Comprised of more than 20,000 leaders in 123 different countries, YPO-WPO is the world’s largest network of peers that connects members to exchange ideas, pursue learning and share strategies to achieve personal growth and professional success. Since 1950, YPO has transcended geographic and cultural barriers to inspire members, promote lifelong learning and address the challenges leaders face every day.
YPO’s core mission is to develop “Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange.”
The Power of Peers
No other leadership organization screens its applicants as closely as YPO, because true peer-based learning is the foundation of the YPO mission and experience. YPOers learn from their peers; they exchange ideas, ask for advice, and share best practices in an open and trusting way. CEOs have access to a lot of information and to smart subordinates yet to few peers who are walking in similar shoes. YPO’s strength is a membership of qualified peers eager to learn and interact and grow as leaders.
The YPO Chicago Chapter
YPO’s Chicago Chapter was founded in 1951 by George Victor of Victor Gasket Corp. to facilitate idea sharing and leadership development among young Presidents in the Chicago area; YPO Chicago was the second YPO Chapter in the world after the original YPO chapter in New York City. Original members included Bill Croft of Pyle National; Larry Haggerty of Warwick Electronics (father of Tim Haggerty); Lyle Spencer of SRA; and Bob Merthaler of Playskool Toys, among others. Early meetings took place at the Chicago Athletic Association (“CAA”), where a small group of members would sit around a table, have lunch, discuss issues, and play cards. There were no lavish dinner parties or speakers in the early days, only common interaction among members wanting to help each other succeed in their business and personal lives.
YPO Chicago experienced rapid growth in the 50’s, adding such prominent members as Bob Galvin of Motorola; Harold Mayer of Oscar Mayer Meats; Fred Wacker; and Leonard Lavin of Alberto Culver.
In the 60’s, meetings moved to the Drake Hotel. At this time, membership requirements were $1 million in annual revenues and 50 employees. Additional members came on board including Dick Duchossois of Duchossois Industries; Bob Pritzker of Marmon; Ed Rusk of State Farm Insurance; Don Hindman of Time Industries; and Alex Vogl of Wilton Corporation. “Chapter Retreats” became popular in the 60’s as the Chicago Chapter traveled to Pointe Claire, Alabama, Acapulco, and other destinations. YPO Chicago adapted to the times in the 70’s, adding spousal events and admitting women for the first time. Area Conferences began to flourish and YPO Chicago led the way with incredible resources and events.
Forums began in 1978 as a way to share information in a smaller group setting, since membership had increased to more than 100.
By the 1980’s, YPO Chicago had grown close to its present size and featured leading Chicago CEOs such as Howard Dean, Pat Ryan Sr., Jack Keller, Gordon Segal, Barry MacLean, Craig Duchossois and Larry Levy. In 1986, Jim Liautaud and eight other members founded the "Chicago West" chapter (now known as YPO Windy City Chapter) to recruit new members west of the City. Today, Windy City has about 120 members. In addition, a new Chicago chapter was formed in 2005 called “Chicagoland” and has over 80 members.
YPO Chicago enjoyed a resurgence in the early 2000s, recruiting an increasing number of leaders of Chicago’s emerging entrepreneurial companies (including a number of Chapter Chairs) as the city of Chicago enjoyed an entrepreneurial renaissance. In the early 2010s YPO Chicago became the first chapter in YPO International to create a funded, dedicated program focused on Youth and Family as well as the first to do the same with Spouse-Partner programming. The chapter also turned its large size into an advantage by creating a robust series of small group networking opportunities within the Chapter through industry groups as well as a variety of other small group settings. In an effort to recreate the close relationships between members that existed in the Chapter’s early days, the tradition of a full Chapter Retreat was resurrected in 2014. One hundred ninety members and spouses/partners spent five days together in Napa creating a better connected chapter with programming representing the best of Napa Valley and Silicon Valley.
Today, YPO Chicago has over 190 members and ranks as the second largest metro area chapter in the world. Much has changed since 1951, but the Chapter’s mission remains the same - to facilitate idea sharing and leadership development among the leading young presidents in the Chicago area.
YPO Chicago Today
YPO Chicago today continues the proud tradition of featuring as members the leading Chicago Area CEOs under the age of fifty. YPO Chicago members consistently cite their opportunities to get to know other members in small groups as the most meaningful experience in their YPO years. The Chapter is built around the mission of “Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange” with an emphasis on driving engagement, especially in small group contexts where members can truly get to know each other. Major Chapter initiatives include:
· Education: The cornerstone of Chapter programming is the Education agenda, led by the Chapter Education Chair. Education programming spans a broad array of topics including executive education, life/personal growth, leadership, strategy, as well as social and family events designed to bring the Chapter together in dynamic ways. YPO Chicago typically holds 8-9 all-Chapter education events per year as well as a number of smaller “In the Boardrooms” with leading executives in Chicago.
· Networking: Networking in the YPO context is about getting to know other members in a quality and substantive context. Networking events include industry network lunches/happy hours, Leadership Dinners (modeled off of the Economic Club’s successful series), Dine-Arounds, and other high quality small group settings. YPO Chicago Networking also connects members to the many popular professional and personal networks in YPO International.
· Youth and Family: YPO Chicago has a long tradition of children feeling a part of the organization. The Chapter has had YPO Chicago-only days at Wrigley Field, Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field as well as YPO Chicago-only “Night at the Museum” sleepovers at the Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium. Programming also includes parenting workshops with world renowned experts as well as workshops for children of various ages.
· Spouse/Partner: YPO Chicago is very committed to integrating spouses/partners into the fabric of chapter life. Monthly Chapter events typically invite members and spouses/partners. In an effort to better connect spouses/partners to the Chapter and one another, the Chapter also typically hosts three to four fun and topical Spouse-Partner events annually.
· Forum: One of the mainstays of YPO experience is being part of a forum. Forums typically consist of 8-10 members and meet monthly. Spousal forums are also available.
· Chapter Retreat: Chapter Retreats are an important part of YPO Chapter life. Given the size of YPO Chicago, the Chapter Retreat is a vital way to enable members to meet other members and establish meaningful relationships beyond forums. YPO Chicago intends to hold retreats bi-annually.
· Membership: YPO Chicago seeks a membership consisting of the leading YPO eligible CEOs in the Chicago area. We are seeking members that are highly additive to the dynamics of the Chapter, are leading interesting businesses and are true “peers” of the existing membership. YPO Chicago requirements are dramatically higher than YPO International standards and differ quantitatively for mature vs. high growth companies. Because of the tremendous interest in joining YPO Chicago the Chapter is unable to accept all who meet the quantitative criteria. Candidates unlikely to be successful are generally referred to other Chicago area YPO chapters.
The Pritzker Group
The Tie Bar
Instant Technology, LLC.
Immediate Past Chapter Chair
To become a member of YPO/Chicago, prospective candidates are advised to review the membership criteria and if you meet the requirements complete the Online Membership Application.