What’s Next CEO: Bringing Leaders Together for Mutual Success

Friday, August 11, 2023

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There are numerous obstacles facing small businesses in their attempts to succeed and grow. But perhaps the most challenging aspect of those hurdles is facing them alone, without the resources to offer confidence. 

The Washington County What's Next CEO program offered area business leaders that opportunity at no cost, providing an avenue to obtain the knowledge, tools, resources and opportunities needed to build a sustainable company.

Unique interaction

In early 2023, the What’s Next CEO program brought small business owners, presidents and CEOs together to interact in a way not typically obtainable. Specifically, the Peer-to-Peer Round Table Events in early 2023 provided the perfect environment for them to discuss concerns, options and problems impeding their success. The CDA received American Recovery Program Act (ARPA) funds through Washington County to develop the program and hired Lee Hall from NextStage to facilitate the program. The pilot program allowed individuals from a dozen non-competing businesses to meet ten times in secure environments for open and confidential discussions. The intent was for the individuals to share their learning and expertise to help each other drive their businesses forward.

A valuable experience

The involved business leaders participated in a survey to give their thoughts on the program, with their testimonies listed below.

“I find a lot of value from the group - new ideas, process improvements, best practices, liability gaps, marketing, staffing improvements, and a nice sounding board.”

“I look forward to attending on a monthly basis. I find the topics are relevant and I have learned from my peers.”

“I’m finding value in the group of other small business owners. It feels like a safe space to speak freely, and ask for advice and support from outside persons. I am learning lessons from others' mistakes or by taking their suggestions.”

“I feel being a member of this group has been very valuable. I am part of groups specific to Optometry, but thinking outside of the scope of my field has been helpful for insight from other business leaders in the area.”

“This group has been helpful in learning about various topics from staffing, contracts, HR, accounting, negotiations, etc. This has definitely been valuable in moving my goals forward in my business.”

“I see great value from the meetings for myself and other owners. Owners need a safe place to talk about issues that need to work outside of the normal circle.”

“I think the group has been very valuable. The facilitators were among the best I have seen - bringing knowledge and clear respect for the process to the meetings. Although I knew three participants before the group’s launch, I still felt that we all learned new things about each others' businesses and benefitted from the experience. I enjoyed the dialogue and participation levels of everyone in the group. Meeting once per month was very doable. The only thing I would change is that it would be nice to have a required social gathering so that members can get to know each other more personally. We (and our businesses) are all so different that the opportunity to cement those relationships for the long haul would be nice. I also want to add that I appreciate the opportunity to do this without a financial cost.”  

“I find this group to be valuable as a business owner. Many topics are relevant to my business, enabling me to implement solutions and ideas that others suggest. The facilitators have great insight and offer much value to the conversation.”

“This is the best time spent on anything outside of working directly with customers every month. To say my business has been impacted by what I’ve learned from this round table would be an understatement. I have implemented many changes from things learned in discussions and have a long list of future tweaks and adjustments to make my business better for myself and my employees. It is amazing to have a place full of people who understand and are going through or have gone through the same struggles and can learn from what has worked and what hasn’t. I am grateful to have been allowed to participate and hope to be involved in something similar in the future.”

“I would rate the value of the group around 8/10. The chosen topics to discuss are helpful, but I find the more candid discussion of specific struggles and how others have encountered/handled them to be of the highest value. It can be hard to find other people who understand owning a business to have those conversations with outside a professional group like this.”

“This is a great group and the platform creates an opportunity for business owners to discuss problems they encounter. There is great value in this group.”

“Value of the group is priceless. To have a cohort of local businesses to share ideas, issues and encouragement creates abundant information and energy.”

The Washington County (CDA) is extremely grateful for the incredible support by the Washington County Board for small businesses and the participation of all those involved with the pilot What’s Next CEO program. The benefit to the participating business leaders is evident in their testimonies and we encourage any parties interested in participation in future similar endeavors to contact us today!

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