How Startup CEOs are Learning & Growing as Leaders: Interviews with JuntoIII

When I first joined the JuntoTeam, the JuntoApprentices were a little more than halfway through the second cohort. Having never heard of Junto before nor grasping what exactly the program was about, I was immediately struck by how motivated each startup company was to get the most out of their JuntoExperience.

Before heading back to college, I was able to attend Rich Lyons’ Class on Building a Sales Team. Though I couldn’t relate to most of the information that Rich discussed, there was still something so powerful about seeing every person engaged in the class and genuinely wanting to learn. Being in college, it’s pretty rare to see students 100% engaged in a class because of technology, lack of sleep, or even boredom. But that’s not the case with Junto. Each person that attends the Class wants to be there and wants to become a better leader.

Since the beginning of our third cohort, I’ve heard a lot about how the JuntoApprentices are “leaning in” to the program. When I finally had the chance to talk to the CEOs themselves, I was excited to hear about their experience thus far. While each of them has had personal breakthroughs these first few months, some common themes arose during our conversations:


CEOs often feel alone at the top and find it difficult to find individuals that can relate to what they’re going through. However, as Andrew Parnell of Earlybird put it, “It’s good to hear that [the other CEOs] are going through the same issues that you are.” The JuntoIII CEOs have been reaching out to one another to talk through their issues and have found that speaking to other CEOs allows each leader to dig into their own situations and even find holes in their organizations. Recently, Andrew met with John Shafaee of Medtelligent to talk about numbers and share experiences around a sales strategy, and that is just the beginning.


The Junto Institute taps into the expertise of seasoned CEOs and entrepreneurs, so for many of our JuntoApprentices, learning from individuals who have been in their shoes is invaluable. Kristi Zuhlke of KnowledgeHound explained that learning from Mentors and Instructors who have experienced what she is experiencing, “helps you feel that what you’re going through isn’t abnormal and that this is just part of the gig.” From a financial growth standpoint, Kristi explains that her team understands more of the market and what KnowledgeHound’s roadmap might look like. They also understand each other more and recognize the extent to which individuals contribute to the company’s success.


Following every class, Michael Patak of TopstepTrader and the rest of his team go to lunch to digest the information they’ve just learned and that Michael wrote in his “Junto Notebooks”--a notebook that he uses for Junto only material. Michael mentions that the lunches have “been effective, efficient, and helpful to the team and their understanding.” This understanding has translated to Michael’s improvement in letting his team get more involved in making decisions and running the company. Similar to the other CEOs I spoke with, Michael and his team are learning that the company succeeds when the team succeeds.


Following each CEO Forum, the JuntoApprentices are assigned a habit to practice until the next Forum to improve their leadership skills. Peter Rahal of RxBar explains that as a CEO, he’s already improving on “delivering compliments, being grateful, and acknowledging when team members do good work.” Peter also mentioned how adopting these habits have changed him as a leader and his business as a whole. Things that these CEOs weren’t even thinking about six months ago have become regular occurrences in their daily lives.

With only four JuntoClasses under their belt, each CEO is seeing improvements in their companies and in themselves, which is exciting for them and especially exciting for us. Each cohort brings with it new companies and new CEOs, and with only two months complete the JuntoApprentices have so much more JuntoExperience to grow from.