Monday, June 11, 2018

Virginia Council of CEOs Forming Third CEO Roundtable to Serve Entrepreneurs in Charlottesville

The Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs), a non-profit association serving 225 small and mid-sized business CEOs, announced today that it is forming a third CEO roundtable in Charlottesville, Virginia – just 17 months after the organization announced plans to serve that market.

“We are truly thankful to be so well received in the Charlottesville market,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director, Virginia Council of CEOs. “Now it’s full steam ahead. We anticipate filling a third roundtable before the end of the year.”

The Council reports that, to date, of its 225 total membership, 21 Charlottesville-area CEOs have joined.  

Entrepreneurs and CEOs join the Virginia Council of CEOs for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason is to participate in a Roundtable. Roundtables comprise eight to 10 individuals from non-competing industries who meet on a regular basis. Members follow a strict “no advice” protocol, and all information shared in the meetings is confidential.

“In general, Roundtable discussions tend to focus on how to be a better leader and anticipate what’s next, instead of being in the trenches with everyone else,” McRoberts explained. “The confidential, safe haven environment in our Roundtables is also a place where CEOs can share family or personal concerns, which greatly impact their performance as leaders.”

The opportunity to engage in peer-to-peer experience-sharing was the main reason new Charlottesville member John Woodell joined the Council in 2017.

“I joined to tap into and contribute to the wealth of knowledge shared by the numerous chief executives running similarly sized companies and facing similar issues,” the president of OpenSource Connections explained. “All the extras that the Council provides – such as the Annual Retreat, quarterly speakers and social events – have been part of a surprising and enriching experience.”

Woodell recently completed the required Roundtable Protocol Training and has had the first meeting with his new group. “I look forward to having a group of peers that face many of the same challenges I face and who, through sharing our experiences related to specific and pertinent issues, help support each other in finding real solutions to those challenges.”

About the Virginia Council of CEOs
The Virginia Council of CEOs is a non-profit association that serves 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. With 225 members in Central Virginia at this time, the Council is forming new CEO Roundtables in other parts of the state. Learn more at

Posted by Staff at 1:28 pm
Friday, January 19, 2018

Introducing Square Table: a New VACEOs Meeting Concept

Square Table banner

VACEOs is announcing a new meeting concept for its members and sponsors. The new event, called a “VACEOs Square Table,” is designed to be similar to the confidential monthly roundtables members currently enjoy, but the intent is to offer participants the opportunity to set up a meeting at any time and discuss specific topics of their choice in a supportive, solicitation free environment.

Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs), explains: “One of the biggest reasons why entrepreneurs and CEOs join the Council is to become a member of a peer roundtable. It can be very lonely to be an entrepreneur, and a roundtable is a powerful tool for our members. It’s a safe haven to share things they can’t share with their staff or spouse.”

“We’re very excited to offer a new way for members to connect and learn from each other and our sponsors,” McRoberts continues. “The new Square Table meetups are about offering our membership and sponsors a way to solve challenges or learn something new in a no-sell, experience-sharing encounter. It’s another way to leverage the experiences and expertise of more than 260 members and sponsors.”

The concept was given a soft introduction to a small group of VACEOs early in the year and was immediately well received. At press time, several Square Table events have already been scheduled.


The concept for the Square Table is based on the successful monthly VACEOs roundtable experience, but because the makeup of each event will vary and the meetings can be arranged at any time, for any reason, it’s thought to be “like a roundtable, but with different parameters.” Hence the name “Square Table.”

Square Table is a new experience-sharing program that will allow any member or sponsor to invite others in the VACEOs community to a small meeting to:

  • get help from others
  • gather like-minded peers
  • learn something new
  • run a focus group
  • share a passion

Organizers may choose to follow the VACEOs formal Gestalt meeting protocol or one of their own choosing. VACEOs staff will manage event registration and promotion. Only members and sponsors may attend VACEOs Square Table events.

Want to learn more or organize an event? Visit the VACEOs Square Table resource page today.

