Yearlong program nurtures growth of Louisiana firms via peer learning and access to experts
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Economic Development is expanding its successful CEO Roundtables program to six cities throughout the state, with classes beginning this summer for the innovative peer-to-peer learning program. Alexandria and Schriever are adding programs this year, joining New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lafayette on the roster of roundtable cities in Louisiana.
Launched in New Orleans in 2014 to help second-stage firms grow jobs and revenue, CEO Roundtables convene 15 to 18 qualified decision-makers from Louisiana-based growth companies over the course of a year. They meet a minimum of 10 times for peer-to-peer learning, business networking and support. The collaborative, growth-oriented meetings support a trusting environment in which CEOs can safely explore business and personal issues.
“Small businesses are vital to Louisiana’s economy, and LED is committed to supporting them and helping them grow,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “We know that small business owners are some of Louisiana’s most innovative, hardworking and creative people. They face many challenges as they attempt to grow their companies, and the CEO Roundtables provide an effective platform for identifying and implementing solutions to shared challenges. As they share experiences with a diverse group of peers, business leaders in CEO Roundtables share insights with one another and bring back to their own businesses new strategies for further success.”
Participants from companies in a range of industries come together in each session to discuss a designated topic that is determined by the interests of the group. Past topics have included human resources, marketing, strategic planning, employment law, operational efficiency, organizational structure, access to capital, delegation and cybersecurity. Past CEO Roundtables participants have represented such sectors as biomedical, construction, consulting services, engineering, manufacturing and software development, with the group able to address issues common to their vastly different businesses.
“The pressures of running a business are too great to go at it alone,” said owner Sheila Craft of FileLink in Metairie. “This is the best advisory board you will ever have. The CEO Roundtables have given me an opportunity to learn from my peers and provided me with a diversity of perspectives and experiences. Our discussions never failed to create a powerful basis for identifying and evaluating alternatives to solving any particular business management problem. I found the mix of companies in the roundtable to be especially valuable because I received a broader and often different perspective on business issues. My experience in the CEO Roundtables was unparalleled and immeasurable; the camaraderie, priceless.”
The CEO Roundtables build on the success of LED’s Economic Gardening Initiative, an intensive market research program for second-stage small businesses that demonstrate high-growth potential. A total of 190 companies from throughout Louisiana have participated in Economic Gardening since its inception in 2011, including 56 of the 132 companies that have graduated from the CEO Roundtables program. Company officials often are made aware of Economic Gardening and other state programs through their participation in the CEO Roundtables.
“This certainly was an unforgettable, yet positive experience,” said Rickey Hall, founder and CEO of Hall Builders Inc. in Shreveport. “I was amazed at what other businesses had in common with Hall Builders, from employee morale, setbacks and establishing foundations for future growth. One of my favorite takeaways was looking within our organization to build leaders with talent development techniques. The benefits were so encouraging, from the concepts of strategic planning and ideas for boosting profitability, and have given me insight to develop different approaches for my business. I would definitely recommend the LED CEO Roundtables program to any business interested in sustainability and growth.”
Roundtable participants typically operate high-growth companies with annual revenue of $600,000 to $50 million, employing five to 99 people. Each roundtable series consists of 10 half-day sessions, moderated by a facilitator, over the course of a year. The discussion groups are structured to provide CEOs with timely advice to problems they are experiencing. The roundtable setting allows peer executives to share their company experiences openly so participants may learn from both their achievements and their mistakes.
Since inception of the program in 2014, 132 executives have graduated from the CEO Roundtables program from across the state. These leaders are responsible for the collective creation of over 533 new jobs with an average annual salary of over $49,000, plus benefits. The most recent five graduating classes from fiscal year 2017 project creating an additional 344 full-time equivalent jobs and growing their annual gross revenues by more than $90 million over the next twelve months. For every $1 invested in the program, the state has achieved a return on investment of $6.22.
“You can never quit learning in business,” said Executive Vice President Tom Martin of Pod Pack International in Baton Rouge. “The CEO Roundtables program has provided me the opportunity to step away from the day-to-day activities of running a business, so I could focus a half-day each month on thinking strategically and applying new skills and ideas to grow the business. The roundtables have proven to be a great confidence-builder, which has motivated me and my staff to develop a strategy to grow the business by nearly 10 times from where it is today.”
LED has partnered with regional organizations throughout the state to grow the program each year. The 2017-18 series is set to begin this month in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Schriever, and next month in Alexandria, Shreveport and Lafayette. LED is considering the addition of CEO Roundtables in other regions across the state in 2018, as determined by regional demand during the online application process.
The 2017-18 roundtables are already at capacity, and applications for the 2018-2019 roundtables will be accepted beginning next February through the end of March. Due to limited capacity and high demand, eligibility does not guarantee acceptance into the program. To receive email notification of the application launch, visit OpportunityLouisiana.com/CEO-Roundtables and click on SIGN UP TO BE NOTIFIED. For more details, contact Business Development Officer Christopher Cassagne of LED Small Business Services at Christopher.Cassagne@la.gov or 225.342.5882.