Lots of concerns keep CEOs up at night, as we know from this well-worn query often posed to top corporate leaders. Remarkably, neither the moderator nor members of the audience asked that question to a panel of CEOs at IABC’s World Conference on Tuesday in New York.

The four current and former CEOs were still forthcoming, offering views on corporate strategy, industry trends monitoring, turnaround plans, work style, philanthropy and corporate culture. They even revealed stunts their companies have used to motivate employees.

At face value the following principles appear rather intuitive. However, they’re not so simple to follow, as evidenced by the volatility of entire industries and recent market fluctuations, even among growing companies.

1.Use forward-looking strategies: “You owe your company a picture about where the world is going”, noted Bill McDermott, SAP’s co-CEO. “Most of our current revenue comes from areas that didn’t exist a few years ago”. Peter Cuneo, turnaround specialist and former CEO of Marvel Entertainment, said he spends three-quarters of his time developing future strategies.

2.Don’t rest on prior laurels. “Many CEOs fall in love with the past and their cozy business models”, McDermott said. When it doesn’t look good, don’t pretend it does. You need to think about cannibalizing your own business model. If you don’t, someone else will do it for you.”

3.Check out trends in other industries. Study other categories, advised Dolf van den Brink, Heineken USA’s president and CEO. “The beer industry was too insular and missed trends like premiumization and segmentation. Major beer brands now have different nationalities”. (Heineken’s Dos Equis brand features the popular ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ ads; spokesman shown here).

4.Celebrate recent successes more. This isn’t done often enough, observed Shelly Lazarus, O&M’s chairman emeritus (and no relation to this PRNewser contributor). Companies are often too busy to do so, she said, “but it’s important that employees feel something good happened. It builds momentum and it’s good for the soul.”

Read more