impossible for ideas to compete in the marketplace if no forum for
The History of The Business Forum
Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California in February, 1982.
The concept of The Business Forum, which was first voiced more than a quarter of a Century ago, is simple to the extreme, and yet almost impossible to imagine anyone ever making happen. Basically, we were able to bring together a group of senior executives and ask them if they were able to trust us enough that if we found someone with a technology, product, service or philosophy we thought might help their business, they would agree to have lunch with us and this expert, on the understanding that they would incur no cost whatsoever, nor would they be under any obligation to make any decision to buy anything, or do anything further in any way, by attending our meetings. Also, we asked if they would join in questioning the expert and taking part in a moderated discussion? Simple! . . . and strange as it seemed then, they all said yes and agreed to make time in their busy calendars to join the venture!
In 1982 the concept of a true forum discussion as a meeting format was so
new that few people believed it could be managed properly, let alone survive
more than a few weeks. According to
the founders of The Business Forum,
"a true forum is where a group of qualified people openly
discuss a specific subject with accredited experts under the oversight of a moderator who enforces both fairness and the accepted rules of the group."
Today just about any gathering or even
a series of lectures, may be called a "forum"; and many meetings are sold as forums even if they are not, whereas The Business Forum has
held as many as three true forums a week
in the Pacific States of America and they have remained as successful as
they were the day the first one was held in Beverly Hills in 1982.
Gonzales, then the National Facilities Director for Toyota put it some time
"Where else can I have access to so many people
in the business community, network with my peers, hear world-class experts
on subjects I need to keep up with and get a first class lunch
at absolutely no cost and with no obligation whatsoever?" Over the years The Business Forum grew into the other six States that make up, with California, the
seven Pacific States of America. The original three dozen or so Charter Members who funded the beginnings have been joined over the years by hundreds more Corporate Members who want to find out where we will be having lunch next month and who realize the benefit of what we are doing enough to become members, otherwise of course it could never have happened. The list
today reads like a
who's who in business and government
and too long to publish here, it includes, as one guest jokingly once put it
"everyone from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to Yum Yum Donuts."
The list of organizations and corporations buying lunch for our "friends" these days, could in all modesty be described by the word "impressive". In fact there are many major corporations that would love to have the "client list" that we have
had. In the last few years a representative list of the
that have provided our friends with the ability to question their experts includes most of the best known names in the business world.
Since the beginning The Business Forum has had sponsors that have included governments, states and many of the world's largest corporations, as well as individuals of impressive achievement in their
field. In other words, it would seem that they believe, that if you need to meet the
decision makers of west coast business, then you really need to know The Business Forum.
Over the years The Business Forum grew into the other six States that make up, with California, the seven Pacific States of America. The original three dozen or so Charter Members who funded the beginnings have been joined over the years by hundreds more Corporate Members who want to find out where we will be having lunch next month and who realize the benefit of what we are doing enough to become members, otherwise of course it could never have happened. The list today reads like a who's who in business and government and too long to publish here, it includes, as one guest jokingly once put it "everyone from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to Yum Yum Donuts."
The list of organizations and corporations buying lunch for our "friends" these days, could in all modesty be described by the word "impressive". In fact there are many major corporations that would love to have the "client list" that we have had. In the last few years a representative list of the sponsoring organizations that have provided our friends with the ability to question their experts includes most of the best known names in the business world. Since the beginning The Business Forum has had sponsors that have included governments, states and many of the world's largest corporations, as well as individuals of impressive achievement in their field. In other words, it would seem that they believe, that if you need to meet the decision makers of west coast business, then you really need to know The Business Forum.
We fully understand the importance of maintaining this reputation. The luncheon discussions of today are still based on the original rules we established all those years ago, some of which are quite strange, but then, who knew it was going to grow the way it has?
