Every day a simple signal is generated on Wall Street for CEOs of publicly held companies to let them know how they are doing. That signal is up, down, or unchanged. Unfortunately, many CEOs of privately held companies close the door at the end of the day without any feedback on their performance. They are chasing a market that doesn't seem to be talking to them. They feel like they are in a black box. And they are.

The nature of the CEO is to capture the market; but the nature of the market—or, more to the point, the customer—is to resist capture through objections and ever-increasing demands for faster, better and cheaper.

The term customer loyalty is a misnomer—customers are on the move, and it is up to the CEO to keep up. Yet, it is a lot easier to chase something that you can see, hear, and touch.

Most CEOs of private businesses without good systems and tools in place to win feedback from their customers (other than financial reports or specialized systems that monitor a particular function) are having a difficult time influencing and controlling performance in the eyes of their customers, in good times and bad.

Key Indicators

CEO Dashboards can be a great way to shed light on customers and sales process performance and get feedback on how you as the CEO are performing your role.

The problem with most reporting structures in private companies is that they offer the CEO more data than useful information. Recently, I met with a CEO whose $30 million operation was bleeding badly. He knew he was in trouble because the financial reports clearly showed several service lines where expenses were exceeding revenues.

Unfortunately, those reports had offered no early warning, so now he was reacting to something that was already a serious problem; moreover, the balance sheet gave no indications about where the problem might be.

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Michelangelo Celli is president of The Cornucopia Group (www.cornucopiagroup.com). Contact him via mcelli@cornucopiagroup.com.