Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard (Again)

Although none of us anticipated the challenges 2020 would bring, we can learn from this time and be better prepared for the next unforeseen challenge. As business leaders, we talk a lot about risk management and risk planning. But how much time have we devoted to planning for risk rather than just fighting the fires as they appear? People are our greatest asset and our highest potential for risk, and yet how often do we sit down to intentionally create a People Strategy?

As you know, the state of Virginia required all businesses to complete their Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response plans back in September. While created out of the current pandemic, the template itself is simple and resembles typical risk plans created in the past. We can use this approach to create a People Operations Risk Management Plan that can be reused in many situations and updated over time. This is a great use of current unplanned downtime. 

We can use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a guide to ensure that not only do we address each needed component but that we prioritize our efforts in the most impactful way by working our way up from the bottom.

What could a People Operations Risk Management Plan look like?

  1. Workplace Environment: Based on your business type, what roles need to be onsite? What roles can have location flexibility? What has been the impact on productivity and culture? Could you consider flexible work options for some roles going forward? What could increased flexibility mean for your employee recruiting and retention? Note there are many more options than everyone in the office or everyone can work remotely. Think of the decision here as a dimmer switch instead of just and on/off switch.
  2. Productivity: How are you measuring productivity for all your employees? Did you uncover roles that did not have specific productivity measures before 2020? How will you address that gap in the future? How might you adjust your goal setting and performance processes? Being intentional here enables us not to equate physical presence with productivity for all roles and to be more transparent with employees regarding our expectations.
  3. Diversity & Inclusion: Do you have an employee mix with different areas of expertise and experience that can help you innovate and move your company to the next level? How are you accounting for the multi-generational workforce? How are you adapting your recruiting processes to ensure you have the right talent not just today but for the future? Diversity is a journey for individuals and for organizations. Creating a plan that moves your organization along in its journey will be unique to your organization.

There is no silver bullet to the questions above.  The “right” answers will depend on the type of business you are in, your growth strategy, and the desired company culture. These factors can be weighted as part of a Risk Matrix within your People Operations Risk Management Plan. What is important now is to take time to think through your people risk and the options available to you.

We cannot control when the “new normal” will begin (and perhaps we are already in it) but we can deliberately make plans for our businesses based on what we have learned this year about our consumers, our employees, and ourselves.

About Sara Shelton

Sara, a new addition to the Fahrenheit Advisors team, leads Fahrenheit Advisor’s Human Capital Management Practice. She began her career in management consulting supporting technology, financial services, and healthcare companies through mergers, acquisitions, and other large-scale transformational initiatives. She brings a passion for organizational performance and creating great places to work. Need help creating your People Operations Risk Management Plan? Sara can be reached at sshelton@fahrenheitadvisors.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Image and content provided by Fahrenheit Advisors. Fahrenheit Advisors is a Sponsor of Virginia Council of CEOs.

Posted by Staff at 11:00 am
Tuesday, November 17, 2020

My Man-Crush on Galloway

I consume a ton of business content. You probably do too. Occasionally I run across something so compelling that I need to share it.

Scott Galloway is a professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, but before that built businesses in e-commerce and data intelligence. He is about my age and was also born in November, so I thought he would like me. I reached out to him last year to try and get him on the VACEOs stage for you.  So far, no luck. He’s in high demand.

Neverthless, I am attracted to disrupters, and Galloway is a prince in that kingdom. In a smart way.

My friend Verne Harnish got Professor Galloway to speak at a recent online Scaling Up Summit, and Verne was generous enough to share @profgalloway’s 12-minute, 60-slide thrill-ride of a talk with readers of his newsletter (you should subscribe to it).

HERE’S the compelling part! Take 12 minutes to watch Scott Galloway’s talk RIGHT HERE. I guarantee it will stir something inside you – hope, imagination, greed, cursing, fear, wonder. It will be worth it. Let me know if not. Just take it easy on the expletives.


Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, VACEOs

About the Author

Scot McRoberts is the executive director of the VA Council of CEOs (VACEOs). One of the original co-founders, he has led the organization’s growth from 20 members in 2000 to more than 200 today. Utilizing a best practice model for the Council’s CEO roundtables and a dogged focus on its core purpose of connecting CEOs for the purpose of sharing experiences, McRoberts has developed an association that boasts 90% retention. Before coming to VACEOs, Scot was a senior executive at the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, where he led business councils, small business programs, and business retention efforts.

