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Gene (00:01):

Hey everybody, this is Gene Marks and welcome to another edition of the Small Biz Ahead podcast, where we look at different issues and things and advice that I can provide to help you run your business. This week, I’d like to talk with you about peer executive groups. Do you know what that is? Have you ever considered joining a peer executive group? It’s kind of tempting. It’s always been tempting for me. Peer executive groups are small groups. They’re normally made up of local CEOs or business owners or leaders, and they meet regularly to discuss their professional and personal challenges in a confidential and informal setting. Some of these groups are formed organically. You can get together with your friends, but many others are initiated through national organizations like Vistage International, The Entrepreneurs’ Organization, YPO and Peer Executive Groups. You can Google these organizations to find out more about ’em. Now how popular are they?

Gene (00:55):

Well, you could say they are. Vistage for example, has more than 22,000 members in 20 countries. And The Entrepreneurs’ Organization says they have a global business network of more than 14,000 members across 193 chapters worldwide. And the benefits can be significant. It’s like an advisory board that has no personal agenda other than to help you and your other members of the group. Depending on the group that you belong to, it’s usually made up of smart people who are there to listen and get to know you and your business. And that’s a tremendous thing. I mean, some of my clients have been members of some of these groups for a long time. One client has belonged to his executive group for more than 21 years. Now, if you do belong to a peer executive group, here’s what you can expect. You can expect to meet about 11 to 12 times a year.

Gene (01:45):

You can expect that it’s made up mostly of owners of established manufacturers or distributors or service providers in your local area, but none who will compete with you. The best groups give its members the opportunity to meet and learn from their fellow business owners in a relatively informal setting, which is usually moderated by an experienced third-person facilitator, who is oftentimes assigned by the national organization. And the meetings are conducted usually in fellow members’ offices, homes or neutral locations like hotel conference rooms. At these meetings, you’re not gonna get any magic solutions to your business problems, but you will hear from your fellow members, what they’re doing to find, pay and motivate their employees or how they save on their taxes and what they do to keep themselves productive. You’ll also likely learn about ways they control their expenses and what goes into their investment decisions. They’ll also likely share with you how they get new business or keep existing customers and grow their companies. You’ll be doing the same with them as well. I mean, there’s no school on how to be, or how to perform or how to act as a president of a company. There are issues that at every level, someone has experienced or seen in some fashion or permutation, whether it’s hiring…

Gene (02:58):

Or interviewing or termination or growth initiatives or strategy or culture or selling, these are all the kinds of things that people share. The best executive groups are the ones where each members trust. They trust each other and they bounce ideas off each other and they solicit advice from each other without the fear of being judged or having their ideas stolen. One of my clients, the guy who runs a rental service business outside of Philadelphia, he has an informal group that he’s set up. It’s not part of a national organization, but he did this with a bunch of business owners in his area. And he’s been doing it for about a decade. He told me they have a confidential agreement. So he can’t give any details about his members but they don’t disclose that publicly. But he does say that they’re very well educated individuals and operate within a strong work ethic and a high level of integrity.

Gene (03:49):

And this client has told me that the group that he belongs to has helped him to find the best talents, hold himself accountable and allowed him to focus on his core business while maintaining his work and life balance. This guy, this client of mine, he strongly believes that a good executive group would benefit all business leaders, no matter what phase of their business life. So the question is, are you a good candidate for an executive group? I mean, you may not be, it really depends. First of all, you have to be willing to listen. These groups are pretty intimate with each other. I mean, they share family matters and key employee concerns. It’s taken pretty seriously. And what is discussed at a meeting stays at a meeting. So you have to go into it with saying, listen, I can’t do all this alone.

Gene (04:38):

And to succeed, you need to surround yourself with other smart and experienced people and then act on their advice. One other warning, I have to tell you, belonging to an executive group, really takes commitment. I mean, this is something that I’ve always had struggled with, cuz I travel a lot. I mean, you need to be prepared to meet regularly likely once a month or at least two times or a few times a year. And you’re gonna be meeting with other members and sharing the most intimate details about your business, including your financial results and internal problems. You’re gonna be expected to attend national meetings and regional meetings too. If you participated in a national organization. Now what does all of this cost? Nope, it’s not cheap. I mean, the national organizations, they have entry requirements. I mean, first of all, you have to hit maybe a certain revenue size or employee size.

Gene (05:27):

But some of these can cost anywhere from one to 2000 a month to participate. Some of my clients that participate in their own groups as well, they do that because it saves on costs. But then again, they don’t get the benefits of saying, having like a national organization. So be aware of that. Listen, I mean, you have to be willing to listen to belong to these groups. People become very intimate. It’s taken very seriously. There is a cost commitment for being involved. So you’re either in or you are out, which is why, frankly, I don’t belong to such a group. I mean, I think these things are great and I can’t name a specific client or a single person that runs a business that belongs to these groups that haven’t come back to me and say, it’s been a great experience. But I have to say that the people who really find it to be the best experience and the most help for their business, they really commit, like I said earlier, I travel a lot…

Gene (06:24):

So it’s tough for me to say, “hey, I can be at these meetings once or twice a month.” If you can’t commit to the group, you’re gonna be letting the rest of your group down and I don’t wanna do this. So maybe as my travel cuts down or as I get older, it’s something to, that I would consider. But for me, it’s not, it’s not right. I mean, I reconsider this every year, just so you know, but listen, maybe for you, it is the right choice. I am telling you right now that when I speak to members of these groups, when I speak to clients and other business owners that participate and make the commitment, they tell me that really has been changing for their business. Really has a big impact on how they run their companies.

Gene (07:03):

So that’s something you should consider – a peer executive group. You can form your own. You can join a national organization like Vistage International or The Entrepreneurs’ Organization or YPO. But it might be something if you can really commit to and you have the resources to do it, you should do it because it’s always really beneficial to hear about the problems, the challenges, the issues, and the solutions that other business owners like you are experiencing and what they’re doing. Just remember whatever business you are running. You’re not that unique. And I realize that you might be in a specific industry, but I found 80 to 90% of businesses out there pretty much run the same. It’s just the extra 10% that might be really, really unique. But for the most part, running a business as a business owner, you’re hitting those same issues. It’s really, really helpful to talk to other business owners regarding of the industry they’re in. You’ll get good advice from them. So consider doing that. This has been another episode of The Hartford’s, Small Biz Ahead podcast. I hope you enjoyed this and got some information out of it that helps you. If you’d like more information or advice or tips for running your business, please visit us at or My name is Gene Marks. Thanks for listening. I will be back next week with some other thoughts on running your small business. Take care.

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