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How a CEO’s Social Life Impacts Company Performance



The conversation starts to pick up on the cart ride between the 8th and 9th holes. The CEO of a small but growing business casually mentions that he’s thinking about expanding the company’s operations, investing in new facilities, and hiring a larger staff. His golf partner, a board member at another firm, asks questions and offers advice based on his own experience.

A productive discussion ensues and, by the end of the back nine, the two part ways feeling more informed about their anticipated investments.

This common scenario represents more than just a chance networking opportunity. It could also yield measurable benefits for each company’s economic performance.

Executives’ influence on company performance extends well beyond the corporate boardroom. When they’re not at the office, they serve on boards at nonprofit organizations and social clubs. They play golf with former colleagues and get drinks with old classmates. Often these associates are other executives who are knowledgeable about the current business climate; when the small talk winds down, the shop talk begins.

Just as someone would recommend a restaurant or movie to the rest of his or her group of friends, executives who share social circles tend to give each other advice: whether it’s a good time to make corporate investments, open a new plant, or hire employees. In most cases there is nothing underhanded about these conversations, provided no inside financial information is being exchanged.

Cesare Fracassi, an assistant professor who studies executives’ social networks, says these interactions can equip corporate leaders to make more educated decisions and improve their companies’ financial performance.

“Social networks help to create more informed decisions,” Fracassi says. “When I have more friends, I can decide what restaurant I want to eat at, what movie I want to watch, and how to invest.”

Go with the Flow

In a recent study, Fracassi traced the social ties between 30,860 executives at 2,059 companies over the course of nine years, identifying connections between those who overlapped at school, held management positions in the same company, or had memberships in common social clubs or nonprofit organizations. Next he looked at company decisions, especially investment patterns.

Fracassi observed that companies led by socially connected directors increased their investments at similar rates, while companies with less-connected executives tended to follow more distinct strategies. This occurs because when one member of a social circle decides to ramp up his or her investments, the CEOs and directors of other firms in the group are inclined to follow suit, Fracassi says.

“The more social connections two companies share with each other, the more similar their investment policies are,” the study reports. “In addition, two connected companies change their investment policies over time more similarly than two companies that are less socially connected.”

This tendency is known as informational cascade. And Fracassi says it’s often a good thing.

It Pays to be Social

Being in the loop gives a firm access to a large volume of information to guide financial decisions—but does all that insight translate into good decisions? Fracassi found evidence that when a group of knowledgeable executives starts talking, it pays to be part of the conversation.

“There is evidence that suggests that where the CEO and directors are more socially involved, the company is more profitable,” Fracassi says. “The information they receive helps the company to make the right decisions.”

Specifically, companies that are positioned more centrally in the web of social networks tend to have better economic results—including greater firm value and a higher return on assets—than those on the social fringes, the study reports. That bump could result in a jump in performance of 5 to 15 percent.

Because the word-of-mouth information passed through social networks flows freely and at a low cost, it’s advantageous for companies to collect as much of it as possible.

“A strategic position in the network gives a player a competitive informational advantage relative to other players that are less connected,” Fracassi writes.

Keep Your Friends Close … But Not Too Close

While the research indicates that staying connected to outside social networks can benefit a company’s financial performance, Fracassi says the opposite may be true for close social relationships among directors within the same company—specifically between the CEO and the board of directors.

In a 2012 paper, Fracassi and co-author Geoffrey Tate of the University of North Carolina detailed the risks associated with that type of scenario.

At most companies, board members are charged with monitoring the CEO and holding him or her accountable for poor investment decisions. But if the CEO and directors are connected through outside social ties—say, they worked together in the past, went to the same school, or are members of the same non-profit organization or club—the monitoring tends to be weaker.

In this scenario, the board tends to be more lenient toward the CEO, even if he or she starts growing the company too rapidly by making unwise acquisitions or unproductive investments. This, in turn, can lead to a dip in the company’s share price, especially for firms that have weaker shareholder rights.

The study also indicates that firms with powerful CEOs are the most likely to add new directors who have pre-existing connections to the executive, strengthening those social bonds.

Fracassi says this outcome isn’t always the result of a conscious distortion by directors who want to cut a friend some slack. Rather, it’s that people are naturally more trusting of someone they know.

“But this trust leads to CEOs making decisions that harm shareholders’ value” in the form of unwise merger deals, he says.

