Best Practice from Chuck Nalon

Chuck Nalon, Miniat Meats and Gavin Tierney, BiMeda.

At the end of our Vistage group meeting day we now share Best Practices. If a member has learned something he or she thinks could be of interest to others in the group, we make time on the agenda for sharing these insights.

This is a cool ritual, or  ‘inclusion exercise’, as it spreads the conversation around so we hear from others in addition to our significant event check-in at the start of our meeting day, or host presentation and process of an individual issue.

Chuck Nalon, president Ed Miniat Meats,  reported on an effective program his HR director is implementing that is resulting in expanding their employee candidate pool and has already resulted in the hiring of eight employees.

Employee hiring and retention are big issues for our members. This one idea could be a game-changer. Chuck says the team empowered to implement this program is inspired by making a difference for the greater good. He’s also convinced it will lessen employee turnover, a costly line-item for all businesses.

Here’s Chuck’s magic idea of the day thanks to his company participation in the Harkin Summit on Global Disability Employment: 

Click below for Chuck’s report on a new hiring program:

Watch Vistage member Chuck Nalon share this Best Practice!


Interested in more information about this idea, Vistage or our group? Email me:



When is the last time you had a ‘What if…?’ conversation?


A lot’s changed since my last post. I said ‘good-bye’ to my Vistage group in Baltimore and started a brand new CEO group in Chicago. Both the transition of the JulieheadshotBaltimore group to my friend and chair colleague Ed Robinson [Ed’s blog:  was as smooth as can be, and so was starting the new group. Changes are rarely easy, but when handled with sensitivity and respect, disruption is lessened.

Not that this blog gets thousands of unique visitors (although a lot more than I thought it would)  this is a site where I send candidates for Vistage membership or to learn my view of what it’s like to be a chair, so it is something I want to keep current.

And now, one year later, I can give a more complete report about what it is like to say farewell to a long-standing group and begin anew in a brand new city (to me).

When you chair a Vistage group it’s much more than a ‘practice’ or a ‘business’. We come to know our members in ways that are much more toastpersonal. We feel some stake in the triumphs as well as  the pain of the inevitable stumbles. So, building a group, sustaining a group, and holding one-to-one meetings with our members along with facilitating the group meeting, makes it hard to say good-bye. Especially after 13 years with many of the same people. But we did just that in February of this year during our retreat in Florida. We had a lovely farewell dinner on Valentines Day (yes, the spouses agreed) and they gave me a lovely John Hardy ring which I wear regularly. We toasted each other with specific examples of how we’ve changed each others’ lives and my eyes were moist most of the evening.

The idea for the transition to Chicago came about as my husband and I were having dinner in a northern suburb of Chicago on Sheridan Road. He pointed out a condo building overlooking Lake Michigan and commented that it had been one of his favorite places to live. At that time, we otherwise divided our time between Annapolis and Florida, but my husband commuted to Chicago once a month for his Vistage group.  Whew! The plan was for me to continue my Baltimore group even after the house sold and we would spend the rest of our time in Florida. A workable yet complicated plan. Although we were finding it burdensome to get on separate airplanes twice a month, we both love the work and weren’t willing to let it go.

Curious, I pulled out my iPhone and called up the app and discovered several units for sale.  As luck would have it (for us) the condo housing market hadn’t begun the upswing so our timing was perfect.

“What if,” I said, “I built a Vistage group in Chicago?”  

This is much easier said than done, but the vision was set and the pieces started falling into place. We got the cart a little before the horse by buying a unit before we knew this was all going to come together, but like a young filly, once I had the bit in my mouth there was no going back to the barn. It was going to happen.

And with 100% focus, the support of highly respected Vistage members, and four great events from January through April, this new group launched in April – about four months from the time we had that ‘what if’ conversation.

Have you had a ‘What if?” conversation lately? For some, the natural response to a ‘What if…’ can steer toward the negative and all the reasons whatever the idea is can’t work. If that’s you, think of your ‘what if…’, set the time for ten minutes, and list all the upsides of taking the risk. As negative thoughts enter your mind, push them aside.

What if… you did?



A room with a view!

What is YOUR ‘What if…’?





This Takes Guts


I spoke with fellow Vistage chair Bill Buxton, Carrboro, North Carolina, this morning about a program he has in place for his Vistage groups. Since one of my members placed an employee in Bill’s Key Executive group several years ago, I learned of this Tiger Team 360 idea and am toying with seeing if my group wants to give it a try.

Just prior to a members’ turn to host the monthly Vistage meeting, a team of two or three other members of his/her group go into the company and interview the direct reports about the targeted member.

This takes guts. And time.

And yet, how valuable would it be for a member to get this kind of feedback?

This practice is a part of Buxton’s group norms and he says his members would be up in arms if he retired the practice.

