Annual CEO Retreat

2015 CEO Collective Retreat Recap

By Melissa Raffoni

Trying to find a day that meets the schedule of more than 40 CEOs, organizing the speakers, the meals, and the fun (you’ve got to have fun),  is no small task. My teamjokes that it’s like planning a wedding. This year was our 9th retreat, so we’d like to think we’re getting the hang of it.

While the planning can be stressful, each year I come away feeling the same—excited and inspired. Our goal is that the reatreat be a valuable tool in the lives of our member CEOs. I was pleased to see such high marks on this year’s evaluations and that 100% of the CEOs said they found the retreat valuable.

Missed the reatreat? Here’s a recap of many of this year’s topics:

  1. Leadership development —It’s hot. hot. hot. Everyone wants to talk about it. Everyone wants to figure it out. CEOs recognize that they must go beyond setting direction for their leaders. They must rise to the challenge and build their leadership group into a world-class team.  Special thanks to Rich Rosier, SVP, Linkage, and Jeff DiSandro, Partner, Howard Fischer Associates, for talking candidly about what works, what doesn’t, which jobs are hardest to fill, and sharing numbers on competitive salaries.

  2. M&A—Our CEOs are sophisticated. They understand that organic growth is not the only way to grow a company.  When asked to speak, our panel of six CEOs, all with buy and sell experience, had excellent insights on how to drive a deal. We spoke about how to navigate the best deal (both as a buyer and a seller), who to engage to help you with the process, and how to keep your head clear as you navigate what is ALWAYS a distracting and stressful time for the CEO. Thank you Rob MacLeod, Managing Director, Bigelow, LLC and Stephen McGee, Director, Bigelow, LLC for sharing knowledge on how deals go down and your point of view based on many years of respected experience.  

  3. Scaling Sales—Umm-now this is a tough topic. Lots and lots of questions, and more importantly lots and lots of approaches. The discussion included when to hire a VP verus a director, how often do you change a comp plan, and what has worked versus what hasn’t. Our panel of six CEOs, all of whom have successfully scaled (three of which have scaled in excess of 200m with visions for 1b) shared their stories. 

  4. Audits—CEOs love to challenge and swap war stories on audits. Thank you Travis Drouin, Lead Partner, CPA, Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico for showing us that accountants can be good guys too (wink). 

  5. Getting Personal—The CEOs are willing to sharing the challenges and joys of being a CEO as it relates to their personal lives, including how they manage their schedule to ensure quality time with their families and attending to their health, what stresses them out, where they have fallen down and how they got back up again. We took a risk asking people to tell the personal truth and the results were meaningful.  

  6. Hang Time—It’s always a good sign when the crowd stays up late just to hang out. It’s great to see the relationships built through the CEO Collective and the reatreat. That’s at the core of what we offer to our members—lasting and meaningful connections with other CEOs.

A few thank yous…

Thank you to all the members who came out this year and made the retreat what it was through your presence and participation. You are an inspiration.

Thank you to Tom Fay, Regional President of BNY Mellon, for setting the stage post cocktail party by engaging us in a great discussion about where the economy is heading. Tom is our annual speaker on economy and  is always well versed and prepared to address a tough crowd.

And special thanks to the Raffoni Group team members who helped plan and staff the retreat, Ed Barrows and Erin Mullen.

If you are interested in learning more, please see the links below. If you weren't able to make it, I suggest you join us next year. You'll be glad you did.

See the full retreat agenda.

Get general information on the retreat.

CEOs “Find Their Tribe” at the Raffoni Group’s 9th Annual CEO Collective Retreat

“I have found my tribe.”

This was my favorite response to this year’s CEO Retreat.

It came from one of our top CEOs. He followed with, “It was so refreshing to listen to other people who struggle with the same decisions, questions and frankly, emotions that I typically take on alone.”

After working with the Raffoni team to create a memorable and valuable experience for the several dozen CEOs who joined us for the two-day event, hearing this made me smile.

What caused this CEO and others to have this realization? Here are the highlights of our time together...

Carol Kaufman, Founder of the Institute of Coaching at Harvard University and long-term faculty member at Harvard Medical School, kicked us off with The Truth About Leadership Development. Carol’s roster of senior leaders she coaches continues to impress me, as does her thinking and practical approach that our CEOs respect. As I looked around the table, I saw CEO members making lists of things they want to do better to become better leaders and to create better environments for their teams. They concurred that this topic never gets the attention it deserves. But on this day, it did.

Next, I had the privilege of facilitating a panel with Josh McCall, CEO of Jack Morton and Peter Bransfield, CEO of Rypos. These guys are two of my favorite leaders. I asked them, “Describe your best leaders and how you got and kept them? Tell us about your best leadership teams and how they became so great.”

The pro-activeness of these two leaders in developing their leadership teams is damn impressive. A spark is ignited. “Does an ivy league education matter?” is the question, leading to a series of controversial topics. Good fun.

Year-over-year our CEOs say, “more panels, more swapping of stories!” Where else does this happen?

This lively session was followed by Mark Kasdorf, CEO of Intrepid; Mike Dreese, CEO of Newbury Comics; and Ted Nelson, CEO of Mechanica. Wow. What happens when a leading mobile app development firm CEO, a leading provocative retailer, and one of the best marketing strategist I know talk about what every CEO should know about consumer trends on the internet and content marketing? Great discussion, new ideas, sharing, sharing, and more sharing.

To ground our excitement (chuckle), we welcomed Tom Fay, Regional President of BNY Mellon Wealth Management to give us an inside peek at the economic forecast ahead. We were pleased with the outlook. It is positive.

We allowed plenty of time to network and have real discussion. We went from a community-service-based social… to a pre-party…to a delectable dinner… to organized speed networking… to collaborative group activities…to unstructured breaks.

We did our best to create an environment that brought forth truth, encouraged transparency, promoted collaboration and fostered innovation.

And we even got a little more creative this year. One third of our attendees opted into a collaboration exercise that included abstract painting, accompanied by a jazz quintet. More than half of the attendees showed up at 7AM for a guided meditation led by a Buddhist meditation master. And 100% of our CEOs failed the Marshmallow Challenge (I’m told you can watch on it YouTube).

We circled back to leadership, well-being, and creating environments that stimulate productivity and happiness. Ideas ranged from community service programs, to yoga on-site, to executive health benefits. We discussed many new ideas and ways for CEOs to demonstrate and invest in improving well-being for themselves and their teams.

As I write this and read the evaluations of the day, they unanimously point to one thing – the value of CEOs connecting with other CEOs.  Something we focused on going into the retreat and that was validated throughout.

If each CEO member implements one new idea from this enlightening time with their peers, I’m convinced their companies will be better for it.

At Raffoni, we will continue this important work in the CEO Collective over the next 12 months and anticipate the 10th annual retreat next fall. If you missed it this year, make sure to join us in 2015. You’ll be glad you did.

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