The CEO Roundtable officially launched with the first meeting in December 2005 but the journey for this program goes way back before that. In the early 90’s I was involved in the CEO Roundtable program run by MMAC. The MMAC is one of the oldest programs in the country starting back in the early 50’s with over 400 CEOs in the program when I was there. When we moved our business to Arroyo Grande in 1996 I rented an office, joined the local Chamber and asked how I could get into a CEO Roundtable program. The answer to this question was a rare odd blank stare as if I had just asked about time travel.
As I became more involved in the local business community I joined the Board of Softec and that board discussed building a program at several of the board retreats and it had great support but year after year it just never got done. The big challenge was that Softec is an Industry Trade Association and a CEO Roundtable needed members from across different industries.
Then in mid 2005 several events came together creating a partnership between Softec, EVC, Santa Maria Chamber, Your People Professionals, and Barbich Longcrier Hooper & King Accountancy (Now Caliber Accounting and Longcrier & Associates). With support from this partnership it was possible to reach out to the general business community and really get this done. In November 2005 we held our first Executive Program Briefing and started two tables as a result of that. Over the next few years we would add two more tables in SLO and with the help of the Santa Maria Chamber we launched one with our friends to the south. Our current goals include launching a table in Paso Robles and additional tables in Santa Maria & SLO.
During the early days we got great support from Mary Steinbrecher at the MMAC in Milwaukee who shared the secrets of their success. This support was extremely helpful in helping us build our program. We also got lots of input from the early members and used that to build a program that met the needs of the local CEOs. We adopted a self-directed model for the tables where the topics and discussions are driven by the members and the group leadership was really just program administration. The one thing we learned quickly was that the groups need someone to handle the details like speaker arrangements, meeting notices, new application routing, and program promotion. What they do not need is additional leaderships because it turns out that when you put 12 CEOs in a room the last thing you need is more leadership or vision.
As the groups aged something interesting things started to happen. Friendships between these people started to build and conversations that were rather guarded at first became very open and honest. Members were getting feedback that was very different than what they get internally or even from their paid advisors and they started using it to make decisions. Other connections started to grow and CEOs would call others in their group for an outside trusted opinion. While the monthly meetings are the core of the groups it is the relationships they build that is the true value.
The program relationships also changed over time with the support from the Founding Sponsor being replaced with the support from the members. The sponsors are still a great asset to the program helping us connect to the local business community and providing meeting rooms and other forms of support. Over time we also added an Annual CEO Breakfast in the spring that brings all the tables together.
In business the secret is not what you know but who you know and the CEO Roundtable extends the “Who You Know” in a big way.