Wednesday, February 21, 2024

“Oh, That’s My Favorite Member!”

Pretty much every time I am talking about a member of VACEOs, I make that quote, or I think it. Ok, maybe they can’t all be my favorite. It is a bit like asking me to pick a favorite child. I have three children and they are all my favorite. I also have a favorite son-in-law. Granted I only have one, but he is an awesome one.

Yes, saying they are all my favorite is hyperbole. The statement is not a reflection of me and my capacity to adore our members, which I do, but it reflects the caliber of individuals who choose to join VACEOs. To be a successful member of VACEOs requires openness and vulnerability. Those qualities are not easily embraced by everyone, especially CEOs.

When people discover that I work with CEOs, they seem to imagine the high-profile CEOs they hear about in the media. You know who I mean, so I won’t even name names. There is a preconceived notion of the unattainable executive. When I explain the type of CEOs who join VACEOs, I may mention a local company which makes the CEO relatable to them. Mentioning a local favorite ice cream shop or car repair shop takes them out of the jet-setting mindset. However, when I describe how our CEOs engage in the process of our roundtables, that is when they become even more awed.

Our CEO members make time to learn, connect, and grow with other CEOs. They do this mainly by sharing experiences with each other. In other words, they are giving of themselves to help their peers.

The conversations they share in their private roundtable discussions can touch their business life and their personal life. They may discuss tough business topics like best hiring strategies and growing the business. They also discuss tough personal topics such as helping a family member battling cancer or how to find ways to balance their time restraints. The focus is on the CEO as an individual and helping them wherever they need help.

I am not privy to those roundtable discussions, but I am fortunate to be surrounded by these amazing individuals who are willing to share in such conversations. The openness involved spills over into our larger events. Walking into one of our events, such as a quarterly luncheon or Spring Retreat, you can feel the energy. Sitting at a table of our CEO members you get a sense of friendship, even if they are just meeting one another for the first time. It is like a warm embrace. Yes, they are there to learn and grow. but their main priority is connecting and being open with their fellow members.

When I have had the honor of spending time with one of our supportive CEO members, I am reminded why I do this job.

Come and meet some of our members. You might understand why each one is my favorite.

Posted by Connie Bruce at 2:32 pm
Monday, January 29, 2024

Meet Your 2024 Board of Directors

Here is your 2024 Board and what the future of VACEOs looks like to them.

Ron Carey, Tilt Creative + Production

Position on Board: Chairman

Something you’ve learned as a member: I’ve been reminded that the membership is rich with experience and there is a member that’s already encountered some challenge previously that feels new to me and they are willing to help.

Dreams for the future of VACEOs: That VACEOs continues to be the premiere CEO peer group for every stage of the CEO journey.

Something more personal: I am incredibly proud of my Forum group, I believe this group truly cares for one another in the good and the bad.

Henry Clifford, Livewire

Position on Board: Vice Chair

Something you’ve learned as a member: I’m not alone and there’s no shortage of opportunities to improve the lives of our employees thanks to the amazing camaraderie & collective wisdom found in our roundtables.

Dreams for the future of VACEOs: Roundtable health is vital to the success of our group. I’d love to help move the needle north on making the Roundtable experience more meaningful for our members.

Something more personal: I love live music, endurance racing and flying airplanes. I’ve been happily married to my wife for 22 years and we have 3 amazing kids with an incontinent French Bulldog serving as team mascot.

Arlene Lee, Lee Construction Group, Inc.

Position on Board: Past Chair

Something you’ve learned as a member: One thing I learned as a member of VACEOs is the power of shifting from giving advice to sharing experiences.  As I brought this concept into my business, it was powerful to see the results with my teams feeling more confident not just in making decisions but in making better decisions.

Dreams for the future of VACEOs: My hope for the future of VACEOs is that we grow in footprint and meaning and support for CEOs. And, whether intentional or unintentional, we change the conversation in the greater world in a healthy, collaborative way.

Something more personal: I am an avid knitter and have 6 books published on knitting designs.

