Leaders of mid-sized companies are pretty impressive people. As leaders, they bring insight, determination and courage to work every day. So where do the great CEOs of these companies go to get better? Some 16,000 mid-market leaders worldwide have figured a way to get expert advice – from each other. As a Vistage member, a roomful of CEOs during any given monthly meeting may be directing their focus on your business. Over time, they’ve gotten to know how you tick. And they’re providing insights; offering their experience; even holding you accountable from one meeting to the next. That’s the core value that Vistage brings its members.
The concept of CEO peer groups isn’t unique. But it’s highly effective. And Vistage has honed the practice to an art. By recruiting top business leaders still in their prime into the role of Chairs, then assembling “boards” of CEOs of similarly sized non-competitive companies, Vistage orchestrates an environment that is unmatched by any other CEO peer group organization that we’ve encountered at Chief Outsiders.
Patrick “Pat” Mulligan of Austin knows the value of Vistage inside and out. As a young CEO, he joined Vistage in 1987 and learned firsthand how a peer group of business leaders could improve performance. Now, Pat is putting his decades of experience to use as one of the founding Chairs in Austin, and leader of 3 peer groups. There are several dynamics in his peer groups that work together to ensure value for his members:
1 – The Multiplying Effect
There’s an expression we’ve started using around Chief Outsiders to describe the value one of our experienced CMOs – backed by our whole Tribe – brings to a CEO client: Best Alone. Better Together. The power of a Vistage peer group is based on a similar dynamic; a room full of bright CEOs with assorted backgrounds from a variety of industries is going to help a CEO solve a problem with greater insight than the CEO on their own. Period. They’ll gain deeper insights and better ideas based on 10-X the CEO experience in the room.
The perspectives they get, sometimes as a result of the breadth of the CEOs’ industry experience, is hard to anticipate; who knew that a consumer products distributor could add so much value to a engineering services company? As a result, the combined experience in the room has more than an additive benefit from the years of experience, but yields a multiplying effect due to the diversity of perspective.
2 – Optimizing Operations
As Pat states in this video, Vistage CEO members are not only experiencing top line growth, but growth in value and profitability. Increased operational excellence is perhaps a hallmark benefit for member companies. They tap the expertise of others, gain greater insights into their operational opportunities, and make things happen. From best practices in financial systems to HR policy, member CEOs also get exposure to a variety of national thought leaders by means of Vistage-approved speakers. Rather than simply reading the books and blogs of these pundits, they get day-long engagement time – time in a workshop environment to dig in to applications within their own business. Insights quickly turn into actionable priorities with follow-up and accountability. It’s highly effective for the business and the most efficient use of each CEO’s time.
3 – Compassionate Capitalism
There’s no question that every single Vistage member business leader is working hard to develop their organization. The advice, counsel, and accountability from highly qualified peers is unquestionably the core fuel for furthering their business success. And yet, the human dynamic of compassion is clearly one dimension to the Vistage experience that keeps CEOs coming back year after year. Their peer groups quickly move beyond a talented board of experts into a trusted team of advisors – and friends. Where else can a business owner let down their guard completely, in complete safety? This “soft” dynamic to Vistage may be underplayed by some, but is well-accounted for at Vistage where they list Courage – Determination – and Compassion in their brand promise.
In a world where expert advice from top business management authors, advisors and professors is an iPad away, why is membership in Vistage continuing to grow? We believe it has everything to do with the power of people when they trust one another, spend time together, and care enough to tell the kind truth. We also believe there’s an additional benefit that every Vistage member experiences that we’ve not yet recognized: the pure joy they receive when given an opportunity to help a Vistage peer. Clearly, working not only on your business challenges, but helping your neighbor succeed in their business as well, is meaningful and satisfying at a very deep level. With this, Vistage delivers an advantage with far-reaching impact not only for businesses, but also by enriching the very lives of its membership.
The University of Texas Business School – 2012 CEO Study
By Pete Hayes, Principal & CMO, Vistage Trusted Advisor, 512-923-6512 firstname.lastname@example.org