25 Years of TeamStrength

By Susan Schilke; April 28, 2017

Last month was the 25th Anniversary of the start of our CEO Forum Program in Central Florida.  I have been reflecting on this milestone and wanted to share some thoughts.

First, some numbers.  Since April 1992, I’ve facilitated 935 TeamStrength meetings – most CEO Forums, along with Key Executive Forums and TeamStrength Leadership Workshops.  I’ve held over 6,000 1-1s with members, and members have presented nearly 4,000 issues and letters to their groups.  We’ve grown from 11 members from 10 companies at the end of 1992, to 43 members from 28 companies currently.  And while we have nearly 3 times as many member companies, total revenue of member companies has grown 10 times – from about $150 million to $1.5 billion.

We’ve had exceptional CEO and Executive members since 1992, and great leaders attract great leaders.  Some things I’ve learned from members over the years:

  1. Focus on smart growth. Smart it the key word here – TeamStrength members don’t focus on growth for growth’s sake or over-focus on revenue. Smart growth recognizes market conditions, competition and capital restrictions, and is always more about bottom line than top line growth.
  2. Set BHAGs. Set a big, hairy, audacious goal for your team, map out a plan for how to get there, and show the team what’s in it for them.  Then watch them take you there.
  3. Reward performance. Tying team members to measurements they impact changes behavior, and well-crafted performance incentive plans drive success. They need careful tracking, ongoing management, and regular review.  And they’ll move the needle and appropriately reward your team.
  4. Develop a deep understanding of the metrics. TeamStrength members know what numbers drive their business, track them and analyze them constantly, and use this intel to drive strategic plans.
  5. Balance a focus on what you do best with looking at new product and service opportunities. The shortest path to revenue and profit is doing more of what you do best AND you need to actively seek and develop new opportunities.  Both paths are critical to long-term success.
  6. Recognize that cash is king. Growth without consideration for capital is risky, debt is to be avoided, and profit does not equal cash.  TeamStrength members know this.
  7. Carefully select and develop a strong leadership team. Ultimately every company is only as strong as their team, and it starts with the leaders.  The right leaders on board changes members’ lives dramatically for the better, and translates to A players at every level.
  8. Create and nurture a distinct culture. The best companies have a unique set of behaviors that are encouraged and celebrated.  They actively recruit for cultural fit, and reinforce the behaviors that matter most.
  9. Care deeply about the individuals and families the company serves. Customers and employees matter and the best leaders develop deep relationships with both. It can make the tough decisions that much tougher, but great leaders (like TeamStrength members) believe people matter most.
  10. Constantly strive to improve. Always be seeking ways to get better.  Personally as a leader, and as an organization.    It’s why members are in TeamStrength.  And why they are great leaders.

I can’t believe the good fortune of having this opportunity for the last 25 years, and I am grateful to all of my exceptional members.  A special thanks to Peter DiPasqua and John Hammond, who will join me in celebrating 25 years of TeamStrength this year.  They took a chance with a new program, and helped make it strong.  TeamStrength has always been about the quality of our members, since 1992, and it’s never been better thanks to all of you!