Entrepreneurs Organization is the opposite of peer pressure
South Florida Business Journal - by Kevin Gale
It might be the entrepreneurial equivalent of hitting the wall. Leonard Goldberg, who has a charter aircraft business said: “I had a growing business and got to the point where I needed more help and feedback.”
Fortunately, for him, that was just about the time he got a fax about the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), which provides him with the equivalent of a “kitchen cabinet” – where he can confidentially talk about his business and personal issues with others who run businesses.
Goldberg said part of the roots of EO date back to five friends who were shocked when one of their other friends committed suicide. They wanted to create a safe haven where members could not only talk business, but about personal issues, as well.
“It’s not a group where you are worried about people stealing your business,” he said.
South Florida’s EO chapter has been one of the nation’s fastest growing in recent years, reaching 120 members. Mark Sanna of Miami, a retired doctor with a background in health care management, said EO helps with the 5 percent of decisions that entrepreneurs find difficult sharing with other managers – some of the most difficult choices they have to make.
The structure includes meeting with other forum members, groups of about eight, once a month for four hours. It’s serious business: Show up late and you get a $200 fine. Miss two meetings in a row and you get the boot.
Incoming chapter President Michael Pool said: “EO was a great place to be when 9/11 hit. In his case, he owned a company that provided pay-per-view movies in hotels, and revenue was hammered by the lack of business travel after the attacks. He recreated his business as a private cable company that he eventually sold to Comcast.
“The situations you have are embarrassing, but my peer group was there to talk to,” said Pool, who now lives in Florida’s Hollywood.
During the recession, everyone had increased employment issues, Goldberg said. Health care, cash flow, lending and social media are some other popular topics.
During a lunchtime meeting, members could only talk about their own experiences because there is a veil of secrecy over anything that another member is experiencing. They were reluctant to hand out business cards, because EO is about helping each other, rather than publicizing their own businesses.
Almost all the new members come via referrals, Pool said. A membership chairman calls, does an initial assessment for qualifications, and the prospects are invited to a membership luncheon. One thumbs down from any member is all it takes for a prospect to get rejected, Sanna said. About one-third of prospects don’t make the cut.
Goldberg and Sanna organize outside speakers once a month. They also have wow events such as getting to take the wheel of a private jet or seeing a simulator used to train sheriff’s deputies.
One challenge for the group is adding female diversity. Pool said about 40 percent of the members in the Silicon Valley chapter are women, but it’s only 2 percent to 3 percent here.
Goldberg said the group has had a reputation as a “boys’ club,” but both he and Sanna noted they have two women in their forums.
The Entrepreneurs Organization
Web site: www.eonetwork.org
Local chapters provide general insights and connections with peers.
Smaller forums within chapters serve as sounding boards.
A mentorship program provides one-on-one interaction.
A member exchange allows connections with 25,000 other members worldwide.
Qualifications: To join, members must be under 50 and be the founder, co-founder, owner or controlling shareholder of a company that grosses more than $1 million. (Those with venture capital-backed companies below that level must have at least 10 full-time employees and have raised $2 million privately or $5 million publically.)
For an application, e-mail the South Florida chapter at [email protected]
South Florida chapter
Year started: 1997
Total sales of members’ companies: $1.32 billion ($4 million median)
Total employees of members’ companies: 4,557 (13 median)
Age range: 27-52 (41 median)
Dues: $3,500 (excludes $1,000 initiation)
[email protected] | (954) 949-7520