Monday, July 30, 2018

VACEOs CEO Roundtable Experience: 5 Frequently Asked Questions

VACEOs Roundtable group holds meeting at beach location.

Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit organization serving small and mid-sized CEOs and entrepreneurs in Richmond, Charlottesville and soon, across Virginia. The primary way we serve our CEOs is through our highly structured, peer-to-peer Roundtable experience. Here are the five most asked questions about that experience! Want to learn more? Contact us or view our Facebook Live video: “VACEOs CEO Roundtable Experience FAQs” today!

1) How many are in a Roundtable group, and how do you decide who is in?

 A: There are 8 to 10 people in a group. Scot McRoberts, the Executive Director of Virginia Council of CEOs, matches new members with a Roundtable. “Your Roundtable will not include competitors, business partners, relatives, clients, or investors. The group is impartial and is created to work for your best interest,” says McRoberts.

2) What exactly happens in a Roundtable? How do the meetings work?

A: Roundtables consist of 8 to 10 members who meet once a month to share what is going on in their lives and in their businesses. The Roundtable experience sharing is about addressing the CEO as a whole. The information that is shared in the meeting is confidential. There are two parts to each meeting. Each member gives a general update at the beginning of the meeting. The updates can range from: “I have a new acquisition I’m looking at,” OR “I have a teenager I don’t know how to deal with,” OR “I’m facing an issue with my health.”
Then, the group takes a deep dive into one or two of the members’ challenges. Following the Gestalt Language protocol, meetings are highly structured and only experiences are shared. No advice is given.

3) What are some of the types of questions or challenges that my Roundtable can help me with?

A: In general, discussions tend to be about how to become a more successful CEO. Our members are looking for processes or information on how to be a better leader and look for what’s next, instead of being in the trenches with everyone else.

4) How often do the Roundtables get together?

A: Roundtables meet once a month. Meetings follow a strict protocol and structure and usually last between 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Regular attendance is expected, and because members gain so much from the experience, attendance statistics typically reach over 90% for all groups.

5) Is the Roundtable experience really valuable?

A: Yes! One member says: “What I have gotten out of my Roundtable experience is I have been able to identify a successor, craft a very specific Exit Plan. I have been able to develop a Long Term Incentive Compensation Plan to retain top talent, and I’ve dealt with issues working with my spouse. Through experience, hearing from others and understanding the experiences that have worked and have not worked, I have been able to develop a very effective Growth Plan and sales organization. It has allowed me to rise above the day to day grind and allowed me to work on my business instead of in my business. That has led me to double digit growth over year after year…. I was a corporate guy for so long, and had never been in my own business before, and I realized after my Council and Roundtable experience it’s all about who you hang around with. There’s a lot I didn’t know. Now I know a lot more.” – N. Lappe, CEO, WebStrategies.
Posted by Staff at 4:18 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
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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.


Related stories:

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


Getting Unstuck: The VACEOs Forum Experience

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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