Not long after he stepped into the role of president at Oasis Alignment Services in Greenville three years ago, Brian Hiltunen knew he could use some advice. Culture, strategy, mission and vision were issues he wanted to address. A friend recommended TEC.
“It has helped me become a much better strategic thinker than I ever thought I could be,” he says of The Executive Committee.
The old adage is true: It can be lonely at the top. Running a business is wrought with challenges, from leading the mission to overseeing aspects as varied as cash flow and clients while managing people and processes. At the end of the day, who wants to hear the boss complain?
The answer is, nobody – not employees, not spouses nor close friends.
TEC Midwest is an organization designed to help company owners, chief executive officers and presidents work on their business with the advice of peers and TEC chairs. Each group consists of 12 to 16 individuals in non-competing industries who meet for a full day, nine times each year. Each member also receives a one-on-one consultation with the TEC chair preceding each meeting. Issues that come up in these meetings are tackled by the full group; members challenge and encourage each other to solve problems standing in the way of their business or personal success. Members also have the opportunity to hear expert speakers brought in to address members of several regional TEC groups throughout the year.
TEC is “like a round-table group on steroids,” says Jen Sweeney, director of marketing for the Brookfield-based organization that has about 650 members in 55 groups throughout Wisconsin and Michigan. “It’s about working on your business, about building better leaders and helping them make better decisions. We’re here to help leaders grow their organizations as well as themselves.”
During the Great Recession, when many companies cut out executive training to save money, TEC lost some members but gained about the same in numbers. “Many said they needed TEC more than ever,” Sweeney says. Trisha Huizenga, chair of TEC 23 and 54 in Northeast Wisconsin, concurs.
“Some people never had to do wholesale layoffs before, so there was a lot of discussion about, ‘How do you do this?’ You have to have your game face on when you’re talking to your employees,” Huizenga says. “TEC was a place where they could really take the mask off and get real. They could realize that other CEOs were experiencing the exact same things.”
Members are encouraged to share their goals, discuss with their group how they plan to achieve them, and, at subsequent meetings, are asked to report on steps they’ve taken.
Each TEC chair conducts his or her group a little differently; Huizenga asks her members to buddy-up for lunch between meetings to get to know each other better.
“It’s really gratifying how so many of them, by the time I have my one-on-one with them, have already gotten something done,” she says.
TEC’s largest all-member event is its annual spring Inspirational Leadership event, set for April 29, 2015. In addition, TEC hosts several half-day, free Experience Workshops to familiarize potential new members with the organization; the next Northeast Wisconsin event will be Oct. 23 in Green Bay.
Joining TEC is a commitment in time and money, but members attest that it’s worth it.
“It’s paid for itself many times over – it’s not even worth measuring at this point,” Hiltunen says. “If you can’t invest one day a month working on your business instead of in your business, you’re doing something wrong.”
A CLOSER LOOK
Tuesday, July 8:
Young Professionals of Fond du Lac Hot Topic program is “Take this Job and Love It,” featuring Greg Giles, CEO of the Fond du Lac Family YMCA, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Hometown Bank, 80 Sheboygan St., Fond du Lac. Free to YPF members; $10 general admission. Register: www.ypfdl.org.
Tuesday, July 22:
Fox Cities Chamber Business Connection is from 5 to 7 p.m. at Stone Cellar at Riverview Gardens, 1101 S. Oneida St., Appleton. Cost: $5 chamber members paid in advance; $7 at the door; prospective members, $20. Register: Foxcitieschamber.chambermaster.com/events.
Wednesday, July 30:
Sail After Hours: “Second Childhood” Art-Making Event will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Rahr-West Art Museum, 610 N. 8th St., Manitowoc. Cost $30 per person, and beverages are available for purchase. Register: chambermanitowoccounty.org/sail-events.