As is often said, “It can be lonely at the top.”
Dean DeSantis, owner of DeSantis Landscapes, a Portland, Oregon-based landscape design, installation and lawn care company, was wrestling with this very feeling. Though he has a great team in place, he felt he had nobody to consult with for higher level advice. Because of that, it was a struggle to get out of his “own little world and generate new ideas and innovate.”
The answer seemed clear at first: Join a peer group. However, DeSantis says after some research, joining an industry peer group didn’t seem to fit his needs. It involved a lot of travel and didn’t meet as frequently as he would have liked. As a result, DeSantis says forming his own local peer group of CEOs was an out-of-the-box solution that worked for him.
Though he has a great team in place, he felt he had nobody to consult with for higher level advice. As a result, it was a struggle to get out of his “own little world and generate new ideas and innovate.”
Local Peer Group Perk #1: Business is Business
“We are a peer group of local CEOs from all different fields,” DeSantis says. “We get together once a month and take turns hosting. At our get-togethers, we deep dive into business problems to troubleshoot answers.”
On top of that, DeSantis says twice a month the group is doing coaching with a facilitator, totalling three monthly check-ins. This worked for him because industry peer groups DeSantis explored only met quarterly and typically involved flying somewhere. He prefered the idea of more frequent face-to-face time.
However, DeSantis does miss out on meeting with landscape business owners who truly understand the industry. Even so, he says he’s learned that “business is business—at least for the most part.”
“It’s interesting how often many of us are dealing with some of the same issues,” DeSantis explains. “One big component of our time together is looking at ourselves as leaders. This includes what we’re doing to take care of ourselves, such as staying healthy, exercising and taking much-needed mental breaks. It’s not always easy to find time for that sort of thing but we encourage one another to follow through.”
Local Peer Group Perk #2: Gaining Outside Perspectives
Meeting with business owners from outside of the industry has also proven beneficial in terms of innovation, says DeSantis.
“I also find that I’m getting different perspectives and different ways of looking at things since I’m talking to owners from outside of the green industry,” DeSantis continues. “And some networking opportunities have come from it, too. Since we’re all in different industries, we can recommend one another’s services to others.”
The CEOs involved include a commercial janitorial company, a non-profit, several software developers, a management consultant, a restaurant owner, and a real estate appraiser.
In terms of an investment, DeSantis says the fact that he doesn’t have to fly anywhere is a savings. Since the group meets more often, it may be about the same expense as joining an industry group. Also, the hosting company often ends up buying food or taking the group out. But he says that he’s much happier with meeting locally and more frequently.
While this has worked best for him, he’s quick not to knock industry groups.
“I think industry peer groups can also be incredibly effective,” DeSantis adds. “Anytime you can find peers to talk to—to bounce ideas off of—that’s going to help you ultimately become better. We’re stronger when we have others around us who we can lean on.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Interested in joining an industry peer group? NALP can help! Check out the peer groups available here.