How ABL CEO Round Tables are Different From Vistage Groups

Among the most frequently asked questions we hear at the Adaptive Business Leaders Organization (ABL) is, “How is an ABL CEO round table forum different from a Vistage group?” (Variations on this theme include “How are you different from YPO,” “…The Alliance of CEOs,” and seemingly dozens of other “networking” groups.)

The answer is FOCUS. Frankly, not all “contacts” that one makes while “networking” are equal, nor is the quality of their business advice. The better another person understands your industry and its unique competitive, operational, and regulatory ecosystem, the more specific and valuable their executive insights, guidance, and referrals can be.

For over 30 years, I’ve witnessed time and again a Tech CEO pose to his or her fellow Technology Round Table mates a question that only someone at the CEO-level in a tech firm, who’s dealt with similar challenges, could respond to adequately. These include questions like: how to deal with prima donna developers, what are the nuances associated with rewriting programs in a new computer language or on a new platform, what’s the best way to transition from “waterfall” to “agile” development, or how to determine the tax implications of various ways of granting equity?

And, the same thing is true for our Healthcare Members, where in their Health-Industry-Only Round Tables, they can candidly and confidentially discuss how, in each of their sectors, they can survive and thrive under a barrage of changes in legislation, regulations, reimbursement, and patient expectations, while integrating new Health IT solutions necessary to meet the radically changing requirements and mandates of the marketplace and payer community.

Fortunately for our current Members, our FoundingChairman, Walter Bauer, been a member of Vistage. And, while he appreciated the value of hearing about the issues faced by CEOs in other industries, he noticed that his fellow members’ eyes glazed over when he spoke about many of the challenges he faced running his ompany. So Walter posed three requirements to our founding professional facilitators: 1) each Round Table could be composed of only technology CEO Members – or individuals running corporate tech divisions; 2) half-day sessions (tech CEOs are for full-day meetings); and 3) cut the price in half (ABL Membership has always been less than half the annual investment of a Vistage CEO group). Six years later, in 1989, we applied the same criteria in the formation of our first Healthcare Round Table.

ABL’s current Technology Chair, Dave Berkus, who’s been an active ABL Member since 1989, recently posted that he finds the greatest value in ABL, in “the constant hearing of stories by these CEOs of how they were able to adapt to changes in their environment and alter the course of their leadership, adapting to external influences that had changed in their industry or the economy.”

Unquestionably, these stories are all the more meaningful because they’re from fellow Tech CEOs, who reside in a similar tech-focused environment.