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Robert Sher is an author, thought leader and seasoned keynote speaker with over 30 years of experience in the business world.  Robert speaks frequently, and has published extensively on the successful leadership traits and skills of CEOs. He has authored two books, is a regular columnist on Forbes.com, has numerous posts on Harvard Business Review online and CFO.com.

A highly sought-after keynote speaker, Robert has spoken for such organizations and events as the National Association of Corporate Directors’ Global Board Leaders’ Summit, Financial Executives International Financial Leadership Summit, Direct Selling Association’s Annual Meeting, Profit Growth Summit and the Smart Business Family Business Conference.

In addition to delivering keynotes, Robert also offers seminars and breakouts with topics ranging from leadership and improving team performance to business planning and strategic communications.

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Videos

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Robert Sher speaks at Microsoft’s Small Business Academy, about the Silent Growth Killers that can kill your organizations productivity. Preview Video
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Robert Sher delivers presentation at Financial Executives International (FEI) Leadership Summit to over 100 executives in Colorado Springs. Watch the first six minutes of his presentation.

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Robert Sher opens his two-hour Business Planning workshop with the Pro-Track class of the Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association.

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This keynote was delivered for Grant Thornton’s 4th Annual Food and Beverage Industry Forum in San Francisco. Watch the first 10 minutes of the presentation.

Speaking Topics

Most Popular

Mighty Midsized Companies: How Leaders Overcome 7 Silent Growth Killers

For an executive team, the excitement of leading a steadily or rapidly growing midsized firm can be exhilarating – that is, until growth grinds down to a halt. In this presentation, Robert Sher explores based on his years of research on more than 100 companies how seven silent growth killers have derailed midsized firms. He then shows how executives can overcome or avoid them altogether.

Silent growth killers are hard-to-detect pitfalls that drain momentum and energy, stop growth and sometimes put a firm out of business. The impact of the growth killers is unique to midsized companies. Small, venture-funded companies don’t typically suffer from them, and while they do strike big companies, they typically have the financial and managerial strength to survive them.

Illustrating the seven silent growth killers through real examples, Robert explains how CEOs and other leaders can protect their companies from them or avoid them altogether.

What you will learn:

  • Why the seven silent growth killers are much bigger risks for midsized companies
  • How to identify the growth killers early
  • Ways to survive them with tried-and-true methods
  • How to steer clear of the killers altogether

If you’d like our workbook with some specifics about the book and our Make It Mighty events, please click here.

Optimizing Performance with a Leadership Operating System

Many companies capture their strategies in a strategic plan and develop a budget for where the money should go.  They might even have some form of a business plan.  But sometimes during the year things don’t get done; money is unspent or mis-spent; the urgent overtakes the important.  Having a strategy and a budget isn’t enough—there is a gap.

Companies must bridge this gap with an operating system (an orchestrated blend of calendaring, meeting cadence, plans, visibility, KPIs and MBOs) that clarifies who does what by when, and keeps midsized companies organized and on track.  The operating system helps us execute our strategies while following a prudent budget.  It is amazing what teams can accomplish when priorities are clear—each week and each month.

You will learn:

  • Crucial elements to an operating system
  • Capturing action-ability and accountability-action plans and objectives
  • Measuring behaviors, not just results
  • The plan review process- encouraging engagement and passion for progress
  • Why the targets matter less than the striving to hit them really does
  • Getting buy in from leaders
  • The discipline of discipline

Building and Maintaining a High Performance Environment

Many great leaders are justifiably frustrated that so many employees don’t seem to care about the company like they do. Generous employee perks and an anything-is-ok workplace doesn’t create a high-performance company.  Yet much is known about creating and maintaining a high-performance environment.  Learn what 14 years’ research reveals, explore a framework for understanding the key drivers of high performance organizations and take steps to improve your own workplace environment.

What you will learn:

  • Learn the common causes of low performance environments.
  • Learn how to apply performance pressure in a productive fashion.
  • Understand the power for visibility to drive results.
  • Learn when to put the risk of failure front and center.
  • Discover why your employees should not feel satisfied with their performance—ever.

Planning & Executing with Complete Clarity

It is amazing what teams can accomplish when the plan is crisp and clear and where only the most important priorities are called out and focused upon. Creating and executing such plans is a learned skill that isn’t taught in business school. Building that skill takes only a little training and some practice. Once mastered, planning skill will pay dividends for the remainder of an executive’s working life.

What you will learn:

  • Get your arms around the planning process.
  • Start simply, so you can stick with it.
  • Build a simple dashboard and key projects list.
  • Learn the secret of creating a plan your team will accept.
  • Learn how to monitor the plan and keep your team focused on the most important priorities.

