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HELPING BUSINESS LEADERS ACHIEVE THE NEXT LEVEL

Lee Peters, Regional Executive
Vistage Worldwide, Inc.

www.vistage.com
A New York SmartCEO Corporate Partner

You don’t have to be lonely at the top. For 58 years, Vistage has been connecting CEOs with their peers so they can share valuable perspectives and experiences, honing their leadership skills in the process. The result? Companies whose CEOs joined Vistage in the past five years grew three times faster than the average U.S. company.

Q: What is Vistage?

A: Vistage Worldwide, Inc. is a global organization that assembles and facilitates private advisory boards for CEOs, senior executives and business owners. Founded in 1957, we now have nearly 20,000 CEO members in 16 different countries. Members meet once per month in groups with up to 15 other executives from non-competing businesses who provide real-time, real-world peer advisory support and advice. It’s a place where small- and mid-sized business leaders come to recharge their thinking and harness the power of fellow executives. Our mission is simple — we’re dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of chief executives worldwide.

Q: Who makes up the members?

A: Vistage members lead companies of all sizes and industries. Members are leaders who are willing to be vulnerable and bring their most pressing challenges and opportunities to a group of peers in a safe and confidential setting.

They are invited to join Vistage by a Vistage Chair, an expert coach and group facilitator who is completely dedicated to the success of his or her members. Chairs are looking for lifelong learners who have businesses that are green and growing.

Q: Why should business leaders become a member?

A: Vistage members get results both personally and professionally. A recent Dun & Bradstreet study revealed that companies who joined Vistage over the past five years grew at a rate three times faster than the average U.S. company. The Vistage peer advisory process helps members achieve more than they ever imagined possible.

If I was to ask some of our Vistage members, “What is one of the biggest values you get from being part of the Vistage group?” all too often I hear it’s a relief from isolation. You’ve heard the expression, “It’s lonely at the top.” There’s no place for CEOs and business owners to go and work on their business and themselves. With a group of peers who know what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes, a bond forms among the members, and they are able to trust one another with their business challenges.

Q: How do business leaders meet?

A: The groups meet on a monthly basis. Depending on the program, meetings can be anywhere from a half-day to a full day.

Q: Who facilitates these groups?

A: The groups are run by seasoned professionals, called Chairs. They are independent contractors who are generally former CEOs and business owners, with strong business acumen.

Vistage Chairs have had very successful careers in business. They understand what it was like to run a business, and the challenges that their members face. They want to be able to help other leaders learn from some of those experiences, and create an environment where members can thrive. I often have Chairs tell me this is the most rewarding and fulfilling work they have ever done.

The Chairs are professional facilitators who guide the group’s discussion using our proprietary, structured format. They don’t necessarily ask the questions, but they are making sure the group is asking the right questions of each other.

Q: Can you discuss some of the specific activities in your region?

A: In addition to our monthly meetings, once a year we host a Vistage Executive Summit in the New York region, which will be held on October 27 this year. Our theme this year is “Leading with 2020 vision,” and we’ve got an entire day planned for all of our members to help them navigate the next five years of their business strategy or growth plan. CEOs, executives and business owners interested in learning more about this event can contact me directly at Lee.Peters@vistage.com.

We also recently created a networks program, which allows our members to connect with others who have shared interests and industries. The first four networks launched in April of this year and focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, Deal, Golf and Manufacturing. The groups allow members access to deep subject matter expertise and broad connections that might not be found in a traditional Vistage peer advisory group.

As a value-add to the monthly meetings, expert speakers will lead workshops at group meetings throughout the year. Chairs select speakers based on the specific needs of the members of the group. We’ve got a database of over 1,000 speakers that our Chairs can tap into to address the needs of the group.

We also have our Vistage private online portal where members can interact with other members and find articles, webinars and podcasts on topics from strategic planning to hiring, finance and sales.

Q: There are many other smaller, niche peer advisory groups available. What makes Vistage a better choice?

A: The magic of Vistage is that it’s a 58-year-old tried and true process. Year-in and year-out, the complete perspective coupled with a very rigorous process and safe environment has proven to be unbelievably successful. Our members stay for an average of seven years because of the value that their Vistage experience delivers.

Q: Describe a Vistage success story. How did it change the life/business of the member?

A: Ten-year Vistage member Jay Steinfeld opened a “mom-and-pop” drapery business 25 years ago and transformed it into the world’s No. 1 online window coverings store, Blinds.com. From Vistage and his peer group, Jay learned how to hire, coach and set the right expectations for his employees. He credits Vistage with making him a more effective employer. Today, Blinds.com has 131 employees, with only a 3 percent turnover.

Thanks to his Vistage peer group, Jay realized that as a CEO, “You’re not working in the business; you’re working on the business.”

Q: What is Vistage’s mission? (I.e., why was Vistage created and what problem does it solve?)

A: Vistage is a group of business owners from non-competing industries, so there’s no competitive issues; there’s no client and vendor issues. They’re business leaders from 12 to 15 different industries and they come together with no intent other than to help each other get better, build a better version of themselves and grow both personally and professionally.

Q: What’s the vision for Vistage for the next five years, 10 years?

A: As we look toward our future, we grow and adapt while staying true to our core values of trust, caring, challenge and growth. We’ve been a business for 58 years, and we’re focused on making sure that we’re evolving our product to exceed member expectations. We will continue to find innovative speakers, provide a relevant and actionable group experience, and deliver enhanced events that bring members together in cities across the country. This year, we are also launching Vistage Networks, enabling members to benefit from greater collaboration and connectivity with their peers.

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