BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Economic Development is expanding its successful CEO Roundtable program to five cities throughout the state, with classes beginning this week for the innovative peer-to-peer entrepreneur support network. Ruston and Lafayette are adding programs this year, joining New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport 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, key decision-makers from Louisiana-based small businesses 10 times over the course of a year 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.
“One of our primary goals at LED is to support and grow Louisiana’s small businesses, which are vital to Louisiana’s economy,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “We know that small business owners are some of Louisiana’s most innovative, hardworking and creative people. There are many challenges in operating and growing a small business, and the CEO Roundtables provide the necessary platform to identify and implement solutions to shared challenges. By sharing experiences and networking with a diverse group of peers through the CEO Roundtable program, business leaders share insights with one another and bring new and innovative strategies back to their businesses to foster 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 desire and interests of the group. Past topics have included human resources, marketing, strategic planning, employment law, operational efficiency, organizational structure, capital access, delegation and cyber security. Past CEO Roundtable 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 CEO Roundtable program was an excellent opportunity for me to see first-hand many of the great programs sponsored by the state to help companies succeed in today’s uncertain markets,” said CEO Brian Trauernicht of Angelle Materials in Baton Rouge. “I was previously unaware of many of the resources available and also appreciate the exposure to the topics covered during the meetings. The peer-to-peer learning is also a tremendous benefit of the program. I have already reached out to several of the participants for post-roundtable assistance. I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given to participate in this program.”
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 165 companies from throughout Louisiana have participated in Economic Gardening since its inception in 2011, including 37 of 52 companies that have graduated from the CEO Roundtables program. Often times, roundtable participants are made aware of Economic Gardening and other state programs through their participation in the CEO Roundtables.
“As a business owner, I wouldn’t even know where to turn to get the information that this program provided me,” said Courtney Davis-Herbert, CEO of Bart’s Office Inc. in New Orleans. “The fact that it was at no cost to me or my company is the truly amazing part. I cannot thank LED enough for realizing the tremendous value this program holds for businesses all over the state of Louisiana.”
Roundtable participants typically operate high-growth companies with annual revenue of $600,000 to $50 million, employing five to 99 people. Each roundtable 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.
Thirty-nine executives completed the CEO Roundtable program for 2015-16 in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport. The experience already has led them to create 100 new jobs. For the coming year, those graduates project the creation of an additional 122 new jobs collectively, with an average annual salary of more than $44,000, plus benefits.
“Besides the productive conversations of processing issues with peers from diverse industries and size, I certainly enjoyed the quality of the speakers who presented on various business topics from HR to operations excellence,” said CEO Jim Malsch of Enterprise Computing Services in Shreveport. “Probably the most important takeaway for me and my company was taking advantage of the resources LED presented to the group, primarily the Economic Gardening program.”
The Louisiana chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, or EO, partnered with LED in launching the initial roundtable in New Orleans. Since then, LED has partnered with the Community Foundation of Acadiana, the CoHabitat Foundation and Louisiana Tech University, in addition to EO, to provide five regional CEO Roundtables. The 2016-17 program is set to begin this week in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Ruston, and next month in Lafayette. LED is also considering the addition of CEO Roundtables in other regions across the state in 2017, as determined by regional demand during the online application process.
The 2016-17 roundtables are already at capacity, and applications for the 2017-2018 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.