I vividly remember driving to my first peer forum meeting. I was thinking I don’t have time for this! What am I doing? Who are these people? Am I worthy to be there? What am I going to bring to the group? Do I belong? Am I going to fit in? Who is this facilitator […]Continue reading
Meet Jeff Mawicke…Renaissance’s Longest-Serving Member
Since our founding in 1994, the team at Renaissance Executive Forums has seen only one in a thousand C-Suite executives who have the vision to stick around for 20 years of peer-to-peer discussion, review, and strategic planning.
So what do you call that one in a million who sees the inestimable value of 25 straight years of membership?
Jeff Mawicke joined Renaissance Executive Forums in 1994…and never left. We caught up with Jeff recently to discuss his logic for joining, his reasons for sticking around, and to get some free advice that might benefit other business owners. Here’s what he was kind enough to share with us:
“It was the early nineties and I was an attorney focusing on representing businesses. My firm had all the same problems that any small company had; personnel, office space, suppliers, cashflow…the works. I needed an unbiased group of peers I could get honest, outside opinions from, and without the drama that might come from talking with my partners,” Jeff recalls.
“While looking to meet owners of other small, closely held businesses, I realized the wisdom of joining a group of like-minded people.”
Jeff tried several organizations, but consistently encountered a wall of suspicion. “Other groups were very distrustful of me as an attorney. They feared I’d take over their system and was only interested in getting clients, so they wouldn’t allow me to join.” These prevailing attitudes were frustrating, and persuaded Jeff that such organizations weren’t a good fit for him.
Then he met Doug Skonord of Executive Forums. “I didn’t expect much to be different from any of the other groups hustling, then rejecting me, for membership,” he says. However, Jeff prides himself on being fair-minded, and he gave Doug a chance to make his pitch. “I explained to him the problems I’d been encountering, and he said ‘No, I think this will be a good situation because you provide another access to what business owners utilize.’
Somewhat dubious, Jeff attended a couple of meetings expecting more of the same. “Lawyers usually aren’t popular people, so I’ve developed a thick skin,” he notes. Yet Doug Skonord instinctively knew that every group needs at least one attorney to be a steadying force and provide some balance against the dreamers or the headstrong.
It was a match made in heaven!
Jeff also found Doug’s attitude to be refreshingly novel when he said, “If you can get business from being in the room, all the better,” and decided Renaissance was probably worth a long-term investment on his part.
“I was looking for a neutral quasi board that I could bring issues to,” he says “And I found it at REF.”
Jeff immediately got critical feedback from fellow members by asking for one thing they hated about their attorney. “All these years later I still have the list in my desk, and regularly refer to it. It reminds me not to get too cocky.”
“Being the leader of a company is a very lonely position because every day is conflict and we’re taught today that conflict is bad. Executive Forums has shown me how to more intelligently address my responsibilities as a leader.”
“Leaders need a place to hash out and learn the semantics of business life. You have to find out where you are and the forum provides an avenue for solving issues and getting answers. You learn to address daily conflicts by yourself.”
“Executive Forums provides a venue to question what went wrong as well as what went right. It shows you how to do your own job better.”
The obvious question: Why doesn’t everyone who comes to Executive Forums stick around long-term? “Many people come into Executive Forums looking for that golden nugget; the key to the vault. Those people don’t last in an Executive Forums environment. They check out after six months and say ‘This is really boring. All we’re talking about is some philosophical BS. How can this help me?’ Only this is exactly what they need!”
“Because we’re not hiding the secret sauce to make you successful. It’s exactly what Executive Forums says it is; it’s a forum…a place to congregate and see what’s happening in the world. These meetings aren’t mentoring or pep talks. You come to interact with the others in the room.”
“I see it as a place where I can hold myself accountable.”
“Ultimately this stuff is mundane. It’s the tribulations of people getting a business off the ground or struggling to keep their business afloat. If you’re paying attention, you get advice that you can also share with your clients.”
“I use Forum meetings to let my demons out. I’ll rant or throw out wild ideas addressing problems that have befuddled me. There’s no competition in the room, and politics and egos are checked at the door. This means everyone lets their hair down without fear of reprisal or ulterior motive. I count on my peers in that room to laugh at me, tell me something’s dumb, and provide valuable feedback.”
“Forums are where similarly-minded professionals gather to exchange information for mutual benefit, while good ideology-free moderators make these resources available.”
“Bottom line: I’m a big Renaissance Executive Forums fan. Over 25 years I’ve found it to be an irreplaceable resource for steering my ship through the various storms encountered in the business world. I know I’ll be taken seriously, get my personal and professional issues addressed, and will leave every meeting with relationships and advice that will make problem resolution significantly easier.”
“Belonging to REF is a no-brainer for anyone who’s serious about being in business.