Sage CEOs Predict Profit/Job Growth for 2019

Confidence in reaching profit growth this year is so high for top San Diego-area executives that no layoffs are planned, most plan to hire and their biggest concern is recruiting and retaining talent. At the same time, they express little concern about the controversial immigration and tariff policies of the Trump presidency.

These are key findings of a comprehensive survey of 67 Chief Executive Officers whose companies in San Diego and Orange counties employ more than 8,000 workers and generate more than $5 billion in annual revenue. The survey, which is a key barometer of the health of the Southern California economy, was commissioned by Sage Executive Group, a peer advisory organization for business leaders. The CEOs, who are Sage members, run a wide swath of businesses in technology, real estate, insurance, law, wealth management and hospitality.

“I am pleased to note that Sage member CEOs are focused on profitability as compared to revenue growth, said Sage Executive Group CEO Jerry Rollins. “Too many companies these days think top-line growth is the most important factor, but Thomas J Watson, the founder of IBM, stated, “business is built on net income” and those principles are true nearly 100 years later.

The survey found that two-thirds of the CEOs polled are highly confident of achieving profit growth this year, and the remainder are moderately confident. For eight out of 10, “creating a success-driven company culture” is a top priority, but only half express confidence in being able to achieve this goal.

Ninety percent of the CEOs indicated that increasing profitable sales is still their most important challenge and fewer than half were confident they could achieve profit expectations. They said their major obstacles are recruiting, cultivating, and retaining leadership talent and raising the capital needed for expansion.

Only 12 percent of those polled said the last year’s federal tax overhaul was “extremely” beneficial to their business and a large majority, 70 percent, rated it as “moderately” beneficial.

Two of the least important issues were immigration and new tariffs. Almost three-quarters of the CEOs consider “navigating new immigration regulations” as their least important concern, and almost that many rate “navigating increases in tariffs” as a less-important concern.

Sage Executive Group provides top executives in the San Diego and Orange County areas an opportunity to meet monthly in peer advisory groups to address and solve the most critical issues impacting their business and personal lives.

For more information, contact Sage Executive Group at (800) 648-1063 or visit

Introduction to Augmented AI

Bates Artificial Intelligence
Alex Bates, a ground-breaking entrepreneur in Artificial Intelligence, spoke to Sage Executive Group about the “augmented mind.”

Alex Bates poised a provocative question about the relative value of machine-driven Artificial Intelligence and human-inspired intuition in a Learning Event talk sponsored by Sage Executive Group on June 5.

Bates, a serial Artificial Intelligence entrepreneur who has written a book titled “Augmented Mind,” cited the famous chess match between world champion Garry Kasparov and an IBM supercomputer called Deep Blue in 1996. Almost as expected, the AI machine won. But what was unexpected was the outcome of matches pairing a human-supercomputer team against another AI computer or another grand master.  The augmented team prevailed, and Bates said that is an example of how Artificial Intelligence will augment human performance.

As new AI applications are invented, including the idea of “creating a world that doesn’t break down,” Bates said that bold and brave initiatives will need to be taken. “If fear guides what you build, you will build it with that perspective,” he said, citing construction of the Empire State Building using new techniques employed to this day for skyscrapers.

His book explores the creation of a global mastermind network of AI technologists and researchers, with membership from UCSD, Caltech, MIT, Harvard, Oxford, USC, and other leading institutions and companies.

In 2006, Bates co-founded Mtell to harness the onslaught of sensor data in the industrial Internet of Things. The company’s machine-learning platform is used to monitor industrial facilities to anticipate problems and protect equipment and personnel. Mtell was acquired in 2016 by AspenTech, the global leader in process optimization software.

Bates is currently Technology Chair at an AI accelerator called Sandbox in San Diego and Director at Neocortex Ventures, helping launch AI startups from synthetic biology to music & entertainment.

In his concluding remarks to the business leaders who attended the event, sponsored by Sage Executive Group, a peer advisory organization based in San Diego, Bates said: “Start to embrace the concept of augmentation and how AI can help you.”

Sage Members Experience Wim Hof Method

Everage, JeffAs a Navy Seal and trainer in the Wim Hof method, Jeff Everage found a receptive audience in the group of Sage Executive Group members who gathered for a quarterly learning event on April 19.