Jennifer Boyden, Heart Havens

Position on Board: Treasurer

Something you’ve learned as a member: One of the key takeaways for me has been the paramount importance of exposing ourselves to a diverse array of ideas. As leaders, it’s easy to get caught up in our own spheres of influence and experience, but the richness of innovation lies in the multitude of perspectives that surround us. By actively seeking out and embracing new ideas, we open ourselves up to fresh insights and alternative pathways of thinking. This diversity of thought not only enhances our problem-solving abilities but also cultivates an environment where creativity and ingenuity can flourish. In the ever-evolving landscape of business, being adaptable and open-minded is crucial.

Dreams for the future of VACEOs: Looking ahead, I envision the future of VACEOs as a community that not only thrives on the strength of individual members but also on the depth of our relationships with one another. Our network is a treasure trove of knowledge, experience, and potential collaborations waiting to be unearthed. My dream for VACEOs is to see us expand not just in numbers but in the richness of our connections, fostering an environment where each member is a resource, mentor, and friend to one another.

Something more personal: On a more personal note, I want to share a significant aspect of my life that has profoundly shaped my worldview. Over the years, my family and I have had the privilege of hosting several exchange students from different countries. Our latest addition to the family hails from Vietnam, and her presence has been nothing short of transformative.

She has chosen to stay in the United States, with her family’s blessing, and I am currently pursuing legal guardianship. It is heartening to see her integrate seamlessly into our lives, bringing her unique perspective and cultural richness. As she embarks on her journey to complete her last two years of high school at Steward School, with aspirations of becoming a doctor in the USA, I am reminded of the power of fostering connections that transcend borders.

In essence, my personal experience underscores the importance of embracing diversity and providing support to those pursuing their dreams. As we chart the course for VACEOs, let us not only focus on business growth but also on the growth of relationships that transcend the professional realm, enriching our lives in ways we may not have anticipated.

B. Scott Crawford, Virginia 811

Position on Board: Director 

Something you’ve learned as a member: How the Round Tables are very powerful experiences that have facilitated my ability to learn more about me and gain more insight into who I am. 

Dreams for the future of VACEOs: A VACEO presence and participation rate in the Roanoke Valley to rival the Richmond area!    

Something more personal: I have a strong passion for technology and innovation. I love working with others to explore how technology can be leveraged in new ways in my industry in order to help protect Virginia’s underground infrastructure! 

Corey Divine, Candidate Source

Position on Board: Director

Something you’ve learned as a member: People undervalue experience sharing and the impact it can have on your development as a leader. New members join to improve their businesses, but they forget you first must become the best version of yourself.   

Dreams for the future of VACEOs: To continue to evolve and provide members with value.

Something more personal: A fun fact about me is that my first job was at McDonalds during my Freshman year of high school at the age of 14.

Melissa Ball, Ball Office Products and C.P. Dean Company

Position on Board: Director

Something you’ve learned as a member: Our problems are nearly all the same.

Dreams for the future of VACEOs: To build stronger relationship and create resources for each other.

Something more personal: I am a mom, dog lover, sailor and reluctant entrepreneur. 

Kelly O’Keefe, Brand Federation

Position on Board: Director

Something you’ve learned as a member: One of my most important lessons as a member is that perseverance leads to achievement. Life doesn’t give us calm waters to navigate in, there are always challenges both personally and professionally. I’ve been a CEO for many years, and this has always been true, but I’ve learned to just keep a steady hand on the wheel and don’t panic. When you get together with other CEOs you learn that everyone has challenges to circumvent, we’re always there for each other and we help each other to get through those times.

Dreams for the future of VACEOs: I’d love to see us share our collective wisdom with newly named CEOs. We could help younger CEOs to avoid the pitfalls that sometimes come with the job. If we can help train stronger CEOs, we can help businesses thrive, which helps our community to thrive. 

Something more personal: I’ve always considered myself an artist first. I try to bring creativity into everything I do: Running a business, parenting four children, teaching graduate students, everything. Sometimes business can be draining, but living a creative life recharges my batteries.

Posted by Aida Pehlic at 2:52 pm
Friday, January 26, 2024

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2023

Each month we work hard to bring you content of interest to you and news you can use. From tactical takeaways to strategic planning to CEO profiles that intrigue, here are the most-read stories of the year. 

What kind of content would you like to see posted to More CEOs profiles? More business tips? Is there a specific topic you would like covered? Please, let us know! 

