The Role of Self-Awareness in Succession Planning

The Role of Self-Awareness in Succession Planning | CEO Campfire Chat | The Sterling Woods Group

Brian Roland founded Abenity nearly 15 years ago with his brother, Mark. Brian had worked sales jobs before, and while he’d been successful, he felt disconnected from his purpose. He was young and single at the time, and he was earning more than he needed. Why? So he could say he made a nice salary?

Brian decided that wasn’t enough to get him out of bed in the morning for the rest of his life, so he and Mark set out to create something with a bigger social purpose. Abenity helps employers offer a wide range of perks–from amusement park tickets to free chips with lunch to discounts on oil changes–to their team. Their pricing is super competitive, and it allows employers to help their employees stretch their paychecks even further with all the discounts they can access.

But the real secret sauce is what the company does with a portion of its profits. Brian and Mark wanted to make a positive social impact. When they founded the company, Toms shoes was just getting its footing, and social entrepreneurship was in its infancy. 

But like Toms’ founder Blake Mycoskie, Brian and Mark saw its benefits. They honed in on extreme childhood poverty as the issue they wanted to tackle. They partnered with the NGO World Vision to sponsor children in villages in developing nations. And they soon saw that the benefits of giving back were even bigger than they first imagined.

The brothers began to attract employees to Abenity with the company’s social mission. Folks were passionate about working for a company that did good. Soon, they began to share their model with customers, and it struck a chord with them as well. Abenity’s social mission became a differentiator and helped them stand out in the market. It won them business and allowed them to give back to children in need.

As the organization grew, so too did Brian’s role within it. He got used to the cycles that came with scaling a scrappy startup. He’d spend six months deep in content and planning, and then six months out in the field connecting with customers and building the brand. But as the years went on and the business continued to grow, he noticed the cycles slowing. Eventually, he found that his plans were years ahead of where he could push the larger and more complex organization to go.

That’s when he realized it was time to step down as CEO. The organization needed someone with a different set of skills and experience, and Brian had the self awareness to know it was time.

When asked if it was hard to make that decision, he offers an analogy. A startup is like a child, he says. And successful parenting eventually leads to the kid growing up and leaving the nest. He had raised his startup baby, and it was now time for it to fly on its own.

When it came to choosing a successor, Brian tapped a friend from a mastermind group. A seasoned executive, Brian had envisioned him in a leadership role, but not necessarily CEO. When he joined the organization three years ago, he spent time embedded in the four main revenue drivers of the business, getting to know the inner workings of the company. And as Brian’s cycles of growth slowed down, he realized that the best way to empower his new hire to take Abenity to the next level was to place him in the CEO seat.

Brian remains actively involved with Abenity as founder and in an advisory role. The team has gotten used to directing questions about their work to the new CEO, and Brian is finding joy in focusing on the brand’s social impact. The future looks bright for Abenity, its customers, and the children around the globe who benefit from its support.

Episode Transcript

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Rob Ristagno: Welcome to the CEO Campfire Chat, recorded live in front of a studio audience of senior executives. I’m Rob Ristagno. And today I have the privilege of introducing you to Brian Roland. He’s the founder and chairman of Abenity, a company that helps employers and membership groups supplement their benefits with special perks, and offers and discounts. Things like cheaper tickets on theme parks or discounts on car rentals. Welcome, Brian.

Brian Roland: Good to see you, Rob. Thanks for having me.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah, yeah, we’re great to have you on. Let’s start like we always do with five questions. Why not play 20 questions? Well, CEOs don’t have time for 20 questions. So let’s jump in, rapid fire. Question number one: What is the vision for your company?

Brian Roland: Man, I don’t get that one very much. And this is a really hard question for me. We’ve been in business for pushing 15 years now and our vision is outside of our marketplace. Our vision is to fight global poverty with every client we serve.

Rob Ristagno: Excellent. We’re going to come back to that later in the episode to hear more on that, but let’s move on to question number two. Who is your ideal customer?

Brian Roland: The ideal customer for my company, Abenity, that provides corporate perks and benefits for companies of really all sizes. We find the kind of sweet spot is companies with 150 to 5,000 employees is a great fit. We serve the Fortune 500. We will work with MasterCard and US Bank. We help them manage and organize their existing discounts. These middle-sized companies don’t… They have enough employees that are distributed that they’re like, “Hey, how do we add some perks and benefits across the country for everyone?” But they don’t have these big contracts, like the big guys do, to offer their own perks. And so we bring them a whole suite of discounts on everything from pizza, and the zoo, movie tickets, oil changes, car rentals, hotels. Most recently, we just launched a small business plan for those with less than 150 employees, which is obviously the largest market. So we’ve opened up our network of discounts to companies of all sizes. And that small business plan is just $150 a month.

