I’m writing this entry today from the beautiful location of Dana Point, CA. We are here to host our annual Spring User Forum which begins later today and runs through a lunch on Wednesday. Then we move the meeting up to San Jose for the inaugural executive forum. This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I get to spend quality time with our clients and my colleagues. I get much of the strategic input that we use to drive our business. Best of all, I get to watch a great group of smart, like-minded professionals advance the thinking around how the voice of the customer drives successful business models. Even though it hasn’t yet begun, I know great things will be accomplished before this week is done.
One of the reasons that I know good things will emerge is that we have been at this for more than a decade. We launched our first User Forum in Chicago in March 1998. Only about ten clients braved blizzard conditions to attend a half day session, but it was clear that we were onto something that would change our way of conducting our business. We borrowed the User Forum concept from what we saw many of our technology clients doing—bringing their users together in a environment where it was safe to share—not only successes and best practices—but also pitfalls, obstacles and challenges. In order to create this environment of trust, we committed from day one to keep these events exclusive for Walker clients and we remain committed to that principle today.
From these humble beginnings, our Forums have grown in attendance, content, format and discussion. In recent years we have been holding two client forums a year—one in the spring in a nice western US location and the other in the fall in Indianapolis. Attendance peaked at our spring forum last year in Sonoma County, CA where we had more than 70 clients from more than 25 companies participate. Our attendance this week will be off due to the travel restrictions and general economy but between the three days in Dana Point and the Executive Forum, we will still have 32 clients representing 17 companies. For that, we are grateful. We are real excited about the addition of the Executive Forum and plan to continue to develop that offering.
One of the enduring themes of my blog entries has been around learning to enjoy the “journey” of becoming more customer-focused. The beginning of this latest forum seems to conjure up an analogy of visiting a favorite vacation spot or returning back to your home town. While some things may change, many of the other things endure. It’s good to remind yourself where you have come from so you can understand where you are going.
When I reflect on all of the forums that I have been fortunate to attend, I see that many of the same issues and challenges remain, but that we have indeed made progress, increasing our insights, elevating the level and depth of our discussion and understanding. We have improved, and will continue to improve our company’s business performance and the conditions for our customers. This is an ongoing effort that will never be finished but is purposeful and worthy of the effort we give to it. It requires perseverance, discipline and perspective.
How am I so confident that good things will occur this week? Well, how could it not, when we assemble the people who are responsible for keeping these great companies focused on their customers? I have said it each time we have come together and I will say it many times this week. The collective brainpower applied to this subject this week, will be unmatched anywhere on earth. We will envision a better future and then go about creating it.
Originally posted in Customer Connection April 20, 2009.