Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Symbols and Artifacts by Scot McRoberts

ScotMcR artifacts article

“One of the few things I brought home with me was his college ring. Class of 1958, University of Texas, with a huge longhorn on the side and his fraternity letters on the stone.”

Earlier this month, I travelled to Texas to help my sister sort through my dad’s stuff. He passed away in April, having lived a long and fruitful life. As we sorted through pictures and letters, I envisioned the arc of his long and interesting life. I marveled at how much of him was in me. 

One of the powerful influences he (and mom) had on me was a love of learning. Doing well in school and going to college was never a stated expectation. It just was. Mom and Dad supported me and my siblings through college, paying the way and cheering us on.

Back to Dad’s stuff. One of the few things I brought home with me was his college ring. Class of 1958, University of Texas, with a huge longhorn on the side and his fraternity letters on the stone. I really cannot remember him not having it on his right hand. I do remember the stories of his college days that I associate with that ring. 

Now I realize that this artifact, this symbol, was part of the unstated expectation that he had for me. You will go to college, build meaningful lifelong relationships, and go forth into the world and do good. He never needed to say it, I saw it on his hand every day.

What are the things in our businesses and lives that speak to our employees, customers and community? What do these things say to people?

For years, we have given engraved baseball bats to speakers and key volunteers to recognize their contributions. I see them in photos from events, and in the offices of the recipients. I hope they communicate appreciation, that the person “hit a home run” for us, and that we regard them as a heavy hitter.

You probably have symbols and artifacts in your business. These objects can be a powerful part of your culture and how you communicate it. A reminder to stay the course, if you will. 

I’ve chosen to wear my father’s class ring now. In a way, the large, heavy piece of jewelry with the chipped stone conjures up the spirit of the man who shaped me.  I’m a better leader because of him. 

Take a minute to think about the objects in your business and your life that offer direction and meaning. I bet you will come up with some good ones. Please share them in the comments!

Posted by Staff at 2:08 pm
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Gary Chapman Brings Languages of Appreciation to Richmond

Gary Chapman in RVA

Dr. Gary Chapman is a number-one New York Times best-selling author known throughout the world for his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts. The book, believed to be one of the most widely read in the world, has sold now 12 million copies in English, and has been translated into 40 other languages. 

Using in-depth research provided by Dr. Paul White, a psychologist who specializes in helping family-owned businesses, Chapman has adapted the Love Languages principles taught in his original book for the business world in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Chapman and White’s teachings have benefited employees and individuals across a variety of organizations, including Microsoft, Nationwide Insurance, NASA and many others. 

On August 14, in front of a large crowd at the Byrd Theatre in Richmond, Virginia, Chapman treated the audience – which included a select group of VACEOs members – to a behind-the-scenes look at the research and principles behind the book. 


It’s a startling fact: “70 percent of the people who have jobs in this country say they feel little to no appreciation coming from the people with whom and for whom they work, says Chapman. “Sixty-four percent of the people who leave one job and move to another job say they moved primarily because they didn’t feel appreciated for their work.”

In fact, Chapman and White say the need to feel appreciated at work is the same fundamental need as the need to feel loved in family relationships. Under appreciated employees can create a crippling ripple effect across your business. Team members become disconnected from the organization’s mission, and, soon, complaints to colleagues and drama follow. Your customers notice the lack of dedication to their needs. 

On the other hand, when employees feel appreciated, employee turnover is decreased, sick days are minimized, and employees are energized and give more. Your business emits a positive energy, and customers want to do business with you. Customer satisfaction goes up, and you benefit from a more positive relationship with your staff.

But just telling your employees you appreciate them isn’t the answer. “Just as a husband who’s telling his wife that he loves her, and that’s not her Love Language, you tell your employees you appreciate them verbally, you’re getting about 40 percent of your people,” explains Chapman. “The other 60 percent aren’t getting it, because that’s not their Appreciation Language. That’s not what makes them feel appreciated. Words just roll off on them. In order for it to be effective, [your appreciation] has to be individualized.”


Before we speak the language, it’s important to understand the difference between recognition and appreciation.