Rob Ristagno: All right. You sort of answered number three, but I’ll ask it anyways, in case you want to add a cherry on top. What is your value proposition for your ideal customers?

Brian Roland: We say perks are about people, and we’re trying to add value in the lives of people. So we help employers, membership groups, alumni associations, stretch the payroll dollars of their people. A lot of cases for an employer, this allows them to give a global pay stretch without dishing out $4,500 annually to each employee. Saving 15% off oil changes at Jiffy Lube, and 15% off maintenance and repair at Firestone, and movie tickets, and Disney, and Six Flags, and free chips and a drink at Quiznos. All these advantages are given to the members of our program, which we brand to look like the provider, which is usually an employer, a membership group.

Rob Ristagno: Gotcha. Gotcha. And moving on to question number four. We’ll get into the details later in the interview, but you’ve decided to find a replacement for you as CEO. You’re the founder. You moved into a chairman role, but tell us a little bit when you were the CEO, what was the best part of being a CEO?

Brian Roland: The people. I think that’s been one of the biggest challenges, is being a step removed from my team, my people, but shepherding a group of people and leading them towards a common vision is amazing. It’s the greatest thing. And then having the honor to kind of walk alongside them in life, and as CEO, they, they come to you for counsel and help, and that’s just a great privilege.

Rob Ristagno: Excellent. And number five, what is one thing that is going to make or break the next year for Abenity?

Brian Roland: I am really excited. Just this week we rolled out a new feature, which I’m going to claim we invented, but passwordless login is at the front edge of user engagement, and the biggest block… Gosh, there’s a stat. It’s like 78% of people forget one of their passwords every 90 days kind of thing. People are forgetting, people don’t remember their passwords. It’s a problem. And so when you’re a corporate benefits provider like me, it’s like everything is gated. You have to have a username and password to get in. So there’s lots of people that have trouble by forgetting their password. And the password reset process requires you to take more than 60 seconds of your time, which most people just are like, “Forget it. I’m not going to do this.” So we just rolled out passwordless login, which allows you to log in without a password. That in itself is not new, but we took all the elements that we saw out there, and we created passwordless login on the front end of the user experience on the login page with a button click. And so you can log in directly with a single button click.

Rob Ristagno: Now Amazon made billions of dollars on the one-click checkout thing. So I think you’re onto something there. Great. Well, thanks Brian. So two things we want to talk about today in more detail, we want to hear your stories. One is around this concept of succession planning when you are the founder, it’s your baby. You’ve been running the show, but sometimes it’s the right move to look for a successor. So let’s talk about that. And then we’ll shift gears a little bit. I know that social impact is really important to your business model. You alluded to it in the vision for your company. So let’s hear a little bit more about the story behind that, as well as the positive business consequences of being focused on a social mission. Let’s start then with succession planning. At one point you woke up and realized, “Hey, maybe I should go hire a CEO to take over the day-to-day.” Rewind the clock and tell us what’s going on in your head when you made that decision.

Brian Roland: Yeah, I think the backdrop for the story is, Abenity is privately funded. We’ve been again doing this nearly 15 years. We’ve been on the Inc. 5000 list, six consecutive years. We’re doing really well. Fast growth. A lot of our fast growth is coming from bringing in new revenue channels along the way, and which all has to do with ideas coming to fruition. And really I’ve always been the idea guy. My brother is the implementer. He’s kind of the secret genius. And it was just constant innovation. We went through these cycles for me of content and connecting. So I’d spend six months deep on content in the early days. And then I’d spend six months connecting the content to buyers basically, and promoting, and connecting it to the team and growing it.

Brian Roland: And that was just this fun cycle of content and connecting. And it was this awesome rhythm for like, I mean, probably eight years. And then it started to slow down. It’s like, we’re doing the same rhythm and thicker, like we’re going through a swamp kind of where everything’s slower. There’s way more people involved. Everything is more complex. And then my ideas are a lot easier to think than they are to implement and develop. And so I was always, I became five years ahead of what we could actually get done with kind of our bootstrapping. And our culture is very precious to us. Our mission, again, I just said, our mission is outside of our marketplace. That’s not typical. And so you go to an investor and they’re like, “What’s your mission?” And it’s like, “Oh, to help people in poverty.”

