Shortly after Brian Cohen joined the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), a friend suggested he attend YPO’s executive education program at the Harvard Business School. YPO, and its counterpart for older executives, the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO), is a network of 22,000 CEOs in over 125 countries where CEOs can learn and grow through idea exchange. Cohen was skeptical. “I already went to business school,” he recalls saying. “What do I need this for?”
Then president of the financial services division at Farmers Insurance Group, Cohen soon found camaraderie and practical help for problems at his own company. Fourteen years later, Cohen is still a member, having chaired the Harvard program for the last seven. Now, he’s launching the YPO-WPO Berkeley Presidents’ Program.
“Berkeley made me set my sights so much higher by questioning the status quo,” Cohen says. “Now I want to expose YPO to the Berkeley experience.”
Cohen likens his work to running a startup. “The Harvard program is very traditional,” says Cohen. “This one will be much more holistic. It will go beyond marketing or sales or branding to exposing participants to ideas and practices they might otherwise have never been exposed to.”
The inaugural YPO-WPO Berkeley Presidents’ program is planned for November, with Haas Professor Toby Stuart as faculty chair. YPO members will attend lectures and workshops led by UC Berkeley faculty and Bay Area business leaders—and meet students.
“It’s always stimulating to converse with students,” says Cohen. “You always learn something.” —Mike Rosen
Operating Partner, Altamont Capital Partners
Palo Alto, Calif.