“Recognition is largely about behavior,” Chapman writes in his book. “Appreciation, conversely, focuses on performance plus the employee’s value as a person. Recognition is about improving performance and focuses on what is good for the company. Appreciation emphasizes what is good for the company and what is good for the person.” 


According to Chapman, each of us has a primary and a secondary Appreciation Language, and each language can have a dialect.  

The Five Languages include:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Acts of Service
  4. Tangible Gifts
  5. Physical Touch

Chapman cautions the audience not to be alarmed by number five: His background in anthropology tells him there are no human cultures in which people do not touch. He addresses the appropriateness of physical touch in the workplace thoroughly in his book, which we encourage you to read since it also covers specific dialects that are part of each language, and the specific skills and guidelines you need to develop as a leader to effectively express appreciation.


How can you tell which Appreciation Language your employees and co-workers prefer? According to Chapman, there are three informal ways to find out.

1. Observe their behavior. “Just observe how they respond to other people,” says Chapman. “If they’re always offering to help other people on projects or frequently ask, ‘Is there anything I can do for you,’ you see what they’re doing is Acts of Service.” 

2. Observe their requests of others. “If they’re always initiating invitations to lunch with colleagues, you can assume that Quality Time is their language, because they’re asking, ‘Would you like to go to lunch with me?’ So what are their requests? If they’re the person who’s always saying, ‘Would you help me with this,’ they’re asking you for Acts of Service.”

3. Observe what they complain about. “The complaint really reveals a person’s Appreciation Language,” says Chapman. “If they’re saying ‘I can’t ever please him,’ ‘I can never please him,’ ‘I can’t ever please her,’ they’re telling you that Words of Affirmation is their language.”

Todd Mawyer and Dr. Gary Chapman

Ready to empower your organization by encouraging people? Why not purchase copies of 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace for your employees like Todd Mawyer, CEO of TK Promotions, Inc., did?

His plan is to encourage his team to take the language evaluation test that’s included in the book and then discuss what they’ve learned together. 

Posted by Staff at 3:48 pm
Monday, July 30, 2018

Protecting Your Investment: Essential HR Practices for Your Business

[Guest post by Beth Williams, Director of Human Resources at Warren Whitney (VA Council of CEOs Sponsor)]

As a small business owner, you are keenly aware that even if you worked 24/7 there still would not be enough time to get everything done. Being an effective manager requires knowing the critical elements and guidelines to lead your team. Having a HR program and guidebook in place is especially critical. Even though your program will be dependent on multiple factors — such as company size, industry, regulatory and compliance bodies, here are some basics to include in your program.

HR guidelines to get started:

  1. Creation and maintenance of three specific employee files
  2. Publication of an employee guidebook with specific policies
  3. Posting of required state and federal notices  

Employee File Guideline

Your employee file should include at least these three files:

  1. Employee Payroll File. This file should include: Direct Deposit Form, W-4, VA-4 and other withholding forms, and the offer letter. The file may be shared with the payroll or finance department.(Note: The file may be kept with the finance department.) 
  2. Employee HR File. This confidential file will have general employment information on the employee and include his/her: Resume, Employment Application, Offer Letter, Contract or Agreement, Performance Evaluation, Awards, Disciplinary Documents and finally termination or exit interview information.
  3. Employee Medical/Benefit File. A separate, confidential medical/benefit file for health and medical issues on each of your employees should include: Applications for insurance, notes from a doctor excusing a person from work, medical examination results, information related to a disability, beneficiary forms, open enrollment forms and any other benefit related documents. 

