Reflections on the Member Retreat and Executive Conference

Back in Toronto after the Growth Through Innovation Member Retreat and Executive Conference, the PEO community is still on Cloud 9, in an elevated state because of the Nov. 28-30 weekend’s remarkable success. The Innovation Retreat at the Pillar and Post will live on for a long time in all participants’ memories. The speakers, who were incredibly insightful and compelling, were just one great part of the weekend; what occurred in the informal settings and later in the PAT groups added so much more. In addition, just seeing the whole of the PEO community, members, staff, educational sponsors and speakers in one place was unforgettable.

Many people were responsible for the weekend’s success. We’d again like to thank the Educational Partners: Aird and Berlis, EY, Cleveland Clinic and Richardson GMP, and the Pillar and Post for a great deal of good service and courtesy to members. I’d be remiss if I didn’t once again single out our Chief Operating Officer, Jenny Nicholson, for her outstanding event planning and organization. Somehow every event, every speaker, transition, and meal came off flawlessly.

In some ways, PEO came of age last weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake even though we have been growing and serving members for more than 20 years. It was one of the first times nearly everyone gathered in one place, and one could feel the network’s power at work, causing so much thinking, connecting and growing all day and night.

The energy filled the rooms and the meetings and spilled over to the informal settings where some of the best bonding and idea exchanges occurred every night.

The thinking and connecting happened in the Chicago Room around the pool table, at breakfast and lunch. The assigned seating, too, made new friends, contacts and even business deals. I’ve been hearing about it every day since we packed up and came home.

But oh, the speakers, what a group!

Doug Keeley, Chief Storyteller from the Mark of a Storyteller, serial entrepreneur and leadership junkie, started off the weekend in style, with wit and those remarkable tales. Dr. Jason Selk, our lead off hitter Friday, demonstrated not only why he is an outstanding, in-demand speaker, even at 8:30 in the morning, but just what the Relentless Solution Focus can accomplish, not only for you but also for elite athletes like World Series-level baseball players. Do read his Executive Toughness book soon; it’s well worth the effort.

Ennova’s John Sutherland, the innovator’s innovator, always is first with inspiring videos of what can be accomplished. I’ve been thinking about cancer diagnosis ever since. INSEAD’s Hal Gregersen has been scouring the world to crack the innovation code. A true gentleman, Hal spent time talking at length with members, readily providing his wisdom and insights.

In the personable Lisa Kimmel’s afternoon panel, contending with Les “just tell me when I can talk” Mandelbaum would have been interesting enough but we also were thrilled that Deepak Kandelwal spent time with us, giving the inside Google story and sharing his insights about life at the top of the one of the world’s most innovative companies. It was too bad that ING Direct’s Peter Aceto had to bow out due to illness because we were interested to hear about his many banking innovations plus the transition to the new name, Tangerine, under the Scotiabank banner. Daryl Wilson’s tale of life at the cutting edge of a new technology, the next big thing for 18 years, demonstrated the need for patience in innovation. I would have loved to be there on the shop floor at Toyota in Woodstock, when the 82-year-old chairman, bearing the family name, watched the auto assembler work, and suggested improvements. Elan Divon finished off the talks before we gathered in our PAT groups, with some inspiring ideas about ancient wisdom and today’s innovators, just enough to get everyone thinking that day.

From all accounts it was our most memorable event ever and now we are thinking about the next one. PEO is on the march; with Miguel Gonsalves on board, we will be moving forward rapidly with new members, and it really seems that all systems are go for a great year for members, advisors, groups and our businesses.

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