Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dear CEO: Your Decision-Making Process Is Holding You Back

Danessa Knaup

The average person makes more than 35,000 decisions in a typical day. “We are decision-making machines,” says Executive Coach Danessa Knaupp. “We’re making thousands of decisions a day – all the time – so naturally we develop a shorthand.” But, Knaupp cautioned during a recent Knowledge Network luncheon, that shorthand could be holding us back.

“People who rise to positions of leadership are widely regarded as good decision-makers,“ she explained. “You get rewarded by the small and large decisions you make, over and over again. But the number-one reason leaders fail is they stick to a process that has delivered them up to a point but cannot deliver them further.”

Her advice?

  • Change your perspective (realize the potential pitfalls of your shorthand)
  • Realize the information you’re taking in is an assertion or opinion, NOT a fact
  • Broaden your perspective

Check Your Perspective. It’s Probably Skewed

Knaupp teaches that all decisions we make flow up a Ladder of Inference. First, we select or gather data. The trouble is, our previous experiences affect how we perceive that information. For example, one CEO might look at an image and see a random putting green in the middle of a pond; another, one of the most iconic holes on the PGA tour. It’s all about perspective.

Ladder of Inference

“We have a set of experiences – all of us – where we sit in a space with a huge pool of data and we select that data using our distinctions,” says Knaupp. “Then we make assumptions about that data. We draw conclusions. Those conclusions form beliefs.” From there, we make decisions. And this is where our shorthand can get us into trouble. Shorthand is very powerful, but it can handicap us. Once we’ve formed a set of beliefs, we’re continually processing data selectively based on those beliefs.

Two Important Things to Know About the Ladder of Inference

  1. Realize that the data before you is a tiny faction of the actual information available to you to make a decision.
  2. Realize that what you believe is influencing any action you take.

So the next time you gather data on the flow up the Ladder of Inference, ask yourself, “Is this a fact, an assertion or an opinion?”

Great Leaders Distinguish Between Facts, Assertions and Opinions*

  • Fact: Something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed; an objective state that can be measured.
  • Assertion: Something declared or stated positively that cannot be objectively proven.
  • Opinion: A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated.


“The VACEOs roundtable experience offers leaders an opportunity to gather a broad set of perspectives on the challenges they face. Those confidential conversations allow each to broaden his or her view, noticing opportunities in a different way. By expanding perspective, leaders expand their potential solution sets in a way that is nearly impossible to do alone.”- Danessa Knaupp, Founder and CEO, Avenue 8 Advisors.

Knaupp says that peer groups like the Council can be a useful tool for broadening our perspective. “The VACEOs roundtable experience offers leaders an opportunity to gather a broad set of perspectives on the challenges they face. Those confidential conversations allow each to broaden his or her view, noticing opportunities in a different way. By expanding perspective, leaders expand their potential solution sets in a way that is nearly impossible to do alone.”

Danessa Knaupp

Summing It Up: How to Shift Your Perspective:

  1. Come down from your ladder.
  2. Explore facts vs. assertions.
  3. Seek ways to broaden your perspective.

*Source: “Shifting Your Leadership Perspective” VACEOs Knowledge Network presentation by Danessa Knaupp, Founder and CEO, Executive Coach, Avenue 8 Advisors.

Posted by Staff at 3:53 pm
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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Work-Life Balance for CEOs

Council member George Forsythe called me last fall. He told me that like most CEOs, he has struggled with work-life balance, trying to fit it everything in, and reacting to everyone else’s needs. He told me how he had found Stew Friedman’s Total Leadership and he started changing his life. George shared that he now enjoys better health, better relationships with family and co-workers, and increased community involvement. George said, “I feel much more in control of how I choose to spend my time.”

I happen to know 200 more CEOs who face the same challenges! I got off the phone with George and called Stew. I learned that he did not develop his work in some ivory tower, but in the trenches at Ford Motor Company. Stew now teaches Total Leadership to business students at the Wharton School, where his course is perennially ranked a favorite. And, he takes his life changing work to major corporations all over the globe.

We convinced Stew to offer a one-day workshop for us in Richmond on October 13. We are opening up this workshop to area CEOs and their executive teams. I hope that you will take the time to change your life for the better. You can learn more and sign up here.

Posted by Scot McRoberts at 5:40 pm
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Social Media Expert Corey Perlman Shares Strategies

VACEOs members have a thirst for knowledge. They relish Council events that expose them to best-selling authors and wholeheartedly dive into conversations with national thought leaders. They hunger for ways to streamline their operations, engage their employees and market their businesses.

On May 25, members got a chance to hear from Corey Perlman – consultant, nationally recognized social media expert and author of Social Media Overload! His presentation – “Simple Social Media Strategies for Overwhelmed and Time-Deprived Businesses” – could not have been more relevant for his audience.

Perlman challenged us to prioritize our activity on social media platforms – to “buckle down where buyers are” and not be tempted by platforms that don’t make sense for our business. He advised us to create a team or bring in an agency to help with social media instead of trying to do everything ourselves. He also introduced us to a social media sales funnel to guide us through ALL the reasons to participate in social media (it’s NOT all about generating leads), and encouraged us to think outside the box when it comes to content and to be patient for results.

We won’t share everything we learned, but here are five actionable items every CEO of a small or medium-sized business can use to their advantage.

