Published on March 11, 2009
The Regular Crowd Shuffles In Peer Group Networking By Jim McHugh
Well, it’s not quite exactly like that…no imbibing on gin and tonics in the It's nine o'clock on a Saturday early morning, but our professional peer group, The Concord Vine, does The regular crowd shuffles in meet on a regular basis. Every second Friday of every month at 7AM, 15‐ There's an old man sitting next to me 20 of our members (‘the regular crowd’) shuffle into a small, separate Makin' love to his tonic and gin dining room at La Provence in Concord, Massachusetts for our monthly Billy Joel, lyrics from “Piano Man” meeting. Robert Didier, the proprietor, and his able staff serve a buffet style breakfast of quiche, fruit, pastries, and coffee while the networking and information sharing begins. What is a Peer Group? What is our Peer Group Charter? Peer Groups like The Concord Vine can operate as a networking group where members learn of trends and developments across a spectrum of issues. Our theme pertains to middle‐market mergers and acquisitions (M&A), corporate development and business management. We help other members with areas of concern, and as appropriate, become a professional resource for a specific need. History – Startup to Stability June 2009 will be the sixth anniversary of The Concord Vine’s startup. In June 2003, I attended the annual ACG Boston Growth Conference. While on a break from the formal sessions, I started chatting with a few friends who live in my town. Soon the impromptu group in the hallway grew to six people from Concord, 2 The Regular Crowd Shuffles In
Massachusetts. While the Boston ACG has been a great source of networking and content for all of us, the Chapter’s membership has become almost too large over the years. The growth is a double‐edged sword; it has enabled an expansion in programs, but the meetings have become less intimate, and it is more difficult to “work the crowd”. After that meeting, I wondered what it would be like to try to create a more local, casual, fun group of professionals with similar interests. The next morning I sent out an email to all six local people to test out the monthly breakfast concept – everyone quickly responded with a similar message. “Sounds great, let’s try it!” Later, we all dug through our town Rolodexes to find other able and willing bodies. We kicked off Year One of our new experiment in September 2003. Like all startups, the first year (September ’03 – June ’04) was a little unstructured; as a consequence, attendance was spotty. We were experimenting with the meeting format and content, and we were trying to establish an approach that would have staying power. We all knew there was something positive to be gained from meeting consistently. Year Two was somewhat similar, but we added more people and more depth to the content of the sessions. We were building critical mass. I knew it would be important to let the members take ownership of how the group was run. So, between Year Two and Year Three we held a planning session to sort out our charter, membership, attendance, and topics to present at each meeting. This planning session was great, and it enabled us to fine tune the overall meeting structure. We now average about 15‐17 people per meeting on a regular basis. 3 The Regular Crowd Shuffles In
Rules and Charter Tank tops and flip flops if u got them No shoes, no shirt, no problems The laissez‐faire approach may work for Kenny Chesney on a Caribbean Kenny Chesney, lyrics from “No Shoes, beach, but it’s not in vogue with a group of people who want to stay No Shirt, No Problems” focused on content and need to get ‘out and about’ to their day jobs after our meeting. These are some of the group’s guidelines: • Each of our members has a professional connection to some facet of M&A or Corporate Development. Our varied mix includes investment bankers, commercial bankers and other acquisition finance lenders, private equity investors, executives of operating companies oriented to growth through acquisition, and attorneys, accountants, consultants, outside directors, and other professional advisors (some people wear multiple hats!). • We’re local residents of Concord and surrounding towns. • Attendance and participation at meetings is a critical element to the success of the group. Attendance at most of the meetings is an expectation for all members. However, that thing called work does get in the way of attendance at times! Participation at meetings includes periodically preparing and presenting a topic of general interest to the group and leading the discussion. 4 The Regular Crowd Shuffles In
• Size: There are currently 22 people in the group. Our target range is 20‐25. We want to remain at a size level where monthly group meetings encourage active dialogue and discussion among the members. This criteria means that the group must be sufficiently large and diverse enough to include a variety of viewpoints but small enough to permit all members to participate in discussions. • The meeting format is: general networking (7:00‐7:15); presentation of the topic and discussion (7:15‐ 8:00); more expanded discussion on the topic of the day, “roundtable” sharing of news and requests for help and more socializing for those who wish to stay (adjournment around 9AM). What are the benefits from a Peer Group like ours? There are three key benefits: Networking, Advice and Friendship. Let’s look at each one… Networking Mmm gonna try with a little help from my friends It took a while, but the exchange of leads and projects and deals Oh I get high with a little help from my friends happens on a regular basis. For example, one of my past Yes I get by with a little help from my friends consulting engagements was leading a strategic planning process The Beatles, lyrics from “With A Little Help at a New England middle market manufacturer – the referral to From My Friends” the family owners came from another Vine member. Members have benefitted from many referrals that led to new business and working relationships. The leads (and resulting revenue) are based upon a greater understanding the depth of experience and capabilities of our 5 The Regular Crowd Shuffles In
