If you met me 20 years ago, you would never think I would become an entrepreneur. Having been on the fast track all my life, I had always envisioned success as climbing the ladder in Corporate America. After about 13 years in the Corporate world, I became disillusioned with the lifestyle of a corporate executive. After reading a book called The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley and Danko and decided that I wanted to become an entrepreneur to have freedom and control over my life. I convinced my husband/business partner, Louis Biron, to join me in my entrepreneurial adventure, and we purchased the assets of a trucking company.
Two years later, the Great Recession hit. We sold off all our trucks and pivoted to become One Horn Transportation, a freight brokerage where we used other trucking companies to move our clients’ freight. We moved to a home office. I was out networking to generate business, and every event was doom and gloom about the economy and the Great Recession. Then I went to an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) event where people were positive, upbeat, and excited about working to build their businesses! EO is a peer-advisory group with 12,000 members worldwide in 160 chapters in 50 countries.
There is a whole subculture of peer-advisory groups out there. As an entrepreneur working from a home office, it can be a bit lonely. When I was working in large corporations, there were always people around to bounce ideas off – peers in my department, colleagues in other departments, and even my boss – but as an entrepreneur, even though I have a business partner, I found that I missed that human interaction and learning. I tried several peer-advisory groups, but found the EO was the best fit for me, and here’s why:
- A totally confidential, safe environment: EO members are trained before they can go into Forum, the group of 6-8 entrepreneurs from non-competitive industries with whom we meet once a month. Every meeting starts with a confidentiality reminder “what’s said in this room stays in this room” always and forever. Even though my husband/business partner and I are both EO members, we are in different forums and never, ever breach confidentiality. EO members have complete trust in the fact that we can talk about any issue, professional or personal, and know that no one will tell anyone what has transpired ever, so we can discuss issues we don’t discuss with our regular friends. My forum helped me find my calling in business. Since I am not needed on a day-to-day basis at One Horn, I have started working with CEOs and their leadership teams to help them grow and scale their companies and create a culture of action and accountability. I got certified as a Gazelles Business Coach and started another company, LexaGen Freedom Accelerator, to help other entrepreneurs get to freedom faster. The confidential environment enabled me to explore my feelings about becoming more fulfilled professionally and ultimately led to a career shift.
- Experience sharing from people who have been where I am: There are many issues all entrepreneurs face at one point or another. First of all, it’s a comfort knowing we’re not alone in our challenges, but EO also helps us benefit from the mistakes others may have made so we can avoid them ourselves when facing a similar situation. The unique way we use Gestalt Protocol where we share experiences instead of giving advice enables everyone in the room to benefit from the experience sharing. And when you give advice, if someone takes it and it goes badly, then there are hard feelings. If you spend time giving advice and they don’t take it, there are also feelings like the advice giver has wasted their time. So instead of solving one person’s problem, we simply share experiences so others can also learn from the stories told by our Forum mates and then decide what to do, and no hard feelings arise.
- A broader learning experience: Since every EO chapter has multiple forums, in New Jersey, for example, I have 100 entrepreneurs with whom I can interact and learn from on a regular basis. Our Chapter has monthly organized learning events where we bring in speakers to address various topics of interest to entrepreneurs growing companies. Gary Vaynerchuk of the Wine Library spurred me to claim the social media footprint in the transportation industry before the larger companies cared about social media. This enabled One Horn Transportation to effectively recruit and grow. Oftentimes, it’s the interactions before and after the speaker that also spur significant business insights, like the idea of One Horn Hospitality, the feeling our agents get from warm and welcoming working atmosphere. The word “hospitality” came out in a discussion with a fellow EOer at one of these learning events.
- A worldwide connection to like-minded business people: By pursuing leadership roles in EO, I have traveled the world to be trained to fulfill my responsibilities as Membership Chair, Forum Chair, Communications Chair, and others. The besides getting a first peek at the latest speakers on subjects relevant to my life as an entrepreneur, I have also established relationships with other entrepreneurs from other chapters that have supported me during different business initiatives and most recently with my business coaching practice. Since we have all been forum trained, we feel comfortable going deep into the heart of our issues quickly with total strangers, knowing it is all “forum confidential”.
I highly recommend entrepreneurs join a peer advisory group like EO, as it has truly made a difference in my life!