Former CEO of Hort Tech Landscaping
Joined Vistage in 2012
In 2007, I bought an existing business with the intent of selling. That was right before the Great Recession and, obviously, not the best time to sell. My five-year plan became a 10-year plan and when the market firmed up, brokers approached me.
The sale process was long and frustrating. At one point, I was going to pull out of it, but my Vistage Chair pulled me back from the emotional edge. My group was also very helpful throughout the process. Apart from my spouse, they were the only people who gave me real feedback.
On the day the sale went through, I hit refresh on the browser about 60 times to check my bank account. It was a huge relief to see the money was there and the sale was final. Soon after, my family and I traveled the world for a year. We went all over — London, France, Rome, Australia, Scandinavia. We visited Costa Rica to surf, Japan to see the cherry blossoms, and Egypt to explore the pyramids. The kids really embraced the big cultural differences. It gave them another perspective — and that’s something I really appreciate.
We homeschooled the kids the whole time — four days a week for a couple of hours a day. Today, we all look back on the whole experience very fondly.
When we returned from traveling, we bought a house in Canada, which is where we are from originally. I started playing a lot of golf and was considering buying another business when the pandemic hit. Through it all, we have been able to do a lot of outdoor exploring and backcountry skiing locally. Plus, the schools here stayed open, so our kids got to be with their peers.
What I would say to fellow Vistage members is that the sale of your business is always closer than you think — so be prepared. Make sure you have a good team, that the numbers add up, and that your business is in order.
I’m only 50, and while I enjoy not having to work, I do miss being in the company of adults in a meaningful way — and getting things accomplished. That’s why I plan to start looking for another business to buy.
Founder and former CEO of Vitiello Communications Group
Joined Vistage 2014
Over the past decade, we were able to double annual revenues and our team, which was my goal when I joined Vistage. But in recent years, our Fortune 500 clients were asking for expanded services and a global reach. So, we set out to accelerate growth and partner with a company that could help us achieve both goals.
When we connected with Forty1 and The Creative Engagement Group (TCEG) based in the United Kingdom, we knew it was a great strategic and culture fit. It was important that our employees would be highly valued and have more opportunities. Also, it was important that my clients would have access to expanded, world-class services. With our acquisition by Forty1 and TCEG’s parent company, Huntsworth, we achieved it all. And I’ve remained at the company, now known as Forty1-Vitiello, as partner and executive vice president.
For me, it was never going to be about retiring into the sunset. I am passionate about what I do, and now I can focus on representing our brand and contributing to thought leadership. My husband recently retired, and we’re spending winters in Florida. That’s allowed us to enjoy more time with our older daughter, her husband and our grandson. The rest of the year, we’re back home at the Jersey Shore, visiting our younger daughter and her husband. I see more traveling when things open up again.
This was my company for 30 years — it was my baby; I never wanted to be fully out of the arena. And so I found a way to begin to take my hands off the wheel and ease into a different way of being.
It’s also deeply satisfying to know that “my baby” is in the very best hands. Nadine Green, who I hired in 2014 to run operations is a Vistage member, is now chief operating officer of The Creative Engagement Group, North America. And Kristen Erickson, who I hired as my assistant in 2012, is now heading up the company in North America!
There is a motto I live by that I borrowed from Dr. Charlotte Jones-Burton, co- founder of Women of Color in Pharma: “We lift as we climb.” It’s so important to be sure you are turning around and giving a hand up to whoever is behind you.
Even though I own three hair salon franchises and am on four boards, I still have more time to spend with my family than I did as a CEO. In fact, when the pandemic hit, I was able to spend four months in San Diego to be with my extended family because I could do everything virtually.
Also, I think Chairing has made me a better person. Instead of just solving problems and being bossy, I have to ask questions and help others find their own solution. Chair development — the muscles you have to exercise — makes you a better listener.
At this point in my life, I want to make more of a positive impact on the lives of others, and that’s what I’ve been able to do in recent years.
Former CEO of Talyst, Inc.
Joined Vistage in 2008
When I was hired as CEO of Talyst in 2008, I had no illusions about what it meant to sit in that seat. I owned my own company at age 26 and was running different businesses in my 30s — but this was a big step up, and I needed to surround myself with others at that level.
I joined Vistage right away. It’s really lonely at the top, and here you always have people on your side who have your best interests at heart. I’m like the poster child for Vistage, I believe in the model so much.
Talyst was backed by venture capitalists and was split and sold to a private equity group in 2017. At around the same time, my Vistage Chair stepped down and I was approached by fellow group members about the possibility of leading. I’m the kind of person who believes whatever should happen does happen. The timing was right, so I went for it. I went to Chair Academy and built up the group.
As a Chair, I am able to spend a lot more time with my family. My son was a sophomore in high school when I started, and I worked out my schedule so I was able to make him breakfast and spend quality time with him.