Failures – Opportunities in Disguise… When Embraced Properly

DSC_1200You know the old adage, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?” It refers to the importance of keeping a vigilant eye on things that may be a threat to you. The same applies to business and failure; as a business leader, how you deal with failures can be the downfall of your business, or can result in opportunities for subtle improvement, or even disruptive positive change.

DSC_1211Who better to speak on this topic then long-time CEO Club member, Mark Coopersmith, an accomplished Entrepreneur, Executive, Educator, and Author of THE OTHER F WORD: How Smart Leaders, Teams, and Entrepreneurs Put Failure to WorkAs an award-winning professor at U.C. Berkeley’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, Mark enlightened us with his learnings on how to leverage failure to drive innovation, growth, and employee engagement in your organization.

DSC_1207Mark shared a series of study cases that illustrate this concept. Ever heard of the app Burbn? Not many people have… it was first launched as a full-suite app that  let users check in at particular locations, make plans for future check-ins, earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures of the meet-ups, etc. This app wasn’t very successful; users thought the app was too complicated and weren’t using most of the features. The company began to delve deep into their failure, asking users for feedback and focusing on giving their customers what they wanted. It quickly became clear that even though the app did not gain much traction, there was one feature that users loved – and that was the photo sharing app. Founders of the app decided to scrap 90% of the product and keep only the photo app, aiming for the utmost simplicity. The new app was called Instagram and was sold for $1 billion to Facebook in 2012.

DSC_1215There are countless examples of companies who were cognizant of their failures and set out to learn from their mistakes, and plenty others who failed to do so. Mark’s insights on how to leverage failure to discover new opportunities resonated deeply among the attendees, who’ve all faced failure at some point in their careers and learned to turn downfalls into chances to learn and do something new and different.

How can you leverage failure for innovation? Mark Coopersmith and co-author John Danner have identified the 7 Steps of The Failure Value Cycle and created a model that can be used to dissect and re-purpose failure.  Here are some key elements:

The Failure Value Cycle Diagram

The Failure Value Cycle

  1. Respect | Accept that failure is a natural part of business; no risk = no innovation
  2. Rehearse | Prepare for different circumstances
  3. Recognize | Identify the mistakes that were made
  4. React | Act swiftly to acknowledge the issue and resolve it before it grows and spreads
  5. Reflect | Look back to understand what went wrong and why
  6. Rebound | Re-craft your approach based on your learnings from the failure
  7. Remember | Carry these lessons with you into your next mission and objectives

Our gratitude goes out to Mark Coopersmith for a thought-provoking discussion on how we, fellow CEOs and Business Owners, can be more successful in business.

A Lovely Evening with CEO Club of Marin, COO Forum, and friends of Stanton Chase

Our biggest turnout yet at this year’s Annual Summer BBQ -72 people were in attendance! We had a wonderful time meeting interesting folks from different walks of life. The night was filled with interesting stories, engaging discussions, and new connections that will hopefully grow into new friendships and partnerships.

Special thanks to John Stewart of Cast Winery who kept the drinks flowing all evening and shared his extensive knowledge of wine with our guests. Also a big Thank You to Jack Seifrick, owner of Cast Winery, and to Thumbprint Cellars for sponsoring our events, sharing their wines, and helping make the event a great success.

Many thanks to our guests who were able to join us on Tuesday, and for the delicious food, drinks, and thoughtful gifts you all brought!

The mission of the CEO Club of Marin and the COO Forum is to bring together business leaders in spirit of camaraderie, networking, and education – to create an environment in which our peers and colleagues can meet new friends, explore new opportunities, and support one another in confidence and goodwill. The summer social was an exemplary manifestation of this and the credit goes to everyone in attendance and our trusted vendors, partners, and the Stanton Chase team!

Cast Winery LogoThumbprint Cellars Logo




Testimonials from the event:

“That was a wonderful event–I am so pleased that I was on the invite list –and so pleased that I accepted.”

“[We] very much enjoyed the great weather, fine food and excellent company at your home.”

“Thank you for creating such a lovely evening for us all! I met many new and remarkable people.” 

Enjoy the photos from the event and we hope to see you again for our December Holiday Party!

When Every Business Challenge Seems Important AND Urgent


This month’s CEO Club meeting featured Sandra LeDrew, formerly President of Americas for Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) and also former President of beverage giant Diageo Chateau & Estate. She joined us to share her experience in overcoming an “Executive Challenge,” our 2016 theme.  Sandra’s selection as speaker reflected the influence of Stanton Chase’s newly-launched North Bay Office, focusing heavily on Consumer Products/Food/Wine.  Sandra has run top-line growth for arguably two of the world’s top wine companies located in the North Bay, and focused her presentation on the challenges and solutions when facing many priorities at once…her immediate case when she attempted to increase sales volume for Treasury Wine Estates’ portfolio of 80+ brands in North America.

