Organization works to make it less lonely at the top

June 23, 2009
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With GM’s bankruptcy announcement, eight of the 10 largest bankruptcies in history have now taken place during the last two years, according to BankruptcyData.com. For leaders of business, whether big or small, being at the top can be a scary and lonely thing.

The Young Presidents’ Organization looks to relieve some of that tension with peer support from other CEOs.

“YPO’s mission is to create ‘better leaders through education and idea exchange,’’ said Jeff Bennett, a YPO member and co-founder and chairman of OtterBase Inc., a professional supplemental staffing service. “YPO is a not-for-profit organization managed by a professional management team, located around the world and led by a chief executive officer.”

To qualify for YPO membership, business leaders must be under the age of 45 and in charge of a mid- to large-sized company.

“Recently, I’ve had experience with YPOers from New York to Saudi Arabia. I reached out to these individuals, whom I’ve never met, only to find our conversation unfolding like a couple of old college buddies. To have that kind of sincere dialogue is comforting,” said Bennett.

YPO is a worldwide organization that is broken up into geographic regions, with chapters within those regions. Smaller groups of eight to 10 people are called forums, which meet regularly to give insight and support — critical in such a tough economy.

“Particularly in today’s economic climate, CEO’s face very difficult decisions around the strategies they deploy to survive the times and continue to serve their customers at a competitive level. I speak of these challenges personally,” Bennett said. “Thankfully, YPO has given me an environment and peer-to-peer network to vet all the possibilities and to thoroughly think through my final course of action.”

“We’ll collectively get together every month, month-and-a-half, for an education event,” he said. “We stay focused on education and networking amongst our membership.”

Bennett said that local YPO membership has been steady and sits at about 60 people. The YPO graduate program, World Presidents’ Organization, has roughly 30 local members.

The Young Presidents’ Organization, which has typically flown under the radar, is looking to gain new members.

“We were focused in areas that are important to our members. We weren’t focused on trying to tell the world what we’re doing,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, new members are the lifeblood of our organization and there’s a reason why we’re talking. We certainly want to acquire new members for our chapter. But first and foremost, we’re about creating great education programs for our membership, creating great family experiences, and great networking opportunities amongst our members.”

For more information on YPO, visit www.ypo.org

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