Hanging With Young Presidents, Raptors

“YPO” does not stand for a magnificent valley on Hawaii Island (Waipio) or a countryside suburb west of Pearl City.

YPO stands for Young Presidents Organization.

Founded in 1950 in New York City, YPO seeks to provide young business CEOs – especially those with an entrepreneurial bent – education in best business practices, and a world class network of peers. Now grown to international proportions, the organization today boasts 20,000 members in 125 countries with a mission statement: “Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange.”

The word “young” in the title isn’t just to flatter the members. The man or woman seeking membership must be under the age of 45 and be the CEO, president, managing director or the equivalent of a company that fulfills the minimum size and revenue criteria (a financially successful enterprise). When reaching the age of 50, the member must leave YPO and may then transition into World Presidents Organization.

The value of membership is manifested in the collegial nature of the organization at all levels – local, regional, national and international – seeking to provide unique experiential and educational opportunities. Members are encouraged to involve spouses and families in such opportunities whenever appropriate, which is most of the time. The aforementioned membership criteria of “minimum size and revenue” tends to guarantee financially successful and well-connected members. Members capitalize on their own resources and contacts to ensure their YPO events at all levels provide both rare experiences and unprecedented access to all levels of government, business, military, sports and cultural sectors.

YPO universities usually feature a rich menu of speakers and resources to address all aspects of the members’ lives and businesses, as well as special-interest tracks for family members of all ages.

A university may feature foreign dignitaries, celebrities, well-known athletes and cutting-edge medical practitioners. Frequently, after the evening programs, anyone wishing to spend more time with a speaker may attend a comfortably located “fireside chat” with the speaker, where the conversation may flow easily in any direction.

My first YPO experience occurred about 30 years ago at national “university” held at the spanking new Hyatt Maui at Kaanapali built by the late Chris Hemmeter, himself a YPOer, where the elevator carpets were specially woven to read “Aloha YPO” and one of my fellow speakers was the new Polish ambassador to the U.S., as Poland had just broken free from the USSR.

Over the years, I’ve spoken at many memorable YPO events. Just this past week, for example, I spoke to the Oahu YPO chapter meeting hosted by the Hawaii Air National Guard (HIANG) at Hickam AFB. Although the Wing consists of a C-17 squadron for logistics support missions, a squadron of KC-135s, inflight refueling tankers and a communications squadron, we focused upon the “sexier” F-22, Raptor Fighter Squadron, and were briefed by several members of the Wing in the pilot’s briefing area, in the pilot’s flight gear locker trying out night-vision goggles, and on the flight line ooohing and aaahing over the Raptor up close and personal. The Raptor embodies the very newest technology in “stealth” design and enhanced maneuverability. Its speed and flight characteristics are sensational, but details are classified.

The tour was followed by dinner and a program (at which I spoke) at Sam Choy’s beachfront restaurant, only a stone’s throw from the HIANG flight line.

Yes, “up close and personal” really defines many of the unique opportunities afforded YPOers and their families. From my personal experience over the years, most members are quite unpretentious, which may be a contributing factor to their financial success.