This workshop is a chance to hone your planning skills, and learn the time tested one page planning methodology, which is ideal for management teams to clarify strategy and translate it into actionable projects and measurable objectives. This is a plan (or plan set) you and your team will use all year long. Robert Sher will personally lead the workshop. He’s been helping companies create and execute one page plans for years. The planning methodology was developed and publicized by Jim Horan in 1990, and has been implemented thousands of times world-wide.

Mighty Midsized Companies: Sub-topics

How Midsized Firms Can Avoid Deadly Lethargy

Midsized companies with laser market focus and rapid execution capabilities can outrun bigger and smaller foes alike.  Yet many midsized firms bog down, with projects taking months longer than planned, teams that get more excited about the free lunch than delivering high performance and confusion grips the firm at many levels.

This talk explores the root causes of deadly lethargy at midsized companies, drawing from the first three chapters of the speaker’s book, Mighty Midsized Companies: How Leaders Overcome 7 Silent Growth Killers.  Rich with examples, Robert explains how the most successful midsized companies create a culture of urgency and an uncommon respect for deadlines. He also explores why frequent changes to a firm’s strategy are destructive, and how to introduce new growth ideas without disrupting a company from its present course.

What you will learn:

  • How lethargy develops in even the best midsized companies
  • How get employees to meet deadlines without top managers having to become drill sergeants
  • Keys to monitoring the performance of complex projects and making sure they are delivered on schedule
  • How to make sure the CEO isn’t unwittingly contributing to corporate lethargy
  • How to decide how much risk to take on big growth initiatives

How Midsized Companies Can Create a Mighty Leadership Team

At the core of the most successful midsized companies is a stellar leadership team. With such a “mighty team” in place, a midsized firm can deliver profitable growth, year after year, in good times and bad. However, when even one member of the team is dysfunctional, a midsized company can’t hope to have a dream team. They don’t have the luxury of a large leadership team to support weak links in the executive chain.  This presentation drawn from four of the chapters of the speaker’s book, Mighty Midsized Companies: How Leaders Overcome 7 Silent Growth Killers.  

CEOs of midsized companies who tolerate dysfunctional leaders weaken their business’s ability to avoid and fight off seven silent killers of growth.

This talk reveals the underlying issues that cause midsized company leaders to accept a mediocre leadership team and how to counteract them.  A collection of great leaders does not make a team.  Robert Sher will explain why the way those leaders communicate, meet and plan determine the issues they discuss and how well they resolve them.  Robert also explores role definitions, visibility of results and approaches to creating accountability.

What you will learn:

  • Why dysfunctional leaders are tolerated, and how to counteract it
  • How a leadership team can set the ideal communication cadence
  • How to institute crucial planning and project management disciplines that keep the team in sync
  • How to hold leaders accountable in a positive yet firm approach
  • How to insure that acquisitions and operations are well-led

Keeping Rocketing Growth From Spiraling Out of Control

Many founders, entrepreneurs and business executives dream of leading a high-growth company.  Then they get the chance, and as the rocket passes Mach 2, they notice the tiles cracking and falling off the rocket, and the ship starts shaking.  Uh-oh.

Leading a high-growth company into and through midsized is both exciting and difficult; it is full of risk.  This talk, drawn from four of the chapters of the speaker’s book, Mighty Midsized Companies: How Leaders Overcome 7 Silent Growth Killers, explains how to avoid the growth impediments that can bring down these firms in painful, awful spectacles.

Midsized firms can increase headcount incredibly fast. So keeping the leadership team trained, aligned and informed on growth and all its costs is crucial – particularly on how ideas are evaluated and resources allocated to them.

Acquisitions can be a rocket booster, but the leadership team must be prepared to manage them after deals are closed. Lastly, midsized firms run the risk of operational meltdown, where they simply can’t deliver on their promises. Robert explains how to avoid such harrowing scenarios.

What you will learn:

  • Crucial factors in increasing the odds of a successful growth campaign
  • How to keep the entire leadership team on track during times of high growth
  • How to get time on your side to get projects completed on schedule
  • How to pick the right acquisition targets and boost their performance after the deal is closed
  • How to insure that your rocket stays on course, with no lives lost!

Avoiding the Seven Silent Growth Killers: Building Leadership Infrastructure

Growing companies can be victims of their own success.  When they get the growth they so desperately seek, they may just as quickly outgrow their leadership infrastructure, rendering the business chaotic and inefficient.

Leadership infrastructure is the sum total of management systems, processes, leadership teams, skillsets and disciplines that enable companies to grow successfully beyond small scale operations into midsized or large firms. Business schools don’t teach classes in building leadership infrastructure, and it is not a natural skill for most.  Many midsized executives shun it, equating it with big-company bureaucracy.  Midsized companies are always the victims of insufficient leadership infrastructure, because small firms don’t need much, and big companies already have it. To transition from small to big, you must build your own leadership infrastructure.

