Owners’ Roundtable Helps Business Owners See the Big Picture
By Mike Trabert, CPA, CVA, CMAP, CEPA, CM&AA, Partner, Advisory Services
Marcum’s Owners’ Roundtable, which brings value acceleration awareness and education to business owners, centers on delivering three Ps: Peers, Paradise and Practical Advice.
With the successful conclusion of the 22nd Owners’ Roundtable (ORT), Marcum partner and host Mike Trabert has returned from Grand Cayman eager to see the program’s most recent graduates put their value acceleration plans into action. And, for the first time in the event’s 8-year history, this group of ORT attendees will have the opportunity to reconvene virtually in May to share the successes, challenges and surprises that have arisen over 90-days implementing the lessons they learned through the program.
Reflecting on an Eventful Trip
The latest iteration of the roundtable was the third consecutive sold-out session taking place in an international jurisdiction and featured 15 business-owning participants, four guest speakers, and all the amenities of the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Resort.
As Mike settles into his more typical routines, trading the beach for the boardroom and cocktails for coffee, Mike expresses pride in the recent group of program graduates:
We offer an intensive three-day course covering value acceleration and exit planning. I counsel clients on these aspects of their business every day in my practice, and this group was attentive, vocal, enthusiastic, and engaged – all the makings of a great, productive and successful group.
Eyes on the Prize: Raising and Realizing Value
For the vast majority of business owners, success is defined by the ability to raise and realize value. Unfortunately, losing sight of value acceleration is easy when inundated with the myriad operational demands that quickly fill up a typical workday.
The inability to remain focused on the big picture is a challenge Mike sees owners encounter all too often. With all the responsibilities on the shoulders of business owners, how can they ensure they don’t lose focus on the big picture? Mike feels he’s landed on the right answer with the ORT.
Designed to designate time for structured lessons that apply to big picture thinking, the ORT adopted an unconventional method at the latest session. Upon realizing that the welcome reception and dinner was timed to coincide with the kick-off of Superbowl LVII, Westin Grand Cayman arranged for the game to be projected on a giant screen right on the beach. But it’s not every year the central issue of “big picture thinking” can be addressed quite so literally.
With or without America’s premiere sporting event, Mike has found that business owners are best able to think outside the box when they’re outside the office. “That bit of space makes all the difference,” Mike explains, “Over the program’s lifespan, 10 percent of participants attended two or more ORTs. And, while each has their owner reasons for returning, there are many unique advantages to the program. Our participants can’t be interrupted, delayed, or distracted by the day-to-day of the business. Instead, they have these very substantive, dense half-day sessions where they’re internalizing core value acceleration topics in real-time with others learning alongside them. Then, they not only get to raise their own questions, they hear the questions raised by others. Their peers often call out issues they haven’t thought of themselves. After four or five hours of discussion, they take the rest of the day to vacation – relaxing, sightseeing, and turning these concepts over in their mind so they really sink in. The next morning, they bring anything that’s occurred to them right back into the class environment and it all gets further refined. By the end of the third day, they’ve internalized a lot that can be put into practice right away.”
Mike has been organizing the Business Roundtable event for eight years now and has landed on what may be the ideal formula for a successful ORT event: peers + paradise + practical advice.
In analyzing the longevity and successes of the Owners’ Roundtable, Mike is quick to highlight the value of the open discussion format. “The topics are centered around a curriculum, but it’s the engagement of the participants and the ways they recontextualize topics that adds the most value.” For example, a broad topic like value assessment quickly becomes specific as participants raise the considerations that are top of mind for their business. “A consumer retail business will ask questions or highlight complications that a commercial developer may not think of but can still learn a lot from. Working through those specifics not only adds perspective, it deepens each participant’s understanding of how core concepts are applied.” Then there’s the sense of support that forms organically and almost instantaneously to draw the group together.
