ChicagoBooth news January, 2010 —Mary Sue Penn
Chicago Booth delivers a solid academic grounding, but the world of business is a practical place that’s changing so incredibly fast, it’s almost impossible to keep up.
That’s where the CEO Roundtable, in operation for nearly 20 years, creates value for Booth alumni. Open only to alumni who have reached a “C-level” in their businesses, it is led by founder Alexander “Sandy” Weissent, ’76, owner of Weissent Associates General Management & Turnaround Consulting. Weissent is the past CEO of the Downtown Sports Club, a 5,000-member health, tennis, and dining club just off Michigan Avenue, as well as past COO of Tennis Clubs of America, a 40-club network, and has served as “acting management” in numerous corporate turnarounds across the United States.
Among those Booth alumni benefiting from the CEO Roundtable is longtime member Suzanne Gilbert, ’85, a consultant to start-ups and larger companies and the former worldwide executive vice president and CFO of Initiatives Media and the Lowe Group, one of the world’s largest advertising networks. She credited Weissent with bringing in speakers in a variety of disciplines. “You always come away with some new insight into business problems,” she said.
Member Robert Cerone, president and CEO of EmPower HR,agreed. “Weissent does a terrific job of presenting timely topics and super speakers. He solicits potential topics by asking members, ‘What’s keeping you up at night as you think about leading and managing your company?’”
Still Growing after 20 Years
The CEO Roundtable recently held its 200th meeting. Since its inception, membership has grown to include executives from 80 companies ranging in value from $1 million to $1 billion, with 25 new members in the past two years. While the roundtable has not experienced a high degree of turnover, membership has become more international in its makeup, said Weissent. A good deal of networking and business resource sharing goes on, with many long-lasting business and personal relationships developing over the years, he said.
Weissent said he runs the roundtable as a “microcosm of how our members could lead and manage their businesses,” and in the same way he runs his businesses and consulting engagements: “with a focus on our mission, our goals, and our members’ rules, needs, and wants.”
The result: a variety of programs that could offer economic forecasts one month, and the next, advice on handling PR in tough situations. Alumni and other experts have shared books they have written and details about how they have started companies.
Advice from the Experts
Regular speakers includeErik Hurst,V. Duane Rath Professor of Economics and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow, and Robert Aliber, professor emeritus of international economics and finance.
“They have always been remarkably generous to us with their limited time, special talents, and amazingly accurate forecasts,” Weissent said. Aliber has participated in the roundtable almost every year since it started in 1991, even after he retired to New Hampshire nearly five years ago.
“Many of our members have commented over the years that our CEO Roundtable gives them the best ROI they get from their business education programs,” Weissent said.
—Mary Sue Penn
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If you are a "C-Level" executive (e.g., Chairman, Owner, CEO, COO, President, CFO, CIO, CMO, General Manager, National or Regional Sales Mgr., Managing Partner, etc.) with organization-wide, or function-wide, P/L responsibilities, and you would like to join the CEO Roundtable, please see our "Why and How To Join" page, and contact our Chairman:
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