Employee Guidebook Guidelines

A good employee guidebook should contain several key sections and information on your company culture, policies, and procedures. Here are the must-haves:

  1. An introductory statement to explain the purpose of the handbook and at will employment. 
  2. The guidebook should list the following company policies: 


  • Equal Opportunity Statement
  • Onboarding Information
  • Harassment &
  • Open Door Statement
  • Confidentiality
  • Employment at Will 
  • Social Media
  • Computer Use
  • Alcohol and Drug
  • Personal Appearance
  • Solicitation
  • Immigration Law
  • Disclaimer Statement
  • Business / Work Hours
  • Company Property
  • Ethics Policy
  • Standards of Conduct
  1. Below are some remaining key topics that may be included based on your business and industry:

a) Timekeeping and Payroll: Timekeeping Procedures, Paydays, Pay deductions, Time Off

b) Work Conditions: Violence in the Workplace, Workplace Safety, Drug Free Workplace Policy, Employee Standard of Conduct and Disciplinary Policy, Office and Facility Information

c) Benefits: Sick Leave, Personal Leave, Vacation, Holidays, Bereavement Leave, Jury Duty Leave, Military Leave, Maternity/Paternity Leave, Group Insurance, Worker’s Compensation Insurance, Healthcare Continuation, 401K, Business Expense Reimbursement

Posting of Required Notices

Lastly, I suggest you purchase a combined state and federal poster that keeps you in compliance with posting regulations. If you have more than one office, you will need to post this in each location. While there are many sources, this recommended version costs less than $20.00. Visit VA – Federal Posters.

Want to take it to the next level? Join me and Janet Duncan for the VACEOs Square Table event: “How Best to Manage Disruptive Behavior in Your Workplace” on September 6. Learn more about this Square Table event.

About Beth Williams

Beth Williams is the Director of Human Resources at Warren Whitney. She has worked in human resource management for more than 25 years with experience that spans many diverse industries, including accounting, energy, financial services and banking, legal services, pharmaceuticals, IT, and non-profit. Learn more. Warren Whitney is a valued sponsor of Virginia Council of CEOs. 

Posted by Staff at 2:32 pm
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

7 Benefits of Joining a CEO Peer-to-Peer Roundtable

Roundtables happen everywhere

A VACEOs Roundtable meets during their retreat outing at the beach.

An article in the June issue of Inc. Magazine recently caught my eye. It was titled “This Secret 1930s Tradition Is Suddenly All the Rage with CEOs,” and it was written by Kate Rockwood, contributing editor at Inc. 

The article is about “mastermind groups,” or what we call Roundtables at the Virginia Council of CEOs. What I found interesting was the fact that the author used “Suddenly All the Rage with CEOs” in her headline. Funny – we’ve been forming mastermind groups since our organization’s inception in 2000! Still, I’m thrilled to see the power of this peer-to-peer format promoted in the media.


Rockwood and other sources credit Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, as the founder of peer-to-peer sharing groups. So what are they? 

CEO Roundtables typically include eight to 10 individuals from non-competing industries who are committed to meeting on a regular basis – typically once a month. The confidential forum allows members to speak openly about the challenges they face as business owners. Members in VACEOs Roundtable groups follow a highly structured meeting protocol in which no advice is given – only experiences shared. VACEOs members are trained on the protocol before they’re assigned to a group.

“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,” explains Fathelbab. “You can’t share everything with your employees, partners, board members or investors. Members of a Roundtable have no personal interest in your decisions.”


Our members quickly find Roundtables to be a confidential safe haven where anything they’d like to talk about is fair game. Discussions topics can range from “I have a new acquisition possibility I’m looking at” to “I have a teenager I don’t know how to deal with, and it’s affecting my work life.”

“The Roundtable format is like an instant Board of Directors and a constant monthly reminder to be driving for continuous improvement” – Henry Clifford, President, Livewire.

Jeffery Beir, a CEO operating out of the Boston area, found the guidance he needed to deal with a difficult situation with a key executive – and help with financial matters and working more effectively with board members. “I just feel more confident that I’m not alone in facing these issues,” Beir told Harvard Business Review. Linda Hutchinson, another CEO featured in the same article, found the guidance she needed to complete her new business development plan. 

Our members find that there are many benefits to the peer sharing experience. “The Roundtable format is like an instant Board of Directors and a constant monthly reminder to be driving for continuous improvement,” says Livewire President Henry Clifford.

“My roundtable has been my sounding board and provided me with a lot of mentorship,“ says Travis Hamilton, owner of U-Fab Interiors. “I haven’t had a boss since my early 20s, so this has been crucial for my personal development. It’s pushed me to further grow my company and be a better leader.”