“These are all business owners who have encountered similar issues,” Mike says. “They’ve had similar struggles and understand the pressure of being in-charge. You find pretty quickly that an owner is an owner is an owner. We’ve worked with all kinds of owners, and no matter their demographic — the most recent group was one third female, ages 32 to 65, had revenue of $2 million to more than $100 million, and lead companies that are anywhere from a few months to 100 years old — they all share the experience of business ownership. Along with that comes strong desire, drive and dedication. In practice, that means a rapport develops rapidly, and the network the roundtable creates often endures well beyond the three half-day sessions.”
Mike’s roundtable events have taken place at various places across the country, with a recent shift to more distant host countries. Mike finds that an exotic destination has enhanced the benefits of the program. “It’s almost as if the further we’re taking these folks from their home market, the more their mindset shifts and is able to accommodate news ways of thinking.” Besides selecting attractive locations known as coveted vacation hot-spots, the distance from home enables business owners to reallocate their time away from spreadsheets, meetings, and ad-hoc firefighting to dedicate serious thought to the key issues that make up Mike’s five-stage value maturity program. In addition, the downtime activities favored by participants – including all kinds of popular island activities from scuba diving to hosting fellow owners aboard chartered boats or at cabanas on the beach – provide the perfect counterpoint to the intensive educational sessions.
The roundtable curriculum is informed by decades of experience counseling business owners in value acceleration, exit planning, and transactions, and covers 5 stages:
- Identify Value,
- Protect Value,
- Build Value,
- Harvest Value, and
- Manage Value.
ORT attendees get Mike’s experienced insights into the considerations that are paramount to owners.
Each section starts with an overview of key concepts, but we dig into the specific issues that attendees are facing very quickly. The program marries a crash course in these overarching areas of focus with a high-level, personalized consultation session so attendees can apply these principles to their unique circumstances.
These core principles are reinforced through exercises that include an examination of the four types of capital (human, customer, structural and social); a business attractiveness-and-readiness assessment, and a stop/start plan, asking owners to list three things they’d like to start and three things they’d like to stop within their organization.
One past ORT attendee has since sold their business and joined this year’s session as a speaker, sharing his experience applying the ORT’s value acceleration principles. According to him, “Having previously attended two of your workshops, I had the information I needed to prepare for this process… The information gained was invaluable.“
Mike is also proud to share positive responses to the satisfaction survey conducted at the conclusion of the ORT. He reads from one survey response: “Great content, provocative and inspires you to take the next steps to achieve greater value.” Another says: “’[The program] helps me pull myself away from the day-to-day in order to focus on myself as an owner, not a do-er.’”
In closing, Mike says, “That really sums up what makes the group seminar setting special — the content combined with the interaction and perspective business owners get from each other.” Those interested in learning more about value acceleration should know the ORT curriculum is a deep dive into the same evergreen awareness and education content covered in Mike’s free eBook for business owners, The Five Stages of Value Maturity.
In an effort to ensure ORT participants keep the big picture ideas in mind even as they resume their day-to-day responsibilities, Mike has expanded the roundtable program to include a follow-up session in mid-May.
Roundtables have always included the development of a 90-day action plan, consisting of no more than 5 business and 5 personal development goals – but this represents the first time those plans will be examined as a group. Mike hopes to analyze and discuss the progress made by this year’s attendees, strengthen the connection they developed, and add a social incentive for participants to put the principles they learned in the Caymans to work.
In April, Mike is planning to host a reunion open to all ORT graduates from any event in the program’s history. There he plans to catch up with former students, assess the ORT’s impact on their value acceleration initiatives, and reveal the host location for the next international ORT. Without ruining the suspense, it’s safe to say another unforgettable trip is in the offing.
Interested in learning more about ORT?
If you or someone you know is interested in attending a future ORT session or has any questions about maximizing the value of their business or value acceleration and exit planning issues, contact Mike Trabert, CPA, CVA, CMAP, CEPA, CM&AA at 440-459-5760 or [email protected].