Pilot program with online conferencing helps connect company executives

Louisiana Economic Development has launched a Virtual CEO Roundtable pilot program as part of its successful peer-to-peer growth program for Louisiana entrepreneurs. The Virtual CEO Roundtable will connect executives who otherwise would not have access to the CEO Roundtables program. For the 2018-19 year, physical CEO Roundtables are convening in four locations throughout the state: New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lafayette.

In addition, LED has launched the Virtual CEO Roundtable pilot program in partnership with the Edward Lowe Foundation. The program uses Zoom video-conferencing technology to connect 14 company executives from across Louisiana once a month. The program provides eligible company officials – who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the CEO Roundtable experience – with an opportunity to connect with peers elsewhere in the state. Companies participating virtually are located in the Acadiana, Bayou, Capital, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest regions of Louisiana.

CEO Roundtables, begun in New Orleans in 2014 to help second-stage companies grow jobs and revenue, convenes 15 to 18 qualified, key decision-makers from Louisiana-based small businesses. They meet 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.

“LED is committed to expanding its use of technology to serve the business community,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “The Virtual CEO Roundtable allows eligible companies, particularly those in our rural communities, to remotely connect with like-minded business owners across the state. This program provides the support and resources necessary for these small businesses to accelerate their growth.”

Since inception, 214 companies have completed CEO Roundtables, with graduates representing all eight regions of the state. Those companies have reported the creation of an additional 997 new jobs collectively, with an average annual salary of more than $47,686, plus benefits. As a result, the CEO Roundtables program yields a return on investment of $7.40 for every $1 spent by the State of Louisiana.

The 2018-19 program launched in New Orleans and Baton Rouge in partnership with Entrepreneurs Organization; in Shreveport in partnership with the CoHabitat Foundation; and in Lafayette in partnership with One Acadiana.

Participants come from a range of industries to discuss a designated topic that is determined by the interests of the group. Past topics have included human resources, marketing, strategic planning, employment law, operational efficiency, organizational structure, capital access, delegation and cybersecurity. Participants have represented such sectors as biomedical, construction, oil and gas, engineering, manufacturing and software development, with groups able to address issues common to their different businesses.

“I was amazed at what other businesses had in common with Hall Builders, from employee morale to setbacks and establishing foundations for future growth,” said program participant Rickey R. Hall of Hall Builders Inc. in Shreveport. “One of my favorite takeaways was looking within our organization to build leaders with talent development techniques. The benefits from my perspective were so encouraging, ranging from the concepts of strategic planning to ideas for boosting profitability. They’ve given me insight to develop different approaches for my business.”

“We know that small business owners are some of Louisiana’s most innovative, hardworking and creative people,” LED’s Pierson said. “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, business leaders share insights with one another and bring new and innovative strategies back to their businesses to foster further success.”

The 2018-19 CEO Roundtables are already at capacity, and applications for the 2019-20 Roundtables will be accepted next February and March. Due to limited availability 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 the blue SIGN UP TO BE NOTIFIED bar. For details, contact Program Manager Darrell L. Johnson Jr. of LED Small Business Services at Darrell.Johnson2@la.gov or 225-342-4680.

Contributed by Louisiana Economic Development