Brian Roland: They’re like, “Woah. What’d you… What?” You’re solving a business problem, right?” Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s, that’s how we help people in poverty. But our mission, you’re not going to get me excited about getting somebody free chips on their lunch break. That’s awesome and there’s a place for that, but our why is much bigger. And so we’ve kept this private environment. Well, what nobody ever told me along the way is if you’re a successful entrepreneur, you essentially outgrow yourself. Just like if you’re a successful parent, your children grow up and mature and take care of themselves, and leave you. I’ve got little girls, but we adopted our oldest and she’s 20 now. And I’m watching her going from 12 when we adopted her from Ukraine to 20. And I’m seeing the prospect of that. It’s like, “Oh, wow. Yeah. If I’m a successful parent, they leave. If I’m a successful entrepreneur, it doesn’t need me anymore.”

Rob Ristagno: It takes a lot of self-awareness to recognize that you’ve outgrown the role, the company’s outgrown your interest and capabilities. You mentioned that maybe a signal was it felt like you’re going through a swamp. The company didn’t feel as nimble as it used to be, and you had more ideas than could get implemented. But I’m sure you’re still concerned about things. Back to your parenting analogy, you’re still, you’re sad when your kid goes off to college, even though you’re also proud of them. So tell me about some of the things you were concerned about when you were thinking about your succession plan.

Brian Roland: I really set the pace for the culture and set a lot of the vision. And we got to the point where the team was asking for things I just don’t do. They’re asking for an agenda during our monthly kind of all team huddles. They’re like, “Hey, can we have a heads up of what we’re going to go through?” I was like, “What? You guys don’t like the point and tell me what you’re up to method?” I was like, “I really don’t like preparing and taking 20 minutes to prepare an agenda that I can do on the fly.” And so this agenda for me, it was like, “Ah.” And then we had team members asking for performance reviews. It’s like, “I would just love your honest evaluation of my performance.”

Brian Roland: I was like, “Really? I tell you when need to do something different.” I was like, “Yeah, but can we just sit down, and debrief, and talk through what I could do better?” And I was like, “Ah, yeah, that is important, but that’s not me.” And so it was this performance. So it just became evident that what the organization needed was in a level of accountability, and structure, and really internal processing that is not something that would keep me motivated. It would not make me a healthy leader for the company. And so it became evident it was time to hire a CEO. And so I stepped fully into a founder role. I technically founder and chairman, and from here I really, I mean, I’m the best consultant we could ever have in our space because I know everything in and out.

Brian Roland: And, from there, I also am trying to look from a product standpoint kind of six months forward. So I’m still guiding six months forward product development and working on those things. But otherwise it’s been really great to see the team take ownership for themselves. And that’s actually a really rewarding thing when you take that kind of leap of faith and step away from the company. And then you see, “Oh my goodness, this thing doesn’t need me.” Well, that’s sad and fulfilling at the same time. Because you’re like, “I built something that has the power to stick around.”

Rob Ristagno: Gotcha. And one thing we’ve heard from other CEOs who have joined us around the campfire is when they’ve taken over for a founder, there’s always a risk that the founder, even though well-intentioned, can kind of swoop in and upset the apple cart, and maybe accidentally undermine the new CEO. What are some things that, everyone’s guilty of it maybe to some extent, but what are some things that you do consciously to try to guard against that? So still adding value, but not stepping on anyone’s toes?

Brian Roland: Yeah. That has taken a lot of discipline. One, to train our people, I’m about I’m about a year and a half in at this point with a CEO running the business, and to train our team to go to our leaders. We made two intentional moves. I was kind of in a president and CEO role. So we divided revenue growth and the functionality around growing revenue specifically to a CEO role. And then we split off operations management and people into a president and COO role.

Rob Ristagno: I see, yeah.

Brian Roland: So we had like a pretty defined split and trained everybody up. And we had two guys that had been with us for a number of years that were well positioned to take on those roles. So the learning curve was steep, but we had a lot of advantages because we had the right people at the right time and place.

Rob Ristagno: What about questions from the audience before we start talking about the social mission, questions from the audience about CEO succession planning.

Audience Member: I was curious to know how you went about the search and finding your successor and what kinds of things you were looking for? But it sounds like you’ve found those internally, is that right?

