A roundtable is a group of senior executives that typically meet monthly, following a format designed for each member to learn from the experience of peers. Certain revenue criteria must be met in each organization to create groups facing similar stage issues.
While the roundtable concept may not sound exceptional on the surface, the results of membership are often extraordinary. Joining a roundtable has turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done in my life both personally and professionally, and I’ve seen it do the same for others. How?
As your company grows, complexity increases and new challenges arise. Navigating these waters is much smoother with a group of trusted advisors who aren’t “on the clock” or have other vested interests. While not a substitute for a true board of advisors, a roundtable is a simple way to achieve some of the same benefits, and may be sufficient for some time.
Roundtable sessions are carefully moderated to avoid “you should do thus and such” recommendations (it turns out few CEOs enjoy being told what to do ;-) while sharing personal experiences. The nuggets of wisdom gained from these experiences run the gamut.
- A referral to the right banker to remove a personal guarantee
- A personal introduction to a key reporter in your industry
- An observation that a quote for xyz service might net a nice savings
- Pointers for a key pitch or proposal – perhaps directly from a previous winner!
- Recommendations of great time-saving tools (including what tools to avoid)
The only “trick” to roundtables is finding the one that suits you best as each has its own flavor. To that end, here’s a list of some largest roundtable networks for you to explore.
Some roundtables have a niche:
- EO Accelerator – Designed to help earlier stage companies reach EO membership criteria. Limited to 30 businesses per chapter of between 250,000 to 1 million in revenue.
- Vistage Connect – An alternative to Vistage monthly meetings, this version creates peer advisory groups online.
- Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) – Exclusively for women with businesses of 2 million+ in revenue (1 million if services).
- Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) – Exclusively for entrepreneurs under 45, with businesses of substantial size (market value of 10 million+, among other criteria).
Others are broader in scope:
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). A large network of 8,000 business owners in 40 countries. By invitation only. Point of interest: The Detroit chapter of EO is ranked No. 1 in membership, and is the fastest growing EO chapter in the world.
- PeerSpectives Roundtables are licensed by the Edward Lowe Foundation and available in almost two dozen states. Some are groups are free, sponsored by universities and other organizations.
- TEC is focused Michigan and Wisconsin. (Many other chapters were acquired by Vistage, with which they remain partners). By invitation only.
- Vistage (formerly known as TEC). A large network of 15,000 members worldwide, Vistage is welcoming to senior managers not necessarily in the CEO or Presidents seat.
Beyond Startup has prepared the following comparison chart of popular CEO Roundtable Groups, available in PDF format and as a Google Doc.
For additional reading, see this NYT overview of roundtables, highlighting Vistage Connect: In Meetings on the Web, Business Owners Turn to Business Owners for Support.