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:



Happy Anniversary to Vistage 4321!

Our Chicago Vistage CEO Group Turns 2!


Vistage 4321 having our retreat dinner at the Chicago Yacht Club.

Here we are, two years after launching one of the best doggone Vistage groups in the entire world.*  These smart, accomplished folks run businesses in the Chicagoland area that in many ways touch your lives because of the shoes they make (Allen Edmonds), the car parts they design, the food they process for Subway, Chipotle and other large restaurant chains, the housing materials they deliver, the buildings they erect and the bottle caps they manufacture. And that’s just to mention a few ways these folks touch your lives.

Gavin Tierney, second from the left, runs a significant veterinary pharmaceutical company with operations throughout the world. He’s our  fun-luvin’ Irishman who can size up an issue and fire off a solution in seconds flat.


Chuck Nalon and Gavin Tierney

Bill Hickey seated next to him on his left is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met. If you ever need what is called ‘non-standard’ auto insurance, his business offers just that. He wears other hats within the larger company but in our group he’s the high priest of metrics and turn-arounds. Hidden behind Bill is another one of the smartest folks I’ve ever known, and she is Denise Lynch who recently departed as president of a publicly traded insurance company based in Chicago. When she joined us this year the ‘solutions’ time of our meetings ratcheted up exponentially.

Then, we have Pam Sharar-Stopel, our bank president, who I admire for many reasons, including that she has kept a hyphenated name all these years. To have a banker of Pam’s experience at the table is incredibly valuable to everyone and this leader has earned the nickname ‘Pambo’for some reason I don’t remember other than this petite woman physically is Rambo-tough when needed.




Julie Kollada is up next and she has a heart of gold being in the business she is in – providing home living assistance for the elderly and others who need such services. The company she founded is well on its way thanks to her vision and leadership and it so fun to be a part of watching her soar semi-vicariously.


Pam Sharar-Stopel, Julie Kollada, Andy Weil and me, Julie Gammack

Seated to my right is Andy Weil, a partner in one of the worlds’ largest law firms, DLA-Piper. His specialty is in mergers and acquisitions, a subject matter of great interest to many a Vistage member and here he is, in Vistage 4321! Lucky us! He’ll be on a Vistage Deal Network M&A Bootcamp, to be held in his offices in June.


Paul Roche and Andy Weil

Paul Roche is to my right. I’d say he’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met but I’ve said that before and mean it about everyone around the table. So, I’ll add what a great insightful leader he is and the fact that he came up through the IT ranks makes him an especially valuable asset to our group. This night, he lead the group in an exercise where they were blindfolded and instructed to assemble an unknown object without a clue as to how to go about it. It was hysterical and gave us a few life lessons as to the importance of collaboration, communicating goals and objectives etc.


Good sports: Pam Sharar-Stopel, Adam Miller, Chuck Nalon, Giles Miller, Josh Markowitz and Ron Heitzman trying to assemble a tent blind-folded.

Up next, Colin Hall, chief marketing officer with P&L responsibility for Allen Edmonds shoes, manufactured in Port Washington, WI. Colin commutes from his home in Winnetka, so we get to have him in our group. Colin can answer any question you’ve always wanted to know but were afraid to ask about digital marketing, and retail sales in general. In addition to being extremely knowledgable, he’s a barrel of laughs. Adam Miller is seated next to Colin and this guy has more things going on in his life, running a successful contracting business, active in sports and parenting four kids, I have no idea how he does it all. But he does. Very well. Very well, indeed.  I’m sure it helps that Adam is a very high ‘D’ on the DISC test.


Colin Hall, John Sprenger, Ron Heitzman (hiding) and Adam Miller


Josh Markowitz is currently our youngest member. Kind of interesting the youngster in the group is  in the business of advising folks how to invest their money to have enough to live on when they’re old! Josh is an old soul living in a young body who asks great questions, makes creative puns and witticisms that we tally during the meeting day.

Colin brought us the next gentlemen in our line-up, John Sprenger. He is a Naval Academy grad who finds himself owning and running his first business, a company that creates and installs high-end cabinetry, stairs etc. for some of the largest mansions on Lake Michigan and then some. He’s new to the group and new to the business and we’re having a blast helping him fly.

Ron Heitzman. Ron Heitzman. What to say about Ron? He is not only smart, insightful, fun, funny, one of the best of the best, but he’s also one of the founding members of the group. Whenever I interview an incoming member I ask myself: will this person bring value to a leader like Ron Heitzman? Because Ron has set a standard of quality for this group that makes it what it is today.

