• About John

    Formerlife: Jacobs Suchard CEO (Kraft, Nabob), Strategy Consultant. Afterlife: Palgrave Macmillan Author, Business Blogger, Wannabe Novelist

    Who is the 21st Century CEO?

    by  • March 15, 2012 • Human Resources, Leadership, Strategy

    He or she is the leader who is constantly thinking about tomorrow – not the next week, the next month, the next quarter or even the next year. The future these leaders envision is the one they choose to create; their tomorrow will be a business ‘lotus land’ that is poles apart from an unwelcomed future determined by their competition, a future that inevitably forces defensive reactivity. Proactivity is the secret to long-term success. Those who get to the future first, are the ones who win.

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    Corporate Coherence Works

    by  • March 11, 2012 • Leadership, Strategy

    Ever since I started blogging about leadership and strategy, I’ve been harping about the notion of “doing less, better” as a business modus operandi.  Wall Street is against the idea. They think companies have to “do more and more” to get bigger and bigger. Recently, they’ve been pushing Starbucks to expand beyond coffee into a variety of foods. It will be interesting to see whether Howard Schultz will give in to them. My former employer, Kraft Foods “does more and more” quite well, albeit through acquisitions – a bit of a cheat in my view. Jacobs Suchard, the coffee/chocolatier that I headed in North America was just one of a long list of Kraft acquisitions that started with General Foods  in the eighties. Suffice to say deep pockets, rather than business brilliance snatches the prize.

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    10 Leaders who are the Brand

    by  • March 4, 2012 • Branding, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy

    Corporate leaders that are identified with brands are usually the ones who share the brand’s nomenclature, such as Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, and Michael Dell. Seems logical, no? But, there is also a small club of founders, CEOs and/or Board Chairs who are equally synonymous with some well-known trademarks that do not bear their names. These leaders earned their branding reputations by establishing themselves as the driving force behind creating, building and guiding the success of their companies and brands. Within their particular markets (and in some cases on a much more pervasive basis), these leaders are the brand.

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    10 Ways to Slay Goliath

    by  • February 26, 2012 • Branding, Human Resources, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy

    My business career is characterized with a bunch of David versus Goliath encounters. As a 23 year-old Macleans Toothpaste Brand Manager in 1970, my colleagues and I competed against powerhouses P&G, Colgate and Unilever. When I joined Jacobs Suchard (then Nabob Foods) in 1977, I found myself up against the muscle of Kraft and Nestle. Wherever I went, the major competitor was 20 times larger. That is clout. And yet, our little band of rebels was able to outmaneuver that might with two potent weapons that cost absolutely nothing.

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    Are Great CEOs Always Great Leaders?

    by  • February 19, 2012 • Human Resources, Leadership, Life, Strategy

    ISteve-Jobs-BW1n my mind, the best CEOs are usually the ones who are in a race to the future – they’re obsessed with defining the future because they can’t stomach the thought of reacting to a future created by their competitors. During his era, Steve Jobs was miles ahead of every other forward thinking CEO in that race. Somehow he was able to see the unseen, and marshal Apple’s resources to deliver the innovative products that fulfilled his view of what lied ahead. In the process, Apple became the most valuable corporation on the face of the earth.  That established Steve Jobs as the greatest CEO of our time. But was he the greatest leader of our time? Apple shareholders would surely say yes. Former subordinates, who suffered under his autocratic and abrasive style, might differ.

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    Ditching the Corner Office for Good

    by  • February 17, 2012 • Branding, Human Resources, Leadership, Life, Marketing

    93181872A year ago, Fortune Magazine published my reflections on my rise to the corner office, my life as a CEO and how I coped with the years that followed my exit from the corporate throne. In the sub-head to In the CEO Afterlifethe publisher described my tale this way: Former CEO John Bell gives his take on life after ditching the corner office for good and the search for fulfillment beyond business success. For those who may be interested, my days in the CEO afterlife are more fullfiling than ever. I can attribute some of that to joining the social network and sharing my experiences on leadership and marketing with anyone who cared to listen. Frankly, I am amazed at how my fading memory has unearthed so many vignettes that I thought were buried forever.

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    The Language of Leaders

    by  • February 12, 2012 • Human Resources, Leadership, Life, Strategy

    learnleadI have to be honest. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy Kevin Murray’s new book on how top CEOs communicate to inspire, influence and achieve results. Although Mr. Murray’s arresting title raised my curiosity, I became skeptical when I read the list of leaders he interviewed for insight. The 60 interviewees, all from the UK, were comprised of eight Sirs, four Lords, four Dames, one Lady, and a Baroness, but not one person was under the age of 40, and the majority were over 60. I couldn’t help wonder how this seemingly pompous club of elites could possibly empathize with the hundreds of thousands of hard-working “commoners” in their factories, offices and warehouses. With such a massive impact made by so many young entrepreneurs, I had doubts today’s business generation would benefit from the reflections of old guard, old economy leaders. I was wrong.

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    Stop Personal Branding; Start Running the Business

    by  • February 6, 2012 • Branding, Human Resources, Leadership, Life, Marketing, Strategy

    me-meInherent in the definition of career is the opportunity to progress. “Getting ahead” was my father’s way of saying it. Notwithstanding politics, nowhere is the notion of upward mobility more prevalent than in the world of business. More than ever, people are seeking mentors, “branding” themselves and carefully managing their careers in order to dash up that quintessential corporate ladder.

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    When to Ditch the Leadership Love-in

    by  • January 30, 2012 • Human Resources, Leadership, Life, Strategy

    Some of you may have read my Leadership Love-In blog http://www.ceoafterlife.com/leadership/leadership-love-in/ in which I reiterated the never ending need for better leadership. I also extended kudos to a handful of passionate leadership bloggers who I consider to be experts in their field (links listed below). These pundits command impressive social media audiences, and while it is gratifying that people are interested in their perspectives and insight, the ongoing leadership mania underscores the significant gap between principle and practice.

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    Strategy for Non-Strategic Leaders

    by  • January 22, 2012 • Human Resources, Leadership, Strategy

    StressI didn’t realize it at the outset, but blogging has provided a wonderful opportunity for me to ponder and reflect on the most valued (but often neglected) principles of business. When I was on the ‘hot seat’ and in the line of fire as a CEO, I constantly dealt with pressing day-to-day issues such as bringing in the quarter, forecasting erratic commodity markets, reacting to predatory pricing, and stressing over sales shortfalls and excess inventory. Suffice to say, most of the issues were short-term and operational rather than strategic. No matter what a company’s product or service, this is not a business anomaly. Squeaky wheels get the grease.

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