Social media workshop highlights

Posted by Virginia Council of CEOs on Thursday, May 25, 2017


Google your business and yourself. What platforms are you on? Don’t forget to check out reviewer sites and personal/company/employee LinkedIn accounts. How’s your brand looking?

Do you really need to be on Twitter? Maybe not. Not sure where which platforms you should be on? Google the demographics of each and ask your customers. Double down on a few instead of spreading yourself too thin.

When was the last time you updated your website? Was it more than three years ago? If so, it’s time to update to current standards. And while you’re at it, update all of your LinkedIn accounts since the design has changed.

Every day. 
To LinkedIn.
Post only content that has value.

Challenge your social media team to get on the Facebook Live bandwagon. “You’ll see more activity and engagement on a Live video than you will on any other post you do on Facebook, so I encourage your watchers here to think about how they can go live,” said Perlman.


Corey Perlman’s latest book is a quick and easy read, packed with actionable items that will give you a firm grasp of the strategies that will work best for your business.

Corey Perlman

About Corey Perlman
Corey Perlman is an entrepreneur, author and nationally recognized digital marketing expert. He is also the owner of eBoot Camp, Inc. – a team of highly skilled digital marketing specialists who manage social media accounts for more than 40 companies. His latest book, Social Media Overload!, is an Amazon.com bestseller in every major business category. Learn more about Corey Perlman.

Posted by Staff at 4:20 pm
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Friday, December 9, 2016

Co-Founder of CarLotz Shares Success Formula

Aaron Montgomery of CarLotz addresses VACEOs

When you look back at your first entrepreneurial endeavor, do you recall a sweet image of success – or an embarrassing moment of failure? For Aaron Montgomery, Co-Founder and COO of CarLotz, it’s the latter.

Speaking at a recent VACEOs membership luncheon, the charismatic executive shared what he described as one of the biggest blunders of his life, which happened during his second year at Harvard Business School. It took place during the decade when many entrepreneurs subscribed to the business philosophy of “Get big fast” and/or “Figure it out as you go,” Montgomery told the group. It’s a great story involving t-shirts, some of which he probably still has!

The good news is that Montgomery’s mistake paved the way to a better, more accountable, and leaner way of doing business. Today, he and the CarLotz ownership team adhere to a simple formula:


1. Create a hypothesis.
2. Speak to customers (get data).
3. Take that feedback back to the lab.
4. Refine the idea or product.
5. Repeat.

It sounds simple, but it’s a formula the car consignment company has followed many times to successfully streamline marketing messages, refine various internal and external processes, and hire the right candidates.

Speaking about the company’s reliance on data and information, Montgomery said, “All of our feedback came from actual interactions, and not just theorizing what we were going to do and saying to ourselves, ‘Here are all the studies on this, so here’s what we’re going to do.’ We got actual customer feedback. We asked actual people.”

“You can make a change that’s small and test it for performance results, but you’ve got to be ready to embrace that sometimes small changes can lead to big ones and let go of the idea of throwing it all in and seeing what happens.” – Aaron Montgomery, Co-Founder and COO of CarLotz.

Montgomery also stressed the importance of what companies do with their data. “You can make a change that’s small and test it for performance results, but you’ve got to be ready to embrace that sometimes small changes can lead to big ones and let go of the idea of throwing it all in and seeing what happens.”

The philosophy is working – and well. CarLotz, which was founded in 2011, just opened its fifth retail location not long after making it onto The RVA 25 – Richmond BizSense’s list of the area’s fastest-growing companies. (To learn more read: “CarLotz Poised to Grow.”)

CarLotz3This learning experience was taken from the VACEOs Quarterly Luncheon presentation “Test and Refine: Building a Business in the Face of Uncertainty” with Aaron Montgomery (Thursday, November 17, 2016).

VACEOs members have access to national thought leaders with unique voices not often heard in this market on a regular basis. Check out other member benefits.


Posted by Staff at 12:45 pm
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cyber Security 101: 7 Facts and Tips to Remember 


October has passed, so we must say farewell to Cyber Security month, but not before we leave you with seven important things to remember, thanks to Chris Moschella, Manager of Risk Advisory Services at Keiter, who was on hand at a recent Knowledge Network lunch. Listed below are just a few of the things we learned.


  1. Attacks can cost hundreds of dollars per data record to recover, but it’s the damage to your reputation and loss of business (and sometimes employees) that costs SMBs the most.
  2. One of the best investments you can make as an SMB owner is in security awareness training.
  3. 91 percent of breaches start through email.
  4. It’s vital to know where your “cyber doors and windows” are – and to keep them closed.
  5. Mobile devices, laptops and phones = examples of cyber windows.
  6. Know exactly where your sensitive data resides – and limit who has access to it.
  7. When it comes to security, know where your data/internet service provider’s responsibility ends and yours begins.

Members Only: Please send me Chris Moschella’s presentation on cyber security risk prevention


“While I admit that the topic of cyber security did not elicit feelings of excitement, it’s exactly the kind of information that responsible CEOs need to have in this world that’s changing at lightning speed. I now feel prepared and have the much-needed information to ensure the right checks and balances, appropriate training and policy needed to protect our business investment.” – Maria Page Candler, President, James River Ground Management

“If something is not important to you, there is almost a zero percent chance it will be important to your staff.” – Chris Moschella, Keiter, on setting a serious corporate tone when it comes to cyber security and threat prevention.


Related articles: “Making a Claim for Cyber Security Insurance.”

Posted by Staff at 10:03 am