Greater Philadelphia Chamber: Joan Waters’ Perspective:

Here’s a blog post by our C.E.O. Joan Waters which was published by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. It’s an interesting read and give valuable insights into challenges facing C.E.O.s We’ve reprinted that interview below and you can see the original version here.

Joan WatersGuest Commentator: Joan Waters, CEO, COFCO  @joan35 , @COFCO_Office

Question from the Chamber: Discuss the benefits of Executive Peer Networks and how your participation has helped COFCO grow as a middle market company.

Joan Waters: “Leading any successful organization can be many things: exciting, stressful, rewarding, overwhelming and sometimes a little lonely. Many of the challenges a company faces are handled long before they make it to the CEO. Team leaders, managers, directors and the executive team field employee questions, set policies and deal with many of the company’s day-to-day ups and downs.

This leaves the CEO to deal with the most complex issues and make the most challenging decisions. Competing needs between departments, long-term commitments, strategic partnerships and appropriate financial allocations are all part of a CEO’s list of serious responsibilities. Though they rely heavily on their executive management team to provide information and input on many of these difficult decisions, the CEO is ultimately accountable for “making the final call.”  This is true within all organizations, and COFCO, my office furniture dealership in Philadelphia, is no exception.

It begs the question, where do CEOs go for support and validation? It’s crucial for these top-level professionals to have an outlet, a group of people with whom they can share the burden. For me, that outlet has been the Solomon Coyle Peer Group.

This group was put together by Allsteel, COFCO’s major manufacturer, and consists of the top ten Allsteel dealerships in the country. We meet several times a year and our meetings are valuable, note-comparing sessions where we discuss everything from furniture sales to inventory management systems. The knowledge and experience that we exchange at our meetings is invaluable, but it also gives me a “hotline” to nine other CEOs who I can call at any time to discuss project strategy or get help with a specific challenge. I often feel that, although COFCO is a middle market company, my access to this peer group gives us the resources of a Fortune 100 company.

Finding an industry-specific peer group or joining a local CEO organization that provides peer networks of like-minded CEOs who can share experiences, ideas, resources and support is instrumental to a CEO’s personal growth, and the growth of their organization.