For others, the experience helps them feel less lonely. “For me, the opportunity to connect and share similar experiences with other CEOs has been invaluable,” explains Robyn Zacharias, president, Barber Martin Agency. “It removes the ‘It’s lonely at the top’ feeling and gives you an abundance of friendships, support and objectivity.”   


Here are a few benefits to being part of a CEO peer group:

  1. They move your business forward and in new directions. 
  2. They push you to think differently and broaden your business.
  3. They can help you solve long-standing problems.
  4. They allow you to unburden yourself from day-to-day issues.
  5. They give you clarity and new perspectives.
  6. They give you access to resources.
  7. They offer personal support.

In the closing of  her article, Kate Rockwood advises readers who want to join a group to follow a few important guidelines, including avoiding groups with members in competing industries, finding CEOs with similar “metabolisms,” and making sure to keep conversations flowing by connecting outside of your group, to name a few. The great news is, we do all that hard work for you at VACEOs! Interested in learning more? Contact us.

Related posts we recommend: 

Posted by Scot McRoberts at 3:37 pm
Labels: ,
Thursday, March 29, 2018

4 Biggest SMB Social Media Takeaways from the Industry’s Largest Conference

SMMW18 photo

Social Media Marketing World 2018 conference

As you’ve probably heard, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has been in the hot seat recently after a major data breach was linked to his platform. Is this the demise of Facebook and social media as we know it? I hope not! For many small and mid-sized businesses, social media outlets like Facebook and LinkedIn are vital to building brand awareness and fostering brand advocates.

Two months before the announcement of the Facebook breach, Zuckerberg was in the news for a very different reason. On January 11, the social media giant announced a major policy shift in the algorithm it uses to determine what content we see in our Facebook feeds. Many social media marketers quaked in their boots, quickly proclaiming it the “Facebook Apocalypse.” The change effectively means that those who rely heavily on Facebook and organic posts to generate awareness are in trouble. (Business owners, are you listening?)

So, what does the future hold for small businesses that rely on Facebook and social media marketing? I attended the Social Media Marketing World conference to find out. And I wasn’t alone. Approximately 5,000 marketing and social media comrades joined me at the three-day event in San Diego, California.

With more than 120 workshops and sessions to attend – and world-renowned keynote speakers at every turn, it was difficult to decide which presentations to attend. Leveraging influencers was a hot topic, as were Facebook’s Messenger bots technology and Watch platform. There were countless workshops on writing, podcasting, corporate social media and how to use video and visual content to get your message across. I quickly realized I have a lot more to learn.

I heard Jay Baer, bestselling author of Hug Your Haters, speak about talk triggers and word-of-mouth tactics. I heard Shama Hyder, dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing,” explain the power of a frictionless customer experience and how to attract, convert and transform customers. I learned visual content tricks and found out there is WAY more to LinkedIn advertising than I ever knew!

Although the social media landscape has changed greatly in the last few weeks — thanks to the Facebook scandal, I find that my FOUR biggest lessons and takeaways from the conference remain true. My hope is that these high-level points will help you understand how to use social media as the owner of a small or medium-size business.

Please leave a comment and share away if you find this content useful. If I get a lot of feedback, it could mean a follow-up post!



SMMW18 room

Social media attendees choose from over 120 workshops

Although the future of Facebook remains to be seen — and I can’t believe I just wrote that — one thing is sure:  where Facebook goes, other social media follows.

On January 11, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced a major policy change, effectively stating that content that Facebook has deemed “more relevant” and/or offering more “meaningful social interactions” will stay at the top of your customers’ and prospects’ News Feed. I firmly believe LinkedIn will follow suit in this type of policy.

To be more specific, only posts that garner multiple AND longer comments will get top billing, making it even harder for small businesses to get in front of their customers. The policy change is slated to make its way through all its products, including Facebook Groups, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp.

This effectively means that those who rely heavily on Facebook and organic posts to generate awareness are in trouble. Think there aren’t a lot of businesses and marketers who fall into that category? Data suggests you’re wrong.