10. Hyper Sales Growth with Jack Daly Recap

World renowned speaker Jack Daly energized a dedicated group of business leaders and their teams during our Fall Leaders Conference in September as they gained valuable insights on accelerating revenue and sales. Check out the fun and keep an eye out for our 2024 FLC with Marcus Sheridan!

9. Virginia CEOs Concerned by Increasing Interest Rates and Bank Failures

Virginia small and medium-sized business CEOs expressed concerns over rising interest rates and bank failures our first Economic Outlook Report of 2023. How did their predictions play out? Did you have the same concerns for your business?

8. This Year, Focus on People to Grow and Prevent Setbacks

Discover top tips from 8 VACEOs Forum leaders to develop your HR strategy whether you’re seeking new talent or the best practices to strengthen your current team.

7. Cashflow Forecasting – A Vital Tool For Your Business

Accurate and proactive cash flow management is essential for a business to achieve long-term success and sustainability. Read about the many advantages of cash flow forecasting in this piece.

6. AI-Powered Automation to Transform Finance, HR, and Sales

Artificial Intelligence took the (business) world by storm in 2023 and the range of its use is continually explored each day. In this post, uncover the possibilities CEOs could meet in the fields of finance, HR, and sales as AI seeps into every discipline.  

5. VACEOs Member Profile: Philip O’Connor

Get to know SPARK Product Development’s CEO Philip O’Connor as he tells us about his journey and experiences in his entrepreneurship. What podcasts does he listen to? How is he active in the Richmond community? 

4. Barrett Named Regional Executive for Richmond

VACEOs was excited to have Dave Barrett join our team as Richmond Regional Executive. He has enthusiastically expanded the reach of the VACEOs mission to Central Virginia CEOs in more ways than one in his 20+ years with the Council.

3. Roundtable or Forum. What’s the Difference?

New to the Council and aren’t familiar with our lingo? Or maybe you’ve been a member for a while and still aren’t sure what differentiates a roundtable and a forum group? The answer is here!

2. VACEOs Announces 2023 Board of Directors

We are thankful for the dedication, drive, and energy the 2023 cycle of our Board of Directors as they served VACEOs to evolve this past year. Keep an eye out for 2024 Board of Directors announcement and what they are looking forward to in the Council’s future.


Spring Retreat 2023 Photo Gallery

2023 Spring Retreat at the Hotel Roanoke was a huge highlight for VACEOs members and sponsors. Relive all the fun, learning, and growth through some of our favorite photos in the mountains. Register and learn more about our 2024 Spring Retreat at The Greenbrier May 1-3 here.

Posted by Aida Pehlic at 12:38 pm
Friday, January 19, 2024

2024 Innovative Recruiting Strategies

Attract the right talent for your organization

“Previously, people were typically looking for work if they were out of work or unhappy with their job. Now, there is an ‘always on’ perspective.”

Dan Shapero, HR Magazine

Your Workplace Looking Forward

In the dynamic landscape of human resources and recruiting, embracing innovative strategies is essential to attract and retain top talent in 2024. Job seekers are empowered to make informed decisions with access to so much information through company reviews, salary benchmarks, and a deep understanding of the job market landscape. To stand out in this competitive environment, recruiters must be authentic, transparent and put thought and effort into marketing their organization. The points below provide a summary of what is needed to develop a comprehensive recruiting strategy to help you get noticed when recruiting. The key is to embrace change, innovate, and align your recruiting strategies with the evolving expectations.

1. Recruit with a marketing mindset

Actively communicate why someone would want to work and grow their career with you. Know your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and incorporate it with the company brand in the job description. Provide an inward view of working at your company by showcasing your culture, values, and employee experiences on social media platforms along with fresh and engaging content. Brand image heavily influences how candidates perceive your company. Lastly, keep an eye on employee review sites to make sure you are being represented favorably and/or addressing any negative comments– happy employees attract top talent organically!

2. Prioritize Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility

Diversity is fundamental to attracting top talent. Commit to creating an inclusive workplace where diverse voices are valued. Promoting your commitment to equality reinforces a culture that nurtures inclusion. Make sure you are accessible to all by having accessible facilities, the ability to adapt technology when needed, and programs that guarantee equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

3. Emphasize Purpose and Impact

Today’s candidates seek more than just a job; they want a sense of purpose and contribution. Highlight your organization’s mission, values, social impact, and how each role contributes to your goals and social impact.

