Maximizing Your EO Membership
It's rare for anyone who starts their own business to have a completely smooth ride. Ask any entrepreneur what they learn from the most and they're bound to say their mistakes. I'm no different. In the decade since I launched my retail-leasing business, I've lost it, restarted it, rebuilt it, sold it to add the right partners, expanded to Russia and Germany, and merged with my biggest competitor. The fact that I'm still working in my business is due in no small part to EO.
When I joined my chapter in 2003, I decided to give back by becoming a Membership Chair. The following year, I attended my first Global Leadership Conference (GLC). It was an incredible opportunity that I knew would help me better understand the importance of member leadership. But while I was excited to learn, I had other things on my mind. Five months earlier, I discovered that our investors’ company was facing financial difficulties. We shared offices and finance departments, and there were some accounting irregularities between the two businesses. Before we knew it, the bank put us into recovery, and we had to manage both companies on a combined cash flow.
So there I was, five months later, surrounded by thriving EO leaders at GLC … and my company was falling apart 3,663 miles away, its founder unable to pay the debts. Between breaks, I was calling my business partners and investors, trying desperately to prevent my business from going under. A few weeks later, our investors’ company went into receivership, and even though our rent was paid, a bailiff locked us out of our offices. Thankfully, I managed to persuade him to let me in one last time so that I could box up important files. In that moment, I was completely lost. I had no direction, no support and seemingly no way of recovering.
Then it occurred to me— I should call my Forum, that group of likeminded peers I met with every month. I called up a Forum mate, filled him in on my situation and asked for support. Within minutes, two EOers helped me set up my business in my kitchen, where I would continue to work until I got my feet back on the ground. In the weeks that followed, and after frantic rounds of fundraising, I found two venture capitalists who believed in my business; they bought it out of receivership and started rebuilding. Thanks to my Forum, I was able to save my company.
The assistance I received from EO reinforced in me the importance of having a strong support system. I am living proof of the benefits of belonging to EO. If you ever find yourself in a sticky situation, here are three ways you can maximize your membership value:
Think of your Forum as family: Your instinct might be to turn inward when things go awry, but this is the time when you need to lean on your EO peers. Your Forum, in particular, will be able to support you more than you know. For me, my Forum is like a second family full of people who are ready to share their experiences and provide alternative perspectives. Take advantage of your Forum, especially when you feel like you have blinders on and need help solving key issues.
Get involved in EO leadership: You’re an important entrepreneur with little time for hobbies, friends or family ... and then somebody asks you to join a chapter board. Do it! I used to be too busy as well, and then I realized how much I could learn, and I began to engage EO on a local and regional basis. It grew my coaching, influencing and communication skills, and it also helped me build my network, which comes in handy when problems arise.
Leverage your skills and personality traits: Since I joined EO, I’ve discovered that my peer relationships have helped me become more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. Before EO, I was very “tell” directive, which not only caused offense but also meant people relied on me for all of their direction. Now, I am continuing to develop a more consultative, collaborative and coaching approach, which allows me to be more successful in my communication and influencing skills. This I attribute to EO.