What do you get when you put four dynamic and game changing CEOs in a room together with a well-known and respected marketer who has launched 25 brands?  The answer:  A lot of great takeaways.

Last week the Harvard Business School Association of Boston had its 7th Annual CEO Roundtable—Building Leading Brands and Driving Growth.

The CEOs were: Pete Bevacqua of PGA America; Brian Kelley of Keurig; Sandy Fenwick of Boston Children’s Hospital and Roger Berkowitz of Legal Sea Foods.  The panel was moderated by Larry Gulko, Founder and CEO of TechnoHome.

First question—what has made yours a great business story? Sandy Fenwick said for Children’s it’s “never forgetting it’s all about the kids.”  She added that “innovation is in our DNA.”  Roger Berkowitz said for Legal Sea Foods, it’s a “maniacal focus on food.”

They were asked about the challenges they see for their businesses and all of them were remarkably candid in their responses. Perhaps no one more than Pete Bevacqua, who said that the game of golf “has to look different if it’s going to survive.” Diversity, he said, is a priority. He also talked about the influence of technology on the game and the difficulty of maintaining the ban on bringing your phone while you watch a game. He said that is simply unsustainable in this day and age.

Sandy Fenwick also discussed the influence of technology. She said technology is “disrupting the care model.” Children’s is 100 percent on electronic medical records, so when the system went down for six days in March, the hospital faced challenges in communicating with patients and their families. Children’s has also adopted “Open Notes,” which allows patients and families to read their doctor’s notes. Fenwick also dubbed telehealth as a “disruptive technology” for hospitals and healthcare.

Here was an interesting question from moderator Gulko:  “What are you selling?”  Roger Berkowitz remarked that he is selling – quality assurance and trust—“return of guest.”  Sandy Fenwick – optimism and hope, “if not today, tomorrow.” 

And when asked to give an example of an idea that went south, Roger Berkowitz told a funny story (surely not funny to him at the time) of deciding to dabble in the wine business and buying a vineyard in France without having a real understanding of the French system and all that meant. Needless to say, it was an experiment that didn’t last.

The panel was a rare opportunity to get insights from the corner office.  Thank you to Harvard Business School Association of Boston for hosting!