This talk walks midsized company leaders through the process of assessing the state of their leadership infrastructure then intentionally designing and building their leadership systems and team based on the future requirements of their firm.

What you will learn:

  • What leadership infrastructure is and why it’s critical to growth
  • Common signs that your leadership infrastructure may put your company at risk
  • How to objectively assess your leadership infrastructure
  • The starting points for upgrading your leadership infrastructure, and how to get started

CEO Topics

Seven Essentials to Sell Your Company at a Premium

Many mid-market CEOs sell their companies for far less than what they’d hoped for because they hadn’t prepared for the “Exit Day”. One such firm started in the early 1980’s and grew into an industry leader. After scorning an exit opportunity in 2007 (4X EBITDA wasn’t enough), in 2011 the business was sold in distress for just enough cash to pay off the bank plus seller-financed debt, which is now in default. The owners walked away from 30 years of toil with only their memories.

CEOs under invest in training themselves and preparing their firms for an exit. Most CEOs are inexperienced at selling a business and selling rarely feels urgent. As a result, other priorities jump ahead, and they don’t build skill or knowledge exiting until the event is upon them.

What you will learn:

  • Learn how to build a list of potential buyers.
  • Modify how you run the business to increase value at time of exit.
  • Understand the time frame to exit.
  • Know buyer turn-offs and turn-ons.
  • Get a grasp of the role of lawyers, investment bankers, accountants and others that can help.

CEOs must manage the business with the exit in mind (even if the exit isn’t for many years), and take full responsibility for producing an excellent exit (before, during and after the transaction).

Creating & Leading a Powerhouse Executive Team

All business have one leader, but mid-market businesses require a team of leaders to grow and prosper. As the business moves from $10M revenues to $100M to $500M, the most crucial factor is the quality of the executive team.

Some CEOs tolerate underperformers out of misplaced loyalty. Others can’t find a way to afford real talent. Some bring in what seems like great talent, but they don’t gel, and don’t deliver.

Yet for those that wish to build their company, there is no giving up. This seminar for CEOs addresses key issues around building the C-suite, and highlights best practices for middle market CEOs. You deserve to have a fabulous top team.

What you will learn:

  • How to be a leader of leaders—letting top execs lead.
  • Holding those execs accountable for results.
  • Ideal communication patterns and styles.
  • The shift in the CEOs role from doer to leader.
  • The role of planning in leading a top team.
  • Tips on selecting ideal top team members.
  • Identifying when it’s time to change out a top executive.

Managing Your Board of Directors

Many CEOs feel frustrated by their board, and find the relationship counterproductive. Yet a good board can be a powerful ally for the business. Any good board is looking for a CEO who is a strong leader with a clear vision for the business. Good boards also keep that CEO from running amok and destroying value, or taking the business in a direction that is counter to the best interests of the shareholders.

A natural conflict often arises, and the key to managing that conflict is that the CEO must manage the board as well as the CEOs relationship with each board member.

What you will learn:

  • How to engage the board when there is a big problem, or a big decision to be made.
  • The ideal approach to establishing and maintaining strong relationships with board members.
  • How to populate your board (over time) with the right people.
  • How , why and when to create a board for a closely-held company.
  • Keys to generating the respect of the board.
  • Issues in setting expectations for the board.
  • The role of your CFO & other execs in managing the board.

How to Make Shrewd Acquisitions (Ones That Propel Performance)

Acquisitions are a great way to grow, allowing companies to shave years off of what would be required through organic growth. They can also bring in hard-to-find talent, remove competitors, drive costs down and a host of other strategic objectives.

They can also destroy your company. About half of all acquisitions fail and at best, the failure is painful and diverts management attention from the real drivers of the business.

The key is to make shrewd acquisitions—the right acquisitions that truly help your business, and that your team is ready to tackle. This seminar will share the nuggets from some significant middle market research completed by Robert Sher recently.

What you will learn:

  • Steps to tie acquisitions to corporate strategy.
  • How to spot high-risk acquisitions before it’s too late.
  • How to prepare your team and company to be a savvy acquirer.
  • Critical steps to master in the acquisitions process, both before closing and afterwards.

Strategic Communications for CEOs and their Top Team

As companies grow from small to middle market, the requirement for more formalized communication grows. Gossip via an ever-growing number of online channels will shape opinions, and the CEO must be able to communicate persuasively to counter mistaken beliefs. A regular cadence of communication must exist between the leadership team and to the company at large. Within the firm, tasks and objectives must be tracked and discussed at regular intervals, and feedback must be ongoing.

Externally, customers, vendors, analysts and public investors all assume that what they see and hear from a CEO is the best he or she has to offer.