Posted by Scot McRoberts at 10:34 am
Monday, September 28, 2020

COVID-19 Response: Panel of CEOs Explain What’s Changed for Good

Mark Smith, Owner, Midas of Richmond

“It could’ve been very easy to say, ‘Hunker down, cover yourself, and let’s survive this,’” says Mark Smith of Midas of Richmond when asked about his business mindset at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. “I just chose to take the opposite route.”

“I just went in as upbeat. It’s a positive. ‘Yeah, this is not ideal, but there are going to be things that are going to capture market share. It’s an unfortunate way to look at this, but there are going to be people who survive this and there are going to be some who won’t. We’re going to turn it up even harder.’”

So Mark Smith bet big.


“We’ve always gone in kind of expecting success. Well, now we expect success just a little bit more.” – Mark Smith, Midas of Richmond


Smith ramped up his monthly marketing budget by more than 35%, added another TV station to his broadcast media strategy, doubled his radio spots, and hired Red Orange Studios, a Richmond, VA ad agency, to build a robust “More to Your Door” campaign – one he intends to invest in significantly. 

“So the big thing that changed for me was my mindset,” Smith explains. “We’ve always gone in kind of expecting success. Well, now we expect success just a little bit more. We’re going to go full out. We’re going to capture market share. We’re going to hire folks. We’re going to grab what we can. We’re going to do it proactively, we’re going to do it aggressively, and we’re going to do it unapologetically.”

A new “Go Big” mindset

Chris Leone, CEO, WebStrategies

How was Chris Leone of WebStrategies feeling in the early stages of COVID-19? “I think maybe some of us kind of knew that this was not going to be a short-term thing,” he says. One of his biggest concerns for his digital marketing firm was figuring out how to approach customers when selling their services. 

“It went from, ‘Um, yeah, sure – I’ll meet with you’ or ‘Now’s not a great time,’ to ‘How dare you try to call me right now?’ I mean, if you’re in sales or know people in sales, the responses we were getting were just vicious. The whole sales community is wondering, ‘How the heck do we behave right now through all of this?’”

Leone chose to focus on what he could control.


“We decided to create as much value as possible for our marketplace in the form of content and be as loud as we possibly could.” – Chris Leone, WebStrategies



“I can’t control what people are willing to give to me – their time, a meeting, a signed contract – but I can 100% control what I’m willing to give to them. So with that, our sales and marketing strategies shifted. We decided to create as much value as possible for our marketplace in the form of content and be as loud as we possibly could.”

Leone hired an additional marketing person, invested more in the content of his webinars, and tripled the amount of content on his website. Instead of asking for meetings, his salespeople offered free content – and the company has seen its first-meetings rate increase by 117% compared to last year. 

What changed for good? Leone has learned to ask himself, “When the behavior of the marketplace changes quickly and dramatically, how can we adapt? So we remain focused on the things we can control instead of wishing for things to go back to how they were. We’re driving home the importance of being seen as a trusted authority in our space. [The pandemic] forced us to find new ways to do that, and we’re going to be able to carry that forward into the future.”

Adaptability and focus on the controllable

Gwen Cooper, CEO, Patient Services, Inc.

Gwen Cooper, CEO, Patient Services, Inc. (PSI), was hired as the company’s new CEO on June 1, smack in the middle of the pandemic. To say she’s had a challenging first few months on the job is an understatement.

“We are the oldest patient assistance program in the country headquartered in Virginia. Our nurses, doctors, outreach managers and government affairs teams were working around the clock to make sure all our patients had every opportunity to get the care they needed…in their homes.”

In her new role it was imperative that she quickly understood the “before COVID” work habits versus the “current state” work habit to determine how well it was working for her new team of 50.  “[Moving staff remotely] gave us an opportunity to really look at  our staffing  needs, contracts and benefits to help us understand where we could streamline our expenses. Especially when it became clear we weren’t coming back anytime soon.“

“We’re not coming back to the office. We’re going to have a permanent flexible work schedule and work out what our remote working looks like.” – Gwen Cooper, Patient Services, Inc.


