30 years ago Allen Fishman was part of his family’s business when they were sold to a regional public company. As so happens with a lot of those transactions, Allen was able to stay on for a few years as an executive and ended up attending his first board of directors meeting. Allen looked around him and saw the amazing reality of multiple intelligent people coming together to discuss business issues. He wasn’t able to utilize that when he was at the company earlier and thought to himself, “Everyone should be able to have access to a board of professionals that can help discuss business issues.” When Allen left a few years later he started The Alternative Board, also known as TAB, in Denver, Colorado. TAB has grown into a worldwide organization since then with chapters all over the country and the local Pittsburgh chapter has a strong relationship with us at Enterprise Bank. I sat down with Glenn Flickinger, owner of Pittsburgh’s TAB, to discuss TAB and what the small to medium size business owner needs to know about this company.
What TAB does is bring business owners together in a group of their peers to discuss business topics that are relevant to them. Each month, a business owner will meet with a group of their peers for approximately four hours where each member will bring up a topic they need to be counseled in. Since you meet with the same people every month you get a unique view into different companies and industries. Each board, of which there are seven at present in Pittsburgh, has a TAB coach that acts as a sort of “chairman” of the board. The TAB coach works with each business owner on an individual level but also facilitates discussion during the meeting. Glenn emphasized that the coaches are indeed coaches and not consultants. “I would never say anything negative about consultants, there’s a time and a place for them. But, consultants will leave eventually and our coaches stay with you as long as you are a member of TAB.” Each coach will go to meet with the members of their board individually once a month to develop a plan to further their business goals. The coach is also available whenever the member needs them; they’re just a phone call or an email away. Glenn discussed that even though the members they have operate across a wide range of industries, including B2C and service companies, around 85% of the topics discussed are the same. “No matter what industry you’re in you’ll tackle problems in marketing, HR, finance, and other topics,” he said. Ultimately there ends up being 200+ years of experience around that table and that is a priceless resource. Currently TAB is available in 11 other countries and Allen Fishman’s son-in-law, Jason Zickerman, is the President & CEO of the present company. Allen’s daughter is involved with the company as well in the International side of the business. TAB prides itself on being family owned and operated just like much of the companies they work with.
Glenn Flickinger is a banker by trade with experience in both commercial and investment banking in the Pittsburgh area. In 2007, he started the Pittsburgh franchise of TAB in the South Hills. In February of next year he will be celebrating 10 years in business with 68 members involved. “Something I take pride in is the fact that out of the 18 companies we started with, 10 are still members 10 years later,” he explained to me. It’s obvious that Glenn takes a lot of pride in being in such a unique business and being able to help people on a daily basis. Glenn’s role in TAB as the owner of TAB Pittsburgh is all-encompassing. Glenn facilitates and coaches two boards and also oversees all the sales and marketing efforts to recruit new members. Currently at TAB Pittsburgh there are 7 boards, 6 of which are owners boards and one which is a key executive board. The owners boards are exactly as described above while the key executive board is designed for key executives and management of companies, who are not necessarily owners. Next generation owners generally take advantage of the key executive board to gain experience before they take the reins in their company. The members of TAB come from companies that range from all sizes. The core 80-85% of companies involved in the organization are somewhere between $1 million and $20 million in size.
As we came to the end of our conversation I started wondering about how Enterprise Bank and TAB came to get to know each other. Glenn explained that one of our clients was a member of TAB and that was how he was connected to our Loan Development Officer, Dave Miller. As the years have gone on we have also found that a number of our clients are also members of TAB. When Glenn is helping one of his members get connected to financing he always introduces them to multiple banks, but Enterprise Bank is always on the list. Glenn describes his relationship with Enterprise as “very positive” when I asked him. “My members always have a good experience when they work with Enterprise. They’re experienced, knowledgeable bankers.”
My last question was to Glenn as a business owner and someone who works with business owners: What is your best advice for those looking to start a business? His response was clear and simple. “Get sound, trusted professional advice from multiple people who have been there and done that successfully,” he answered. And that’s exactly what you can do at TAB, get sound professional advice from those that are on the same path as you. To learn more about TAB Pittsburgh please visit their website at http://www.tabpittsburgh.com.