Mark C. Zweig, Chair Vistage NWA Groups
I grew up in Kirkwood, Missouri. I started my entrepreneurial career selling bicycles on our street corner at age eight or nine. I also cut lawns. By the age of 12, I got my first “real” job working at Kirkwood Cycle Shop. From there, I worked for three other bike shop owners in about ten different stores. I also bought and sold cars and motorcycles. I had more money than any of my friends in high school, and although as a young child I thought I wanted to be an architect, I got seduced by the world of business. I went to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where I got my business degree in three years and my MBA in one. My first job after grad school was working for a consulting firm in St. Louis. I then was recruited by a client (The Pickering Firm), and moved to Memphis, first as Director of Project Development and Human Resources for their operations in Memphis and Little Rock, and shortly after for the whole firm. I became an owner there at the age of 25 or 26, and was recruited by another former client (Carter & Burgess) in Fort Worth, for a similar role to the one I had at Pickering—first as head of HR and then shortly after as Director of Marketing as well.
In 1988, we moved to the Boston area where I started Mark Zweig & Associates—the management consulting, publishing, research, media, and training firm that is today known as Zweig Group. We grew by 30% annually for 13 years in a row and were twice named to the Inc 500 List of Fastest-Growing Privately-Held Companies. In 2004, we sold the company to a private equity firm, Cardinal Growth, and relocated to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I had started teaching entrepreneurship one night a week at the Walton College of Business earlier that year. In 2005, I started Mark Zweig, Inc., a design/build/development company. It grew rapidly throughout the real estate recession and was named to the Inc 500/5000 List in 2014.
In 2009, Zweig Group was taken over by its mezzanine lender, and in 2010 I was recruited back to turn around my old company which was now in a decimated state. With the help of a friend who is now my wife, Sonya Stout, we got the firm back on track and bought it back from the lender in 2012. Zweig Group was once again named to what was now the Inc 500/5000 list in 2013, as we grew by more than 60% between 2010 and 2012, and went from losing $1 mill+ annually to becoming very profitable. We sold our interest in Zweig Group back to the company on a 15-year deal in 2018. At the same time, we started to wind down our development and construction company, Mark Zweig, Inc., which by that time owned about $22 mill in investment properties.
Over the last half of 2000 and throughout the 2010s, I expanded my teaching role at The Walton College, first to a ¾ time post and now to full-time as an Entrepreneur in-Residence. In September of 2021, I assumed the chair role for the Vistage NWA Groups, taking over the two groups assembled and led by Chuck Hyde over the last several years.
Throughout my career, I have worked with several thousand CEOs and managers of AEC firms throughout the US as well as foreign countries, and helped them with every problem from strategic planning, to ownership and leadership transition, to mergers and acquisitions, marketing, and more. I have written several thousand articles and authored a number of books, and have a new book coming out shortly, entitled, “Confessions of an Entrepreneur.” I write a weekly editorial for The Zweig Letter, a subscription-based publication for owners and managers of AEC firms worldwide, and have done so for more than 30 years. I am a leading contributor to the “Walton Insights” blog on The Walton College website. I am a regular contributor to The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. And, I have given hundreds of talks at a wide variety of national, state, and local events, sometimes to crowds as large as 2000 people.
Additionally, I’ve been a founder or co-founder of four other private companies, including a reading clinic, baby products company, and bike shop. I have served as an outside director on the BODs of at least a dozen private companies, ranging from $0 to $200 million in revenue. I have also served on three university boards for two different universities, the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Board, and am currently on the Board of Directors of Miyamoto Relief, a non-profit that provides a wide range of projects in third world countries struck by natural disasters.
My wife, Sonya, and I live in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She and I have worked closely together in our businesses for the last 11 years. She is my sounding board and has always provided me with wise counsel. I have four daughters and one stepdaughter, ranging from age 10 to 34, and two grandsons. My interests include art, architecture, antique and special interest cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. In my youth, I was involved in a wide variety of motorsports racing. In my middle age, I modified and restored cars, hot rods, and motorcycles. I have owned more than 400 cars and 300 motorcycles, including a number of prize-winning restorations. Our houses have been published in Better Homes and Gardens, At Home in Arkansas, Renovation Style Magazine, Citiscapes Magazine, and many others. We have received many awards for our buildings, including “Developer of the Year,” “Best Historic Restoration,” “Best Adaptive Reuse,” and more.
I thought long and hard before exploring, and eventually accepting the leadership role for the NWA Vistage Groups. At the time I was contacted about the opportunity, my wife and I were researching various small businesses to acquire. We had sold our ownership interests in our primary business, and also sold a tremendous amount of investment properties over the last three years. That freed up a lot of time and mental energy. Over the last several years, I have been rededicating myself to my teaching New Venture Development and Small Enterprise Management at The Walton College, where I have been a faculty member for 17 years. I’ve spent a lot of time in coffee shops, on our porch, on phone calls, on Zoom meetings, and meeting face-to-face with current and former students that I’m mentoring. But I still felt I had more time and energy to give—and Vistage was a perfect use of my experience as a business owner, consultant, confidante, teacher, mentor, and board member—which, along with my extensive personal network here in NWA, should help us grow our groups.
Over the years, I’ve had a number of people tell me how valuable their Vistage memberships have been to them. The truth is Vistage fills a desperately needed role for so many owners and managers of privately-held companies and other organizations. These leaders often feel they have no one to talk to who understands what they are going through—both the positive aspects of their work and the challenges they face. Not to mention the inextricable link between work and personal life we all are faced with, and the reality that whatever we are experiencing in one area of our life greatly impacts all other areas. Vistage peer groups are made up of a wide range of people—but people in many ways facing similar challenges—those who know what it is like to run a complex organization with clients, customers, partners, employees, suppliers and other constituents to please and who depend on them.
I know how valuable outside directors can be to any organization. Having an entire board of eight, or ten, or twelve or more outside directors can be extremely helpful to navigating both the opportunities and challenges we, as leaders, face. The fact that Vistage member private companies grow 2.2 times faster than non-Vistage private companies is tangible evidence of the value Vistage memberships provide.