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If I Knew Then - Featuring David A. Dexter, CEO & President of Sonora Quest Laboratories

Monday, August 15, 2016   |   Category: Media Coverage

Source: Phoenix.Crains.com

The Mistake:

As I went through my career, I always focused on the numbers first, customers second and employees third.

I never aspired to be a CEO. I got caught up in a number of acquisitions, mergers and integrations in my early 30s. When I first started out with management responsibility, I was 30-years-old and oversaw maybe 100 people. The focus was always on the numbers. In fact, a well-respected CEO said to me directly, “Make the numbs, kid,” and I never forgot that. So, as I went through my career, I always focused on the numbers first, customers second and employees third. 

I never realized how serious a mistake that really was until, by some good fortune, in 1994 our operations for Nichols Institute were acquired by Corning. One of the things that was a revelation for me at that time was that Corning invested 5 percent of every employee’s work life in training. 

Corning also practiced the complete reverse of what I’d been taught earlier. Number one, they engaged the employee up front. Then they focused on the customer. They believed that if you did both well, shareholder satisfaction would follow. So, it was the complete opposite of what I had been doing in my career.

Quite frankly, it turned my world upside down because I realized the mistake I had been making throughout my career. Maybe it was through no fault of my own because that’s what I had been taught. It’s a lot harder to focus on engaging employees and driving customer satisfaction, assuming that shareholder satisfaction will follow. It’s much harder than focusing on the numbers.

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