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The Business Forum Journal


The Sophocles Society

by Pauline Field


Supervisors and managers go to training sessions to develop, to learn how to handle situations, and to think “outside the box”.  As the chief executive, where do you go?  Having grown the company to where it is today, or having stepped into a thriving company assumes a degree of business knowledge and leadership qualities.  As has been said many times however, we stop learning only when we are dead.

Your Choices

You have accomplished more than the vast majority of executives and managers.  What else is there other than having to be in a setting with people who are trying to learn what you learned long ago?  The answer is an executive peer group or roundtable.  They provide an opportunity to meet with fellow business leaders who have also learned through building and running their companies.  Such groups are designed to stimulate thinking and help introduce members to new ideas that have helped other executives achieve higher performance, and they help members stay current with the changing business environment.

The sense of isolation disappears.  Issues with which you have limited or no experience can now be discussed with a group of your peers that you have come to trust.  This trust grows quite quickly because groups are both confidential and do not have competing companies represented.  When obstacles seem overwhelming, input from peers adds a new perspective, along with creative problem solving and support.

Many privately held companies have a Board of Directors that consist of their attorney, their CPA, their spouse and one or two friends.  The executive peer group provides the equivalent of an advisory board and one that has no vested interest.

Another aspect similar to a Board, is that of accountability.  The peer group and its facilitator hold your feet to the fire to ensure that you accomplish all you are capable of accomplishing.

The executive peer group is a forum to address strategic and tactical issues and offer valuable insights and ideas.  The meetings provide valuable, timely information and allow for the discussion of ideas, problems, and concerns.  They are a healthy way for business leaders to share insights and are an opportunity for you to network with your colleagues and discover what others are doing to resolve the same issues you are facing.

Discussions vary in topic and cover everything from business development issues, managing growth and change; finding and retaining the right people for the job; benchmarking internal growth; creating customer value; turning industry challenges into benefits; security - plant, personnel and data; China vs. Russia as a fertile ground of opportunity; creativity; finance for non-financial leaders

Format of Executive Peer Groups

These can range from an annual gathering at the national trade conference, to online chat rooms, quarterly industry meetings and monthly meetings.  They are established by trade groups and associations, non-profit organizations and networking companies.

International FieldWorks, Inc., a global management consulting agency, has established the Sophocles Society, designed as a forum for its clients and bringing world-class experts to their meetings.

The Sophocles Society has a three step process: 

1.  Learn from each other

Discuss issues and get fresh perspectives and creative ideas from other successful business leaders.  Share your experience to challenge and help other members.  Strategic discussions produce groundbreaking shifts in corporate strategies.  You ask questions and also be questioned and challenged by your fellow members  Each is professionally facilitated to keep the group on track.  The atmosphere is fun, challenging, intense, and honest.

2.  Learn from the experts

Each month a topic of interest is presented by an expert in that field.  These experts present new ideas and perspectives that help you solve problems and implement positive change in your company.  They will share their business expertise, offer strategies for success and keep you moving forward

3.  One-On-One Support

Between each meeting, the Director will meet with you individually to explore issues and opportunities in privacy and in greater depth and develop action plans to move your company forward for which you will be held accountable.

Although carefully formatted, detailed agendas are not developed for the monthly meetings in order to promote a dynamic exchange of ideas, opinion and information on specific issues important to the members.  Each Sophocles Society group sets groundrules by which everyone abides and although these differ slightly from group to group, they all have the two basics:

  1. Each member must be prepared to contribute to the roundtable. Its success depends on the total participation of the group

  2. Strict confidentiality is essential

  3. Each group is limited to 14 members to insure that everyone can participate in the discussion.

They are neither a "leads" group nor a platform for selling.

Benefits of an Executive Peer Group

The goal is for executives to provide one another with support, encouragement, and objective perspectives about organizational and leadership issues members are facing.

  • Save time and frustration by using the ideas that are shared between you and your fellow members. Fast track your company's progress to higher and higher levels of success. It can help you cut years off the development of your company.

  • Move forward quickly. As a member, you'll find yourself motivated to work ON the company like never before. We celebrate success creating an atmosphere of success.

