Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Barrett Named Regional Executive for Richmond

The Virginia Council of CEOs announced today that David R. Barrett has joined the staff as Regional Executive. In response to growth, Barrett’s main responsibility will be to connect with CEOs in Central Virginia to expand the mission of the Council.

“I have worked with Dave for more than twenty years — as a member, leader and board chair. I am beyond thrilled that he has chosen to bring his energy, connections, and skills to bear at VACEOs after exiting his business,” says Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, VA Council of CEOs. Adding, “There is no stronger believer in the power of peer roundtables than David Barrett. He is driven by our mission of connecting SMB CEOs for learning and growth.”

More About David R. Barrett

David R. Barrett

David R. Barrett joined VACEOs in 2002, and has been active in CEO Roundtables, and in leadership of the organization since then. With four decades of sales management, company ownership experience, and civic involvement, David recently sold his latest company, Barrett Capital Management.

He graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Marketing. David is currently a Member of the Advisory Board, and Past Chairman of the Board of the Virginia Council of CEOs; Recipient of the 2018 Charles E. McCabe Leadership Award; Member, Advisory Board, Veritas School, Richmond, VA; Past Member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of Trinity Episcopal School; current member of the Board of Trustees of Fork Union Military Academy, Fork Union, Virginia; Corporate Member and member of the Board of Directors of the Better Business Bureau, Richmond, Virginia; Past Member, Corporate Advisory Board, College of Business and Economics, Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia; Past Chairman of the Board of Directors, Family Foundation of Virginia; Advisory Board Member and Past Chairman of the Board, Needle’s Eye Ministries, Inc.; Past member, Board of Advisors, IMPACT 360 School/LifeShape Foundation; Past Chairman of the Board of Distinction for Fellowship of Christian Athletes / Capital Region; and past Advisory Board Member, Peoples Bank of Virginia. In 2008,

The Arthritis Foundation presented David with the W. Robert Irby, M.D. Award for Outstanding Volunteer Leadership & Dedication. In November, 2009, David was appointed as one of twelve Senior Advisors to Governor-elect Robert McDonnell. In 2010, David was appointed by Virginia’s Governor to the Board of Directors for the Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Program. David served as Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Investment Committee. David is also Past Chairman of the Board of Christian Children’s Fund (now ChildFund International), an international children’s charity serving over 10 million children and their families in 33 countries worldwide.

About the Virginia Council of CEOs

Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit organization connecting CEOs for learning and growth. Formed more than 20 years ago, Member benefits include placement in a peer roundtable group and access to a thought leader network and a robust program of events for learning and growth. This is not a networking group, but rather a group of CEO peers who are invested in the success of one another. Learn more at

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Posted by Scot McRoberts at 2:28 pm
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Monday, July 25, 2016

Making the Change: VACEOs Share Unique Rebranding Experiences

You’ve worked really hard to build your business, but how confident are you in your brand’s image in the marketplace? It’s in our DNA as CEOs to question, worry and wonder – and that can sometimes lead us down a path of an identity change for our business.

If you find yourself in that space, listen up. We caught up with three VACEOs members – all possessing a unique perspective on the issue.

  • Greg Samuels’ company Solvaria just made its rebrand official, and he currently finds himself in the honeymoon phase: The hard work of the rebrand is done, and now it’s time to keep up the momentum and plan for the future.
  • Duane Slyder of Seasonal Roots is leveraging his company’s new brand and operating model to expand into new markets, and gain the competitive advantage.
  • Meril Gerstenmaier, of HG Engineering and Design, and her business partner recently decided to step back from what could have been the ultimate identity change – a merger.


Greg Samuels joined B2B Solutions in 2011. Two years later, he grew the database services side and added the division of fractional CIOs to the company. He became sole owner of the company in 2013.

Fast-forward to 2015: Samuels finds his business has a distinct appeal, and his director of marketing is pushing for a rebrand. “Over the years, we’ve dialed in to what we do, and that falls into two major buckets: database services and strategic technology leadership,” says Samuels.