Posted by Staff at 10:48 am
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Four Ways VACEOs Maximizes Peer Learning

Group at tableCEOs join the Virginia Council of CEOs for one primary reason – to be a part of a peer Roundtable or Forum. These groups of 8 to 10 non-competing CEOs meet regularly to learn and grow together.


It’s challenging to make meetings productive and efficient in any setting. Imagine a meeting with ten confident, hard-drivers who are used to running the show!


No matter the type of meeting – Roundtable or Forum – each calls for strict adherence to confidentiality and to the Gestalt Language Protocol. Getting our executives up-to-speed on meeting procedures begins as soon as they become a member. And it’s one of the four ways we help our members be successful.




First, each new member receives a copy of the book Forum: The Secret Advantage of Successful Leaders by Mo Fathelbab, which lays out the methods and Gestalt protocols for successful executive peer groups. It’s required reading for all new members.


Secondly, every new peer group starts off with a full day training session with one of our world-class trainers. And, every group gets a half-day of refresher training every year, a chance to sharpen the saw and recommit.


Then, to make sure the meeting stay on focus, every roundtable elects a member of the group as their leader. We work hard to support these leaders through regular leader meetings, coaching sessions and feedback surveys. Like most things, leadership is key.


Finally, we have high expectations of our members. These expectations include confidentiality, culture and commitment. Commitment comes first, with the expectation that a member attends each monthly meeting and participating fully. Our members take this seriously. Every month, our attendance for more than 180 members is 94 percent. That’s commitment.


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Posted by Staff at 5:00 pm
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Getting Unstuck: The VACEOs Forum Experience

Let’s be honest: It’s not always business that causes the negative emotions you sometimes struggle with. Often, it’s life. To have a group of people who understand you as a human AND as a CEO is HUGE.


Imagine sitting around a table with several Inc. 5000 and RVA 25 business owners – each focused on your issue or opportunity – and finally realizing you’re not alone. Each VACEOs member has experienced this feeling during a Roundtable or Forum peer group session.



All new VACEOs members are assigned to either a Roundtable or Forum peer group. Roundtable groups typically include 8-10 members and meet once a month for four hours. Forums, on the other hand, meet only once a quarter for a full day of discussion.


The biggest difference between a Roundtable and Forum is the type of CEOs sitting around the table. A typical Forum member leads a more complex business that may have multiple locations and 75 or more employees. Forum groups typically include only eight members and require the participation of a skilled facilitator to ensure these high-horsepower individuals stay on track.


“It’s a slightly different altitude because of the complexity or scope of the business,” he adds. “The management and hiring issues and competitive strategies are just a little bigger, but the business issues are remarkably similar,” explains Randy Wyckoff, VACEOs Forum Facilitator.


No matter the type of meeting – Roundtable or Forum – each calls for strict adherence to confidentiality and to the Gestalt Language Protocol. (The guiding principle of the Gestalt Language Protocol is to never give advice, but to share related experiences instead. (Read more.)




Forums quickly become a safe haven – a place to vent, ask questions, release fears and build lifelong friendships. During each quarterly day-long meeting, several members present personal or work challenges to the group.


It’s the facilitator’s responsibility to ensure the agenda is set well before the meeting occurs and to make sure the meeting and attendees follow Gestalt processes and principles. Another important role the facilitator may play is that of coach. The ultimate goal is to help the CEOs presenting their challenges get “unstuck.”


RandyW-Story“The coach works with the presenter to set the tone for the discussion,” says Randy Wyckoff, who is also a non-profit strategy consultant and coach. “I help the presenter through the process of identifying and defining the issue. I also help them clarify anything they specifically don’t want brought up during the discussion; for example, they may have tried a specific solution to the challenge already, so they don’t want to hear about experiences that include that specific approach. I also help the presenter talk about their emotional reaction to the issue – how the issue makes them feel.”


