"I could not have completed a recent merger without the experiences I received from both my local EO forum members and the feedback I received nationally from the EO Member-to-Member Exchange," said William Fistori, president and owner of Covisia Solutions. "It was like having a board of directors, essentially for free.”
The Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) serves as a catalyst to help entrepreneurs learn and grow from each other so they can enjoy greater business success and an enriched personal life. EO also helps business owners connect with other entrepreneurs with similar business and personal challenges. EO members join a selected forum consisting of 8-12 other business owners that serve as a personal board of advisors with local insights and connections. Members also benefit from the ability to tap into an online worldwide network of EO members that can provide experiences in taking-on business as well as personal challenges.
One of the reasons EO has succeeded and flourished for more than 20 years is that the organization relies primarily on EO members with limited outside help to keep the organization running properly. Each chapter also has a volunteer board of members that meets monthly to evaluate how the chapter is performing, organizing events, recruiting, and facilitating all local chapter communication. Forums operate efficiently by assigning one member to be a moderator who receives specialized training based on the EO forum process. The moderator changes every year, which ensures all members of each forum become familiar on how to follow EO processes.
William Fistori, president and owner of Covisia Solutions, is a member of the EO Boston chapter. He joined EO in 1999 as the owner of DeVA Solutions, a $1.5 million IT solutions provider. Since that time, and with lessons learned from his fellow EO members, Fistori organically grew DeVA Systems for nine years by an average of 20% per year. Then in 2007, he purchased and merged with another company to form Covisia Solutions.
"I joined EO to help me grow my businesses and to find out about general best practices," Fistori said. "I like the approach that EO takes having fellow members discuss their experiences rather than giving advice. I also like that I can confidentially ask fellow members about personal as well as business challenges – both areas frequently impact each other."
Fistori added that the business lessons he has learned over the past 10 years have added-up to the equivalent of what he would have learned from an MBA program. "I have learned valuable business lessons based on real-life situations that helped me grow my first company and then merge with another one," Fistori said.
EO has been a big part of Fistori's success, including helping him connect with a business and strategic coach, Bonnie Gorbaty of Inner Resources, who Fistori meets with monthly. "Early on she helped my company and management team develop a three-year plan and put processes in place, including a system we leveraged called Strategic Growth Initiatives," Fistori said. "In the early stages of my business we had no process in place, and we were growing rapidly. I happened to meet Bonnie at an EO monthly event regarding the topic of managing small business growth. That was seven years ago, and we are still working together today.”
The EO online Member-to-Member Exchange has given Fistori what he describes as "a tight-knit group of EO members across the world" that he can connect with for any type of help. "All members are very open to assisting other members, even if you have never met them," Fistori said. "Members are committed to helping each other, and exchanges are confidential. Whenever I post a question, I usually receive 6-10 responses right away. It's a good way to start looking into a challenge before investing money with an expensive consultant."
In comparing EO to other business-owner associations, Fistori said that other associations tend to focus only on business issues and not personal issues, and they tend to give advice rather than discussing experiences. Specific programs that Fistori has launched within his companies because of EO include a quarterly review process, a core value review process and deploying business processes that are effective for a small business. "We did a company-wide, introspective SWOT assessment where we surveyed the whole company," Fistori said. "We built our strategy based on employee input and created internal company goals as well as employee goals. This helped ensure our mission, vision and core values were all tied together."
Through EO, Fistori also learned how to compensate executives (including himself); manage his personal finance; manage his time between business and personal issues; and properly insure his personal and business interests. "EO has enhanced my personal and professional life by giving me the ability to share experiences with other business owners,” Fistori said. "The organization has played a major role in taking my company from $1.5 million to approximately $18 million in annual revenue by 2008."
The Entrepreneurs' Organization is the catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life. Sponsorship opportunities are also available for businesses that would like to gain exclusive access to our network of cutting-edge entrepreneurs in exchange for monetary support and in-kind contributions. For more information, visit the EO global website at www.eonetwork.org.
Entrepreneurs' Organization Facts-at-a-Glance
Total sales of all members worldwide: More than US$111 billion
Total members worldwide: More than 7,300
Total number of workers that members employ worldwide: More than 1.2 million
Total number of chapters worldwide: 116
Number of countries represented: 42
Average member age: 40
Average member sales: US$17.3 million per year
Average member employees: 185