Once they had a clear picture of their niche in the IT community, it was time to find a marketing partner that truly understood marketing services. Jennifer Evans, B2B’s director of marketing, vetted several candidates, and Rocket Pop Media made the final cut. After several focus groups and a lot of soul searching, the name Solvaria was chosen for the firm’s new brand.

“The name sounds like a place, and we’re building a culture around being ‘Solvarians,’” explains Samuels. “The root of the word ‘Solv’ gives a nod to the ‘Solutions’ piece of our former name, because at our core, we’re still a solutions-driven company. But we wanted a modern take on the name, and we love that our logo incorporates ‘VA’ in the name as well.”

Samuels gives full credit to Evans for making the recent transition a success. “Jennifer was a key player in this endeavor,” he says. “Nobody knows your business like you know it. You need people from the inside pitching in – people who know how to articulate what you do in different ways.”


Duane Slyder founded The Farm Table in September 2010. Back then, the company was a food delivery service limited in scope. Now, by supporting nearly 50 local family farms and artisans, they’re offering an online farmers market to nearly 3,000 customers across Virginia. “Our original name was too generic, and we needed a brand that resonated with our Members,” Slyder says. “ We asked them to vote on potential new names, and Seasonal Roots was the winner.”

The company’s rebrand was timed perfectly with the introduction of an improved business model focused on the customer experience.

“When we first started, we only offered static boxes of local produce,” says Slyder. “Now we are customizable, creating your online farmers market. Customers can pick the size of the basket they want, and what they want in it.”

Like Samuels, Slyder made the transition with help from an internal team of entrepreneurs. But unlike Solvaria, the staff at Seasonal Roots did a great deal of the initial rebranding legwork and decision-making themselves. “Being a startup, we didn’t have a lot of capital to hire a big marketing firm,” Slyder explains.

Slyder has now partnered with experts to help strategically as the company expands. A firm from California helped him zero in on a new name, Free Agents Marketing assisted him with branding and final visuals, and Lewis Media Partners is managing the media strategy.


HG Engineering and Design CEO Meril Gerstenmaier firmly believes that in order to be successful, you need to think outside the box. “I think in today’s economic environment, the worst thing that can happen to you is to keep doing the same thing forever,” she says. “I see a lot of people looking at options that 10 years ago they never would have considered. For us, that meant teaming up with different companies – including competitors – to win certain projects.” That line of thinking opened up a conversation with Raleigh-based engineering firm Stewart, Inc.

The opportunity seemed like a great way to quickly expand into engineering services, which, says Gerstenmaier, “we had every intention of doing, whether we merged or not. It felt like it would be better to tackle that market with a company that was already in that space. The opportunity arose, and we took it.”

Long story short, after 17 months, the merger didn’t work out, and Gerstenmaier found herself in the middle of an about-face. “We realized we were more comfortable with a smaller, folksier, niche-type position in the market, and that’s how our clients recognized us,” she explains. “It really made us understand how strong our brand was.”


Considering a merger?

“Think long and hard before you consider rebranding,” Gerstenmaier says. “Don’t feel rushed into anything.” She suggests having the courtship last at least a year. “Get to know each other, work on projects together. Get a sense of how the two businesses will complement each other and how it will or won’t work. Determine if the scale of their business and the processes they have in place will give you the lifestyle you envision after the merger.”


What do our other CEOs say? They all agree that if you do decide to rebrand, at some point you’ll need an external marketing resource to help you through the process. Go with a professional who has experience in rebranding.

DuaneCard-Final“I’m confident in how we managed the change, but it’s not a simple process,” says Slyder of Seasonal Roots. “It takes a lot of effort, and it can break you. We had to rebrand. If you don’t absolutely have to, I suggest you don’t. There’s too much at stake if your brand gets lost.”

Samuels, only weeks off his official rebrand launch, has the most advice to offer. “Before you rebrand, ask yourself why. Why do you want to do this? It’s so much more than a name change. Think about your goals. Understand and define them. Be very clear about why you’re doing it. One VACEOs speaker gave advice about creating a very specific, long-term vision and how important it is to take the time to do that. Having that clear image will help you.”

