Chairing with Head and Heart
Chair Robin Stanaland goes the distance for her members.
“True servant leader” is an expression often used to describe Vistage Chair Robin Stanaland. For more than 14 years as a Chair, she’s been known for putting members front and center in everything she does.
There’s the story of when Stanaland who, during a one-to-one session, pushed her member to go visit a doctor when he kept grabbing at his back. After finally getting it tested, he called Stanaland from the hospital asking her to come right away. She arrived to discover he had days to live. She sat at his bedside, and for the next several days, they processed the fact that he was dying, what they would do, and how they would handle it. She reassured him that she would do everything within her power to make sure his family would be OK, and that his business would be looked after as he wished. And Stanaland did — even creating a tiger team of the member’s advisory group to educate his daughter on how to run the business.
Stanaland and many of the members drove 90 minutes every week to meet with his daughter and teach her what they knew. In the first year, the member’s daughter generated more profit than her father ever had.
And there’s the time that Stanaland’s Vistage group visited New York City together when a member’s business was going public. Over the course of that year, the group helped him process and prepare for the event, and they were present for the ringing of the bell.
“It was exciting and a great bonding experience for us. It also showed members what’s possible,” she says, adding that he became the No. 1 builder in his space in the U.S.
It’s this level of dedication that has won Stanaland just about every high honor Vistage offers. It is also this level of service over time that has earned her Vistage’s highest and most prestigious recognition: the Don Cope Award, given to the Chair who has made the greatest lasting contribution to the Vistage mission and purpose.
Stanaland first joined Vistage in 1998 as a member when she was responsible for growing and running an IT consulting firm. Within five years the company grew from startup to $18 million in revenue. The business was then acquired, and the new owners retained Stanaland to oversee the Houston division. Soon after, she started her own merger and acquisition firm, offering intermediary services to midsize companies.
While she was a Vistage member, Stanaland says she always knew that she would be a Chair. “My membership was instrumental in my ability to build a company. I had never done it before. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was in a group with members who were really tough on me — and I really needed that. They had navigated the path I was navigating. Being a member was transformational for my business and in my life. It made a huge impact.
“Now I have the privilege to be able to help members transform their lives — to be there to help them through transitions and challenges … to be that person who they can go to for anything, whether it’s personal or for their business. It’s an honor to be someone they can trust, be vulnerable with, and who has their back, no matter what,” she says. “They know I will do anything to help them.” Today Stanaland describes Chairing as “the most rewarding and meaningful” work she’s ever done. “It is a privilege to play on the 50-yard line of their lives. If you care deeply for people, you love the work,” she says.