  • Avoid feelings of isolation as you try to make the best possible strategic decisions for yourself, your employees, and your company. Your group will become your Board of Directors -- people who have been there before and have the experience to help you make the right choices.

  • Take advantage of these jam-packed hours away from the office to work on the issues that are vital to your company's future.

  • Learn critical business skills from experts 

  • Establish business relationships, forge new alliances, and an opportunity to  nurture lasting relationships.

The Sophocles Society Difference

What makes the Sophocles Society different?  Our meetings are intense but casual and we have fun. We follow a structure that has been developed through more than twenty years of consulting and coaching experience. Our expert facilitators have a firm but caring hand on the procedures, allowing each person to share their insights with flexibility.  Sponsored by International FieldWorks, we bring world-class resources to each meeting to share their expertise and discuss trends and new developments.

Membership Requirements

Membership in the Sophocles Society is limited to the CEO, president, owner/partner or key manager responsible for the day-to-day operations of a privately-held business with annual revenues of at least $10 million.

Members are carefully grouped to represent a mix of non-competing businesses with enough in common to relate to the issues under discussion.  Each group is composed of up to 14 members from a broad range of fields, each meeting begins promptly at 7:30 a.m. and adjourns at 1:00 p.m.

New groups are formed as needed.  No consultants, suppliers or other “interested parties” may attend.

If you are the owner of a company producing at least $10 million in annual volume and feel like you should be doing more with your company, join Sophocles-- a think tank exclusively for chief executives. Sophocles brings you together with your peers to share experiences, knowledge, procedures, and advice. You'll quickly come to look upon your fellow members as your company board of directors -- knowledgeable experts.


A Community of Successful Business Leaders

Frequently Asked Questions  

How does the program work?

One half-day meeting each month with your group members

Your Sophocles Society director to moderate your monthly executive sessions encouraging focus, innovative thinking and goal setting as well as ensuring the group monitors its process and progress

A monthly one-on-one private consultation with the director

An expert speaker each month to address a common topic the group is experiencing

When and where are the meetings held?

          2nd Wednesday of the month; initial meeting June 11, 2003

          7:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Meetings will be held at a member facility or other location of their choice, rotating among all members

What’s the format of the meetings?

CEO’s, presidents and business owners from non-competing companies assemble monthly to hear a presentation on a topic of interest then consult and advise each other in a non-selling, non-competitive, confidential setting.        

7:30 - 10:30       Breakfast;  Introductions;  Interactive presentation

          10:30 - 10:45     Break

          10:45 - 1:00       Roundtable discussion

How many members will there be?

Between ten and fourteen members will meet each month

What will be the topics of the presentations each month?

The topics will be decided by the members and the director will provide an expert on that topic.  These presenters will be experts in their field and will engage in discussions with members as to how their topic applies to each

What can I expect to get out of it?

Acquire an informal board of directors and advisors offering many cumulative years of business experience

Heightened ability to anticipate trends and issues

Work through difficult issues gaining multiple perspectives (informed "second opinions") on these issues to help make better decisions

Pauline Field is the Founder and Chief Operating Officer of International FieldWorks, Inc. and is responsible for the assignments and management of some 900 senior professionals throughout the world.  A consultant for over nineteen years, her specialties are operational improvement, conflict resolution, business development and executive coaching. 

Pauline has consulted major corporations in the U.S. and Europe including General Electric, Times Mirror, TRW, AT&T, not-for-profit organizations such as World Vision and Mountains Conservancy, small companies such as Cambridge Computers Ltd., Jason Natural Products and government agencies such as City of Los Angeles.

She has redesigned companies, department by department, kept companies out of the courts through resolution of conflicts, and assisted executives in growing and expanding their businesses.   Her understanding of business comes from having been an employee, contractor, vendor and owner.

Prior to her career in consulting, Pauline spent several years in management in the legal, publishing, and manufacturing fields and in high tech sales. She has published numerous articles and audio tapes on business practices and management skills, has appeared on radio and television and is a sought-after speaker.  Her Bachelor’s degree is from Cal State, Northridge and she completed her Master’s work at Cornell University in New York.

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