Lori Dann is the founder of Presidents’ Leadership Council (PLC), an exclusive forum for small business CEOs, presidents and partners to engage, learn and grow through peer relationships, world class presentations and round table discussions. Lori has 25+ years of business experience with specific expertise in sales, marketing, communications and employee benefits. I had the opportunity to talk with Lori recently about PLC and its value to its members and businesses especially in these challenging times. 

  1. How did you decide to start the President’s leadership Council?

I worked with an insurance agency in the 1990s, and we were involved with Young Presidents Organization (YPO). It was an incredible, enriching experience in which we built a lot of the great relationships with our fellow members. As a result, our business exploded. After staying at home for about 10 years to raise children, that insurance agency was sold twice and was then part of a much larger corporation.

I have an entrepreneurial spirit and didn’t think I could conform well to a corporate environment. I launched my own small business selling employee benefits to small businesses.  I began to realize just how much these business owners could benefit from the YPO experience of learning with and being supported by other leaders and teams facing similar business challenges.

Most small business owners are really good at their core business, a lot of the responsibilities they are tasked with do not fall into the area of their expertise.  For example, a manufacturing expert has no HR experience, and likewise a HR person has no finance expertise. They can find experts in our groups to help them.

A peer group can put those people together and they benefit from that independent, external expert. I have found they could benefit from sharing expertise and becoming both the expert resource and trusted adviser for their peers.

When people become part of an organization like this, they can expect trust, the ability and confidence to navigate challenges and solve issues where they have no expertise. Eventually, a real business relationship forms and business can flow between members or members’ connections. While that result isn’t our priority, it is a welcome outcome. We are more than classic networking. The peer group members come to know, understand and trust each other very well and actually become engaged in and support each other’s business. For instance, recently a remodeling company that had hit hard times was asked by one of his peers to help him remodel his office. The peer members in our groups really care about each other.

  1. Who should join PLC?

Generally, it is business leaders with 3 to 50 employees or revenue from $500,000-$10 million. The members are any small business CEOs presidents or partners who are interested in building and sustaining his/her business. We’re not really for the solopreneur who doesn’t want to build an organization but a solo practice. And we’re not for those who are looking for a networking group like what a Chamber of Commerce experience would represent. Don’t get me wrong, those are valuable memberships for many organizations and leaders, but we’re providing a different the depth of engagement.

  1. One of the reasons a person should join PLC, is there one reason that’s more important than others?

There are number of reasons that a leader should be involved. We offer creative ways for them to build revenue and profit. We can help address and resolve issues like people, marketing, sales, technology, leases and production. We also can help them as they look for new team members and building a great sales force or other operations teams. Our group can help them focus on and scaling and growing while maintaining their quality and work/life balance. Many of our members like to make their employees and team less dependent on them and stop feeling like they have to “do it all.” Members can find that it’s lonely at the top until they become involved in a group like PLC. So many companies or leaders have no one with whom to share their concerns and aspirations. Eventually, when the members gain trust within the group, great relationships form, and results happen for the group members and their organizations.

  1. Why is now the right time to join PLC?

The world is upside down now in an unprecedented way. And many business leaders are in search of ways and means to hold it all together. Some of them who have the ability will benefit from pivoting and doing something different. And their positioning and messaging will be different in this downturn just as they will be opposite in good times. These leaders need to rethink everything they’re doing. It can be difficult for them to self-correct. PLC gives them a space where there’s trust and vulnerability, and the group members can put their heads together to solve each other’s problems. Fellow members may see a situation through a different lens and help to make a strategy, approach or re-alignment clear that wasn’t so clear before. We don’t know what they don’t know. This type of dialogue with other members, many in similar situations, can helps illuminate a problem and create opportunities they wouldn’t have seen on their own. PLC is a like a platform for tough and empowering conversations.

  1. What is that that a president can expect from joining PLC?

They can expect camaraderie and the ability to share a problem or an issue either business or personal. It may be something they’ve never spoken about with someone else – and this vulnerability starts to create amazing relationships and promotes success.

  1. What has been the most satisfying result of PLC?

Here’s an interesting story. A friend of mine was one of my first group members and he joined just to be supportive. He didn’t think he would benefit from this. Now, he says that he couldn’t be more motivated and energized from our meetings. In other cases, I’ve seen business flow between members. We have a marketing company and a software development company that are now working hand-in-hand to provide unique client solutions. There is a commercial real estate professional who is introducing another member to his customers. Frankly, I think it’s really cool to help others to help themselves. Recently, I saw a comprehensive email thread between members as they were trying to figure out the status of each other’s Payroll Protection Act (PPA) applications. They had questions — what others knew about their loan’ status, how they are doing with getting the money and from what banks? A banker eventually chimed in and offered helpful insights and ideas. I was so thrilled that the group was able to address this problem and I just watched from the sidelines.

  1. How are you better and different than similar peer to peer groups?

There are number of amazing organizations out there with YPO and Vistage being as close to us in their offerings. But they concentrate on a different market. And they deal with high-end events and big-name speakers like former US Presidents. Our organization really concentrates on approachable, affordable, consistent and relevant programming and content that reflects our members’ challenges and opportunities. We are working with independent CEOs who are not may not qualify for or want the monetary commitment associated with those larger organizations. They like the trust, connection and opportunities to learn from smaller, like-minded leaders. We are not a networking group or a Chamber of Commerce where you have of a more of a variety of people. We are focusing on organizational leaders and their specific challenges and opportunities.

  1. What excites you about working with presidents or other business leaders?

My excitement is not necessarily about just working with presidents. It’s about working with all kinds of people in all industries and walks of life. I love getting to know them and building deeper relationships that are greater and more meaningful than just acquaintances. I love to help people come together whether it’s kids at Sunday school or whether it’s presidents of organizations. Kindness and nurturing are two of my personal core values. I am lucky to be able to embrace and use them in my personal and professional life.