The great news is that productivity has actually increased, Cooper reports.

“What’s changing for us at PSI is that we’re not coming back to the office. We’re going to have a permanent flexible work schedule and work out what out remote working looks like,” she says. Making that work now includes keeping an eye on staff members’ “emotional bank accounts” since she knows they’re missing day-to-day interactions with each other.

Operational efficiencies and a shift to a remote work model

JJ White, CEO/Franchise Owner, Dale Carnegie 

JJ White, Dale Carnegie CEO/Franchise Owner, is arguably the most affected by COVID-19 of our panel. “I’ve been a multi-unit franchise owner for Dale Carnegie Training for 20 years,” White explains. “Ninety-nine percent of what we’ve always done is bringing groups together in a room for transformational learning programs, bringing permanent behavior changes and soft skills, leadership, communication – things of that nature. When we started our week on March 16th, 99% of what we do ended.” 

One percent of White’s business was not affected because Dale Carnegie was, at the time, one of the largest companies in the world delivering virtual instructor-led training. “So immediately, in one day, 1% of my business became 100% percent, but the sales weren’t there to compensate.”

In July, White – and the 108-year-old institution of Dale Carnegie – had to come to grips with the fact that it was time to completely reinvent how they went to market. Everything was evaluated, and nothing was so sacred that it couldn’t be changed.

“We took our core strengths and applied them in completely different ways,” says White. “We started to shift our entire operational model to a completely different deliverable. We helped existing clients acclimate to our new offer, and we found new clients and markets. The biggest change we made was to tear down the geographical boundaries of my regional sales team.”


“The biggest thing this crisis did for us was it solved so many constraints that we had in our business for years.” – JJ White, CEO/Franchise Owner, Dale Carnegie.


In a weird twist of fate, the pandemic could be seen as one of the best things that’s ever happened to his business. “The biggest thing that this crisis did for us was it solved so many constraints that we had in our business for years, especially being a global franchise network. We didn’t need a certain mass in a certain geographical area anymore. Everything is virtual and dispersed. It’s really enabled us to tear down walls that we should have torn down years ago, but didn’t have the courage to.”

White reports that sales are up, and he has confidence that his business will be OK. 

No more artificial boundaries or constraints

How has your business changed for good? Please share with us by leaving a comment. 

Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses together to share experiences and to learn and grow with each other through peer roundtable groups and learning events. Learn more. 

Posted by Staff at 2:44 pm
Labels: , , , ,
Tuesday, August 25, 2020

How to Build A Powerful Network: 7 Ways to Connect Today and More

Connect with video

Bulk of my job is planning meetings and events for CEOs. I am an extrovert who gets energy from being with a group of people. The current pandemic has temporarily halted our in-person meetings and events. Still, our mission to connect CEOs for learning and growth lives on, and one could argue that your business network and relationships are more important now than ever.

We tackled the topic of connecting and networking in today’s environment during a recent VACEOs Square Table hosted by two of our sponsors: Jay Carpenter, Managing Director, Fahrenheit Advisors and Patrick Morin, Partner, Transact Capital. 

They graciously took time to share their own tips, and I found it interesting to have two different perspectives and two very different personality styles sharing their experiences. Below are my key takeaways. All work whether you are reaching out to a family member, friend, or client. The key is relationship building.

We all look forward to business meetings with great food and drink. But, until then, it’s important to continue connecting and building relationships now. What ways are you finding to connect? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Or, if you are a Virginia Council Member or Sponsor put what you’ve learned to practice. Sign up for our Summer Speed Networking and Music event on August 27!

VACEOs networking event with music

Summer Networking and Music Event. Visit Events >


4 Reasons Why You Should Connect

  1. You have more time. No travel needed!
  2. We are all navigating this new landscape together. Let’s fumble through this together.
  3. Everyone is craving an authentic business connection now. Aren’t you?
  4. You can’t wait for the next in-person meeting. You must find a way now or risk becoming forgotten.

