Most human beings have a small number of people they consider to be their ‘heroes’. For some, it is a relative – their mother, father, brother or sister, husband, wife or partner – it may be a long departed uncle who flew Spitfires in World War II. Others may have heroes from the sporting arena, whether it be a football or soccer player; Muhammad Ali, or a multiple Olympic champion. Some even have heroes that hail from the world of business.

During my career, I have come across my own personal heroes – people who have inspired me to be the person I am today and to do the things I do. As an employee for 17 years in a number of different organisations, I still see two of the leaders I worked for as ‘heroes’ – I will never forget John Bush and Katie Ebberwein. Among the countless leaders I have come across in my working life, these two individuals, from markedly different backgrounds and organisations, remain the most inspiring, authentic, motivating people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Both of them believed in people. They both believed in me. Their values aligned with mine and have played a huge part in my personal development.

I also have two other people I consider to be my heroes in the world of business. One is Jack Welch – the indomitable force behind the long-lasting, sustainable success of one of the world’s largest organisations, General Electric. Just reading some of his most famous quotes may give you an idea of why he is a hero of mine:

Change before you have to.

Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.

Control your own destiny or someone else will.

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.

If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it you almost don’t have to manage them.

Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.

If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.

I’ve learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.

Willingness to change is a strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while.

The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important – and then get out of their way while they do it.

My four years working across two different GE businesses have also had a huge influence on what I do today. I often to say to people that GE ‘changed my life’ – it sounds rather evangelical – but from a business perspective, it absolutely did. The driving force behind that, was the culture Jack Welch embedded across the GE empire. Jack Welch believed in people – employees AND customers.

Jack Welch is not my only business hero. Although I have never met him, or worked for his company, perhaps my biggest business hero of all – especially from a customer experience perspective, is the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. I have written about Jeff (if I may be bold and call him by his first name) many times. It is no secret that I am a huge admirer of his. Creating one of the most customer centric brands on the planet is obviously a major reason why. Here are some of Jeff’s most famous quotes:

A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last

If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering

Part of company culture is path-dependent it’s the lessons you learn along the way

If you never want to be criticized, for goodness’ sake don’t do anything new

I strongly believe that missionaries make better products. They care more. For a missionary, it’s not just about the business. There has to be a business, and the business has to make sense, but that’s not why you do it. You do it because you have something meaningful that motivates you

The one thing that offends me the most is when I walk by a bank and see ads trying to convince people to take out second mortgages on their home so they can go on vacation. That’s approaching evil

We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient

We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient

If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve

In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts

I would never say no to something the team wanted to do, but I might say yes to something the team didn’t want to do. You want there to be multiple ways to get to ‘yes’ because you want to encourage risk-taking

Not only are these quotes inspiring, they are also 100% genuine. Jeff Bezos believes in everything he says and will never be influenced in doing something he does not believe in. Only last week, I spotted an image posted by some on LinkedIn, it summed up for me why Jeff Bezos is an absolute role model customer centric leader:

A fascinating and hugely powerful image. Whilst someone quite rightly pointed out that there is no reference to employees in this, the clarity with which Jeff puts the customer needs above and beyond the needs of the business making money is seismic. There are not many business leaders who would have the courage to talk about their business in this way.

This is why for me, Jeff Bezos is not just a role model customer centric leader – he is perhaps THE most customer centric leader of all time. One day, I hope I do get the chance to meet him – as I have said in the past, if I ever do, I will give him a hug and thank him for changing the way the world thinks about the customer. I will thank him for being my business hero.

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About The Author

Certified CCXP Trainer and CX influential

A highly influential freelance Customer Experience consultant, Ian advises leading companies on Customer Experience strategy, measurement, improvement and employee advocacy techniques and solutions. He has worked across multiple industries including retail, financial services, logistics, telecoms and pharmaceuticals and has deployed Customer Experience tools and methodologies all over the world. Ian is an internationally renowned speaker and blogger on the subject of customer experience ijgolding.com who served on the inaugural board of Directors of the CXPA (Customer Experience Professionals Association). In 2014, Ian officially became a Certified Customer Experience Professional, currently being on the UK Board of Ambassadors for the CXPA. Ian is also a regular judge at the UK Customere Experience Awards