There comes a point in a company's life when the CEO can't do it all. Usually, that begins when a company reaches $1 million to $3 million in sales.
Unfortunately, no school can teach a CEO how to manage growth and delegate. What a CEO needs is a peer group and discussions with other CEOs who have “been there, done that.”
Such groups exist, but most of them, such as Vistage, target leaders of larger companies with sales of more than $5 million. So Bonita Springs-based business consultant Barbara Monti and Conditioned Air CEO Theo Etzel III recently launched Ancora for Chief Executives, and it's aimed at CEOs of smaller companies.
“It's a difficult size to get past,” says Etzel, who grew Conditioned Air in Naples from $2.7 million in sales in 1995 to $28 million in 2012. In particular, CEOs of small but growing companies often have trouble delegating tasks because they've donned so many hats within their organization. “There's often a control issue,” says Etzel. “At some point those hats start to weigh them down.”
Ancora for Chief Executives is designed so CEOs can implement strategies for personal and business growth with each other's help in confidential group meetings. The eight sessions a year cost $7,900 per member.
“This is not a networking group,” warns Etzel, who will lead the discussions. The by-invitation-only group will be composed of CEOs of differing industries, and confidentiality is a requirement. Four of the sessions will feature a respected management expert who will offer CEO-specific advice that participants can adopt for their own companies.
CEOs who participate will be required to share their financial results and be accountable to the group about action plans they will implement after hearing a speaker. “You're like a board of directors for each other,” Etzel says.
Etzel says he was drawn to lead the discussions at Ancora because of his interest in executive education. “Hobby is a weak word for this,” he laughs. “It's always been an interest of mine. I'm a good listener.”
And, he adds with a chuckle: “I've made all the mistakes.”
Although Conditioned Air is on track to reach $30 million in sales this year, Etzel attributes success to participation in Vistage and other peer-level industry groups. For example, Etzel once heard a speaker at Vistage discuss the advantages of open-book management, in which the CEO shares all the financial details of the business operation with employees. Etzel says he adopted open-book management 11 years ago, a decision he says was crucial to his company's subsequent growth.
But Etzel says he is careful not to promise sales growth will result from participation in Ancora for Chief Executives. And it won't take the place of a management consultant who might have specific suggestions for organizational improvement.
Ancora derives its name from a quote by Michelangelo when he was 87 and said: “Ancora Imparo,” meaning, “Still, I learn.”
Monti, a principal with Monti & Associates who has formed and operated several businesses, began her executive education and consulting practice in 1996. She runs the Vistage program in the area and formed Ancora in 2004. Currently, Monti also runs Ancora for Key Executives, a program for second and third tiers of management, such as chief financial officers and chief operating officers. Ancora for Chief Executives is scheduled to begin in January.