Tim Griffin, principal and branch manager of the North Carolina office of RMF Engineering based in Baltimore, is a Key Executive of one of my members. He  has been through three Tiger Team exercises where he was the subject and says they have been ‘very impactful’.

I asked him what surprised him about what he learned when it was his turn to be the beneficiary of the Tiger Team feedback

“Several things,” said Griffin. “Each time is tough because you hear things you don’t want to hear. However I’ve grown and seen others grow from theirs.

“I had tension between teams in my office I was unaware of, or at least to the degree they existed. Although I had an open door policy, some of my direct reports needed regular one-on-ones.

“Some of the comments I once received forced a conversation between my boss and myself which was healthy and helped me get on the same page with him.

“The last report revealed significant tensions existed in my office with our IT support that needed to be addressed.”

So how does this Tiger Team process work?

Buxton selects two or three people to serve on the Tiger Team. The member identifies the people to be interviewed, ‘interviewed’ being the operative word. Buxton underscores to the Tiger Team members that they are not to go in with an agenda, preconceived notions, or be directive. Their task is to find out what is being said around the ‘watercolor’ about their Vistage member colleagues. And listen. Here are some of the suggested questions:

    • What is the long-term plan and vision here?
    • What’s working?
    • What could be better?
    • What are the leaders areas of strength? Weakness?
    • On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate the members effectiveness? What would it take to be a 10?
    • If you had a magic wand, what would you change?
    • What would you like to see more of from this CEO? What would you like to see less of?
    • What does he/she need to start doing? Stop doing?
    • Buxton says overall this exercise is extremely valuable, but yes, he did lose a member who didn’t like what he heard.
    • That said, his groups have been doing this long enough that they’ve had more than one turn in the barrel and the follow-up Tiger Team report has seen noticeable improvement in workplace perceptions and alignment of what’s really going on.
    • Certainly, there are many consultants who offer 360 review assessments (for a price). And, yes, they are valuable for that moment in time. But imagine what it would be like if your Vistage group, a CEO peer group –  your very own private advisory board  –  could have that kind of holistic view of you and your company?
    • I’m going to see if my group would like to give it a try.
    • I’ll let you know how it goes.

C*****, is this a dirty word to you?

Change is inevitable. How we manage it is  up to us.

There are MAGIC reasons why people join our group.

M – Making better decisions.

A – Accountability.

G – Growth, personal and professional.

I – Isolation (it IS lonely at the top).

C – Change. How do you currently manage change.

As I scrolled through my Facebook page today I caught up with the latest round of layoffs at The Des Moines Register, where I wrote a daily feature column in the 1980s. Nine more laid off. And this is on top of several such stories throughout the past decade.

One fellow former staffer posted a reply to the story that ‘had the industry invested in Research and Development before the internet became ubiquitous the story could be a different one today’. Perhaps.

I remember marching into our publisher’s office when I first discovered CompuServe, AOL and Prodigy in the early 1990s and said this was going to change the communications industry and he rolled his eyes.  He didn’t own a computer and his experience was that every new fangled form of communication was always heralded as the end of newspapers: first radio, then television and now this strange thing called the internet. Phooey.

And then it began. Classified advertising? Gone. Real Estate advertising? Diminished beyond recognition.

I wonder what would have happened had the newspaper industry been on the forefront of the technology movement instead of lagging behind?

If you’re the CEO, how are you managing change? Are there disrupters out there that could put you out of business?

One of my favorite Vistage speaker topics is about futurism. It gives the folks in our group a chance to think ABOUT the business, not just managing the day-to-day tasks of working IN the business.

Are you taking the time to work ON your business as well as IN your business?

Will This Disrupt YOUR Business?

Are you ready?

Are you ready?

Here’s a question I posed to my Vistage group last month:

“Who here knows much about 3-D printing and what do you think the impact will be on your business?”

Older members hadn’t considered it while our 30-year-old member not only knows about it, but knows people in the industry, thus underscoring the importance of having a broad-cross section of ages at the Vistage table.

NASA designed and fabricated a key part for a rocket engine this way, according to a Fox News science report, shaving six months and 70 percent off the cost of production.

For the home user, evidence of the imaginations of early adopters can be found on 3-D3

Vistage speaker David Houle makes a career out of predicting, warning and extolling the potential possibilities future changes can create, giving members who pay attention an advantage over competitors who could be left behind if they don’t manage change correctly.

Here’s my Q&A with Houle about 3-D printing:

Q –  I think 3-D printing could be a huge disruptor. Do you?

A – Yes I do, but it is part of a much larger issue, which is the complete redefinition of the word manufacturing.  It is the lead story of the change in manufacturing from mass to custom.  I have spoken of this to Vistage members years ago.

Q – Who will be most impacted? What should vistage companies be doing to embrace or prepare for changes brought by this technology?

