Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Virginia CEOs Find Answers and Solace in Peer Groups

Melissa Ball takes a snapshot of her roundtable practicing safe social distancing during recent meeting.

To say that many small and mid-sized Virginia business owners find themselves on an emotional and operational roller coaster today is an understatement. 

Connie Hom, CEO, Buckingham Greenery

“We as CEOs have been plummeted into chaos, and the levels of stress for us have accelerated exponentially,” says Connie Hom, CEO of Buckingham Greenery. “We are taking the lead in this crisis, and our teams look to us not only for empathy, but also for guidance and true leadership. This is probably the best test of how we’re leading.” 

As the backbone of the U.S. economy, how will small business CEOs manage the COVID-19 crisis? Some, like Hom and Charlie Connell, CEO of PUNCH, are finding a safe haven in confidential (and virtual) peer roundtable meetups. Both Hom and Connell are members of the Virginia Council of CEOs, and Hom says her roundtable group has given her “the opportunity to vent challenges in a very safe place.”

“The feeling is that I’m not in this siloed by myself,” Hom explains. “This has been a fast-paced, changing environment. There are decisions as a CEO in regard to labor, clients and revenue, and the shared experiences have been very helpful. The virtual roundtable has truly been a breath of fresh air, and the Council membership has proven to be, for me, a port in the storm.”

Connell agrees. “My roundtable has always helped me deal with the emotional side of running a business. Now, more than ever, it has helped me navigate the business end of it. Without my roundtable’s support, I would not have been able to sift through all the information we were bombarded with in terms of the Payroll Protection Act and all the other support options that were put in front of business owners. Our experience-sharing has been more influential than any other resource in making the decisions I have made to deal with our current situation.”


(Left) Charlie Connell, CEO, PUNCH with his pups. (Right) Charlie’s roundtable enjoy a retreat together.



The nature of the confidential information shared within VACEOs peer roundtable groups means that trust among members often grows quickly and runs deep. 

Melissa Ball of Ball Office Products

Melissa Ball, Managing Member at Ball Office Products, has been a member of VACEOs since 2011. She describes her roundtable as “a good, solid group with a high level of comfort with each other.” Where they once met once a month for several hours, they’re now meeting every week for an hour. She says the format of the meeting now is less structured than before, but it’s been an invaluable outlet for her and other members. 

On top of managing her family at home, Ball is also managing new vendors, new customer relationships, new ways of handling freight inventory, and much more. “I’ve never worked harder,” she says. “Sometimes you just need a sanity check, you know what I mean? I’m like, ‘How crazy am I really for thinking this or doing this?’ And then I’ll be like, ‘Okay, it’s not just me.’ It might sound flippant, but it’s real. When you’re able to pose a question to somebody and say, ‘Okay, guys, here’s what I’m thinking,’ it’s helpful to hear what other people are doing, especially as it relates to payroll and HR and emotions.”


Many of the CEOs we spoke with reported that at times they’ve had almost too much information coming at them from well-meaning organizations and industry groups – and that it sometimes adds to the chaos. 

JJ White, CEO of Dale Carnegie Southeast United States

JJ White, CEO of Dale Carnegie Southeast United States, perhaps most concisely expressed how many CEOs are feeling by saying, “Now, more than ever, is the most critical time in your business to find people who can help you get through this, but more than just get through it – actually create something in your business so that you’ll come out of this better than you’ve ever been before.”

Do you run a small or mid-sized business in Virginia? Don’t face these challenging times alone. Virginia Council of CEOs is now offering virtual roundtables across Virginia. Contact VACEOs today to learn more.





Posted by Staff at 7:19 am
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Monday, April 27, 2020

(Video) VA Council of CEOs Develops Community Membership in Response to COVID-19

VA Council of CEOs Develops Community Membership in Response to COVID-19 (Captions)VA Council of CEOs Develops Community Membership in Response to COVID-19 (Captions)

Listen in as Scot McRoberts, Executive Director of VA Council of CEOs, addresses Virginia business owners


Now, during this unprecedented time of COVID-19, VA Council of CEOs is even more committed to serving the CEOs of Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia. That’s why for a limited time we are offering a no-cost and no-strings membership to those who would most benefit from this offer.

In a video message to local CEOs, VACEOs Executive Director, Scot McRoberts says, “I’ve spoken to a lot of CEOs over the last several weeks. Like them, I know you’re hurting. Our community of small and mid-sized business owners is hurting too. In this time of uncertainty, I see our Members leaning on each other now more than ever.

Where we once met together in person to share experiences and to connect and learn from each other, we’re now meeting virtually in peer roundtable groups, private chats, and exclusive webinars and information sharing sessions. I’m happy to report that our members are finding the comfort and empathy that they need from others who are facing the same challenges as you and they’re finding the information and resources they need to move forward.