Everage, wearing jeans and a black polo shirt, led members through breathing techniques used by Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete noted for his ability to withstand extreme cold. The ultimate goal, Everage explained, is to confront the physical and mental challenges of climbing into a tub of ice and to learn breathing control as a pathway to better health.

“Breathing gets you there,” Everage said. “Ice REALLY gets you there.” The method, he explained, pushes you to what you think is your limit an beyond, bringing greater awareness that leads to “relaxing into stress, modeling for others and knowing you got this.”

Everage also runs a business, Trident Proposal Management, that specializes in consulting for  government contracts.

The breakfast event was held at the Corporate Alliance business hub in San Diego.


Kourie Listed as Top 10 Industry Leader

Kourie, LawranceLawrence Kourie, a Sage Executive Group member and San Diego-based entrepreneur, was named one of the Top 10 Industry Leaders to Watch in Yahoo!Finance.

The story distributed in April by the AccessWire news service cited Kourie for his multiple ventures::

“A franchisee and owner of eight gas stations, car washes, and convenience stores, he’ll be launching the first Kangaroo Convenience store in California. Kourie currently generates more than $70 million in revenue per year and is also a principal in a leading Crypto Hedge Fund. If that wasn’t enough, in his ”spare” time he is helming a stealth health food QSR project and has plans to expand globally in March.

Spreading his bets among different enterprises has helped Kourie generate the resources necessary to expand into other ventures. The quintessential evolution from employee to entrepreneur evident in the way he has moved from gas stations to finance, but Kourie is more than a hard worker. He has strategized and leveraged his resources so that he is involved in both stable as well as high-growth industries, which is a great position for success given the uncertainties of 2018 and its shadow into 2019.

Grainger’s Mavenlink Raises $48 million

Grainger, RayRay Grainger, CEO of software maker Mavenlink and a member of Sage Executive Group in Orange County, received press attention in the Orange County Business Journal for raising $48 million in a Series E financing round.

Mavenlink makes cloud-based software to help service companies manage projects. Grainger  told the Business Journal in September that the company plans to nearly double employment within 18 months to more than 320 workers at its Irvine headquarters.

Mavenlink has raised $112 million since its 2008 inception.

CEO: The Evolution of Stone Brewing

When Dominic Engels came to Stone Brewing in 2016 as its new CEO, he encountered a changing beer industry with “a lot of tumult in the craft beer world to come.”

engels1The “whole category was changing,” he said in a talk with members of Sage Executive Group in March at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station. In rapid fashion, Stone opened a brewery in Berlin, Germany, another in Richmond, Virginia, a tap room in Shanghai, China and another in the Berlin city center, plus a brewery and restaurant in Napa.

His job now is to sustain Stone’s position as the ninth-largest brewery in the United States and to chart its future, which includes “continued growth” and continued innovations on the craft brew front.

Engels succeeded the brewery’s founding CEO, Greg Koch, and works closely with Stone’s co-founder and President Steve Wagner, who is a long-time Sage member. When Engels was hired, Wagner said he was the best ‘cultural fit’ for an iconic craft brewer that has grown from a small warehouse operation in San Marcos in 1996.

Engels detailed how his interest in beer and corporate management developed for the Sage group of about 50 CEOs and other top San Diego-area executives. He recounted his beer “intervention” while at Dartmouth College when he was introduced to craft beer. And described  how he honed his palate and understanding of beer-making while spending four years in Belgium as General Manager for the Wonderful Company with responsibility for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Before coming to Stone, Engels was president of POM Wonderful, responsible for leading the pomegranate business on a global, billion-dollar scale. It was the culmination of working for 11-and-a-half years with Stuart and Linda Reznick of Los Angeles, the “largest working land owners in California.” The pomegranate business evolved from pomegranate grown on their Central Valley almond farms.

In experiencing the challenges of running those businesses and charting new directions for Stone, Engels puts a premium on understanding the big picture while remaining an active, day-to-day presence. “My job is to really make sure I understand the plate tectonics of the world,” he said. “I think about patterns and play back things I heard during the day,” he said. At the same time, “If I’m along in my office, It’s probably a bad thing,” he said.

engels2As for his tenure at Stone, he said he has reached a point where he is prepared to look forward with a fully formed management team in place and he fully realizes his high-profile role at one of the most-watched beer companies in America. “I’m good at being calm on the ball,” he said, using a sports metaphor. “The eyes of the world are on you.”