What you will learn:

  • Discover common reasons why your team may seem out of step with you.
  • Learn ideal process for communicating throughout the strategic planning process.
  • Use communication with subordinates to increase the sense of accountability.
  • Understand how to use individual and team exposure of results to improve performance.
  • Set up an ideal cadence of communications in your leadership team, from 1:1s to team meetings to all-hands meetings.
  • Learn to acknowledge the audience’s state of mind to synchronize with them, then shift their emotional state into a positive mindset.

Getting Mid-Market Company Acquisitions Right: Learning the Hard Lessons from the Best Acquirers

An estimated half of all acquisitions fail, a number that should give pause to every midsize company (those with revenue from $10 million to $1 billion). Mid-market companies can simply not withstand the impact of a disastrous acquisition nearly as well as a Fortune 500 company, with its deep pockets and extensive corporate development teams.

Yet acquisitions can turbocharge the growth of middle-market companies, and many of them have. So what must these firms do to greatly increase the odds of success?

CEO to CEO, a consulting firm that has worked with more than 80 mid-market CEOs since 2007, has conducted an extensive study over the last year of more than 70 midsize companies that are seasoned at M&A. Robert Sher, managing director of CEO to CEO, interviewed CEOs, CFOs, and corporate development officers from a wide range of mid-market firms.  He combines those learnings with his own strategic acquisition experience from 25 years of running a mid-market firm in this pioneering study.

This event is for mid-market strategic acquirers (buyers).  It will not be focused on the needs of sellers nor on the issues faced by financial buyers (investors or financiers).  We will focus on discovering and understanding leading practices for strategic acquirers.

What You Will Learn:

  • How to assess the risk of any given acquisition.
  • Leading practices of experienced acquirers in merger integration – reaping the benefits used to justify the deal.
  • The secrets of successful roll ups—where one acquisition after another in the same industry is integrated—and how that can help all middle market acquirers be more successful.
  • The trials and tribulations of intensely complex transformational acquisitions and their learnings from mergers of equals, and how that knowledge helps all sizes of middle market acquisitions succeed.
  • The lessons of CEOs who led companies through their first acquisition, and how they set up their companies for success as repeat acquirers.

Big Growth: Making the Dream a Reality

How to get revenues un-stuck and scale the company.

Too many companies are stuck on a plateau.  They have hopes to grow into a much larger company – maybe double the size or more—but year after year they’re not.  It’s frustrating!

C-Suite Topics

How the CHRO Can Help the CEO's Management Team Deliver Increased Performance

Every CEO dreams of a top management team that shares his vision and solves his challenges in unison. Yet many C-suite leaders seem to care more about their own function than the company as a whole. The HR leader can play a crucial role in helping the CEO create a highly effective top team. But to do so, chief HR officers must take a very different approach than the one that many are used to.

In his session, he will explain how HR executives can:

  • Help CEOs better understand the dynamics of the executive team and the rest of the organization.
  • Get CEOs to reveal more about the pressures they face and become the CEO’s confidant about leadership issues.
  • Help the CEO create and maintain a high-performance leadership team.
  • Become a “business partner” with other C-level executives who helps them boost their individual effectiveness to drive corporate performance.

The Crossroads of Business Planning & Executive Performance Review

The line between performance reviews and business performance is blurred at the highest levels in a corporation. Yet some executives are retained, even rewarded when they didn’t produce the results that business needed.

Creating a concise, well drafted and thought out business plan can and should function as both a performance review document and a business plan for that function.

What you will learn:

  • Know the fundamentals of a concise business/department plan.
  • Know how to coach the executive team through the process.
  • Know how to help keep the process on track throughout the year.

Five Moves to Improve the Performance Environment

It’s the leaders’ job to create a work environment—which includes culture—that motivates and helps the team deliver high-performance.  But what is the roadmap to do so?  Too often leaders rely on “feel” and try a jumbled mix of tactics hoping for better results.  Seven years of research has revealed a unique approach to understanding the dynamics of a high performance environment.  Researchers studied NASA, the Olympics, the Navy Seals, Juliard School of Music and high performing corporations to identify nine measurable factors influencing the environment, how they interact, and what leaders can do to make powerful shifts in their environment.

What you will learn:

  • The nine factors that create the High Performance Environmental Structure.
  • How to assess an environment to understand the problem areas.
  • How changes in one area affect other areas, and then change the work environment.
  • How to keep the right level of pressure on the team without losing your best.

 

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Need a keynote for a specific industry or theme?  We’ll work with you to customize the keynote to best suit the event.

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About Robert Sher

Robert Sher is founding principal of CEO to CEO, a consulting firm of former chief executives that improves the leadership infrastructure of midsized companies seeking to accelerate their performance. He was chief executive of Bentley Publishing Group from 1984 to 2006 and steered the firm to become a leading player in its industry (decorative art publishing).

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Forbes.com columnist, author and CEO coach Robert Sher delivers keynotes and workshops, including combining content with facilitation of peer discussions on business topics.

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