The actual rules under which the meetings are held are announced at the beginning of every meeting, and they are:
According to both our members and sponsors alike, everyone wins! Guests get to meet and question a recognized expert, in the company of their peers and thereby stay up to date - sponsors get to cut their costs and meet pre-qualified decision makers that can affect their business, and The Business Forum continues to grow! It helps of course, that our guests know that only their peers will be invited, that there will be no sales pitch and no boring 101 presentation and the lunch and the level of discussion will always be sophisticated to say the least! So if would seem that we just may continue to have lunch with intelligent people from San Diego to Seattle for many years to come, to the obvious joy of all the decision makers we know who are seeking to debate with their peers.
As one of our guests once put it: "The Business Forum has the perfect vehicle, a concept with 19th Century sophistication and charm, 20th Century acceptance and trust in the business community and 21st Century answers and solutions. A real class act!"
What started as a small group of like-minded executives wishing to educate themselves and assist each other, grew to become the largest non-affiliated business organization on the West Coast of America, with the only ongoing program throughout the Pacific States of America. Obviously, after all these years, we feel we have proved that it works, even if we are not always able to explain exactly how it all happened. In 1987 we set ourselves the goal of incorporating all the States within what we termed the Pacific States of America into our program, allowing us to act as a central clearing house for decision makers in this region. We also hoped to be able to build an institution that held the respect and trust of these same decision makers.
The Business Forum Association was founded in 1987 to help subsidize the operations of The Business Forum and to allow it to run it's programs without being dependent for a profit from the Sponsors of Business Forum Events to pay for the growth of the organization. The existence of The Business Forum Association has also allowed us to grow from just the one meeting every three months in Los Angeles, to an ongoing program of several meetings a week throughout the Pacific States of America.
We launched our program in Washington State in 1994, in Oregon in 1995 and in Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho in 1996.
In 1995 we launched our web site onto the
Our goal has always been to provide an independent and trusted source of information that might help the business community better contribute to the success of the Pacific States of America as a region. We believe we are well on the way to achieving that goal, and we hope we shall eventually get to the position where every senior decision maker in the region will be willing to trust us enough to join the program.
The basic idea behind The Business Forum is very simple. Educating oneself about something new, is a matter of learning where quite often the student is not only alone, but without mentors and unadvised by unbiased or experienced mentors. Most new information is peddled (honestly and dishonestly) by very biased or inexperienced sources, i.e. salespeople as the driving force to convince the potential buyer; or reporters who gain their insight from the same promoters, or literature and advertisements produced by those same promoters. We believe this paradox has often slowed new ideas and their introduction into the market place or has forced the buyer to gamble on their own inexperienced hunches - until The Business Forum was formed and the equation was changed!
What the founders of The Business Forum stumbled upon, was that they were at the same time both promoters hoping to convince others and, the recipients of other people's promotions. All were experienced and successful, with an unusual caveat, they operated in different fields of business and professions and were, in many cases, each others advisors. The oldest maxim of buying is to gain the recommendation of someone who has already bought and can advise you on the results that they experienced, just as the oldest maxim of selling is that there is no better method to succeed than by gaining the recommendation of past buyers. However, there are few past buyers at the start of any new idea, which is when the benefits of being a trailblazer are at their highest.
This is where the Founders of The Business Forum saw the benefits of "group interrogation". In 1982 there were several ways of learning about new ideas and technologies, but none of them eschewed the concept of "group interrogation". One could attend a lecture or seminar, but then you were merely the recipient of another form of sales pitch. You could read magazines, journals and newspapers, but it was never certain that the reporter was doing anything more than writing their own impression of a sales pitch that had been made to them. Trade shows and exhibitions were of course merely animated sales pitches and entertaining legions of salespeople and pouring over proposals and quotes was, again, subject to the same lack of experienced knowledge and the obvious chance of sales pitch misinformation inherent in evaluating any proposal.
In other words one always returned to the basic fact that
with "new" products and services most decisions are made on hunches and the performance of the person
doing the "selling".
