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.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISC_assessment


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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVCBrkrFrBE

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 www.vistage.com or drop me a note: jegammack@gmail.com 



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