Signs of worldly success abounded as members of the Young Presidents' Organization met at a mansion in a tony New Jersey suburb. BMWs, Lexuses, and Mercedes-Benzes lined the manicured lawn. Waiters in starched shirts and bow ties passed out vegetarian canapés. And about 20 executives--heads of midsize outfits selling everything from custom audiovisual systems to personal grooming products--mingled poolside with their spouses on a late September evening.
After heading inside their host's sprawling hillside house--replete with glittering chandeliers, marble floors, and gilded rococo mirrors--the guests retreated to a basement room, shed their designer loafers and sandals, and sat in a semicircle on the carpet.