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So You’re a CEO…How’s that Working Out?

by Clark Vitulli | Posted on December 12, 2015

How do You get CEO Training these days?

Who Challenges you?

Who do You go to for Confidential Advice?

What keeps you up at night, and who do you discuss it with?

When you have a problem, issue or opportunity at work, or at home – who do you turn to?

What’s your biggest Leadership Challenge – and who do you talk to about it?

How would you rank your Direct Reports? Are they all “A” Players?

What’s the One Thing you should do this month to improve your company’s performance?

I know, I know … the usual … I don’t need training, I’m the BOSS, and I know everything. I have a crack, top notch team who reports to me that I can confide in. I have a Board of Directors (or Banker, or Lawyer, or CPA, or Partner) who I trust implicitly and who I can share my deepest problems with total confidence – they have no other agendas. My spouse of course – we can discuss everything, openly, from serious, detailed work issues to personal feelings. Oh, and I always read the latest business books, whether they specifically apply to my situation or not.

Or maybe … I belong to a local networking group where we meet occasionally to share business cards, meet new people every month, listen to a speaker sometimes.

Better yet, I got a guy – he’s my management coach and retired from a bigger company than mine.

Of course, there’s the industry-specific group you may belong to where you meet quarterly or annually at a central national or regional location for an industry conference and talk about your mutual industry problems and compare notes. Actually, that one really does have significant value, and I always encourage folks to belong to those industry groups and get involved – they will share certain unique industry specifics and metrics about improving your business.

But is that really enough for you in today’s complex, global, government-influenced, litigious, fast-paced business environment?

All of the above alternatives have some degree of value at various times in your life. I’m not dissing them entirely – they could all be a part of your network for comfort and advise. But if they’re not enough to challenge you and provide all you need, read on …

So let’s start with the term CEO – Chief Executive Officer. That term can be applied to any business owner, young or old, male or female, any country of origin or ethnic persuasion. I’m referring here to more established businesses, not new start-ups with only one or no employees, where the entrepreneur is just getting it off the ground. (There are many organizations today who can lend a hand or a wallet to the sharp, enterprising young entrepreneur.) I’m referring to the CEO’s of companies (applies to non-profits and government agencies too!) with at least $4-$5Million in revenues, up to a $Billion or more – with 20+ employees or thousands – growing or stagnant, doing business locally or internationally.

If you’re that kind of CEO – or C-Suite executive who reports to that CEO – you simply have to have more than the typically available sources for proven advise and direction. Whether you own the business yourself or report to a board of investors/directors, or maybe report to the CEO – you need bullet-proof counsel that works, from other serious, private, highly-confidential CEO’s and C-Suite executives who have been there, care about you and meet in a safe environment!

Some days they’ll answer your questions … other days, they’ll question your answers.

Just wish I knew of that kind powerful learning environment a few decades ago when I was crawling up the ladder in a $Multi-Billion public American company … or later, running a foreign-owned $Multi-Billion company … or later, being in charge of two private, American, $1Billion companies in industries I knew absolutely nothing about, leading disciplines I had no significant experience in, like manufacturing, purchasing, IT, logistics, legal and others.

No … it wasn’t until I was seriously at wits-end. I was going through a divorce, leaving a down-sizing company, trying to see my precious children every moment I could, going back to school to get the MBA that I should have gotten years ago and contemplating a start-up company in my kitchen in yet another industry I knew nothing about … that this unique, personal growth opportunity came to me totally out of the blue.

A guy – yes, a guy – reaches out to me from a nearly 60-year-old company, now called VISTAGE, and wants me to attend a breakfast and meet some other CEO’s. They want to form a CEO peer group that meet all those mind-changing, challenging, carefrontational, confidential requirements I just shared with you. And they invite me to join them.

That was 15 years ago, here in Nashville, TN – Music City. Turns out, I did join that VISTAGE group and did build that company I started in my kitchen, from scratch to nearly $200M. With businesses in 9 states from coast-to-coast, representing 63 popular brands, 635 employees and less than a dozen folks at corporate headquarters. No way I could have accomplished all that in less than 8 years by myself and my team. Not without those VISTAGE group CEO’s and business leaders who challenged me. Plus of course, all the amazing coaches, mentors and leaders who inspired me in the corporate world when I was just a pup, kicking and screaming all the way.

Fast-forward 15 years … I am now a VISTAGE Chair in the Nashville area, coaching and giving back to the 37 diverse CEO’s and Senior Executives in my three current VISTAGE groups. Giving back and paying it forward is why I do what I do today.

So, if you’re looking for that special, safe group where you can be vulnerable and where successful leaders meet to grow their businesses and share new ideas … where your executive peers will hold you accountable … where confidentiality, trust, caring and growth are valued at every level … where you will become a better leader, make better decisions and get better results … and where you didn’t even know all that was possible … check out the VISTAGE web site and look at some Member Testimonials.

Then feel free to reach out to me.  We’ll do coffee, get to know each other — no obligation of course.  And if there’s mutual interest, maybe invite you to a free meeting with my local Group Founding Members.  If there’s a mutual fit there, you’ll be invited to join.  It’s that simple.

Had I only known a couple of decades ago!