Today we’re extending a special offer to those CEOs who would most likely benefit from our community. No strings, no cost. During this time, you can join Roundtable meetups, listen in on our exclusive webinars and connect with a community of peers who are dealing with the same crisis as you,” he says, adding, “We will get through this and many of us will be stronger. Don’t face this difficult time alone. Join us. No strings, no cost.”


This offer is extended through September 30, 2020 and is for business owners who will most benefit from our programming and community. More specifically, those CEOs who manage a business in Richmond and/or Charlottesville, Virginia with more than $1 million in revenue and employ five or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs).

Community Members will have access to:

  • VACEOs Flash Roundtable events
  • CEO Virtual Retreat Series programming
  • Exclusive information-sharing sessions (Square Tables+) with local and national experts and more.


Do you run a business with more than $1M in revenue and employ five or more FTE? Take advantage of this special offer. Apply here today and select “Community Membership”.

Posted by Staff at 12:10 pm
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

VA Council of CEOs Brings CEO Roundtable Experience to Startup Virginia

The VA Council of CEOs and Startup Virginia are pleased to announce a new community partnership, as Startup Virginia officially launches its peer-to-peer Founders Roundtable program. The program provides founders an intentional opportunity to connect with other founders in order to share, support, and learn from each other as they grow their businesses.

Scot McRoberts of VACEOs

“We were happy to help SVA with the tools and training they needed to build their roundtable program,” said Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, VA Council of CEOs. “We believe peer roundtables make better CEOs and more successful companies, which makes our community stronger. It’s natural for us to want to equip these startup CEOs with such a powerful tool to help them grow and succeed.”

The VA Council of CEOs worked with Startup Virginia staff to create the Founders Roundtable program and provided training for the leaders of the five groups. The program will facilitate structured monthly meetings for small groups of 7-10 diverse entrepreneurs to participate in confidential discussions about the professional and personal challenges of operating a high-growth startup.

Richard Wintsch of Startup Virginia

“We are incredibly grateful for the support and expertise of the VA Council of CEOs in the development of our Founder Roundtable program,” said Richard Wintsch, Executive Director, Startup Virginia. “As a business incubator, the biggest value we offer our founders is the opportunity to support and learn from each other, and this new initiative does it in an intentional way. We’re really excited to provide this opportunity to our member startups.”

About the Virginia Council of CEOs
The Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit association that serves the CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses in Virginia. The Council was founded in 2000 to connect CEOs so that they can learn and grow together. Made up of more than 240 members from the Richmond and Charlottesville regions, the Council is poised for continued growth. Learn more at https://www.vaceos.org/.

About Startup Virginia
Startup Virginia (SVA) is a nonprofit, high-growth business incubator dedicated to advancing businesses that build a long-term, sustainable economy for Virginia. We currently serve 70 startup companies, more than 180 mentors and subject matter experts, and a regional investors network. SVA also provides entrepreneurial guidance and education that is open to all. With support from our partners, mentors, investors, and donors, we help entrepreneurs reach their full potential. For more information, visit www.startupvirginia.org.

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Posted by Staff at 10:13 am
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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

VACEOs Members Help Women Executives “Future-Proof” Their Careers


You could feel the electricity in the air as nearly 100 women executives and MBA students gathered for the second annual “Future-Proofing Your Career” event co-hosted by The Richmond MBA at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs.

“The Importance of Mentoring” was the theme of this year’s event, and setting the tone for the afternoon was keynote Linda Schreiner, Senior Vice President of Strategic Management for Markel Corporation and former Senior Vice President at MeadWestvaco. Her presentation was followed by peer roundtable sessions facilitated by several VACEOs Members and Sponsors.

VACEOs Members, Sponsors, Former Members, and new friends attend event. Photo: Paige Stevens Photography.


“The Virginia Council of CEOs appreciates partnering with the Robins School on this event,” said Connie Bruce, Director of Operations & Member Services, Virginia Council of CEOs. “It’s great for our own Members, but it’s also great for the business community as a whole to focus on women business owners and business executives. The energy is incredible – they come and they learn from each other by sharing.”

Jennifer Boyden, Heart Havens CEO and VACEOs Member, was happy to share her knowledge with the women attending the event. “I’m here because I’m a member of the Council,” she explained. “I believe in experience sharing, and I believe in creating pathways and networks for women so that we can all grow stronger together.”

“I came last year and loved it,” said one participant after the event. “I invited three people to come this year, and all of them loved it. I felt like I paid forward something!”


Keynote speaker Linda Schreiner. Photo: Paige Stevens Photography


Keynote speaker Linda Schreiner welcomed the opportunity to address the crowd about mentoring, saying it’s “a subject I’m pretty passionate about and was thrilled to be able to have an opportunity to share it with people – and then especially have members of the audience be able to talk further about it in their breakout groups.”

During her presentation, Schreiner discussed her experience in career counseling and as part of MeadWestvaco’s formal mentoring program, and answered questions participants submitted before the program began. She also talked about what happens when a mentorship isn’t a good fit, finding the right mentor, mentoring versus sponsoring, power and gender dynamics, and getting the most out of the relationship for mentors and mentees.

