On June 3, 2010, Pat Romboletti and Meredith Moore hosted Larry Hart, who serves as a Master Chair with Vistage International Group, and Craig Kaufman, Founder and President, Kaufman Realty Group, on Family Business Radio’s weekly program.
Larry began by describing Vistage, a company in its 53rd year, as the world’s largest CEO-support organization. It is structured by groups made up of 12-15 members whose purpose is to develop these top people in their various companies so that their businesses—and the individuals themselves—flourish. At which point, Craig jumped in and described Larry’s role as Master Chair as “a great herder of cats.”
Vistage encourages its members to get above the fray. Larry said, “I tell all my CEOs their job”, which is to:
- Set the long-term vision and culture
- Hold everyone accountable
- Establish and maintain the critical relationships for the business
- Develop key people.
As head of his own company, Craig has been a Vistage member for 12 years. Stability is what he prizes from his association with Vistage since his business is hyper-cyclical. He also admitted to a common problem of CEOs and family business owners—that they get buried and isolated in running the day-to-day operations. “If we don’t have people to help us work on the business rather than in the business, we can become very myopic,” he said.
Craig mentioned specifically one of Larry’s consistent mantras—“You plan for a crisis before the crisis.” For instance, in February 2003, an economist spoke to Larry and Craig’s group who basically forecasted the economic downturn we are now in. Craig said that he remembered so many people felt broadsided by the crash of 2008. However, after hearing the economist, his group’s focus shifted to creating value in their companies and three members sold at the top of their markets, prior to the crash.
By using his group as outside advisors, Craig has leveraged his experience at Vistage. He pointed out, “Most of us can see things so clearly in others that we are blind to in ourselves. In the beginning at Vistage, we were too nice to each other. But then we realized that we were investing too much time and money to “be nice.” For instance, I tend to fret on things. Finally one day, someone in the group called me [the name of a common acquaintance] who was a known worrier and fretter. I vowed to never be called that name again.”
Another group that Craig regularly deals with is his family, who are investors in several of his real estate ventures. Theirs is a yin and yang relationship, as with so much in life. He said that the good part is when you prove your credibility in your area of expertise. The danger in his circumstance is when you treat your family as family rather than as investors. Inevitably, the day arrives when you have to deliver bad news. He said he used to hate certain family get-togethers, even weekly phone calls, until he developed his “body armor” so that he could handle these encounters with confidence. With a consultant, he developed a script, a set of guidelines and boundaries, to help him get through the especially hard ones. He also shared the advice from his father, who spent his career on Wall Street: “Losses are losses. Don’t fret about it. Move on.”
Our guests mentioned a few worthy books:
Recommended by Larry:
- “Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott, a Vistage chair. An impactful book for business owners that shows them how to have tough talks. By the way, it is fierce, not in its negative sense, but whenever something is a real experience leading to real change. Another bit of wisdom from Craig and Larry: you have to be willing to engage in some fierce conversations with your trusted advisors.
- “Growing Pains” by Eric G. Flamholtz and Yvonne Randle. A book on how to transition from an entrepreneurial company to a professionally-managed one.
Recommended by Craig:
- “E-Myth” by Michael Gerber. Craig said it helped him realize that business was a marathon, not a sprint.
Please download the entire conversation from our website. Craig and Larry shared a wealth of hard-won knowledge and wisdom that is sure to benefit you.
Craig Kaufman, Kaufman Realty Group, 3098 Piedmont Rd., Suite 490, Atlanta, GA Telephone: 404-816-0036
Larry R. Hart, Master Chair, Vistage International, Inc., 3712 Eaglerock Drive, Atlanta, GA 30340 Direct: 770.938.8174 • Cell: 404.405.0759 • Fax: 404.521.4992 • Email: email@example.com • Website: www.vistage.com/chairs/larry.hart.html