NEW YORK – Liam McGee has a special way to emphasize his commitment to creating value at the 203-year-old company he runs, Hartford Financial Services Group.
Our team is laser-focused on execution, he said on a March 2012 conference call, laying out plans to divest units and halt some annuity sales. It was one of at least six events in the past two years when McGee used the language of technology to describe the insurers ability to aim its attention.
Whether childrens book publishers or organic food purveyors, chief executive officers are increasingly beaming light on their targets. The phrase laser-focused appeared in more than 240 transcripts of earnings calls and investor events compiled by Bloomberg this year.
Its business jargon, said L.J. Rittenhouse, CEO of Rittenhouse Rankings, which works with companies to better execute strategies through communication. What would a more candid disclosure be? We are focused. What does a laser have to do with it?
Rittenhouse, who studies shareholder letters for a report on CEO candor and reviews about 100 conference call transcripts each year, said she first noticed the phrase about a decade ago. She lumps it into a category with expressions such as pursuing strategic initiatives towards sustainable profitability and translating actionable insights into consumer-focused initiatives.
Some of the uses match a companys image of precision and technological prowess. Take Apple CEO Tim Cooks message in a July press release announcing quarterly earnings at the maker of the iPhone and iPad: We are laser-focused and working hard on some amazing new products.
Others are a stretch. Richard Robinson, CEO of childrens book publisher Scholastic, in July explained efforts to help school districts prepare teachers, aid struggling students and build libraries: We are laser-focused on capitalizing on the significant opportunities, the changing buying behavior and new needs in the classroom.
John Foraker, CEO of organic macaroni-and-cheese maker Annies, told investors last month that his company is laser-focused on executing at a high level through the remainder of this fiscal year in order to achieve against our short and long-term strategic objectives.
Bob McDonald said his company, Procter & Gamble, was focused like a laser on productivity and innovation in October, months after activist investor Bill Ackman took a $1.8 billion stake. The maker of Tide detergent and Pampers diapers brought back former CEO A.G. Lafley in May to rekindle growth.
Lafley told investors at a conference this month that P&G has a laser focus on value creation.
Paul Fox, a spokesman for P&G, declined to comment, as did representatives for Scholastic and Annies.
One manager who has avoided the phrase laser-focused is John Ambroseo, CEO of Coherent. When asked in July whether competitors were cutting prices as his company entered a new market, he said, Were very focused on a select set of customers. Were not trying to sell to everyone, everywhere. Coherents product: lasers.