20160614_080407After missing targets for the last 7 periods, TWE asked her to first uncover the variables affecting revenue, and then control those variables to drive significant increases in revenue and meet their goals.  She inherited a company whose Board of Directors resided in Melbourne, Australia, and had a four-year, complicated, and multi-tiered strategic plan for TWE North America. Sandra uncovered an overwhelming number of variables and desired changes, all of which were deemed important AND urgent! Though a turnaround was necessary, where to begin?

LeDrew created a strategy for tackling a multitude of “Top Priorities” at the same time, and also created an internal review committee key department VP’s who would serve as the TWE transformation team going forward.  A new vision was needed and it needed to be communicated to company employees, vendors and disenfranchised wholesale partners to make the plan work. To keep the committee on task, they met monthly to report progress in their “Seven Workstreams” of re-alignment and reported annually to the Board for updates.

20160614_080209As is always the case, a review of whether the company had the best talent in the right roles was critical to the success of this culture change. Significant EBITDA improvements, inventory adjustments, and positive morale resulted from her four-year tenure at the helm of TWE, North America. LeDrew finally helped to arrange the purchase of competitor Diageo’s wine portfolio in December of 2015 for $600MM, making TWE the world’s largest wine company.

For any business leader battling with multiple priorities where everything seems important AND urgent, LeDrew had some key learnings to share:

  • Executive Team Must Be Committed
    • Effective delegation is paramount to the success of a leader.
    • Each member of the executive team must take full responsibility of his/her workstream and reflect a common mindset for growth and success.
  • Best Talent in Key Roles
    • Finding the right people for the right-fitting role is a real difference-maker when it comes to motivating your team and expecting the best results.
  • Culture Changes with Improved Performance
    • Culture and performance create feedback loops that influence one another.
    • It is very difficult to change culture, but improving performance not only creates the opportunity for actionable strategies but in return changes the culture and how your team sees themselves.
  • Expect the Unexpected
    • No matter how thorough you may be, expect that things will come up that you did not anticipate.
    • Stay nimble, adaptive, and ready to re-prioritize tactics at any given time (just don’t change the goals as often!).

20160614_085935Thanks to Sandra LeDrew for an informative and engaging presentation on “Overcoming an Executive Challenge,” our 2016 theme for the CEO Club of Marin!  See everyone July 12th at the CEO Club BBQ!


Unleashing the Full Potential of Millennial Leaders

This month’s breakfast meeting featured a well recognized guest speaker to accompany Il Forniao’s wonderful pastries and delicious coffee.  Jason Ma is Founder, CEO and Chief Mentor for ThreeEQ, Inc., a premier provider of personalized, 1-on-1, top-tier college counseling, personal development, and career success coaching services for the motivated millennials, teens, and tweens of select high-net-worth parents worldwide. ThreeEQ also provides high-powered global business growth and human capital success consulting services for multinational corporations and institutions. Jason is listed as one of the world’s top experts, an elite college and career success coach and mentor for high achievers, and a sought-after speaker and thought leader on education and business.

Originally from Hong Kong, Jason began his talk by outlining the colorful aspects of his past career with multinational firms and startups in the U.S. and China. Coming from a tech business background and having traveled over 2 million miles worldwide, he described the re-invention of his career to mentor and counsel our “Next-Gen Leaders”. This led him on a 2,000-hour team journey to research, plan, write, and publish his book Young Leaders 3.0, which was released late 2014 and in which he shares part of his teachings to “unleash the full potential of next-generation leaders”.

Jason Ma is also a member of the B20 Employment Taskforce, one of the five B20 task forces that lead engaging and recommending policies to the G20, the premier forum for international economic cooperation led by the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the world’s 20 largest economies. He’s also been a Forbes contributor on elite college prep and admissions, unconventional education, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

Some of the questions that the CEO attendees asked during Mr. Ma’s discussion:

  • “What is the best way to unlock the potential and cure ‘millennials’ disease’ among employees?”
  • “When mentoring young leaders, what are the key traits that you’re looking to instill?”
  • “How important are mentors in the lives of successful leaders?”
  • “Regarding relationships with next-gen leaders, are the traits of trust, credibility, and authenticity critical?”