Some argue that close ties can help improve the exchange of information between executives at the same firm. But overall, Fracassi’s research suggests that on balance, the negative effects from these internal social ties often outweigh the potential advantages.

“A well-functioning board of directors provides both valuable advice to management and a check on its policies,” the study’s authors write. “An effective director should not just ‘rubber stamp’ management’s actions, but should take a contrarian opinion when management’s proposals are not in the interest of the firm’s shareholders.”

A series of legislative measures, including the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, have taken aim at boardroom corruption, but Fracassi and Tate have found little evidence that those policies have significantly discouraged the practice of stocking boards with familiar faces. The researchers identify internal networks of CEOs and board members as “an effective target for future governance reform.”


About the Author

This article was written by Rob Hendrick of Texas Enterprise, a business blog that shares the business and public policy knowledge created at The University of Texas with the world. Rob was born and raised in Austin, writer Rob Heidrick has spent several years as a contributor and editor at local magazines and community newspapers. He earned an English degree from Davidson College in 2006 and a Master’s in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2008. Before joining the Texas Enterprise staff in November 2010, he was a senior editor at Community Impact Newspaper, overseeing three publications in Williamson County. see more.


“When Adam Draper does Crypto Standup, Singapore listens”



I live and work in Singapore and Santa Monica. Yes, I am blessed. However, my life has been by design, I think of what I want and so I make my life choices and make them happen in my life. Hence the bi-continent living and that comes with bi-continent and now global community living, being and ecosystems building. So I am now never surprised when one part of my world meets another.

I went to Wavemaker Partners venture capital event this evening, keen to meet Adam Draper, who is one of the many great presenters at Crypto Invest Summit, April 30- May 2 in Los Angeles.

Since I actively support leaders who are building scalable, sustainable businesses and movements for the betterment of many; of course I am learning about Blockchain and Cryptocurrency. I had been keen to report on the Crypto Invest Summit as I would be back in May to LA for my PhD programme. I was in communications with the organizers. However, I am being awarded an award at the Women Economic Forum in Delhi that same week and could not be physically present.

Still I wanted to report on the event, somehow.

I wanted to listen to the speakers and support some of the speakers who are already friends and experts I rely on for greater insights on cryptocurrency. I like learning and sharing with the greater audience, I have in Asia what I am learning from the US and vice versa. So I feel I had my chance tonight to do a bit of that.

I could not help but smile as Adam Draper shed light into his world of investing in more than 85 crypto related products because he was such a breath of fresh air to the last few Blockchain and Financial conferences I have been reporting on; especially here in Asia.

He just says it like it is.

He kept stopping the audience when they said Blockchain and he said, “You know you really mean cryptocurrency.”  He hit the nail on the head because I have seen so clearly how this phrase had been said in Singapore time and again – “I am not into cryptocurrency but I believe in Blockchain.”

When he said how there was an incongruity as he sat across bankers who personally invested in cryptocurrency and when faced with an inbound of requests from their clients on the same investment; are tied by regulations and are unable to respond.

Here’s some of his best lines. If you don’t laugh or “ah-ha” the way I did, you probably just had to be there. The truth is funny because it calls out for something we all see but sometimes just do not want to admit.

There is a growing understanding of the underlying thematics that the cryptocurrency world has been experiencing as the interface between centralize; de-centralize and personal autonomy becomes more and more apparent and lines get drawn.

Adam Says:

1) The newest phenomenon is that some of the ICO founders are now just so rich from their ICOs that they really don’t need to work on the project they asked for money for.

2) For the crypto-world, money doesn’t matter anymore!
They need talent

It’s so founder friendly now.

3) What Bitcoin made us ask is “What is money?”

The next question is “What is government and governance?”

He highlighted if an entrepreneur is looking for a problem to solve., then the entrepreneur is always looking for horrible industries with poor services and high costs. So yes – Governments are those horrible industries and they need to be disrupted.

4)  Any company who comes to an investor and leads with how much ICO has raised; is a red flag. Leave immediately and go read a Harry Potter book instead.
If they are leading with value and not the problem they are solving. Beware. (read more here

5) If you are going to invest in where the brains are. It’s in crypto.

