After a career in healthcare management, Clarence Silvia wanted to do something to give back and help businesses succeed.
Now, Silvia is the president of the Central New England chapter of The Alternative Board, an international company which invites business owners to take part in helping other businesses succeed, while gaining valuable help for themselves.
“Our mission is to help business owners achieve their goals,” Silvia said. “We do that through peer advisory and individual coaching.”
Approximately 6-10 business owners meet once a month. At the meeting, there is usually a general presentation on a business topic, but the real crux of the meeting is when the businesspeople bring up issues or concerns that they have, and seek the advice of the others. After the collective advice has been gathered, the member is asked to make a commitment to accomplish a goal by the next meeting, based on what they’ve heard.
“Everyone will get to present an issue, and everyone will walk away with what they are going to do,” Silvia said, adding that the commitment strategy provides more motivation than a goal a business owner may have on their own.
“I offer that structure, to the extent they want it,” Silvia said. “We can talk about what you’re going to be doing over the next month, or two months, and I’m coming back. They know I’m coming, and that provides some accountability that they might not otherwise have had.”
Silvia said he had a member who was having a difficult time with an employee. Her commitment was to come back with an outline of the expectations for that person, which had never been done.
“It was about setting those expectations and then holding the employee accountable,” Silvia said.
Another member was having trouble growing his business. His task was to indentify new groups of people to market to. His business was flat, but then it took off, Silvia said.
“He knew what to do. He came up with the answers. It was just about drawing that out of him,” he said. “If he was just in his office working, he wouldn’t have done it.”
The board meetings also provide a confidential forum in which business owners can talk about issues they are having, and be open about them. Unlike traditional networking, a businessperson can openly discuss their financial operations, personnel issues, and other topics that they often can’t discuss anywhere else.
He also meets with each of the members, one-on-one, to provide coaching sessions. Silvia helps them develop key performance indicators, to make it easier to track goals.
“If they are having difficulty with it, we talk about how we can get it back on track,” he said, adding that he also helps the businesses develop long-term strategic plans.
Members, Silvia said, are held accountable to each other, by mutual responsibility.
“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “They’re there to provide their expertise. It’s not only them getting advice, it’s them giving it. Participation is essential.”
Silvia has been with TAB for only about 18 months. He was previously the president of the Hospital of Central Connecticut and was senior vice-president of Hartford Healthcare.
“At this point in my life, I wanted something to do,” he said. “I didn’t want to completely retire. I really enjoy helping these people – these business owners – to move forward.”
Working with the smaller businesses after a career in the corporate world has been an eye-opener.
“I have an appreciation I had never realized for what they do – what they do for their community and their businesses,” he said. “The risks they take on a daily basis – it’s really phenomenal.”
Based out of his home in Manchester, Silvia helps businesses in Hartford and Tolland counties, as well as the Middletown and Greater Springfield areas.