Who can forget Cuba Gooding Jr. yelling the line, “Show me the money!” to Tom Cruise in the movie ‘Jerry Maguire.’? It’s become a part of the American lexicon.

While speaking before a group of senior business students I asked the question, “Who has the real power in any business?”

I heard about the CEO, key employees, the Board etc. When the conversation was reframed to money and power, the answers changed to stock market analysts and investors. The answer being sought however, and not heard, was the customers! The customers have the money, and thus, have the real power. Without them investors don’t invest, CEO’s don’t lead, and employees neither work nor get paid.

Being customer centric is more than a good idea; it is critical to survival. The Digital Revolution is about the free flow of information. Customers are increasingly knowledgeable and have access to more providers. Two old safeguards against competition, limited knowledge and geography, are gone. Besides, being customer-centric is more than a good defense, it’s the best strategy.

What are the keystones to building a customer-centric organization? There are two. The first is a clear understanding of how customers get value. The second is the commitment and attitude of the CEO.

Customer value as a streaming experience that comes in three forms; our product or service, our operations and our impact on the customer’s strategy, (also called customer intimacy). The secret formula is being good at all three streams and then excelling at one. The most common error is trying to excel at one, without being good at all three.

The second keystone is the leader. It is the CEO who drives decision-making and strategy. It is the CEO who sets priorities. Unless the CEO champions customer-centricity, it won’t happen

The benefits of a customer-centric strategy are too many to mention here. It’s a great experience. People striving to be the best aren’t just motivated, they’re inspired! They’re focused on the customer experience and the customer is ‘present’ at every meeting. Winning new customers becomes an obsession. A customer-centric culture not only reinforces and encourages people, it makes them irreplaceable.

Who has the power…Show me the money!