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Getting Good At Saying “I Don’t Know”

Peer roundtables provide a resource to help solve the questions you don’t have the answers to

(image credit: Getty Images)

If someone asks a question, do you feel the need to know the answer right away? I used to until something happened a few years ago when a switch flipped, and I started saying “I don’t know” a lot more. Of course, I usually followed up with, “but I know who does” or “I’ll find out.” Instead of my worst fears coming true and everyone running away from me because I didn’t know everything, I started getting more and more questions and challenges hurled my way.

My accidental passion for “not knowing” everything started to catch fire in 2008 when I joined the Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs), a peer roundtable group where business leaders from all types of industries get together to work on their companies for four hours every month. Each meeting focuses around a presentation aimed at helping one of the members through a specific challenge in the business (think topics like toxic employees, legal challenges, and growing pains). The group then uses Gestalt principles to help each other using shared experiences vs. giving advice. This element ensures no one gets their feelings hurt and it’s a great way to align a group of Type A personalities together through storytelling.

CEDIA began offering a similar program in 2015 called CEDIA Groups. I stepped up and started running CEDIA Group 1 a few months later. We’re in our seventh year together and still going strong. CEDIA Groups is made up of integrators from all over the world with the same mission: helping each other grow. We meet virtually monthly and in-person once a year at CEDIA Expo.

There are a ton of other resources inside and outside our industry available to make your world a little less lonely and get you in the zone to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” on a daily basis:

  • CEDIA Groups: Our trade association offers roundtable experiences to its members, making sure to keep all its groups non-competitive.
  • ProSource: The CI channel’s largest buying group offers a group roundtable experience to its members meeting monthly on a virtual basis and in-person at ProSource conferences.
  • VITAL: They sprang from the teachings of Steve Firzst and Paul Starkey and are now led by industry veteran Matt Bernath. VITAL is oriented around helping drive profitability in CI businesses by getting each client on a consistent chart of accounts and easy to understand financial dashboards.
  • IntegrateU: The training company recently started a roundtable group for its subscribed members aimed at comparing financials and key performance indicators (KPIs) on a quarterly basis across multiple integrators and geographies.
  • Vistage: This coaching group usually features a passionate local executive leading the charge and offers membership to a wide array of business professionals, including members of your leadership team.
  • EO: The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is designed for businesses generating at least $1mm in annual revenue. Their local chapters feature monthly roundtable discussions with members from all sorts of industries
  • YPO: The Young Presidents Organization is a pretty elite group. It’s for company CEOs under 45 with payroll north of $2 mm or sales in excess of $13 mm.

If you’re into the idea of tapping into intelligence at scale, one of these groups could be a great fit. We’ve grown over six times at Livewire because of our VACEOs and CEDIA Groups membership.

What will you do this year to say “I don’t know” more and tap into the intelligence of others?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.

This article originally appeared on

About the Author
Henry Clifford is president of LIVEWIRE, an integration firm in Richmond, VA. He also serves on the CEDIA Business Working Group and writes a bi-monthly blog for Residential Systems.

See also: How To Achieve A Sustainable Approach To Tech For Your Business