Harnessing the Power of Business Roundtables
As a business owner, how often do you have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with other owners or executives about ideas? Many small- and medium-sized company owners and executives frequently feel they are working in a vacuum because they rarely have the opportunity to exchange ideas with peers and other professionals. Business roundtables enable owners to cash in on the roundtable’s pool of experience and the expertise of skilled facilitators.
Roundtables typically are comprised of business owners and CEOs who come together to share ideas, discuss challenges or concerns, and to learn new ways to approach old problems. They are different than advisory boards that bring a group of professionals representing different areas of business together to assist one company in making decisions and to offer advice in steering the business into the future. Executive roundtables are proactive and interactive.
Most business roundtables group similar companies together so business owners interface with others dealing with challenges and issues within their businesses. For example, small and medium companies are grouped together because they share commonality in size, while larger companies meet separately.
Some roundtables even take this process a step further, and group companies by industry — service companies, for example, would be grouped separately from manufacturers or other product-oriented companies. Nevertheless, good facilitators possess the experience to avoid grouping companies competing in the same industries in order to spur discussion on critical business issues.
Concepts and ideas are introduced at monthly meetings where members follow a 12-month curriculum. Homework also is assigned to roundtable participants who are asked to complete it by the next meeting, along with any questions for discussion. Since adult learners must use new information for it to “stick,” homework assignments are critical for the adult mind to retain new concepts.
Nothing about the way a business roundtable is conducted is left to chance. Members attend meetings offsite to hold distractions to a minimum. Each meeting follows an agenda so time is used productively and wisely. Each member is asked to commit to the group and make every attempt to attend each meeting. The presence of all members is key to the synergy that commonly accompanies business roundtables. Many owners even keep in touch long after the roundtable is over – a sign that these relationships offer much more than camaraderie.
Since there are many members to share the fee, the cost to members is a fraction of the cost that a one-on-one business performance consultant would charge. At the suggested $1,000 to $4,000 per advisory board member per meeting fee, business roundtables look like a steal at between $400 and $600 per month.
And that’s only one of the many benefits owners and CEOs find they have a safe haven to discuss issues that weigh heavily on their minds. They soon discover and learn, from others who have experienced similar issues that they are not alone in their quest for top talent, increased productivity and decreased costs. Besides being an objective sounding board for members’ ideas, the group also can be an accountability factor. If an owner says he/she intends to implement systems within his/her sales force, it is almost certain that the rest of the group will ask the next time they meet how his/her systems are coming along.
The results roundtables elicit can be spectacular! Some members have reported double-digit profit increases since implementing ideas that they always intended to put into practice, but had not done so until joining the roundtable. Others note that personal productivity has increased as a result of a more focused approach.
Family businesses have found a unique use for business roundtables. Before handing over the reins to the family business, junior members attend the one-year course to learn how a business operates. This head-start gives these soon-to-be business owners the leg up on other new entrepreneurs. According to one family business owner, “It’s hard to place a value on experience.”