The CEO with the public cellphone number
A.L. "Tom" Giannopoulos (left) is the CEO of MICROS Systems Inc., based in Columbia. The company has worldwide operations, with 4,700+ employees, and is a leader in the point-of-sale terminal hardware and software business.
There's a good chance that if you've stayed in a hotel or eaten at a restaurant, your reservation or food order was completed with the help of a MICROS system working in the background.
It's a company that's had steady growth in revenues and profits since the early 1990s, and now sits on $525 million in cash reserves.
So, in short: Giannopoulos and his people are working hard. Which is why I was recently surprised to see Giannopoulos's work phone number, cell phone number and email address at the bottom of the homepage of MICROS's Website.
"Is this for real?" I thought. The thought of dealing with the public riff-raff usually causes many CEOs to writhe like vampires in the sunlight. Here's one who sorta welcomes it.
So I called the cell one afternoon last week. I left a voicemail where I introduced myself and said I'd be interested in meeting with him to talk about his company.
The next morning, I had a message from an assistant who was ready to set up a time to meet.
That time turned out to be today. In a conference room with him earlier this morning, I asked him (among other questions) why he puts his contact information out there so publicly and if it's really his cell phone.
He insisted it was, and that he'll sometimes take calls from MICROS customers at 3 a.m. (Now I know when to call him.)
But it got me thinking: How many CEOs of large companies put themselves out there so publicly? Sure, we're seeing CEO and corporate leaders dipping their toes in the Twitter and Facebook waters, but how many are authentic about it?
Just a few weeks ago, Giannopoulos said he got a call at 1:30 a.m. from a hotel employee, who told him she called the first number she could find on the Website for support. He helped her by connecting her to right support hotline.
For Giannopoulos, putting his contact information out there is a deliberate tactic he employs to get close to any problems his customers may be having. It's an end-run around the command-and-control hierachy that MICROS, like any corporation, builds for information to flow from the bottom up to its leadership team.
"My staff don't want me to have the phone number, but what better tool to find out about problems," Giannopoulos told me. "It's a very nice vehicle to find out what you're organization is doing."
Most of the calls, though, are on the positive side, he said, and the public phone number also generates sales leads, believe it or not. An interested business owner called his cell two weeks ago, and a conversation with Giannopoulos led to a new deal for MICROS.
All because of a cellphone number and a Webpage.
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