The Four Most Important Questions A Leader Must Ask

Startup founder. Enterprise CEO. Author of one of my favorite books ever. And one of the most generous leaders I know. That just gets it started describing today’s guest, Vineet Nayar.

But what’s with the title of his book, “Employees First, Customers Second”? He’s joking, right?

Hardly. Not only is Employees First Customers Second (EFCS) the name of his book: much more importantly, it’s baked into the very fabric of HCLT, the company Vineet led until he retired early to dedicate his life to helping those less fortunate in his home nation of India.

Says Vineet about EFCS,

“We were on the crossroad as a company where we were losing mindshare, market share, and talent share. In 2005 we had an opportunity to transform the company. So the question we asked ourselves, can culture be a competitive differentiator, where it’s not what you do but how you do it?” That led him to four questions that every leader must ask, the short versions of which are:

  1. What is the core business we are in?
  2. Where does this get created?
  3. Who creates our differentiated value?
  4. What should the role of managers and management be?

Armed with these four questions, Vineet transformed his company from an also-ran with $700 million to a highly disruptive and envied market leader worth $4.7 Billion in just a few years. HCLT hasn’t looked back since.

Friends, whether you’re running an enterprise like Vineet or a lifestyle business with three employees, here in these four questions – and in this interview – are the secrets you need to turn your company culture into your competitive differentiator.

…And that is just from the first six minutes of this absolutely fascinating two-part interview. In part one, the talk is all business – how you, too, can turn Employees First, Customers Second into your model for breakout success. In part two, we discuss his nonprofit, the Sampark Foundation, and we even get a little into India’s relations with its neighbor China.

Final note: there are just a couple of rough patches in the videos, but not so bad as to ruin our chat. You’re going to love this episode!


Buy Vineet’s book in our Amazon store

Follow Vineet on Twitter

Visit Vineet’s website

Visit the Sampark Foundation 

Check out the other fascinating people I’ve interviewed HERE!


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Image credit: dskdesign / 123RF Stock Photo

Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

  • Jim Williams

    Great post. I would offer that in addition to HOW you do it (and WHAT you do) that starting with WHY you do it is perhasp most important; especially if you wish to attract employyees and clients that share your “why”.

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    There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

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