CEOs Are Business Experts? Not Always.

by Bennett Curry

Naphtali Hoff writes about a reporter interviewing a successful and rather terse bank president. When asked about his success, the president said, “Right decisions.” And how does one make right decisions? He answered, “Experience.” So, how is experience gained? He replied, “Wrong decisions.”

Research conducted by the Arizona Commerce Authority with CEOs of young, high-growth Arizona companies (those with revenues of at least $500,000) identified similar fundamental challenges. In addition to conversations about sales and marketing, organizational structure and strategic direction, CEOs sought opportunities to learn from and network with peers for advice and counsel.

A recent study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business at Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance further confirmed that two-thirds of CEOs do not receive external coaching or leadership help. However, 80 percent of those CEOs expressed a desire for it.

The ACA addresses this need with the CEO Corner Office, a four-month (eight sessions of two-and-a-half hours) executive program to develop and engage Arizona’s CEOs.

The program helps in three ways. There is a learning component with facilitated business case study discussions, topics are applicable to each participant’s business, and participants are trained to ask and receive peer-to-peer feedback. Case study topics include scaling a business, financial literacy, vision, courage, communications and evolving as a CEO.

A graduate of the inaugural CEO Corner Office cohort reflected, “It was a very good experience to be able to share issues within my business with peers that were going through the same issues or had moved past some of the issues I dealt with. I also appreciated the various perspectives that different industry leaders had and how those perspectives could help me see another dimension to solving my own issues.”

The CEO Corner Office offers participants a continuum of engagement opportunities with each other and the ACA, including a post graduate program, CEO Hot Topic Zone gatherings, All Graduate Networking event, peer-to-peer mentoring and an annual lunch with ACA’s leadership team.

Non-competitive cohorts are formed several times annually. The next Greater Phoenix cohort begins on June 6.

Bennett Curry is vice president of the Arizona Commerce Authority.

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