Growth Insights for CEOs

Great CEOs “Eat a Frog First Thing Every Day”

Posted by The Chief Outsider

“If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do allEat the Frog - Prioritize your activities in order to be a successful business leader. day.” – Mark Twain. 

Mark Twain truly had a way with words. Most of us have read at least one of his 28 books. Much has been written about his famous “eat the frog first” quotation including articles that question whether he actually said or wrote this. Regardless of the truth, the analogy is intended to help great leaders tackle more difficult, dreaded and distasteful actions first everyday. There are some business coaches that don’t agree with doing the most unpleasant work first, but they all agree that successful business leaders are great at prioritizing their activities every day. 

For many CEOs, strategic marketing is the frog they need to eat. They don’t like it. They tend to view it as distasteful and think they have no use for it. They give it lip service instead of eating the frog and focusing their attention and sufficient resources to support it. In this video, Brian Tracy, Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations is quoted about eating the frog first.

CEOs Need to Prioritize Strategic Marketing Activities

What is the most important thing that needs to be done first thing every day to grow revenue and sustain this growth? The most successful CEO takes on the roll of chief growth officer and keeps his or her eye focused on this task. 

Every day the great CEO thinks about what needs to happen to achieve the vision and purpose of the business. Unfortunately CEOs often get dragged into or jump into operational activities at the expense of driving strategic growth activities. 


The operational issues are important, but so are the strategic marketing issues. So why do CEOs spend the majority of their day on operational issues? Many CEOs have created a culture where these operational issues are the have TOs on the priority list and the strategic marketing activity moves down the list to become want TOs. 

Strategic marketing becomes a round tuit, and we never get around to it.

A recent University of Texas study of mid market CEOs clearly tells us that there is a difference in the success of companies run by operationally focused CEOs and the success of companies run by CEOS with solid strategic marketing interests.

As a founding CEO of a start-up medical device company, my number one strategy was to get rid of the cash burn and become profitable as fast as possible. We stopped burning cash in 10 months. I focused my time on strategies to increase revenue and hired an experienced operational oriented person whom I could trust to take charge of the operational issues. I happen to have a solid background in marketing and sales, so I naturally focused my energy on growing revenue. CEOs who have strong operational experience focus on operations, but many do not have experience in developing upstream and downstream marketing strategies. They also don’t have an appreciation for the importance of strategic marketing. Even when they have a great product or service, they eventually hit the wall on growing revenue. Then a disruptive competitive product or service comes along, and they don’t have a strategy that will sustain the business. 


Border’s books is a classic example of hitting the wall and actually losing the business. Their demise was because of several mishandled events, including poorly thought out and executed  strategies to respond to disruptive technology and the needs of the market place. They had to compete with efficient (Amazon) online booksellers. They suffered from a lack of vision and a poorly defined and communicated purpose. In the end, they had no real value proposition and this eventually drove them into bankruptcy and liquidation. They were focused on operational strategies and not focused on sustainable marketing strategies. The executives at Borders were operationally focused and avoided eating the marketing strategy frog everyday.

Many operationally focused CEOs do not recognize the need for solid strategic marketing activities. Instead they bring in a marketing communications coordinator that salutes and does the tactical marketing tasks they receive from the leadership. As a result, CEOs become disappointed because their tactical marketing spend is not producing the return on investment they need.

Is this not why many companies fail or don’t grow the way they could? Do they focus on the wrong things? Is their marketing strategy an after thought? Does Marketing have a seat at the table? Is marketing forced to do things on a shoestring budget?

Sustainable Growth

Strategic marketing is essential to creating sustainable growth. If the business does not have a solid strategic marketing person on staff, the CEO is at a disadvantage if they are not experienced marketers. The great CEOs will make certain they have an experienced marketing executive on their team to become their right hand person to drive the creation and implementation of their upstream marketing and downstream marketing. See related article.

Topics: CEO Marketing Strategy, Business Leadership and Strategy, Business Growth Strategy, CEO Choices, Marketing Strategy

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