The event was moderated by Jerry Rollins, CEO of Sage Executive Group, which operates peer advisory groups for CEOs, presidents, and partners, as well as for C-level executives in finance, operations and sales. The Sage process has been developed by leaders who have over 45 years of collective experience with peer advisory groups.

Sage Panel Discusses Promise, Peril of Cryptocurrency

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The future of cryptocurrency, a form of digital money protected and transported by the internet, is heaped with promise, but also is fraught with peril said a panel of San Diego-based experts at a forum on March 28 hosted by Sage Executive Group.
IMG_0963The word Bitcoin has been added to the financial lexicon in just a few years, and the panel discussed the immense investment opportunities in a wildly fluctuating  marketplace for digital currency. The attention centers on a “global currency not centralized to any one nation,” said, Christopher Moussa, Managing partner of Crypto Capital Investments, a cryptocurrency hedge fund.
The backbone of this evolving internet network was made possible by the creation of “block chains,” sort of like sentry posts along the route of financial exchanges that are a “cheap and efficient way to show ownership of digital assets,” said Charlie Plummer, Vice President of Fintech Initiatives for Silvergate Bank.
Unpredictability and risk come along with the technological change. “I don’t believe Bitcoin will be able to innovate into a space where it becomes stable,” said Stephan Goss, CEO of Zeeto, a targeted ad network for monetizing data. He currently is working to develop a cryptocurrency backed by gold.
Eric Barlow, CEO and Managing Partner of Andina Family Offices, helps guide multi-million-dollar investments  for families with major wealth,. He advises his clients to be mindful of the opportunity and aware of the risk. “Things have to return to fundamentals,” he cautioned, while noting that he already has recouped his investment and more in Ripple, a cryptocurrency designed for banks and global money transfers.
What was clear in the presentation to more than 50 high-powered San Diego business executives is that real money is being invested. When Jerry Rollins, the forum moderator and CEO of Sage Executive Group, asked how many people in the room had put money into cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, more than half raised their hands.
San Diego-based Sage Executive Group is a fast-growing membership network and advisory group for business leaders. What sets SAGE apart in working with the region’s top executives is a philosophy that emphasizes values, encourages business leaders to put people before profits, and advises how to effectively strategize and implement successful business plans.

Firms of seven Sage leaders listed on INC. 5000

Seven companies whose leaders have honed their management expertise as members of Sage Executive Group, a San Diego-based peer advisory organization, were chosen for the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing, privately held companies in the nation.
“Sage Executive Group fosters creative approaches by company leaders to build and expand their business, and we are pleased that their work has generated significant success – and recognition that they are among the fastest-growing firms in the country,” said Jerry Rollins, Sage Group’s CEO.
Here are the seven companies, their CEOs,  and their ranking:
PrescribeWellness, a cloud-based services company that helps pharmacists provide coordinated care and preventative healthcare services. CEO: Al Babbington. Headquarters: Irvine. Rank: #134
Beer Home Team,  a full-service real estate company and also the Number One real estate team in Southern California for the nation’s largest brokerage, Keller Williams Realty. CEO: Daniel Beer. Headquarters: San Diego. Rank: #831.
Pro Back Office, an accounting services firm that offers operational accounting and strategic consulting expertise in San Diego, Phoenix and across Southern California CEO: Jennifer Barnes. Headquarters: San Diego. Rank: #892
PacWest Painting. A third-generation painting company that provides accountability and dedication from large commercial projects to home cabinetry and interior finishes. CEO: Tony Hady. Headquarters: Escondido. Rank:  #2826
Zeeto Media. Collects data by asking questions across Zeeto’s network of publisher partners to integrate with paywalls, registration forms and subscription pages. CEO: Stephan Goss. Headquarters: Rank: #3273
New Horizons Learning Group, an educational services company that offers technical, application and business skills courses at locations in California, Arizona and Nevada. CEO: Kevin Landry. Headquarters: Orange County. Rank: #3910
Dobi & Associates. Sells cedar grilling planks and wraps to warehouse club stores, groceries and restaurants. It also is an international distributor helping manufacturers manage excess inventories. CEO. Glen Dobi. Headquarters: San Diego. Rank: #4986
In addition, Sage member Tommy Reynolds is owner of three Hardcore Fitness gyms in the San Diego region, part of the fitness and training company that has locations from Santa Clarita, California, to Orlando, Florida. The company is ranked #592.
The Inc. 5000 rankings were compiled by Inc. Magazine and are based on percentage revenue growth from 2013 to 2016.
Sage Executive Group establishes and operates peer advisory groups for CEOs, presidents, partners and founders of privately held businesses in San Diego and Orange counties. The Sage process has been developed by leaders with over 45 years of collective experience with CEO peer advisory groups.
For more information, contact Sage Executive Group at (800) 648-1063 or visit