GregSamuels-Final“Make sure you do a good job of communicating internally about what’s going on and what your vision is, and understand that there will be a ton of decisions that are involved in the process,” Samuels adds. “It’s big-picture stuff and tedious things – like letterhead, contracts, email signatures and shirts.”


What’s life like today for these CEOs?

Our rebranding veteran, Duane Slyder of Seasonal Roots, says all of the items with the company’s old name have been replaced, and his business is finally beginning to grow again –although he still wrestles with brand confusion and market share. “We’ll probably speak in terms of, ‘Seasonal Roots, formerly known as…’ for awhile,” he says.

Greg Samuels, our newest identity changer, is (understandably) ecstatic. His website has been revamped, his systems have been updated, and he’s gotten some great press. “People recognize us as senior leaders in our two verticals, and we’re on a path toward growth,” he says. “We don’t want to be Richmond’s best kept secret.”

Of the three CEOs we spoke with, HG Engineering and Design CEO Meril Gerstenmaier might be in the best place of all. “I’m wiser, and I’m more confident in our ability to run and grow the business,” she says. Her business hasn’t lost a beat; in fact, it’s booming. She’s hired two in-house civil engineers and hopes to add more employees soon. Still attached to thinking outside the box, she’s considering new ideas for her business, including a succession plan that doesn’t involve an outside entity.


Posted by Staff at 10:57 am
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ukrop brothers tip #8 — luck

I was fortunate to be included in a gathering of business leaders last week at Luck Stone’s beautiful headquarters in Goochland.  We were there to listen to Jim and Bobby Ukrop share some of what they learned in their remarkable business careers with Ukrop’s Supermarkets (now Martin’s), First Market Bank (now Union First Market Bank), Ukrop’s Dress Express, Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods, and other ventures.

Jim and Bobby are both very humble, yet intensely competitive.  They are also committed to the Richmond community.  We are fortunate to have them.

This may not do their comments justice, but here is a summary of some of the points the Ukrop brothers made.

1. Curiosity fuels innovation:  constantly learn from peers and outside advisors

2. Constantly reinvent the business

3. You have to have a passion to be the best

4. Brand is delivering promises through people

5. Clear Vision, Mission, and Values guide decisions

6. Everyone is in the customer service business

7. Differentiate:   if everyone goes one way, consider the opposite direction

. . . and 8. Luck!

Posted by Scot McRoberts at 2:53 pm
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Brand Identity for VACEOs

Follow the leaders

It’s the new tag line that helps us explain the key benefits of membership in the Virginia Council of CEOs:  helping small business leaders grow and profit through the shared wisdom of peers.

At today’s quarterly luncheon, Chairman Ray Lepper introduced a new brand identity for the Council, including a refreshed logo, tag line, colors and style.

The centerpiece of the presentation was the premiere of a 5 minute video that tells the story of the Council, using the words of our members.  Thanks to the “fearless fifteen” for going in front of the camera for us!  The video can be viewed at our web site.  The web site is being built out over the next few weeks, so check back often!

Earlier this year, focus groups and informal conversations were conducted with our members and a common theme emerged — the person at the helm of a small firm frequently has no one to confide in and bounce ideas off of.  The Council has filled that role by providing venues like the Roundtables, Quarterly Luncheons and an Annual Retreat where experiences and ideas are shared in a setting of confidentiality and respect.  As we like to say, it doesn’t have to be lonely at the top.

Special thanks to:

Susan Hogg and the team at Circle S Studio for developing our new brand identity and leading the team.

Mike Meyer and the team at NetSearch Direct for their work on the website and SEO.

Fred Moore and the team at Big River Advertising for conducting focus groups.

Rob Collins Productions for shooting and editing our video.

Red Amp Studios for music in the video.

Posted by Scot McRoberts at 8:10 pm
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