peers. One of our members said, “The networking is subtle; help is provided in a private way.” The referrals are made with confidence. Advice and Education – What He said, quot;Son, I've made a life out of readin' people's faces, Do We Talk About at the And knowin' what their cards were by the way they held their eyes. Meetings? And if you don't mind my sayin', I can see you're out of aces. For a taste of your whiskey I'll give you some advice.quot; There are 22 people in our group with at least an Kenny Rogers, lyrics from “The Gambler” average of 25 years of business/corporate development/legal/M&A/private equity experience per person. That’s over 500 combined years of know‐how. We all can regale each other with stories of the good, the bad and the ugly. That depth is worth a lot when you need some “advice and consent”. What do we talk about at the meetings? Here are some of the topics covered in recent meetings: • The Deal from Hell • The CEO – How to set expectations and performance measurements • Changing Face of Lending • Recaps and Washouts/Management Carveouts • The story of ABC Inc. – from workout to new equity to sale to a strategic buyer 6 The Regular Crowd Shuffles In
• Sale and Leaseback Financing • Board of Directors – form, function, composition, etc. • Everything you want to know about Earnouts • The XYZ Inc. Transition Story – the original founders sale to private equity, then the sale to a foreign corporate strategic with a carve‐out to another private equity group • Doing Business and Deals in China ‐ The Web of Relationships • Building Value – what are the intangibles that increase shareholder value And many more… Friendships Old friends, old friends, Since we are all local, generally there are connections that extend Sat on their park bench like bookends beyond our professional lives. We see each other because of our A newspaper blown through the grass kids, personal interests, or social affiliations. Playing fields, Falls on the round toes musicals, scouts, the post office, the dry cleaner, car pools, town of the high shoes of the old friends meetings, choral groups– there are many non‐professional Simon & Garfunkel, lyrics from “Old Friends” connections that contribute to the day‐to‐day fabric of our lives and help build friendships. 7 The Regular Crowd Shuffles In
Starting Your Own Group You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Use these guidelines for success: Know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table. 1. be focused on a theme, profession or some reason to meet other than just social; There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done. 2. the group should be small (under 25 in which 15‐18 or Kenny Rogers, lyrics from “The Gambler” so show up for meetings); 3. trust and confidentiality are paramount; 4. maintain a consistent frequency of meetings for momentum and continuity; 5. someone must lead the show, otherwise it is just an amorphous organization; 6. the topics should be relevant to the group's focus and there must be INTERACTION by all; 7. tie the group together by e‐mail and a directory/bios of members (particularly useful when new members join); 8. have some fun and games, i.e., maybe one outing per year; 9. strive to improve every year so members don't lose interest, e.g. discuss what topics were boring; 10. get down to business at the meetings ‐ people are busy. 8 The Regular Crowd Shuffles In
About the Author Jim McHugh is the Founder and President of McHugh & Company, Inc. a strategy and performance improvement management consulting firm. Jim has broad, general management experience with a variety of organizations in many diverse industries. He has particular experience as an executive, consultant, and a member of the Board of Directors with underperforming , ‘Stuck’ situations. Since forming McHugh & Company, he has designed and directed challenging strategic and operational improvement engagements; these projects have led to substantial enhancements in strategic focus, operating performance, profitability , and shareholder value. Visit Jim’s website at www.mchughco.com 114 Indian Pipe Lane Concord, MA 01742 978‐371‐7113 OFFICE 978‐239‐7296 CELL 978‐287‐0387 FAX email@example.com http://www.linkedin.com/in/jimmchugh Copyright ©2009 by James E. McHugh. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work belongs to the author, who is solely responsible for the content. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written consent of the author. Please direct content feedback or permission questions to the author: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 978‐371‐7113. 9 The Regular Crowd Shuffles In
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A CEO Peer Group is a welcome oasis for CEOs. They speak freely with fellow members and do not feel as encumbered when speaking with their more formal boards.
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