7 Ways to Build a Business Network and Make a Connection in Today’s Environment

  1. Set up a virtual coffee/drink. It can be a short meeting over Zoom.
  2. Schedule a phone call. This allows you both to get up and move.
  3. Send a text message. One of my first non-family member text during the switch to remote work came from a vendor/member just reaching out to me. Not a sales text…he showed he cared.
  4. Go old school and send a note. 
  5. Reach out in LinkedIn or other social media. Again, not a sales message…show you care.
  6. Attend a webinar and connect with other participants. Allows for an opening to connect further.
  7. Set up a walking meeting or a safe socially distanced drink on a porch.


Connie Bruce

About the Author
Connie Bruce joined the Council in 2007. As the Director of Operations & Member Services she flexes her strategic planning, event planning and customer service muscles each day at the Council, planning numerous meetings/events each year, all while managing day-to-day finances and membership questions and concerns.

Connie is a Certified Association Executive (CAE®), which is the highest professional credential in the association industry. Before coming to VACEOs, Connie served as an AVP at Bank of America for eight years, where she managed over ten employees. Prior to that, she discovered her love for hospitality at a national hotel chain.

Posted by Staff at 2:10 pm
Tuesday, August 25, 2020

7 Business Lessons My Daughter Should Know

It’s a fundamental question everyone, in one form or another – no matter their age, ethnicity or gender – eventually asks themselves about their career or their purpose in life: “What’s next?” 

It’s a question that intrigued VACEOs Member Jennifer Boyden and VACEOs Sponsor Karen Elliott enough to initiate a confidential group discussion among their peers. More specifically, they wanted to know how women business owners and executives are approaching the topic.

For me, I wanted to start a list of things that I can share with my daughter, and with my COO, who is 29. – Jennifer Boyden, CEO, Heart Havens

“We wanted to have this conversation with a broader group of women to understand how we think about our legacy,” explains Boyden, who is CEO of Heart Havens. “We wanted to hear about experiences and start to understand the ways that we can show support for each other, and explore the types of things we want those women coming up behind us to know. For me, I wanted to start a list of things that I can share with my daughter, and with my COO, who is 29.”

The result of their effort? Forty-five minutes of experience-sharing – where candid conversations about backgrounds, personal and professional hardships, and surviving in predominantly male-dominated industries (among other topics) were discussed. And everyone who participated agreed there was a need to continue the conversation!

In the spirit of Boyden’s wish to collect a list for her daughter, here are a few takeaways for future CEOs who may wish to follow their entrepreneurial instincts.



(lessons from women CEOs and business executives)

  1. FULLY Participate in Networks and in The Conversations
    “You will be well served.”
  2. Be Aware of Patriarchal Systems
    “Think about the system you’re partaking in and the choices you’re making. Make choices that are appropriate for you.”
  3. Avoid Conversational Power Shifts
    “Don’t start a conversation with, ‘I’m sorry!’”
  4. Deliberately Seek Out a Mentor (Male or Female)
    “There are some natural mentors that have happened along the way, and I’ve been grateful for them.”
  5. Stop Being Your Own Worst Critic
    “We spend so much time cutting ourselves down that when somebody says something that bugs us, it’s because we’ve already told it to ourselves 1,500 times.”
  6. Don’t Stop Learning: Read and Evolve
    “I’m done with that physical part of my value. I’m more concerned with the mental and emotional part of it.” 
  7. We’re All Similar, So Be Kind and Support Each Other
    “We need that space where we are supportive and nice to each other and can connect, because we all have unique, yet similar, experiences.”

For Karen Elliott, Esq., who practices with Eckert Seamans, the question “What’s next?” was answered rather effortlessly by a retired CEO she met on a recent cruise trip. To sum up her perspective: “You learn, you earn, and then you find a way to return back to the community.” 

We hope the takeaways above are a starting place for you as you think about your own answer.




Special thanks to Jennifer Boyden and Karen Elliott for initiating this important conversation. Another note of gratitude goes to Danessa Knaupp, founder of Avenue 8 Advisors (and a VACEOs Sponsor), for facilitating the discussion.

Are you a woman business owner who is searching for a peer group? One you can learn from and grow with? Consider joining the Virginia Council of CEOs. (A no-risk, no-cost membership offer is available for a short time.) Learn more about the VACEOs Community Membership.

Editor’s note: Permission to summarize the information shared in this confidential VACEOs Square Table session was granted by Karen and Jennifer.

Posted by Staff at 1:24 pm
Labels: , ,