ANA/BMA16: CMOs and CEOs Say 'Build Consensus'

C-Suite Panel Shares Insights on Decision-Making and Finding Allies

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CMO/CEO panel: (from left) Peter Friedman, Christine Gilroy, Ash ElDifrawi, Neal Campbell, Jeffrey Hayzlett
CMO/CEO panel: (from left) Peter Friedman, Christine Gilroy, Ash ElDifrawi, Neal Campbell, Jeffrey Hayzlett Credit: ANA

At the ANA/BMA16: Masters of B2B Marketing, a panel of CMOs and CEOs shared insights on how they make decisions and build alliances in their organizations. A common theme was the importance of gaining consensus among fellow C-suite execs and finding allies -- whether in finance, IT or with the CEO.

The panel was moderated by Jeffrey Hayzlett, former CMO at Eastman Kodak Co. and host of "C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett," and featured Neal Campbell, CMO at tech company CDW; Christine Gilroy, VP-sales for customer experience at Oracle North American Applications; Ash ElDifrawi, CMO at Gogo; and Peter Friedman, CEO at Liveworld.

Mr. Hayzlett kicked off the panel by asking the execs how they make decisions, and how physical location impacts decision-making.

"The process of making decisions is really dependent on the decision and how much buy-in you need, and how much collaboration you need across functions," Mr. ElDifrawai said. "If I don't have the sphere of influence to make the decision, I can go to the CEO. But for bigger strategic decisions that need consensus and buy-in, you have to try to build buy-in, which can take a while."

Ms. Gilroy said that at Oracle, "We have to eventually get to a consensus. Executive meetings happen all the time, but a lot of it happens virtually, where you don't have those day-to-day water cooler conversations that go on."

She added, "We have created the kind of environment at Oracle lately where we are more aware of giving more people a voice [in decision-making] and being able to ask, 'Is this the direction we should be going in?' It has become more acceptable."

Mr. Friedman, a former Apple exec who co-founded social media company LiveWorld from his home office in New York, along with an office in San Jose, Calif., said, "We don't have a physical C-suite. We have a small office in California, and I don't have an office. We are a virtual company and we live on social media, so we have virtual conferences and we interact online and on social media."

At CDW, there are 10 members of the executive committee, and it meets at least once a quarter, Mr. Neal said. However, "There is a lot of hallway work that gets done to move initiatives across the goal line. Relationships are very important."

Mr. Hayzlett asked the panelists who their most important ally is.

"Mine is the CEO," said Mr. ElDifrawi. "I am very focused on the customer experience, and he knows that when I come to him, it's about what is the right thing to do for the customer. He trusts me for that single reason."

Mr. Campbell said, "Right now, with a lot of the investment we have going on in technology and infrastructure, I have a very close relationship with the CIO and the CFO."

Ms. Gilroy pointed to the president of product development as her greatest ally. "He's the voice that can make things happen if I need a certain marketing budget."

Mr. Friedman, who said his most trusted ally is his co-founder, had this advice to marketers: " I'd say the CFO. Sooner or later I will turn to him and ask, 'Can we pay for this?' Your biggest ally should be Mr. Money Guy."

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