My Vistage Journey
In 1984, just a few years out of college, I founded Stellcom Technologies, a software/hardware engineering firm. At age 42, after 16 years of leading Stellcom, I sold some equity and retired. I credit much of Stellcom’s success to my 12 year membership in Vistage Group CE-12.
Vistage provided me the highest ROI of any investment I ever made. During my time in the group, company revenues grew from $2.5 million to $50 million.
Without this just-in-time learning, I would never been able to navigate the rapid growth and the dynamic complexity of business. My lessons were hard fought and I am passionate about helping other CEOs thrive in their businesses via the Vistage model.
Starting in 2003, I switched from being a member of a Vistage group to leading Vistage groups. Over the next few years, I built three groups. We grew with each other, sharing best practices and brainstorming growth opportunities. During the Great Recession, we relied not only on our fellow members, but also members from around the world. From 2007 and 2009, Vistage companies on average grew 5.8%. Dun & Bradstreet reports that other US companies shrank 9.2% during this same period. Turbulent times is when a CEO really needs to be part of a Vistage peer group.
In 2020, some 18 years after I left Vistage Group CE-12, the members asked me to come back and be their Chair. Of course I accepted. Founded in 1983, CE-12 is a legendary San Diego Vistage group. The strength of CE-12 comes from the members’ relentless desire to learn and their willingness to ask the tough question. There is no judgement, only support for each member and a shared desire to help their companies succeed. The diversity of the members, from industry, to age, education, and background, provides for creative solutions only possible with this unique approach. CE-12 is truly the private board of advisers that business leaders crave. The group is careful to only offer membership to those who have the ability to speak their mind, the desire to discuss complex issues and the courage to execute on thoughtful strategies and tactics. This selection criteria has been key to the group’s history of success.
Vistage on Campus
Since 2007, I have run a pro bono Vistage on Campus group. I work with the Executive MBA students at the UCSD Rady Business School. Like all Vistage groups, we meet once a month. Most of the students are working full time in various industries and then go to class every other weekend. It is a brutal schedule, yet they all seem to manage. They often have advanced degrees and come from all around the world. Some are current or former military. They are all amazing and I am sure that I learn more from them than I could possibly teach.