Opening up emotionally and honestly is how members get the most out of the Forum experience. “If you come into a meeting guarded or not willing to open up, then you’re limiting your experience with the group,” says Tom Ficklin. He’s a VACEOs Forum Facilitator, a certified Christian Life Coach and a soon-to-be International Coach certificate holder.
“In the coaching world, we live for the ‘aha!’ moments,” he explains. “It’s tough for executives who are at a high level to talk about what they do with their spouse or accountant or attorney. When they get into a Forum and find out others have been down a similar path or share similar experiences, you see lights come on, and you see them think, ‘Ok, I’m not the only one.’ Then they begin to take in the experiences of the others and they begin to see how to get unstuck. They see the direction. They have a turn signal. It’s about finding the next step and taking it with a level of confidence.”


MikeM-StoryMike Matthews, president of Hankins & Anderson and a longtime Forum member, has found confidence and friendship in his peer group.


“They all have the same responsibilities that I have – the same difficulty in making decisions,” says Matthews. “There’s something about being with a group of people who do what you do. You don’t often find that. It’s very rewarding. When you’re talking about something, you don’t have to explain it in context. They get it. It’s great to have those conversations. I think that being a part of a Forum and a member of the Council has made me more confident in my decision-making.”


Matthews says his group truly enjoys their time together. “One Forum member said, ‘You know what? Even if we didn’t have presentations, I would still want to meet every quarter.’ I think that speaks volumes about how close we are as a group and how much value we find in the peer group experience.”


Posted by Scot McRoberts at 1:11 pm
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Guided by the Gestalt Protocol, Peer Groups Offer VACEOs Members a Safe Haven

Imagine seated to your right is someone who has made the Inc. 5000 list not once, but EIGHT times. Seated around the table to your left are several RVA 25 CEOs representing the technology, consumer products and staffing industries. Each is focused on your question, issue or opportunity. You finally realize: you are not alone. This is the feeling each VACEOs member has experienced during a Roundtable or Forum session.


MoFinalAll new VACEOs members are assigned to a peer roundtable. It quickly becomes a safe haven – a place to vent, ask questions, release fears and build life-long friendships.


“Peer roundtables are important because they provide a unique opportunity to share and learn with a group of peers in a completely safe environment,” says Mo Fathelbab, Forum Resources Network president and author of Forum: The Secret Advantage of Successful Leaders.


“As a CEO, it’s often lonely at the top. You can’t share everything with your employees, partners, board members or investors. Members of a Roundtable have no personal interest in your decisions,” he adds.


Forum: The Secret Advantage of Successful Leaders explains Roundtable methodology and is required reading for all new VACEOs members.


“The Council’s Roundtables have been designed intentionally around the principles found in Fathelbab’s book,” says Scot McRoberts, executive director, VACEOs. “Each member is trained about our disciplined meeting process, which follows very specific language and meeting protocols. This is to ensure that every member gets the most out of the Roundtable or Forum meetings.”





All VACEOs Roundtables adhere to a set of ground rules by which the group must abide. Chief among them is strict adherence to a code of confidentiality and Gestalt Language Protocol.


“The Gestalt Protocol is based on the theory that as children we were always told what to do by our parents,” explains Fathelbab. “As a result, adults – especially entrepreneurs – resent being told what to do by anyone.”


The guiding principle of the protocol is to never give advice, but to share related experiences instead. Participants are careful to avoid phrases such as “If I were you…” when another group member presents his or her challenge. Learning to participate in a group this way takes effort and practice, but it’s essential for creating a safe, rewarding experience.



“Advice can be flat-out wrong,” says Fathelbab. “It can be judgmental. Advice creates an unsafe environment in a Roundtable, Peer Exchange Group or Forum. Each of us is best equipped to solve our own problem. The best anyone can do is to share their experience, allowing the person with the problem to glean from that experience what is best for him or her.”


“Sharing experiences allows members of a group to get closer by learning more about one another,” he continues. “By contrast, giving advice to a single member robs the group of all of the stories that can be so educational and socially bonding.”





The Council is one of a handful of independent regional organizations of its kind in existence. Members enjoy the benefits of networking, camaraderie and the “safe haven” found in their roundtables and in their interactions with 180 other CEOs. Ready to learn more? View VACEOs membership info today.


Posted by Scot McRoberts at 7:46 pm
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