CEO Mentoring…Finding Common Solutions Among Peers

By Katie Takacs, Marketing Manager, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech

The CEOs of large organizations are known for taking the weight of their companies onto their shoulders. Small- and mid-sized companies are no different, and at times can be much more stressful, as decision-making responsibilities are often focused on fewer people, and the direction and outcome for the organizations are so closely affected by these daily decisions.

In small and mid-size companies, the CEO, or person with CEO-related responsibilities, typically doesn’t have anyone within the organization with whom they can confidentially discuss issues, concerns, and stressful situations. So how do people in these positions get useful advice? Many have joined CEO mentoring programs or roundtables that allow them to confidentially and openly discuss with others at their level topics that are affecting them and their organizations.

According to Britney Vickery, CEO and co-founder of Initials, Inc., “Every CEO is up at night and wondering about something. The CEO Forum has been a blessing to have as a sounding board to share excitement over the victories, and also gain outside perspective on pressing issues that are a part of all our businesses. Simply put, it sharpens you.”

Topics discussed in such forums range from succession planning to leadership training to how to get financing. These forums allow members to hear directly from their peers what they’ve done in a given situation, what’s worked for them, and what hasn’t worked. It provides an opportunity to share resources and advice based on previous experiences. CEO mentoring also allows for networking opportunities and can be a great sounding board and a stress-reliever.

It’s important for the confidentiality of the organizations and members that these discussions take place in a private setting. Meeting out of the office, in off-site locations, provides an atmosphere conducive to sharing issues that small business owners commonly face.

In 2008, the GaMEP at Georgia Tech began hearing from clients that these discussions were not only a need, but a priority to CEOs. The GaMEP responded and four years later, 30 companies are participating in four CEO roundtables across the state. Since the program’s inception, these CEO roundtables have provided a way to get CEOs and company owners talking about common issues they face. Each month, the GaMEP acts as a facilitator for discussions on topics that the CEOs choose. The roundtables are operated based on the Peerspectives program, which was developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation.

“The Forum has been a wonderful support system. Even though the companies are very diverse, the entrepreneurial challenges seem to be universal. The shared experiences of other CEOs have proven invaluable. We have built a strong camaraderie. Thanks to all who participate, it is always a terrific day,” said David Hays of Bodacious Food Company.

Beyond the GaMEP program, there are several CEO roundtables, forums, or mentoring programs run by private companies and public sector organization across the state. Finding one that is convenient and right for you and your organization could help lift a burden from your CEO’s shoulders.

For more information about the GaMEP CEO Roundtables, contact your regional manager.