Posted by Matt Register

Fredricka Brecht, Master Chair with Vistage, talks about how business owners can thrive by leveraging the power of their peers.

Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.

Matt Register: Welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio. is the Web site. We’re talking about executive coaching and peer groups today on the show. Very interesting show. We enjoy it, we hope you’re enjoying it as well. I’m your host Matt Register. Here, as always, with Jay Curry over in co-host chair. What do you think man?

Jay Curry: I’m having fun. This is a great topic. And it’s something that I think any executive of, say 5 million or bigger or even a million, needs to be involved with an executive coach, maybe a peer group. And this whole program today, it’s what it’s all about. It’s great stuff. We got one of the best, right here in the segment.

Matt Register: Yeah, no doubt. And if you listen to this show for any length time, you know that, you know with, with, there’s a lot of different flavors of these things. We, we, we don’t really care, we say pick one. Right? Pick the one that’s the right fit for you. But the big one in the country is Vistage. Jay, you are a Vistage Master Chair as well. Well, we have Fredricka Brecht is a Master Chair with Vistage, out of Houston and also the National Chair of the year for Vistage. Big stuff. Right?

Jay Curry: Really big stuff.

Matt Register: Yeah. Fredricka, welcome to the show.

Fredricka Brecht: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Matt Register: So tell me a little bit about, you know, your group. What, how many groups you have? What, what you have going on with Vistage.

Fredricka Brecht: Okay. I’ve been doing this for 18 years. So I’ve, at the, about a year and a half ago I had three groups and I cut back to two groups.

Matt Register: Okay.

Fredricka Brecht: So, I have 32 members across those two groups. And one of them is called a CE group, it’s for the larger sized businesses.

Matt Register: CEO’s.

Fredricka Brecht: And then there’s a second group that is Key Executive.

Matt Register: Okay.

Fredricka Brecht: And that’s for number two’s, they all report directly to the CEO. And it leverages the CEO’s experience to have certain high potential Key Executives having the same experience as theirs.

Matt Register: So, are all of your Key Executives, are their bosses in your CEO group? Or do you have some that are…

Fredricka Brecht: Well, not all. There’s some, there’s some mix. There are some people who are in the key executive group independently, that their boss is not in a Vistage group. I have a, one fellow is the COO of a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway and, you know, Warren’s not in a group yet.

Matt Register: I got you.

Jay Curry: Been working on that.

Fredricka Brecht: Yeah, we’re working on that.

Matt Register: And he somehow managed to find some success without it. Right?

Fredricka Brecht: Right. Somehow. Somehow. Anyway.

Jay Curry: He had a lot of Vistage…

Fredricka Brecht: Yeah.

Jay Curry: People on his staff. That had to be it.

Fredricka Brecht: So, he’s in that, he’s in a key group and his boss is elsewhere and not in it. Most of them are tied to either my, either of my two groups, the one I transitioned or the one that I’m running today. Most of them are.

Matt Register: When did you identify that peer groups was the way that you needed to go. I mean, because it’s very, very lonely at the top, when you’re running a company. And a lot of these guys don’t even know that that’s a thing, much less that it’s important for them to do. When did you identify it and when did you decide, were you a member of a group before you became a chair of a group?

Fredricka Brecht: I wish I had been a member of a group. I tell you. So Steve Brody, a chair here in Houston, got my name and he talked to me about it. And I honestly thought it was his idea, his group. I’m listening to him over breakfast tell me about this and I’m saying “This is brilliant”. I, I used to run the international division of a public company and I would love to have been in a group. I think I could have qualified, it just would have been great. So I’m giving him all this credit. I’m saying “Steve, you’re the smartest guy I ever met. This is just the greatest idea.” He said “No, no, no. This has been going for 60 years. You know, there’s like 20,000 members in 14 countries”.

Jay Curry: Not his idea.

Fredricka Brecht: “Not my idea, wish it had been my idea.”

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: Yeah. But I mean it just appealed to me right away, it just makes so much sense.

Matt Register: Well talk to me a little bit about some of the changes you’ve seen in your members. You have some very successful members and some, some guys who have grown their company exponentially by, by harnessing the power of their peers. Right?

Fredricka Brecht: Yeah.

Matt Register: Tell me a couple of stories about somebody, some of the success stories, on what they’ve been able to do, you know…

Fredricka Brecht: Yeah.

Matt Register: Utilizing this tool.

Fredricka Brecht: Well, you’ve interviewed a couple of them. One you hear about a lot is So, Jay Steinfeld joined, I think in 02 or 03, when he was in a small office on Beechnut. We’re both friends, we both enjoy car talk. And he named his company no, No Brainer Blinds. And it was, you know, how they do that, at no brainer square and so on. And it was really a small office. And then he just did marvelously, learned a lot of lessons over the years. Sold. Did bring in some outside funding. I mean, from a cash flow standpoint, he had absolutely brilliant, brilliant model.