Brian Roland: That’s right. And it would have been much, much more difficult if we didn’t kind of have the right guy in place now. So 2020 was when those guys stepped into their new leadership roles. In 2017, I intentionally hired a previous CEO of previous companies who had had some exits. He was a friend that was in a mastermind group of mine that had an opening. And I was like, “Dude, you have to come work for us.” And I basically planted him as a mini entrepreneur, as a mini CEO inside each of our kind of four main revenue driver units. And so he had spent the previous three years strategically focusing on each of those revenue units, with the goal at that time to kind of ramp up and take over all of them. Now we didn’t realize at the time that we were going to have him take over all of them from a CEO level. We were thinking more from an executive level, but it all came into place and it would’ve been very difficult otherwise. That’s a pretty big mistake you can make putting the wrong person in that spot.

Audience Member: And what’s been the hardest thing for you to let go of, that just keeps trying to draw you back in, but you have the discipline to say, “No, I’m not going to go there”?

Brian Roland: Probably the execution of the marketing side of things. So my kind of entrepreneurial product focus, kind of people focus, it all culminates in marketing and communications. And so, not trying to control the narrative and trusting the team to maybe say things with a little different voice than I would have guided before. And I still speak into that some, but that’s for sure the hardest thing for me to let go of is. And for me to realize too, my voice, I haven’t been on the front line of this thing for a long time, so my direction and voice and instincts for what connect to people, I have to realize it may not be as on target as I think it is. So you have to display some trust.

Rob Ristagno: Shifting gears a little bit, let’s hear a little bit more about the social mission part of Abenity, and tell us about the mission itself, and then how Abenity supports that mission.

Brian Roland: Yeah. So in my previous job kind of straight out of college, I was an outside sales guy knocking on doors and selling cell phones. And I did really well. I built a pretty large department within the company I was working for, and was making six figures as kind of a college kid within a couple of years. And I mean, it was great. And for me, it was never about the money, the money always kind of added complexity. It was like one more thing to have to deal with kind of, typical millennial response to money.

Brian Roland: And for me, it just became, why am I working so hard for something that’s giving me more than what I need? And so when we came up with the idea for Abenity, I went to my brother and I was like, “Look, I’ve got to be fighting for something that’s outside of myself, that’s outside of what I’m doing.” I was like, “I’ve been in business long enough to know the product I’m selling is always going to let me down at some point. The services are always going to let me down. The customers are always going to let me down. My employer or my brand is always going to let me down. The competitors are always going to come after me. I can’t have my mission in inside any of those things. Otherwise, it’s going to get really hard.”

Brian Roland: And so I was in search of meaningful work basically. And I went to my brother with this idea. I was like, “Why don’t we create an output to a cause for every input into the business?” This is 2006. This is the same year Blake Makowski is wandering around South America before thinking about the same thing and inventing Toms shoes with his buy a pair, give a pair campaign.

Brian Roland: So at this time social entrepreneurship wasn’t really a thing. The closest thing to it was corporate social responsibility, which is really a bullet point you check for your investors to show that you’re a good citizen. It has different intent behind it. And so we weren’t making any money yet. We hadn’t made our first dollar. So we were like, “Sure, let’s create an output for every input. Why not?”

Brian Roland: And so we started doing that for a little while. We cut our first check at the end of the year and we’re like, “That was cool.” But I didn’t think about it too much throughout the year. So then when we shifted and we’re like, “Why don’t we sponsor a child living in extreme poverty for every customer that comes on with us?” And this kind of one for one idea. And why don’t we just put all our efforts towards a single cause of extreme poverty, and without realizing it, focusing on a single cause and putting a formula to it and sticking with it, created a extremely powerful initiative, and created momentum within our business that blew our minds because it didn’t just provide work for me. It provided meaningful work for our team members.

Rob Ristagno: And what about your customers and clients? How do they fit into this equation?

Brian Roland: Well, right. So it morphed first from meaningful work personally, to meaningful work for our team, which created cultural alignment, where all of us were kind of fighting for the same thing. And that created this bubble of shared purpose. And at this point we all had this kind of shared purpose. We had a lot of definition to it. We knew what we were doing. And so we had a story to tell because of that. And so we got to a point where like, “We got to tell the story, why aren’t we telling the story?” And we weren’t telling the story just mostly out of fear for people saying, “Hey, are you just telling us about your giving to make yourself look better, kind of thing? Is this a marketing hook or gimmick?” And we’re like, “You know what, we-“

Rob Ristagno: How do you keep it authentic? That’s a good point. I mean, everyone could say, “Oh, we give a percentage of our profits to charity.” But how do you keep it authentic?