“Success is what happens one person at a time, one relationship at a time,” said Schreiner. “I think we should just start with that one relationship that we choose to invest in and give that our all. Don’t try to do everything and don’t try to over-program things…”

“It’s also really important to know when you’re finished,” she added. “In the end, I hope you get the same joy out of mentoring that I do, because it’s just wonderful to see people try to achieve goals, work hard and actually succeed.”


VACEOs Member Arlene Lee conducts roundtable discussion. Photo: Paige Stevens Photography


All attendees participated in pre-arranged peer roundtables facilitated by VACEOs Members and Sponsors and other business leaders. As VACEOs members quickly learn, these kinds of sessions can be a powerful tool for testing new ideas, solving problems and learning from others who’ve had similar experiences. Learn more about roundtables.

“At our tables today, we were able to facilitate very powerful discussions through a structured model,” said Stephanie Ford, Director at Warren Whitney and VACEOs Sponsor. “Everyone had the opportunity to share their challenges and also be able to share in a very respectful way about their experiences and lessons learned so that others could benefit from them.”

VACEOs Sponsor Danessa Knaupp (top left) with her roundtable. Photo: Paige Stevens Photography.


Many participants formed new relationships that will likely last beyond the day. Said one attendee of her roundtable experience, “It was amazing! Great. It was great. Very refreshing. I just felt like I didn’t know anyone in my group, and I felt like they were my best friends at the end of it. I learned a lot about myself.”

Another said, “It was super-helpful to hear from women who have been in similar situations as I, but also in different, and to see the themes that run through our lives.” Yet another added, “It was incredible. Super-inspiring and loving all the advice and all the incredibly smart people that share all their wisdom with the group. It was incredible. Loved it.”

Debbie Fisher, Associate Director for The Richmond MBA at Robins School of Business, is already looking forward to next year, saying: “[Linda Schreiner] did an amazing job – really talked about how women can help lift each other up – and we are so excited about next year!”

Special thanks to the VACEOs Members and Sponsors who facilitated roundtable discussions during this event, including:

Posted by Staff at 2:43 pm
Monday, July 30, 2018

CEO Roundtable Experience: 5 Frequently Asked Questions

VACEOs Roundtable group holds meeting at beach location.

Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit organization serving small and mid-sized CEOs and entrepreneurs in Richmond, Charlottesville and soon, across Virginia. The primary way we serve our CEOs is through our highly structured, peer-to-peer Roundtable experience. Here are the five most asked questions about that experience! Want to learn more? Contact us or view our Facebook Live video: “VACEOs CEO Roundtable Experience FAQs” today!

1) How many are in a Roundtable group, and how do you decide who is in?

 A: There are 8 to 10 people in a group. Scot McRoberts, the Executive Director of Virginia Council of CEOs, matches new members with a Roundtable. “Your Roundtable will not include competitors, business partners, relatives, clients, or investors. The group is impartial and is created to work for your best interest,” says McRoberts.

2) What exactly happens in a Roundtable? How do the meetings work?

A: Roundtables consist of 8 to 10 members who meet once a month to share what is going on in their lives and in their businesses. The Roundtable experience sharing is about addressing the CEO as a whole. The information that is shared in the meeting is confidential. There are two parts to each meeting. Each member gives a general update at the beginning of the meeting. The updates can range from: “I have a new acquisition I’m looking at,” OR “I have a teenager I don’t know how to deal with,” OR “I’m facing an issue with my health.”
Then, the group takes a deep dive into one or two of the members’ challenges. Following the Gestalt Language protocol, meetings are highly structured and only experiences are shared. No advice is given.

3) What are some of the types of questions or challenges that my Roundtable can help me with?

A: In general, discussions tend to be about how to become a more successful CEO. Our members are looking for processes or information on how to be a better leader and look for what’s next, instead of being in the trenches with everyone else.

4) How often do the Roundtables get together?

A: Roundtables meet once a month. Meetings follow a strict protocol and structure and usually last between 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Regular attendance is expected, and because members gain so much from the experience, attendance statistics typically reach over 90% for all groups.

5) Is the Roundtable experience really valuable?

A: Yes! One member says: “What I have gotten out of my Roundtable experience is I have been able to identify a successor, craft a very specific Exit Plan. I have been able to develop a Long Term Incentive Compensation Plan to retain top talent, and I’ve dealt with issues working with my spouse. Through experience, hearing from others and understanding the experiences that have worked and have not worked, I have been able to develop a very effective Growth Plan and sales organization. It has allowed me to rise above the day to day grind and allowed me to work on my business instead of in my business. That has led me to double digit growth over year after year…. I was a corporate guy for so long, and had never been in my own business before, and I realized after my Council and Roundtable experience it’s all about who you hang around with. There’s a lot I didn’t know. Now I know a lot more.” – N. Lappe, CEO, WebStrategies.
Posted by Staff at 4:18 pm