Mr. Ma’s advice for next-gen leaders:

  • Increase learning capacity and continuously learn: Information is now accessible at the touch of a button… focus on expanding your learning and processing capabilities.
  • A jar can’t read its own label: Seek mentors who can help guide your decisions and actions and provide feedback. Find a quality coach/mentor for different aspects of your work and personal lives.
  • On authenticity and purpose: Work towards goals with a greater purpose and keep your messaging and branding authentic and honest.

Many thanks to Jason Ma for generating a wonderful discussion and addressing a topic many business leaders struggle with today.




Executive Challenges: How to Win Back Clients

IMG_8776This month’s breakfast featured speaker was West Coast Industries’ (WCI) CEO Mona Lindquist.  Her message of how to win back clients was based on her own “turn-around” success story at WCI.  Being a family-owned company that specializes in designing and manufacturing furniture for corporate and hospitality public meeting areas, her clients include such names as Google and Apple; helping them re-shape their shared spaces with innovative and original fabrication of unique furniture.

The situation Mona found her company in was a precarious one, with a well-known international client that at the time represented 40% of their total revenues.  There was a breach in trust and WCI was in danger of losing them.  So in order to turn the situation around, Mona relied on the company’s values and guiding philosophy.  She said, “We needed to show that we were honest and sincere, and were wholly accountable – No Excuses!”

IMG_8769In an unprecedented move towards transparency with the client, Mona allowed them limited access to WCI’s financials, to not only attest to their financial strength, but perhaps more importantly, emphasize their willingness to do whatever it took to remain a trusted partner.

WCI continued to reinforce its partnership with the client through on-going value-added services and guarantee commitments that, while costing the company, consistently carried the message of trust to the client.  This “building back” with the client strengthened the long-term viability of the company, and will very likely provide for increased sales as WCI increases capacity at their plant.  Winning the customer back comprised of:

  • Honesty
  • Transparency
  • Authenticity
  • Value-Added Services
  • Commitment to sustained quality

And while there was terrific networking that occurred following Mona’s presentation, many attendees were looking forward to April’s Bay Area Economic Futurecast with Micah Weinberg at Dominican College’s Creekside Room.

Hope to see you for our next meeting!

Gender Bias and the Search for Female Leadership to Propel Growth


Numerous studies show evidence of increased performance and success in companies with a greater presence of female leadership. However, unconscious biases prevent us from realizing these gains.

Did you know…

  • Rwanda is the only country in the world to have a majority-led female congress?
  • In Hollywood movies, females are represented in lead roles only 10-15% of the time?
  • When blind auditions were instituted for orchestra seats, female placements rose by 50%?

DSC_9401It was quite the learning experience at this month’s CEO Club of Marin breakfast thanks to Janet Crawford’s insights into the realm of unconscious biases and their consequent effects on gender diversity in top leadership. Ever wonder why less than 20% of the tech workforce is female? Why less than 3% of venture funding goes to female-led firms?  Janet knows why… and now we do too.

In 1981 females surpassed males in obtaining college degrees for the first time in this country in popular majors, including computer sciences. Fast-forward 30 years and still we see a lack of representation of women in senior executive positions and we are back down to around 15% for female CS graduates. Exploring this disparity uncovers a world of unconscious biases and outdated norms. These biases create a culture that is at times disadvantageous, if not inhibitive, to females and minorities.  The goals and aspirations of future female business leaders will continue to be lost along the way unless we change these unconscious biases.

What can you do to overcome these biases in your organization? Janet has some suggestions:

  1. Male participation is critical in fostering inclusivity and promoting diversity.
    • Be open about these issues with your teammates and take conscious action to offset inequalities within the organization. Communicate your goals and challenges and motivate your female staff.
  2. Pay attention to the stock photos on your website and published work.
    • Comment on biases of others. Avoid male-dominant décor in the workplace, promote offsite activities that build team collaboration.
  3. Seek out speakers and experts to come speak to your employees.
    • Facilitate activities that bring awareness around challenges in diversity. Encourage your peers to talk openly about the issues they are facing and seek ways to support them.
  4. Start fostering notions of equality and empowerment in children from a young age.
    • Girls are treated and encouraged differently than boys. Pay attention to the messages you’re unconsciously creating in your home and your child’s environment.
  5. Finally, remember: Legislation doesn’t change culture; People do.
    • Our worldviews and behaviors need to change at an individual level. Embody the change you want to see and spread the goodwill to those around you.

Many CEO CLUB members stayed afterwards to continue the dialogue for quite a while. Thank you, Janet, for your informative and inspiring presentation!

