CEO Leadership Forums
Though America has dominated the hardcourts since basketball was introduced to the Olympics in 1936, winning 16 golds in twenty Olympics, few of those teams could rival the assembly of players representing the U.S. in 1992. Rightly dubbed “The Dream Team” by Sports Illustrated, their lowest win margin was 38 points and it went as high as 79!
In the same way, a group of local business leaders began to dream of what it would be like to bring together a team of subject matter experts, with vast personal business experience, to help local business owners learn how to, as the cliché says, “work on their business, instead of just in their business.” No business owner can master all the complex skills involved in scaling a successful company; from taxes, to recruiting and retaining top talent, to understanding market analysis and the steps needed to prepare for a successful exit, while maximizing the value of their company.
“We had been getting together for about a year and a half on an informal basis,” Chris Cucci of CenterState Bank recalled, “representing different specialties, banking, insurance, accounting, law and marketing. We had a lot of commonality in the customers we were targeting and found that if a member of the group could help a client in a particular area, we would make an introduction.”
Formalizing the Strategy
Then the group met Geoffrey Gallo, who had joined the CFO services company Nperspective in October of 2015. He brought from Houston a strategy he developed to formalize this information exchange and to direct it towards a parallel and equally significant purpose. “Collegiate business students are hungry for real world experience and mentorship, and though smaller businesses are always on the lookout for young, eager talent, they lack the time and resources to find them and train them. Therefore, they often can’t compete with the gravitational pull of large corporations,” said Gallo.
“While I was in Texas in 2009, I got to know some people at the University of Houston, where they had one of the leading schools for entrepreneurship; in fact they were ranked No. 3 in the country. I began talking to them about a gap I saw in the continuity of small businesses, which we could address through one day intensives with subject matter experts, that would in turn lead to more in depth engagements within the arenas where they needed help,” Gallo explained.
“Along with that, we had a secondary purpose-to create a platform that would engage students, early in their academic career in part time jobs, not unpaid internships, where they were coached by a mentor in an area that was essential to a small company. There they could really learn the intricacies of a business, in such a way that it would ignite their passion and provide a vital service to that business, while making the link to talent the business might never have connected with. We wanted to tie the college experience to the needs of smaller businesses.”
The Valencia Connection
Gallo’s plan was to engage with CEOs on subjects that were of great importance to their business. The initial forums would lead to deeper dives to assess the companies’ needs and devise strategic solutions. The alliance members had the network to provide the participants, and a member of the group Doug Foreman, CEO of Fringe Benefit Planning, in Winter Park, had a very personal connection with Valencia College; his mother, K. Sue Foreman, was on the Valencia Foundation board.
Through her they were introduced to Dr. Nasser Hedayat, the college’s assistant vice president of career and workforce education. Hedayat is a passionate champion and recognized leader in connecting workforce needs with the college’s preparatory strategy. With a student body of 70,000 and now offering four year degrees through UCF right on their campus Valencia was an ideal partner to help launch the program.
“This is an opportunity to connect business and education, to even provide scholarships to students and fill the gaps in the business community with motivated and experienced students and ultimately, graduates,” Dr. Hedayat observed. “We not only want to provide a workforce for the Disneys, but also for the companies that serve the Disneys. Right now on my advisory council I have over 600 business representatives. We are meeting with groups twice a week to analyze the workforce needs and trends in the area, helping us to insure our curriculum and technology is relevant and current.
Real World Impact
One CEO Leadership Forum participant was Claire Evans, CEO of amaZulu. Her Clermont based company provides natural architectural construction materials from around the world, which you have probably seen at upscale retailers, themed restaurants and throughout area theme parks. She was invited as a client of Nperspective and was overwhelmed by what she learned.
Evans, a former computer programmer with Intel commented, “I love what I do, but I simply don’t have time to read books on all these subjects. The Forum gave me the golden nuggets on the key subject areas I needed to be aware of, without me having to read the book or even the manual. For me, that was the ah-ha moment; it was priceless.”
It is a dream team from which any business could benefit.
Go to www.ceoleadershipforums.com to register for the November 10 event.