I’ve been facilitating CEO peer groups with my partner Tom Oyler for over a decade. I thought the best reasons for joining would vary from year to year depending upon shifts in the economy, the market, changing customer preferences. But you know what? They haven’t.
The number one takeaway year after year has never changed: Members leave the meetings feeling better and more inspired than when they came in.
The meetings are also fun and the groups share great camaraderie. This isn’t to say we don’t work our tails off. We do. We work hard to stay focused on the serious business of running a business and use opportunities for fun to make sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
There is a special bond among the peers. Perhaps it comes from the trusting, transparent and non-judgmental environment necessary to make these things work. Members always tell me, “These guys have my back.”
Over the years our groups have had as speakers and session leaders CEOs from our industry’s top tier manufacturers… companies who supply us with products and services so we can do a better job. The best part is that we have an opportunity for some up close and personal time with our industry’s most important thinkers and achievers who share insights and trends gleaned from their ongoing research and development.
We have a lot of this, too, when we meet at off-site venues. Normally hosting duties rotate among member companies. Sometimes a member company suggests a field trip to a showcase facility in the area, a MLB stadium or botanical garden, where a behind-the-scenes tour is arranged.
I can’t guarantee that a peer group membership improves your IQ, but I’ve been told by group members that they feel a whole lot smarter and have a better game because of the shared problem-solving and collaboration that is part and parcel of the team dynamics.
Who doesn’t want a better performing company? Our members tell us that being part of a peer group – and the whole process of sticking to commitments and staying accountable — is the best thing they do all year. It shows in the numbers.
Knowing how you measure up in real time is a real bonus. Because the meetings are confidential, members can compare financial data and rank themselves against top tier companies in our industry. We plug the metrics into a formatted template so we can compare operational data apples-to-apples. The members then give each other advice on how to improve their numbers, and occasionally the systems and processes that are essential to achieving financial success.
7. Board of Directors.
Members of the group become a surrogate outside board of directors. Members of your group can be relied upon to become your advisors: they challenge your assumptions, push you a little out of your comfort zone, and, more often than not, since one or more has probably been in your shoes, give advice that’s worth its weight in gold. This process makes it easier to make informed and strategic decisions when faced with challenging dilemmas.
8. It’s No Longer Lonely At The Top.
Members are free to pick up the phone or email the group between meetings to share or trouble shoot issues that may come up between meetings, such as how much to pay a mechanic, or what to do with a problem employee, etc. This is really helpful; owners feel less isolated than they were before.
9. Best Practice Sharing.
There is no need to keep reinventing the wheel. Someone in the group usually has a good way of doing something, or is eager to share their lessons learned. Through open discussion, I’ve seen members become inspired to create better practices and an improved ways of operating.
10. Next Generation Systems & Technology.
Owners can compare notes on technology, business applications, cloud-driven management systems; get real-time advice on equipment; explore social media and marketing strategies; learn how environmental approaches and sustainable best practices are working to drive business; and discover what’s new in lawn care, snow and ice certifications, environmental responsibility, and safety and risk management.
For more information on PLANET Peer Groups, visit the PLANET website.
By Bruce K. Wilson, Managing Partner, Wilson-Oyler Group