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.



Why do some people get folks to say ‘yes’ and others don’t?

Dean Minuto has it all figured out.

This award-winning Vistage speaker appeared before our group several years ago and when I heard he had a new talk, I immediately booked him for a return engagement.

When Dean gave his first presentation to our group, one of my members had a big sales pitch he was going to make the next day so almost

minutopixdecided to skip our Vistage meeting because he thought he ought to spend the day preparing for the pitch. Instead, he DID come to our meeting, and it’s a decision he says earned him $12 million.

Why? He completely re-worked his materials and re-ordered what he was  going  to say to the prospective client, after learning from Dean how people make buying decisions.

He realized he needed to spend LESS time about his company and all the wonderful things they do and spend MORE time addressing the clients’ fears and concerns. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but Dean Minuto’s presentation gave our member a new way of looking at how their company made sales presentations and he saw he needed to make a dramatic overhaul.

As a result, the member won a $12 million dollar contract he had previously thought was a long-shot of earning.

Dean will be our speaker on December 12 from 8:30 until noon in the conference room of RMF Engineering, 5520 Research Park Drive, Baltimore (in the UMBC Office Park).  If you are the CEO or decision-maker for your organization and have an interest in exploring Vistage membership and would like an invitation to hear him speak, email me:

Don’t bother if you have all the business you want and everyone around you does what you want them to do.


Steve Jobs…

I watched ‘Steve Jobs: One Last Thing’ last night and keep thinking about something he said in an interview when he was a much younger man. It was when he realized the world had been shaped by people who weren’t any smarter than he was and how much that ah-ha (my words, not his) propelled him to extraordinary accomplishments. Here’s the clip:


At about the six-month mark of a Vistage members’ anniversary with the group I’ll check in and ask them how their experience matches what their expectations were prior to joining us. 

A common response is: It’s great to see I’m not the only one dealing with these issues. Maybe I’m not so dumb after all.

What the rest of his or her world would be shocked to learn is that some of the most successful people today are shadowed by the thought that they really aren’t as smart as people think they are. Some how they are a fraud. They just got lucky. 

The transformation in that moment can lead to a self-acceptance and confidence that can cause the member to grow exponentially. 


On-boarding three new members tomorrow

Merit Gest Onboarding Specialist

Merit Gest
Onboarding Specialist

Our Vistage group will have three new members starting tomorrow so I’m taking advice from Vistage speaker Merit Gest who gives an eye-opening presentation about on-boarding newcomers to an organization. As a result,  I’m spending a little more  time preparing for their arrival.  (Vistage works)

Vistage itself is a rather unusual business model. The customer is also the product.  Vistage is an international organization but for the member it is what we chairs show them it is in our small groups of 12-16. The loyalty is not to the brand but to their fellow members and chair.  And it is the group culture that creates the member experience  so it is critical we chairs select the right fit and then set the context for what’s expected of members. As for member selection, we need to make sure we have a variety of personality styles, diversity in skill-sets, gender, age, and type of business. I will have two very young entrepreneurs in my group, and although their employee-size is much smaller than many around the table, they will bring a point-of-view that will be critical in the strategic thinking process of the rest of the group.

I’ve witnessed a question from a 30-year-old to a 63-year-old alter the course of the elder’s business.

I’m assembling notebooks for not only the new members but am making one for everyone in the group as a reminder of the basics.  It will include a copy of our group norms (always a good thing to revisit), forms for outlining how we process an issue and our one-to-one coaching meeting. I’ll include a template about what a Host Presentation needs to look like and an explanation of what our monthly check-in should entail. This is a good reminder for all of us.

I’m assigning an existing member to each newcomer with the task of making sure they are introduced to everyone else and have their questions answered. I’ll seat the two of them side by side.

I also sent the newcomers an email letting them know to dress casually. This may seem like a small detail, but it’s not, according to Gest. It’s important to let newcomers know the standards and culture in advance. You don’t want an employee showing up dressed casually when the culture is more formal, nor in our case, do you want someone sitting around in a coat and tie on the first day when everyone else is wearing a Polo shirt. The faster they feel as if they are one of the tribe, the faster they will open up and jump on in.

Speaker Gest makes a compelling case about the ROI of successful on-boarding of newcomers. She walks members through an exercise that demonstrates the cost of turnover and that successfully on-boarding newcomers can make a big difference in employee satisfaction and retention.

Same principle applies to new Vistage members.

Here’s our group culture guide:

Vistage 3399










Tomorrow, I’m going to ask one of the members of our group to read this list. It will be included in the notebooks I’m preparing for new and existing members. Some times I even tape it to the wall inside the restrooms where our meeting is being held.

And, yes, we DO have fun inside and outside the room together.


P.S. If you’re a chair, please add any thoughts about how you onboard new members!

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?