Navigating Change for CEO Success

Farnan, JackJack Farnan, Human Resources vice president for HM Electronics in Poway, learned an important lesson about managing change in an unlikely place – the spiritual home of the Dalai Lama high in the Himalayas.
An avid mountain climber, Farnan was on his way to an ascent in Ladakh when he had a chance to spend  time with thousands of Buddhists who had come to hear the Dalai Lama teach at a  monastery in northernmost India, a refuge in exile from his historic home in Tibet now under Chinese control.
The Dalai Lama places a premium on the “importance of personal change in the world,” Farnan said, and that is a message that can – and should resonate – with the chief executive officers charged with bringing change to their organizations.
Farnan, who has 25 years of experience in identifying and developing executive talent, laid out seven key characteristics of a successful CEO in a presentation to members and guests of Sage Executive Group, a premier peer advisory group based in San Diego. Farnan is currently VP of Human Resources at HM Electronics, a global company that designs and manufactures wireless communication products.
His conclusions are based on research on the requisite skill sets for CEOs to survive and prosper.
Most important, Farnan said, is that top leaders are decisive. Research shows that CEOs with this one trait “were 12 times more likely to succeed.” The components of success then flow from the ability to understand how “personal change” is translated into the workplace. Critical characteristics of these top leaders are:

  • They are decisive.
  • They engage for impact.
  • They adapt proactively.
  • They deliver reliably.
  • They hold themselves and others accountable.
  • They are Level 5 leaders.
  • They have a growth mindset.

Farnan said that ultimately successful leaders lead by example, and “we can do so much with just changing ourselves.”

Speakers Shine at Sage Talks

pic-1You might expect that 10 speakers at a gathering of more than 100 San Diego-area executives would talk about making money, planning strategy and maximizing profits.
But it was people, not profits that took center stage at the annual “Sage Talks” event hosted by the peer advisory organization Sage Executive Group at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar on Dec. 13.
Overcoming personal adversity and bouncing back from professional setbacks were the broad themes presented by many of the presenters, who modeled their 18-minute talks on the popular Ted Talks format.
Jeremy Poincenot, who lost his sight to a rare genetic disorder at age 19 while attending San Diego State University, said he had to learn the “importance of interdependence” when he could no longer pursue the independent lifestyle of a college student. That interaction in the form of coaching from his dad on every shot, helped him win an international blind golf championship.
Aaron Chang, who was a senior photographer for “Surfing” magazine for more than 25 years, received the painful message from a litany of New York agents that his photography was “unmarketable.” He went on to fame and success and now owns galleries in San Diego and Solano Beach that bear his name.
And Stacey McKibbin hit rock bottom on a street corner in Pacific Beach, abandoned by a boyfriend and betrayed by the alcoholics in her family. She pulled herself up to run her own company and speak to hundreds of business leaders about “the key” to achieving leadership.
Videos of the talks will be posted soon on Sage Executive Group’s YouTube Channel.
Other speakers included:
Peter Scott, founder of Fearless Life Academy: “Fear: The Hidden Cause of Stress”
Dan Negroni, founder of launchbox: “Depolarizing Millennial Madness”
Susie Japs, managing director of Wejungo: “Why You Suck at Interviewing”
Sarah Hardwick, president of Zenzi Communications: “Three Ways to Waste Your Marketing Budget”
Gary London, president of The London Group Realty Advisors: “It’s the Top of the Market – Beware”
Patrick Combs, president, Great Thinking Co. “The Greatest Business Story Ever Told.”
Mark Moses, founding partner of CEO Coaching International: “Make Big Happen”
Sage Executive Group is a fast-growing membership network and advisory group for business leaders. What sets SAGE apart in working with the region’s top executives is a philosophy that emphasizes values, guiding business leaders to achieve greater success in business management and performance while also carrying out responsibilities to family, community and personal health.