Research shows that two-thirds of marketers say Facebook is the MOST important social platform they use. Of those, 89 percent say they use it for exposure, 81 percent use it for traffic generation, and 66 percent plan on increasing organic activities.*

BIG TAKEAWAY: Plan on developing a larger social media budget, and be prepared to pay to play  even more as the supply of Facebook ad space decreases and demand for Facebook advertising increases. Also, don’t be surprised if LinkedIn follows this new policy lead.

LESSON 2: VIDEO. VIDEO. VIDEO. (in the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” voice)

We addressed the importance of video marketing in a previous post, but I’m sounding the alarm again for those who aren’t listening or are camera shy.

Viral video star “Chewbacca Mom” makes an appearance

According to Cisco research**, “By the year 2019, 80 percent of all content consumed online will be video.”

It wasn’t a coincidence that Brian Fanzo’s “Facebook Strategy in Light of the Facebook Apocalypse” presentation was almost entirely about video. Fanzo’s research found that Facebook Live videos get six times more interactions than native videos.

His message to marketers and business owners? “In order to make this work, we must embrace Live video and two concepts: Perfection is a fairytale, and control is an illusion. Perfection gets in the way of having authentic conversations. You can’t control where your content goes or what people say, but you can develop value. You can work together and allow them into your content.”

Not sure you want to be on Facebook now? LinkedIn will soon allow native video posts on Company feeds. And guess what? Those posts will rank highest on your followers feeds!

BIG TAKEAWAY: When it comes to content — video or not, design it with intent and with repeat viewership in mind. Think shows and episodes!


For the longest time, social media marketing has been about social proof and numbers: how many fans, how many followers, which posts get the most clicks or shares. Now, if you want to grow your audience, it’s about really zeroing in on the right segment and engaging them consistently and frequently with relevant content (preferably with video!).

“Now it’s more important that we think about who are the right people we should be targeting,” said Michael Stelzner, the man behind the Social Media World conference. “We need to be ok with smaller, highly relevant, engaged audiences that are a perfect fit of who our customers and prospects ought to be. Small is the new big from here on out.”

BIG TAKEAWAY: Find your perfect audience and keep them engaged. Worry less about casting a wide net. Again, think episodic content.


This was probably the most important message I heard at the conference, and it was repeated verbatim or in essence in just about every presentation I attended.

JayBaer at SMMW18

Jay Baer, bestselling author of Hug Your Haters.

The phrase “When marketers move in, members move out” was presented by well-known Facebook expert Mari Smith back in 2009, during the first-ever Social Media Marketing World conference. The message rings true today, now more than ever.

In 2009, social media was new, and it WAS about being social. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, things changed: the bad marketers moved in, and brands distanced themselves from their true identities, their true selves. As Brian Fanzo put it, “We put out there how we wanted our customers to see us.”

Today, consumers want authenticity and transparency. They want to do business with the people they like behind the brand.

BIG TAKEAWAY: Fanzo’s message was about getting back to being authentic and creating content that’s likable and relatable, as he told the large crowd, “I firmly believe that relatability is the future of marketing. We buy from people we can relate to. Relatability is how we shrink the distance [between the brand and the consumer].”

In fact, one of my favorite moments captured from the conference came from Fanzo, who said:

“We have the ability to connect with people who might not know us or like us, but if we provide value – if we show that we care about them BEFORE we want them to care about us – the power of social media will turn those people into customers, customers into advocates, fans into evangelists.”

Which leads me to my BIGGEST TAKEAWAY …

In an age where technology is taking over and we’re all about text and email  automation, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, it’s time to get back to being human. Let’s be funny, flawed, and fearless! And let’s find ways to be more genuine and authentic in the way we connect with others. In short, let’s bring the social BACK to “social media.” Who’s with me?

-Kat Hurst
Your Social Media World Conference Reporter


* Source: Michael Stelzner, “Social Media Marketing Trends: What the Newest Research Reveals,” Social Media Marketing World 2018. (Note: Research before Facebook breach.)

**Source: Marcus Sheridan, “Sexy Content: Understand What Truly Moves the Sales Needle,” Social Media Marketing World 2018.

Posted by Staff at 9:08 am