scott Griffith used team-building skills he developed at Chicago Booth to help rally employees around a new business model and market position that has transformed his company into the largest car-sharing service in the world.
One of the best attributes of Booth is that you are literally surrounded by the best and brightest - from professors to other students. Being in that environment taught me that no one single person can make an organization succeed. Today, I surround myself with the best and the brightest at Zipcar because I realize the importance of teamwork and collaboration to meet our most important challenges.
My classmates at Booth helped to design the LEAD [Leadership Effectiveness and Development] program, which emphasizes management skills like communicating, working in teams, and motivating others. Twenty-one years later, LEAD is the only required course at Booth. It’s a top program among business schools worldwide because it works.
These LEAD skills are critical to getting teams to work together, and I’ve seen it firsthand during the evolution of Zipcar. We’ve changed the business model, acquired and integrated new companies, and expanded our reach. Change is never easy, but I’m proud of the way in which this organization has grown. The communication skills I developed at Booth have helped ensure these transitions are positive, productive, and build toward long-term value for the company and our shareholders.
Learning to use data to drive decision making
Booth was, and is, a pioneer in applying the principles of data collection and analysis to inform and guide both major and minor decisions. As a Booth student, the emphasis on using data to inform decisions made it second nature for me to rely on this critical skill in my management career.
In my view, great companies have a culture of using fact-based decision making across the business enterprise - including marketing. Marketing, when done correctly, is founded in sound strategic positioning.
At Zipcar, data drives marketing decisions. Whereas marketing used to be equal parts science and art, I believe today it’s more science. It used to be that great marketing could take a so-so product or idea and make it a winner. That simply isn’t true anymore.
Marketing is More Important Than Ever to a CEO
I’ve always believed that great brands are built on execution. Slogans, taglines, and fun websites will only get you so far. Zipcar is one of the most data rich environments in which I’ve ever worked. We know about our members. We know about our cars. In short, we are awash in data. And when that happens, you can either drown in it or put it to use. We put it to use and let data drive all of our key decisions.
Now more than ever a CEO has to be on top of the marketing approach. We are in an era of pay-per-performance - switching costs for many products and services are low, choices are high, and information is ubiquitous. Because of social media, brands rise and fall faster than ever before. If your product doesn’t meet customer expectations, the world will know about it instantly.