As businesses watch every penny in their budgets in order to
squeeze the most profits out of a slim economy, chief executive
officers continue to agree that it is often necessary to hire
appropriate expert consultants.
Outside consultants can bring the winning combination of
experience and perspective. Consultants may also be the only
party objective enough to identify a sensitive corporate problem
and unbiased enough to offer the optimal solution, even if it is
a painful one in terms of human resource staffing, benefits or
There is a way to obtain corporate advice, not from
consultants but from other CEOs. Usually, a consultant is hired
by a group of companies to organize and manage a roundtable of
CEOs. This can significantly reduce the expense of a consultant
to each company individually. An example of this type of
arrangement is the roundtable group formed by The Executive
Committee of San Diego, Calif.
The Executive Committee formed a group in Baltimore consisting
of the presidents of a software company, a bus service and a
transit company, among others. These presidents wanted "no holds
barred advice" from their peers at the helm of other companies.
Each company sought a place in this arrangement in response to
intensified competition of the global marketplace and the
increased complexity of government regulations. So far, the
members shared information on a formula for calculating bonuses,
decisions on client selections and decisions on preparations for
One of the group members likened the group to a "portable
board of directors." The primary benefit cited by members is to
simply use the group as a sounding board.
While the benefits of the roundtable approach are real, there
are some group dynamics to consider. First, the members of the
group must be honest and open in order for communication to take
place. If the companies are immediate competitors or even in the
same industry, this may stifle discussion, as members fear
revealing a company secret which could keep them more
competitive. If the issues discussed are generic to business in
general or favor workable approaches to a "common threat," such
as minimizing of tax burdens, then discussion flows more easily.
Second, the members must realize that criticism is meant to
help each other and that large CEO egos may be bruised by
comments aimed to improve a company's practices.
These days, by hiring a consultant to create a roundtable of
CEOs, companies can gain a level of independent advice at a
reasonable cost. …