DSC_9390NOTE:  Per Janet’s recommendation, here’s another great source to explore:

UC DAVIS STUDY OF CALIFORNIA WOMEN BUSINESS LEADERS: A Census of Women Directors and Highest-Paid Executives



Diversity pays! Why Investors seek Women in Top Leadership

Janet CrawfordWhat do the Technology and Entertainment industries have in common? They both exhibit a stunning underrepresentation of women. Meanwhile, research shows a strong correlation between the number of women in top leadership positions and higher rates of innovative and overall business performance! However, leaders don’t always know how to change the culture to gain the benefits of a more inclusive culture. This is why they call Janet Crawford, our February speaker.

Janet Crawford has invested many years in developing an understanding of the nature of systems, first in environmental science, then business systems, and most recently in evolutionary biology and neuroscience. She is a recognized author, successful consultant, and sought after speaker, both domestically and internationally.

She holds a bachelors degree in Environmental Science from U.C. Berkeley, a Masters in Latin American Studies from Stanford University, and is former faculty at the JFK University Graduate School of Psychology and the Kauffman Foundation Center for Venture Education.

So, if you are like Disney, Pixar, Flextronics, Virgin America, Intel, and many other companies who have sought to gain competitive advantage by unlocking hidden potential in their work cultures by listening to Janet Crawford, join us for our upcoming CEO Club Breakfast. Janet shared some insight into her work at our January meeting, and was unanimously recruited to be our featured speaker in February!

If you’re interested in learning more, you can read some of Janet’s published articles and explore additional resources that pertain to biology and leadership. And don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter!




Setting Goals that Set Up for Success

Our January meeting was an energizing event!  We introduced some new attendees, did some networking for members, and explored how to coach our teams in goal setting. We reviewed how Google does goal setting, secrets from past masters, and how the subconscious mind works with goals.  Here are some of the comments heard afterwards:

  • “A great kick off day indeed—well done!”
  • “A lot of new faces since my last breakfast.”
  • “What a wonderful group of people…and powerful conversation around goal setting for leaders.”

We are anticipating announcing our lineup of speakers, including our February speaker whose work is in high demand by Tech, FinTECH, Media, and Mobile companies. In April we will be joint venturing with Dominican University at their San Rafael campus for an exciting program on Business Economics.

Be sure to save the 2nd Tuesday of every month on your calendar to network with fellow CEOs and Business Owners in Marin County. Check out our website for updates and RSVPs. Call me if you would like to bring a guest.

In the meantime, review the links below to further explore how you can empower your team through effective goal setting.

Next breakfast meeting will be on February 9th… Come to Expand your Network…stay for the Leadership Development and Comradery!


SETTING GOALS – Helpful Links

OKRs: Learn From Google On How to Set Goals Using OKR

Goal Setting: How to Define Your Organizational Objectives

Organizational Goal Setting – Criteria and Process

Organizational Goal Setting

Smart Goal Setting Worksheet

Goal Setting Plan

Oracle – Goal Setting: A Fresh Perspective

Five TED Talks to inspire your new years resolutions

Five Ways to Hack Your Goals


“The Man Who Thinks He Can”

For those of you working on your goals or resolutions, and wanting inspiration or direction to connect your wishes with your actions and results, read this timeless poem I chose for my CEO Club.

Wishing you Faith, Achievement, and Satisfaction in your life in 2016… and beyond.

Thinking of the famous poem written by Walter D. Wintle, a poet who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. Excellent read as we enter a new year and set our goals. May this shared poem stimulate your success!

“The Man Who Thinks He Can”

Reaching for the StarsIf you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but you think you cannot,
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will–
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins

– Walter D. Wintle

Cheers of Joy for a Successful Year!

We hosted the annual Holiday Party at our home on Tuesday evening and invited members of the CEO Club of Marin and the COO Forum. What a wonderful turnout! Everyone came in full spirit and contributed to a joyous night. I sincerely compliment each of you for making the effort to get to know each other, introduce your spouses, and share the warmth of the holiday season with us.  Thanks also to everyone who contributed to the success of the party with your contributions of sustaining food and beverage.

Conversations were lovely, the food was delectable, and wine corks did not stop popping. Many of you expressed gratitude for the party and appreciation for the new friends you made. This is really the essence of our mission… bringing people together as professionals, building trust and kinship, learn together, and nurturing our network.  We do this to encourage one another, grow and succeed together, and celebrate the good times hand in hand, year after year.

It’s been a very successful year for speakers and programs, focused on “What it is like to be CEO of my Company.”  We are very excited to grow the CEO Club in 2016, and invite you to participate in our leadership and programming.

Enjoy these photos and Happy Holidays…see you in the New Year!