Brian Roland: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s a part of it, you have to make sure it is because people will sniff that out. But we’re like, “Hey, look, the way you keep it authentic is you do what you say you’re going to do. And at a certain point, when you do what you say you’re going to do and you keep doing it, well, that’s as authentic as you can get.” And what we didn’t realize was at the end of the day, we started realizing that people were choosing us because of not just the excellent product we had, but our social mission was tipping people over the edge. And so, we just crossed over the $1.2 million of direct giving that we’d been able to do towards extreme poverty through that initiative., we’ve published every dollar and where it’s gone in our impact report for everyone to see.

Brian Roland: And in my last year and a half, as I’ve been debriefing what got us to where we are, I was able to put together a one page impact report to say, “Look entrepreneurs. If you do these five things, then you can build a social mission of your own, and start taking these steps towards a greater impact with your business and your product as well.”

Rob Ristagno: Questions from the audience about social mission, social impact, and its impact on your organization, culture, and results.

Audience Member: How did you land on the cause that you’re currently supporting? What drove you to that versus a million other causes you could have chosen?

Brian Roland: Exactly. That’s a great question. So that same conversation was at a Starbucks in Franklin, Tennessee, outside of Nashville, where I was. We’re just sitting there. We’re like, “Okay, we want to support a cause.” And I was like, “What’s the biggest problem we can think of?” And it was extreme poverty for me. I was like, “What’s worse than extreme poverty?” And okay, you can make an argument for a lot of things, but at the same time, you’re also, “What will people, our customers, who at the time, in the very early days, there were big, big customers, Fortune 500s, that our customers will be accepting of, and will be supportive of as well?” And so for us, it was extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is the United Nations number one sustainability goal to eradicate by the year 2030.

Brian Roland: And so it’s already globally targeted as something that has an end date that’s coming up. As of today, there’s only 500 million people left in extreme poverty in the world, which is a big number, but at the same time, it’s an achievable number. And when I say extreme poverty, I’m talking about the families, they can’t send their kids to school because their kids are walking five miles to get water for the day. And it’s dirty water still that’s making people sick. Poverty in the US is a big deal, but there is a water fountain that’s in walking distance that is clean water that you can get access to. And so one of the coolest things happened a month ago. Currently we’re sponsoring 250 kids a month, and we do all of this through a world aid organization called World Vision.

Brian Roland: They’re an NGO, and they have government grants and all these kinds of things. And they came to me and they said, “I don’t know if this is good news or bad news for you, but I have to tell you that one of our villages where you were sponsoring kids has graduated from our program. Their community is fully sustainable now. They have everything they need to sustain themselves. So we’re leaving, which means we need to find you 100 more kids to sponsor because all those kids are good now.” And that was a really humbling moment. And a really neat thing about sticking with something for this long is some of these kids right here behind me on the wall, we’re not sponsoring any… They’ve gone from 8 years old to 18 years old, and they’re no longer in extreme poverty. And that’s not because of our efforts.

Brian Roland: We’re just a teeny tiny contributor towards it. But to see it working is amazing. And so part of my impact plan is I tell people to think about what can you do? What can you be excited about and what makes sense in your industry to do? And so if you’re a painter, your impact plan could be to paint one free house for every 20 houses that you paint, or whatever your economics need to be. If you don’t want to give financially, but you’ve got people in a concentrated area, well, devote a certain number of your employees work hours towards volunteering towards a focused cause that you can share the story around. It doesn’t just has to be a financial model to make an impact. And that’s what social entrepreneurship is all about.

Rob Ristagno: That’s just an incredible, incredible story. All right. That brings us to, it’s time for Campfire Games right now. And so we have some trivia questions for you based on some of the benefits that you provide.

Brian Roland: Okay.

Rob Ristagno: Okay, so question number one, you mentioned that you can get discount on movie tickets.

Brian Roland: Yeah.

Rob Ristagno: Can you name one top five grossing films in 2021 so far?

Brian Roland: 2021?

Rob Ristagno: Yeah, I know it’s tough because people-

Brian Roland: Have we even had any movies in 2021?

Rob Ristagno: Believe it or not, we have.

Brian Roland: Well, one of the top grossing?

Rob Ristagno: You just had to name one of the top five.

Brian Roland: How about one of the grossest, which is Clint Eastwood’s El Macho that just came out in theaters, which was a super awkward, weird film.

Rob Ristagno: Maybe it hasn’t been out long enough with that. It’s not…

Brian Roland: Yeah. Your list probably isn’t quite up to date. Yeah.

