Being an entrepreneur is sometimes lonely since it is not a very normal thing to do. Unless your friends are also entrepreneurs, it is difficult to simply talk about issues or get advice about what you’re going through. That’s why communities that foster support and advice for entrepreneurs are greatly needed.
Right now, I am sitting inside Garage Café in Beijing’s Zhonguancun area, where start-ups work over coffee and are able to mingle and chat. This gives entrepreneurs an outlet to be comfortable and not go it alone.
Globally, Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) is a prominent network for entrepreneurs to feel supported and have fun with like minded people. In fact, their mission is to ‘enable entrepreneurs to learn from each other and lead them to greater business success and an enriched personal life.’ Membership is exclusive and invite only and members have to meet three criteria:
1. B e the founder, co-founder, owner or controlling shareholder of a company.
2. Serve in one of the above roles for a company grossing a minimum of US$1 million annually.
3. Be under the age of 50.
EO relies on three pillars of value. Firstly direct peer to peer learning allows members to share personal and professional issues confidentially, helping each other to get through difficulties. Secondly, in addition to conferences around the world, members have access to exclusive social events and invaluable networking opportunities. Thirdly, members can tap into industry experts for help such as medical treatment, business advice, life skills etc. In big companies many mechanisms are already in place to deal with such things, but for entrepreneurs they sit at the top and have no such mechanisms available. That’s why EO was established.
To get an idea of the clout EO commands, there are more than 7,300 members with an average sales of US$17.3 million per year. There are 116 EO chapters worldwide across 42 countries.
Casper Johansen of Seravia is currently leading the Beijing Chapter. Casper first joined EO after hearing great things from existing members, “After hearing more about how EO operates and the kind of people it attracts, it was an easy decision for me to join.”
Probably the most common question asked to successful entrepreneurs is what makes one successful. Casper himself admires entrepreneurs who display four key qualities:
- Tenacity: working relentlessly towards your goal. Never giving up.
- Realism: knowing when to give up, or rather change directions.
- Leadership: ability to surround yourself with talented people and get them to work with/for you to accomplish your vision
- Team player: very few, if none of the highly successful companies were created by one man or woman, it requires teamwork.
If you are interested in joining EO in Beijing, Casper explains that it works like this. “Every member is in a forum, which consists of 6-10 members. Our chapter currently has 4 forums. Each forum meets once per month for four hours. It is an intense session with cell phones off and full focus on yourself, your business and your forum members. In addition, we have monthly learning events and there are many informal social events organized around EO for both members and non-members.”
For many first time entrepreneurs and even serial entrepreneurs, there are always struggles. EO is aimed at helping you navigate through the downs. Of the thirty companies representing the Beijing Chapter, Casper says “many of them face the same issues such as hiring and firing, whether to take outside financing, prioritizing growth vs. profitability, whether to undertake a new business venture, work/life balance.
Casper says “An entrepreneur should join because no entrepreneur should have to endure entrepreneurship alone. It’s a long, tough road and having peers to speak to, listen to and learn from is invaluable both from a personal and business perspective. EO is different from other organizations in that it’s not just a social club. The formal forum structure ensures strict confidentiality and the processes which have been developed and refined throughout EO’s more than 30 year history ensure that members receive significant value from their peers and the organization.
Membership is not free. There is both a global and a local fee, both of which are paid annually. This is required to support the organization and pay for our various events (members don’t pay for participating in any of the EO events). So far, I have found that it is extremely good value for money.”
Although entrepreneurs and start-ups are notorious for being workaholics, they also need to have fun from time to time. EO Beijing caters to this by having monthly drinks after each forum as well as organizing joint family activities. Casper says “For our annual retreat this year we are heading to Liaoning Province to dig for fossils in a dinosaur park. We will also be doing a Christmas BBQ and visit to the Bird’s Nest Winter Park. Some of the most fun events I have participated in are when EO members from around the world come to Beijing and contact us to go for dinner and drinks.”
So if you are looking to join a family of entrepreneurs, take a look at EO!