Geoffrey Dyer plunged into the fitness industry with one health club in 1982, but now boasts of having more than 50 throughout the Southeast and Midwest. As Lifestyle Family Fitness co-chairman and founder, Dyer could easily point to that success and shift into cruise control.
Yet Dyer continues to seek advice and counsel through the CEO Council of Tampa Bay.
"I try to sit back and do less, but I've found out that I really enjoy the passion of being engaged," Dyer explained. "I've found the CEO Council to be a rewarding experience for me personally."
The council traces its roots back to 1992, but even after 19 years it continues to maintain a low profile. Membership hovers near 200, with the prospective chief executive officer needing an invitation to join and a resume of leadership of a company with a minimum of 25 employees and $3 million in revenue.
The Tampa-based group now looks to truly bridge the bay, having significantly increased its number of Pinellas members in the past year. Dyer, the council's first vice chair, says the trend will definitely continue.
We recently spoke with Dyer about the council.
Are you still learning when you meet with your fellow CEOs, even after all these years of success?
Absolutely. You should always want to be learning, otherwise I would be very fearful of what's around the corner. I think the thirst to learn is inherent in an entrepreneur. I continue to go to all the trade shows. I still go to educational sessions, and I find my peers in the back of the room as well with their pencils and pads. The passion to learn, I don't think that ever goes away. I hope it never does.
Is the council also an opportunity for you to give to others?
I find my involvement with the CEO Council to be extremely rewarding mainly because a third of the members are smaller companies that have a passion to grow. They're thirsty for information, they're thirsty for education, they're thirsty to learn, and that's a great thing. You can't beat the adrenaline that goes with people that are hungry to succeed. Some of us that might have come from a bigger company today remember when we started in a very small company. I think there are a lot of people in the CEO Council that want to see young professionals accelerate their growth and challenge themselves.
Tell me about the effort to get more Pinellas members.
Approximately 72 percent of our members resided and worked in Hillsborough at the beginning of this year, and only about 13 percent resided in Pinellas. But this year, we've put a much stronger effort in trying to recruit Pinellas-based CEOs. Of the 40-odd members we've added this year, more than half have come on the Pinellas side. … When you look at all the businesses that generate more than $5 million a year in revenue, I believe there are more than 1,200 companies in Hillsborough and more than 1,200 companies in Pinellas. If you only have a voice in the Hillsborough community, you're not really representing the interests of the Tampa Bay area.
Why is it important to have members from both sides of the bay?
As a community, we've been very much divided, and I think that's something that a lot of business leaders are very much aware of — that in order for us to be a great, vibrant community, we need to act as one. I know we, as a group of CEOs, would like to see more of a unified approach to community representation, and I think that is the big upside for our community. If we can do a better job of coming together as one and become one dynamic, vibrant, local community, I think we'll be a more appealing area for businesses to want to come and live and work here.
It seems like it's a pretty powerful and influential group, but not a lot of people know about the council. Have you intentionally kept a low profile?
It is one of the best-kept secrets. We've done a great job of serving our membership, and as a consequence, that membership is growing in leaps and bounds. To add 40 members in one year on a base of about 165 members, it's quite remarkable. And our attrition rate, the number of people who drop off, is negligible. At (a recent) retreat, we actually talked about branding and public relations, and the conclusion was that we don't really need to do that. We need to continue doing a good job of serving our membership, and if our membership is happy, they will naturally want to bring their peers and get them engaged.
Ernest Hooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.