A – Manufacturing was largely defined by Henry Ford 100 years ago and manufacturing has been about mass, scale and volume ever since.  3-D printing is the beginning of the redefinition of manufacturing from mass to custom in the 21st century.  There will still be a need for mass manufacturing, but increasingly custom manufacturing will, due to transformative technologies, allow custom, one off production to rival the cost of mass production.

The United States, given that it is the most innovative and entrepreneurial country in the world can now take the lead in 21st century manufacturing.  Custom, high quality products produced close to the end user, which eliminates the need for costly long distance shipping from China, will allow Vistage members who are in the manufacturing business to bring their supply chain back to this country.
Disruptor is an understatement.
Most impacted?  Manufacturing companies that don’t think they need to innovate.  China and other low production cost countries that supply the United States.
Vistage companies in the manufacturing sector should have the right person in their organization consider buying a 3-D printer or perhaps first have a custom part made by a 3-D printing company and compare the cost and the quality.
This technology, as most, will become ever less expensive and with ever greater quality, range, power and efficiency.  Those in the manufacturing sector who do not think 3-D printing and the custom manufacturing business it is introducing into the market is important risk going out of business by 2020.  

Futurist David Houle talks about what's around the corner.

Futurist David Houle talks about what’s around the corner.

If you’re an employer, here’s a suggestion. Ask around and find out what the awareness level is on your staff of 3-D printing.  Find out who would be interested in looking into ways your company might be impacted. How will it impact your vendors? Clients? The economy? The country? The world? Brainstorm to the possibilities. What would be a best-case scenario for your business? Worst case? What can you do to get ahead of your competitors?
So, what is 3-D printing? Lisa Harouni gives a Ted Talk primer. 
Once a month our members come together to work ‘on’ the business, not ‘in’ the business; one of the many reasons Vistage works.

I Should Have Been Fired

It’s painful to see a new hire of one of my members not work out.

The cost of getting the person started and trained is significant financially, but even more importantly because of the time and effort and lost opportunity if the person isn’t the right fit for the job.

One of the hardest things for a young entrepreneur to do is fire a friend, and yet not doing so can put the business at risk.

When I first realized what a significant issue this was for my Small Business group members back when I became a chair in 2001, I asked for a show-of-hands: How many of you have been, uh, downsized?

It took a minute, but more than half the folks around the table raised their hand. I asked them each to tell what happened and then how it turned out.

Of course, these were Vistage members. Highly successful people. It turned out just fine, thank-you-very-much. In fact, had they not been fired they would not be where they are today.

I look back on a time in my youth when I SHOULD have been fired. I’m a people-person; high ‘I’ in DISC, a ‘promoter’ in the Lifespring quadrant, and just about every test I’ve ever taken comes to the same conclusion: Don’t put me in a position that requires mastery of details.

And yet, there I was at the age of 24 charged with scheduling a very important person.

I should not have been in the role I was hired to do.  But my then boss was too nice and tried to make it work. I was miserable. He was miserable. And way too many things fell through the cracks.

Was I stupid? No. Just a square peg in a round hole.

Did I feel stupid? Oh my, yes.

Would even a simple Myers/Briggs test revealed I was not suited for such a task? Yes.

There are a number of Vistage speakers who offer employee testing tools. I’ve learned about the Praendex Index, DISC, and the CPQ. They all have merit. Bottom line: pick one and administer it to prospective job candidates.

Here are links to resources I’ve met through Vistage who I highly recommend:

John Asher, specializing in a testing tool for sales and sales management positions. I have members who swear by this method for sales positions. Says client Brett Pyle; “His CPQ Assessment is simple to use, value-priced and most importantly the single best predictor of sales performance I, or the CEO’s I serve, have encountered. One of my associates administered the CPQ to his entire sales department. The results? His top performing sales associate scored highest on the assessment; his #2 performer was second, and so on, all the way down to #7. Impressive!”

Steve Picardi, PI Midatlantic. Steve recommends an article about how coaches are using testing and getting better results. His program is designed for companies with managers or H.R. execs who can administer and interpret the test results. It’s a bit more complicated than the Asher or Boyle offerings, but a great tool nonetheless.

Jerry Boyle, Pinpoint Profiles (DISC). Jerry had each of my members take the DISC profile prior to his speaking to my group and I now have a bound copy of all of their profiles. The big ah-ha for me was the importance of having all of the DISC profiles in a Vistage group for diversity of opinion.

Jerry Boyle prepared a booklet including DISC results for members of our Vistage group.

Jerry Boyle prepared a booklet including DISC results for members of our Vistage group.

And last but certainly not least, Barry Deutsche, author of “You’re Not the Person I Hired!”. He is a master Vistage speaker and specializes in employee recruiting.