6) Philosophically, Coinbase is against ethos of what Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency movement is trying to do. However to do such a move from fiat to digital currency, there would need a way to do that. So Coinbase acts like a browser does for internet. One day there will be no need to cash in or out as everyone is already there on digital. Cryptocurrency is the exchange of value. His advice and we know his bias as he is invested in  Coinhako; is to hold onto an exchange for 3-5 years since onboarding of all users to the new digital currency will take some time.

Adam met with many banks and government bodies on his trip to Singapore – I hope they got his truths.

I ended the night by thanking Adam for making me laugh. He reminded me of how much I miss LA.

Want more of this?

If you are in LA on April 30 – May 2.



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Callum Connects

Adrian Reid, Founder of Enlightened Stock Trading



Adrian Reid escaped the rat race and became a knowledgeable trader. He now shares his trading knowledge and empowers others to take control of their stocks.

What’s your story?
After working 12-16 hour days in the corporate world for many years I had a moment of realisation on the 1 hour bus ride to work. It was here at this moment in time, I realised that I felt trapped, desperate and isolated. Trapped in a job I hated, and a life I had not designed. I had long been interested in investing, but I made the decision at that point to become the best trader I could possibly be and escape the rat race.
My dream was to be free; free of the 9 to 5, the commute, the stress and the exhaustion. I threw myself into my stock trading research and study and emerged 3 months later with the trading rules that would ultimately buy me my freedom. I am now retired from the corporate world, I trade full time and share my knowledge with other aspiring traders through my online education program which puts them in control and empowers them to take control and accountability for their trading results.

What excites you most about your industry?
So many people are trapped in jobs they don’t like or are feeling immense financial pressure in their life. Trading education is typically done extremely badly today because of the conflicts of interest in the industry. Fund managers want to hold onto your money forever; brokers want you to trade more frequently; forex brokers want you to use more leverage. Why? Because that is how they make their money.
By teaching traders how to develop and test their own stock trading systems I am able to empower them to find trading rules which fit their own personality, objectives and lifestyle. This is the only way for new traders to be successful. This process transforms people’s financial future, their relationship with money and wealth and gives them hope. I love that!

What’s your connection to Asia?
I recently spent 3 years living in Singapore which I absolutely loved. This put me in a good position to observe the other Asian markets. As a stock trader I am interested in many markets and economies around the world, however the Asian markets have some of the best potential for trading profits. I have traded stocks in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo and I have developed trading systems that work in many other Asian markets as well.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
My favourite city is Singapore. After living in Singapore for 3 years my family fell in love with the city. Life is great in Singapore for the whole family and the pro-business and investing policies of the government make it a wonderful place to build your financial future as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
On a personal front: Find something you love, throw all your energy and passion into it.
On the wealth front: Spend less than you earn and invest the difference. Take control of your finances and always accept 100% responsibility for your investment decisions.

Who inspires you?
My wife Stephanie inspires me. Her commitment to everything she does, her compassion, her insights into people and her ability to uplift those around her, make me want to be a better person.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
No matter what we think we know, there will always be a different perspective that can change our opinion. In my own trading, I continually find that the truths I cling to are not absolute and they can be misleading if held onto dogmatically. Striking a balance between taking a stance and knowing when to change that stance based on new information is critical in all areas of life.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more action earlier on. My fear of mistakes (which still limits me on occasions, like most people) has always proven to be baseless. Playing small to avoid the embarrassment or pain of mistakes is very limiting and I would have taken more action earlier, if I had my time again.

How do you unwind?
To unwind I like to read, meditate, run and ride my mountain bike in the forest.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I just love the small island resort at Batu Batu. It is beautiful, isolated, quiet and surrounded by clean water, full of sealife. After a week at the resort I felt like a different person.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto. This book teaches the art of clear and structured communication. My time working as a business strategy consultant gave me a great appreciation for the importance of communication in business. Clear and effective communication can solve a myriad of challenges in your business and professional life, and as a strong communicator your employment prospects, business relationships, team performance and family life are all dramatically improved.

Shameless plug for your business:
Enlightened Stock Trading ( is the only stock market trading education business that empowers you, as an individual trader. It shows you how to design and test your own unique stock trading system that fits YOUR Personality, Objectives and Lifestyle. We have no conflicts of interest and we are focused on teaching you how to trade stocks profitably in a way that fits your life.
After working through the Enlightened Stock Trader Certification Program you will find yourself confident and empowered with your own battle tested trading system and trading plan to guide you through the markets.

How can people connect with you?
Email me directly at [email protected] or through my Facebook Page (

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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