4. Personalize the Candidate’s Experience

Each candidate is unique, and a personalized experience matters. Tailor your recruitment process to resonate with the individual. Personalize your communication and feedback to develop a candidate-centric approach. Be timely in your responses and transparent about the recruiting process by sharing the anticipated timeline and what is to be expected. This effort reinforces your commitment to a workplace culture that prioritizes employees. When applicable, host the top candidates for in-person interviews.

5. Promote a Flexible Work Culture

Our workplace dynamics have been reshaped. Remote work, flexible schedules, and hybrid models have become the norm. Embrace flexibility in work arrangements to attract top talent seeking a better life-work balance. Clearly define how your organization supports life-work balance.

6. Clearly define the job, compensation, and benefits 

Clarity in job descriptions, compensation, and benefits is pivotal for effective hiring. It ensures that candidates understand the role’s demands and what they can expect regarding rewards. Transparent communication about compensation and benefits attracts the right talent and fosters a positive employer-employee relationship. It also helps keep you legally compliant, preventing misunderstandings and a satisfied and motivated workforce.

7. Leverage Technology for Efficiency

In 2024, technology continues to play a pivotal role in recruiting. Utilize HRIS and ATS tools for candidate sourcing, screening, and communication. Embracing technology tools will help streamline processes, allowing HR teams to focus on engaging and communicating with candidates throughout the process. 

8. Offer Learning and Growth Opportunities

Top talent seeks continuous career growth and development. Highlight opportunities for learning, upskilling, and career advancement within your organization. Show how you invest in employee development for long-term growth. If possible, provide customized career development opportunities for the specific role you are recruiting for. An example would be tailored continuing education opportunities for accountants, HR professionals, salespeople, etc.

9. Create a Positive Candidate-to-Employee Transition

The candidate’s journey doesn’t end with a job offer. Ensure a seamless transition from candidate to employee. A well-structured onboarding process sets the tone for a positive employee experience and reinforces your company’s culture and work environment. This effort isn’t a one-day task; it’s the first step in integrating the new hire into all facets of your company and successful team members.

10. Establish a Supportive Work Environment

Cultivate a supportive work environment that values well-being, mental health, and life-work harmony. Offer wellness programs, support networks, and programs that prioritize employee health and happiness- professionally and personally. 

11. Continuously Evaluate and Adapt

Recruitment strategies evolve, and what works today might need adjustments tomorrow. Continuously gather feedback, analyze recruitment metrics, and adapt your strategy to remain agile and competitive in attracting and retaining talent.


In 2024, HR recruiting requires a shift in perspective that embraces purpose, flexibility, inclusivity, and technological advancements. With these strategies, HR professionals and hiring managers can position their organizations as attractive destinations for top talent while nurturing a work environment that encourages retention and growth.

Contributed by Beth Williams, Warren Whitney

Warren Whitney’s HR team works with business leaders to strategically evaluate your best path forward. Our work includes strategy consulting, in-depth compensation and benefits analysis, organizational structure and planning, as well as talent management. If you have any questions or seek further clarification, please call us at 804.282.9566 or email Stephanie Ford at We do not charge for the initial call. We want to learn more about your business needs.


Posted by Aida Pehlic at 12:48 pm
Friday, January 19, 2024

Warren Whitney Leads Support for VACEOs

An important sponsor and partner with Virginia Council of CEOs since 2007, Warren Whitney has stepped up as Lead Sponsor of VACEOs in 2024. In this position, the firm will increase its support for the Council’s mission and engage their expert consultants more deeply in supporting the CEOs of growing Virginia businesses of all sizes.

Our mission aligns so well with what Warren Whitney does best. They help the leaders of small and mid-sized organizations overcome hurdles and grow faster. We are grateful for their long term support, and especially for leading us forward this year!

Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, VA Council of CEOs

Stephanie Ford has led Warren Whitney’s engagement with VACEOs, connecting their people and resources with our members and roundtables, referring numerous CEOs for membership, and waving the VACEOs flag wherever she goes!

VACEOs is a nonprofit organization that relies on sponsors like Warren Whitney to propel their mission of connecting CEOs for learning and growth.

Learn more about Warren Whitney.

Learn more about Virginia Council of CEOs sponsorship.

Posted by Scot McRoberts at 11:59 am