Jason Arends is next. Another founding member and one of the greatest guys ever. He lives and breathes the company he works for and because he is an engineer who can design better widgets, mouse traps, and car parts with an innovative eye to the future, he simply thinks differently than many around the table and offers invaluable insights. I was kidding about the mouse traps. But if anyone can create a better one, it’s Jason.


Colin Hall and John Sprenger, seated. Jason Arends standing.

Last but not least are the two gentlemen at the ends of the horse-shoe table. Giles Miller, right, and Chuck Nalon, left, are the most recent additions to the best Vistage group ever. Both are in family-owned businesses (as is Gavin) and both bring fresh eyes to our group. Their enthusiasm for their business and their new found Vistage experience adds even more richness to this group experience.

Chuck took us on a tour of the meat processing company he runs and folks got to see just what goes into the process of getting high quality food products to the restaurants that demand flavor, quality, price, on-time delivery and safety. chucknalon

This month (May) we will meet at Giles’ headquarters in Naperville  and learn about the manufacture and sale of bottle caps. Generations in his family have been in this business and to be a part of the adapting changes a company so rich in legacy will be a true honor.

Another exercise brought to us this anniversary night was by Denise Lynch


Denise Lynch and Bill Hickey watch as the tent building exercise is bungled.

who started the discussion that caused us to reflect on the people in our lives who have been a part of our transformations. To set up the topic she  showed us a TedTalk video called, Lollipop Moments

When a Vistage chair reflects on his/her career over time, the experiences that stand out are those lollipop moments, both given and received. And when a leader is aware of the power he or she has to make a difference in the lives of those around them, the ripple effect into the world can be transformational.

May we all have many more lollipop moments.


Not pictured here is YOU if you are eligible for Vistage membership and not already in a group. There is tremendous power in a high-performing peer group. Vistage works.


Learn more about Vistage or drop me a note: 



  • Caveat to the members of my former Baltimore group: You are the best too.



Apple Watch

What are your thoughts about owning an Apple Watch? Does it make sense for a busy executive?

I ordered mine within 20 minutes of it becoming available online. I have a ‘thing’ about Apple products and am usually in line outside the retail stores by 5 a.m. the day of a new release. This time I had to set my alarm for the middle of the night as they became available online only on April 24. I missed the drama of standing in line with my fellow fans but it IS easier ordering online.

Milanese Loop

Milanese Loop

I have no statistics regarding Apple Watch purchases (officials aren’t saying how many have been sold) but I sense there are folks holding back who are likely to buy one some day. I think they are reluctant to get into yet another learning curve, but that’s just my opinion.

A fellow gadget guy I had dinner with last weekend has so far resisted buying one and remains a bit skeptical. He asked a great question: ”What ONE thing do you use the most on the Apple Watch?’

I didn’t offer my real answer, but rather said:  “Texting.”

Siri on the Apple Watch is eerily accurate when responding to texts. So much so, you need to be sure your radio or GPS is turned down or you’ll be sending very strange messages.

But the real ONE thing I use the watch most for is to tell time. Not an answer the guy sporting an expensive traditional watch could relate to so I went with the answer of ‘texting’.  I haven’t worn a  wristwatch in years but relied on my smartphone to tell me the time. Watch buckles made my wrist break out or were just a hassle to take on and off, so I just used my phone to find out what time it was.  The Apple Watch Milanese Loop band is comfortable, stylish, easy to take off and on, and doesn’t make me break out. Yea!

The other advantages of the watch are becoming more and more a part of my daily life. Even the Heart Beat monitor that just seemed like a curiosity to play with until I started to feel a bit woozy the other day and noticed my resting heartbeat was quite elevated, according to the watch. This caused me to check in with my doctor a good 24-hours before I might have otherwise, and he put me on an antibiotic for an infection that could have festered had I not checked my heart rate. Who knew?

I drove a car from Chicago to Florida the recently, solo, and found a couple features come in quite handy. I raised my wrist and asked Siri how far it was to Nashville and she quickly told me ‘five hours’.

When texts came in I could easily reply by text dictation – far less distracting than having a conversation on the phone even with Bluetooth technology.

The Utility watch face I selected allows me to have several ‘complications’ (odd term) that lets me check the temperature, next item in my calendar, favorite stock, moon phase or other options.

Switching time zones happens automatically – this really comes in handy for those of us who travel.

The Apple Watch is attractive. Especially the Milanese Loop which is about $100 more than the sport watch band. Well worth the upgrade in my opinion. I’ve had waitresses, motel clerks, CEOs all admire it. I let them try it on and each and everyone says: I want one. Even a professed watch snob who had said earlier he wouldn’t wear anything but a traditional watch. After fondling mine, he says he’s going to get one.

I love my Apple Watch and I know it’s capabilities are just in their infancy.

So, does it make sense for a busy executive? Absolutely.


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…’?