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: He didn’t own the inventory. So, and you know, online retailers are paid in advance. So you don’t have a working capital issue.

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: But he was growing fast enough, he did bring in some outside investment and then he eventually sold to Home Depot.

Matt Register: Sure.

Jay Curry: Huge success story.

Fredricka Brecht: And I sure Lowe’s wish they’d gotten him instead and, you know, probably long list of people. So, that was very successful. A number of members have sold out over the years, sometimes it’s private equity.

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: I have had some members who were public. So, while they grew the business, their version of success is, they got promoted to home office in Paris.

Jay Curry: Right.

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: So, Vallourec and Mannesmann was a member for years. That’s typically that departure, it’s to private equity with a sale.

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: Or it’s a promotion.

Jay Curry: So, you’ve seen people like Jay, that have taken their businesses from small, come into your group, leverage the power of the group and just have immense success. 18 years doing this, probably by far the most successful in Texas and the number one chair. What, last year or the year before?

Fredricka Brecht: I think it was the year before.

Jay Curry: Yeah, yeah. And just the cream of the crop as far as chairs are concern. You’ve got to have wonderful stories, around.

Fredricka Brecht: Well, I would say that one of my observations about my groups is that I view Vistage as a good to great model. It’s not a weak to good.

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: It doesn’t work.

Matt Register: They got to have a solid foundation before you can…

Fredricka Brecht: Right. So we’ve got to have a, well said, a foundation on which they’re building. So, I think that’s the chairs obligation to make sure that the people that are presented to the group are in the good to great mold, mode and that they are focused on growth. So, for a lifestyle company, where, you know, the guy taken over a million bucks a year and he’s pretty happy about it.

Jay Curry: Could care less. Yeah.

Fredricka Brecht: He’s not thinking about the competition or anything like that. It’s frankly going to bore the other members.

Matt Register: Yeah.

Jay Curry: And they’re not, they’re not going to put a lot of life into the group. Right?

Fredricka Brecht: Yeah. And one of my observations about leadership is that people are at their best when they’re in service to others.

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: So they have this opportunity, in this group, to serve others. And that’s for them, one of their, if they didn’t know it before, they learn it.

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: And that’s a point of maturity. But when they join, they’ve said “I want to be a better leader.”

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: “I want better results and I want to make better decisions.” So intellectually, they get it. That’s why they join. But now, it turns into a little more than that.

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: Right.

Jay Curry: Of course.

Matt Register: But that’s the reason that they join but they’ve already made the decision. And it’s not something where you’re having to convince somebody, you really need to grow your company. It’s, you know, they’ve already made that decision, you’re just giving them the tools to be able to do it. You’re giving them exposure to other peers who have a… I always found this interesting having been a member and having been a member of a couple of different flavors of Vistage groups is, as unique as we all think we are, we’re not. And other people have very, very similar issues that, that we do. It’s just not the people that, you know, I’ll never forget the first time I started running a company and realized that all of my buddies and all of my friends, they no longer have the same issues that I have. Right?

Fredricka Brecht: Yeah, yeah.

Matt Register: So, anyway, we’re talking to Fredricka Brecht, Master Chair with Vistage and the National Chair of the year for Vistage. Very, very big deal. This is a Profiles in Leadership segment. Guys, right there on the Web site you’ll be able to find it. Fredricka, I want to thank you very, very much for joining us. This has been fun. What is the easiest way for somebody else to learn more about Vistage, should they want to?

Fredricka Brecht: Oh. They can go to So they can read all about it there.

Jay Curry: Yes. We ought to spell it out, V I S T A G E. We’ll put it on the Web site folks.

Matt Register: Yeah. We’ll have a link right there from…

Fredricka Brecht: Dot com.

Matt Register:

Fredricka Brecht: My, my groups happen to be full and the groups are, you know, positioned a little differently. So, it’s good to speak to one of the marketing people at Vistage, if you’re interested.

Jay Curry: And get a good fit.

Fredricka Brecht: And have a conversation and find… Because my groups, my group averages about 100 million.

Matt Register: Sure.

Fredricka Brecht: And some of the other ones average 20 million.

Matt Register: Yeah. You need to find, find a group that a fit.

Fredricka Brecht: Talk to somebody at Vistage.

Jay Curry: Call Vistage.

Matt Register: They can do that for you. Wonderful. Well guys, we’ve got to go pay some bills ourselves. We’re continuing to talk about peer groups. We’re talking about executive coaching and we’re not done. We got a whole lot more Texas Business Radio coming back, coming to you, right after the break. We’ll be back. We’ll be back.

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About the Author
Matt Register

Matt Register

In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.

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