Rob Ristagno: No, it’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Black Widow, F9: The Fast Saga, A Quiet Place Part II, which I think I saw on Amazon Prime. That was a dual release, I guess. And Jungle Cruise.

Brian Roland: Oh, I should have known Jungle Cruise and Black Widow.

Rob Ristagno: Question two out of three here. You mentioned you have discounts at theme parks, including Disney. This is a tough one. There’s only one ride that exists in all six Disney theme parks. What ride is it?

Brian Roland: Oh man. Only one that it exists in all six? I don’t know. I would have to go with the Magic Mountain, kind of guess, but-

Rob Ristagno: That’s good guests, but it’s actually Dumbo the Flying Elephant, so-

Brian Roland: Of course it is.

Rob Ristagno: It’s worldwide.

Brian Roland: And I’ve been on that ride plenty of times myself.

Rob Ristagno: All right. Here’s your last one. It’s multiple choice. You mentioned discounts on hotels. So as of June, 2020, what chain had the most number of properties? Was it Wyndham, Marriott, or Hilton?

Brian Roland: Oh, wow. Well, I’m going to have to go Marriott, but I don’t, I just throwing it out there. They’re a big one.

Rob Ristagno: All Marriott had 7,484, but Wyndham had 9,280. So that was Wyndham, then Marriott, then Hilton.

Brian Roland: Really. Go Wyndham. They’re big. That’s great.

Rob Ristagno: I think they all have a lot of sub-brands. So sometimes you’re not sure how they roll up.

Brian Roland: It’s so true.

Rob Ristagno: Anyways, Brian, great having you on. If people want to learn more about Abenity or World Vision, where should they go?

Brian Roland: Abenity or World Vision? is a great place for both of those., if you check out our impact page, you can get a full impact report to see what we’ve been supporting over the years. I’d love for you to check out the micro finance section of that. The world needs to know about micro finance. When you give a dollar, it just keeps getting cycled over and over and over again. It’s a fantastic place to give money to support…

Audience Member: Yeah. Brian, kudos. Just on that, we’ve done about 20,000 Kiva loans and I absolutely love it. Our repayment rates 99.6, I think. I serve on a bank board and they would kill to have that kind of repayment rate on the bank, so huge fan of it, love that you guys are doing it.

Brian Roland: It’s amazing. And then what’s cool is with World Vision, when they come in and we’re specifically working in Senegal, Africa, the local banks won’t help these local entrepreneurs without World Vision’s participation. So a dollar that’s given turns into about $3. It’s loaned because of just the economics there. It’s really cool. From there, I’d love for you to join me and you can get my one-page impact report by sending me a text message. My phone number for the text message is area code 615-802-6853. If you text the word “impact,” you’re just going to immediately get a one-page impact report back. I’ll occasionally send out new articles and stuff I’m doing through there. I’m using this instead of social media, preventing my followers from dealing with algorithms and ads that I have no idea where they’re coming from. So this is just an ad free algorithm free way to connect with me.

Brian Roland: All right, Brian. Thanks a lot. Before we wrap up on this episode of the CEO Campfire Chat, let’s check in with Joe Galvin, from Vistage Worldwide with today’s CEO Data Point.

Joe Galvin: Thank you, Rob. Today’s CEO Data Point is 66%. That’s the number of small and mid-sized businesses that are increasing their head count in the year and a half. That’s down a bit from 71% in Q2, but still suggests that two thirds of organizations are increasing head count, which means everybody’s increasing head count, or everybody’s adding head count, because even if you’re not increasing head count, the head count that you have is being threatened by head hunters and other people seeking to attract your best employees. One challenge here is we’re seeing wage increases as a result. You have to compete on money and that’s a challenge. We see developmental programs being leveraged to keep employees, but above all, it’s this, the challenge for talent and the impact that talent has. Talent is a fossil fuel of the business engine growth.

Rob Ristagno: Thanks, Joe. And for more research from Joe and his team, be sure to check out Vistage Worldwide is a membership organization for leaders to refine their skills, make better decisions, get better results. In fact, there’s over 24,000 members right now. Vistage has been around for 60 years and Vistage members outpace their competitors by growing 2.2 times faster than them. So you do it too. Again, Vistage.

Rob Ristagno: Thank you, Joe. And again, thank you, Brian. Thanks to everyone around the campfire with us live today. That’ll wrap it up. I’m Rob Ristagno. For prior episodes or bonus content, please visit us at See you next time around the fire.

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