Again, using the benefits of reverse engineering, the founders of The Business Forum established that if we could use Marketing in
its truest form and, if the product, service or idea was both sound and of value, "Group Interrogation" of any such Marketing presentation would
always produce a faster and better impartation of
understanding to us, the potential buyers. It would also produce the welcome side effect of frightening off most dishonest peddlers, who would
realize that their sales pitch could not withstand the intelligent questioning of experts
operating in a group with their peers.
That The Business Forum is more civilized, welcome and palatable, than just about any other introduction to new and important products and services, has proved to be a fact and we have seen it demonstrated many times since The Business Forum was first founded. Today the very fact that an individual, or an organization, is willing to sponsor a business forum is almost a guarantee of their complete belief in the product, idea or service they are offering and their willingness to have it's authenticity and value subjected to intelligent discussion by their potential clients. It does not take the intellect of a genius to realize you would be a fool to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of your organizations money on something the promoter of which would not allow to be discussed openly by your peers and advisors.
research and choose our sponsors with great care and consideration, even requesting references from our members in many cases. The sponsor in turn knows that the knowledge and honesty of their speaker is key to the successful outcome of the program, all of which has led to a history of The Business Forum presenting only the best and most knowledgeable experts to our guests and members.
We also choose who to invite with just as much care as we choose our sponsors, ensuring that we are inviting only decision makers who are in a position to either implement, support or purchase, or influence the decision making process of whatever idea, product or service the speaker is fielding. This keeps all of our meetings very
focused and informative
for those who attend.
Any group of
executives could probably do exactly what we have done, provided they were
willing to lose money and a great deal of their time in doing so. Easy,
Then all you would have to do is go out and convince a few world class organizations
and several governments to agree to
pay you, so that their best people could endure one and a half hours of intense interrogation by a group of expert decision makers, in organizations that were their potential clients. They would
have to do this knowing that you offer no guarantee they would benefit from doing so.
They would also be expected to pay for the lunch and other costs associated with the meeting, for a group of people who had not even agreed to accept their calls afterwards. Not difficult, right? Your third task would be to get senior decision makers to agree to come to your forums and take time out of their busy schedules, trusting that you
would be right in assuring them that they would benefit from doing so.
In a World that has grown to be ever more cynical The Business Forum acts as an oasis of reality, fairness and trust, thanks to those initial decisions we made back in 1982 and the Charter Member's wish to avoid any hint of compromise. The Business Forum is in no way political, nor is it biased in any way whatsoever outside of it's Mission Statement. However, only by quoting some of our past sponsors can we prove this without sounding like raving egotists. Altruistically The Business Forum is therefore a sound concept, but in the real world it takes hard cash to fund any organization, no matter it's aims. Who could doubt your sincerity, when you support an enterprise which really does offer a true free lunch to senior decision makers, to discuss with your chosen expert the ins and outs of some new service, product or technology, on the understanding that they have absolutely no obligation to do anything, after you have stood experts before them to be subjected to their questioning, and you bought them the best lunch in town? It is not something you would expect experienced business people to put up the money and time to do and yet they have actually been doing exactly that for nearly two decades and our past Sponsors continue to send us testimonials that tell us why.
In 2009 we formed The Business Forum Institute and began recruiting a Fellowship willing to share their expertise and experience with aspiring business people, academics and students all of the world by publishing The Business Forum Journal every month on the Internet.
The mission of The Business Forum Institute is to provide decision makers, leaders, historians, policy makers, students and teachers in Business, Government and Academia all over the world, with access to facts, expertise, experience and qualified opinion that will assist them in their endeavors to achieve success.
In other words, a seemingly innocent idea
has grown over three decades to the point where we have yet to find an idea, service,
program or product it can not be applied to for the benefit of all - and the testimonials,
like these listed below, just keep on rolling in.
The Business Forum, its Officers, partners, and all other