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Chris Straw of Team Quality Services

“The virtual aspect of PeerSpectives helps with time constraints right off the bat by eliminating the travel burden," says Chris Straw.

As CEO of Team Quality Services (TQS), Chris Straw leads an Auburn, Indiana-based company that provides a wide variety of quality-related services, including field representation, inspection, energy, engineering and safety, along with an accredited metrology lab. Straw launched TQS in 1997 and has grown his company to more than $15 million in annual revenue. To further scale the business, Straw joined a virtual PeerSpectives CEO roundtable in April 2018.

“The virtual aspect of PeerSpectives really appealed to me,” Straw says, explaining that he had investigated other roundtable formats, but was reluctant to join. “For one thing, the tables I looked into were based in Indianapolis, which would have meant a two-hour drive each way,” he says. “PeerSpectives helps with time constraints right off the bat by eliminating the travel burden — and it was much more affordable.”

The PeerSpectives roundtables are led by professional facilitators, who ensure the sessions are productive and results-driven. Each roundtable group is assigned a facilitator who is trained to use the PeerSpectives protocol, and Straw’s group is facilitated by Dino Signore. “Dino does a great job of keeping discussions at a level playing field and making sure everyone participates or at least has the opportunity to contribute,” Straw says.

Granted, relationships may be a little slower to develop in a virtual setting, where members communicate on video, Straw admits. “There aren’t breaks where you walk together to the restroom or parking lot and talk about something completely different. Yet after a few meetings, our personalities are starting to come through more, and everyone is more relaxed. The camaraderie happens, it just may take a little longer.”

Among early outcomes, Straw got input from his fellow roundtable members about financing a new corporate headquarters facility. “The process is much different than just getting a mortgage for your house,” he points out. “It was really helpful to hear the experiences of other business owners about the timing, what to expect and lessons they had learned.”

Perhaps an even bigger takeaway was learning about the Entrepreneurial Operation System® (EOS), Gino Wickman’s framework for growing a business. “I heard other table members talking about VTOs and had no idea what they meant,” Straw says. “So I Googled the acronym — one of the nice things about being in a virtual meeting — and it sounded like a good fit for my company.”

After getting input from his roundtables members — both during the roundtable meeting and later in offline conversations, Straw decided to move ahead with EOS. Although in the early stages of implementation, he gives the system an enthusiastic thumbs-up. “I never would have heard about EOS without this peer group, which I took as a good sign I would be getting value out of PeerSpectives.”

Even when his issues are not discussed during the roundtable meeting, Straw finds the sessions both valuable and gratifying: “In hearing the problems of others, you realize you aren’t alone or the only one with challenges. What’s more, in many cases their challenges are something I’ve encountered previously and have been able to share how I solved it.”

The roundtable helps ease the inherent isolation for anyone sitting in the C suite, Straw adds: “Early in your career, there are other employees to talk with about navigating problems on the job. Yet as you move up the org chart, your challenges change and the number of people you can share those struggles with dwindles to only a few. By joining a peer group, you open up new opportunities for conversations and perspectives.”