Posted on: 2014-10-01
B2B PR Blog's editor, Heather Baker, talks about the best business decision she's ever made, and why you should join her.
When, on a visit to Washington DC in August 2012, I was invited to attend a presentation by someone I had never heard of, who worked somewhere I had never encountered, I couldn’t possibly have guessed that I was about to meet an organisation that would change my business and my life.
Now, two years later, our turnover has grown by 220%, our profits are up 500%, and, more importantly, I’m really enjoying running my agency.
My mind still boggles at those figures, especially when you consider that the organisation that has played such a significant role in the growth of my business is not a lead referrer. In fact, it operates a strict non-solicitation policy. Neither is it an advice centre – in this organisation, giving advice is considered unhelpful.
After the presentation, I immediately applied to join the London chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). It took a few months for my application to be approved and my figures to be validated (to be an EO member, you need to be an entrepreneur whose business turns over $1m or more). I had joined professional networks before (there are loads in London), but there was something about EO that really struck a chord with me.
EO is the largest network of entrepreneurs in the world – with 10,000 members in 43 countries. It's a non-profit organisation, and it’s completely different from any other professional network out there.
Two things stand out to make EO unique. The first is the focus on values. EO is very strict in insisting that members are invited to join only if they both meet the business turnover criteria and fit in with the organisation’s values, which include trust and respect and a thirst for learning. Entrepreneurs who want to join EO to serve their own quest for lifelong learning and to grow their business are welcome. Those who apply with a view to mining the network for prospects tend not to have their membership applications approved.
The second thing that makes EO unique is that it is truly international. As an EO member you have access to fellow entrepreneurs who share your values and have faced similar business and personal challenges in 143 cities around the world. Thinking of opening an office in China? An EO Shanghai member will jump at the opportunity to help you. Sending your kid off to university in Switzerland? EO Geneva has 30+ members willing to share advice and experiences. As an EO member, you are welcomed like an old friend by complete strangers around the world - each of whom understands the challenges you've faced as an entrepreneur and empathises with you.
I’ve been an active and enthusiastic member for the last 18 months. I joined the board of the London chapter within weeks of joining the organization and I attended every event I could. EO has offered me:
The culture of EO is such that members actively endeavour to help each other out. For me this has meant direct competitors sharing their business secrets with me (for example, one competitor sent me her winning new business proposals after I mentioned that we were finding writing proposals a challenge!); a member recommending a sales training specialist who helped my team win three new business pitches in a month; the opportunity to dry-pitch a dream client purely to receive feedback on our pitch; and recommendations for new tools and books that have dramatically improved our business processes.
The one thing that is common to all interactions via EO is the opportunity to learn, whether formally or informally. I’ve been to mind-blowing workshops on management and leadership, delivered by the best in the business. But through my EO Forum (a group of 6-10 members in non-competing businesses who meet monthly for a confidential session to discuss personal and professional challenges) I’ve also benefited from the experiences of eight successful entrepreneurs in every major business decision I have made. This has been huge!
That brings me to the mistakes I haven’t made thanks to EO. As a member of EO your forum mates cannot offer advice (advice is not welcome, remember), but they can share their own experiences of facing similar challenges. These shared experiences are vastly more valuable than anything that can be taught in a lecture, and they have been unbelievably useful in preventing me from making poor decisions that seemed like good ideas at the time.
While EO operates a strict non-solicitation policy, the organisation has directly or indirectly been the source of over half of the new business leads we secured in the last year. From an agency in Turkey referring us to a client launching in the UK, to a member in Australia providing much-needed marketing support that helped us generate a host of leads from our website, EO has been fundamental to our lead generation strategy.
Perhaps the best thing about EO is the fact that the organisation focuses on the entrepreneur as much as the business. One of EO’s objectives is to offer its members once in a lifetime experiences, and for me, EO has provided an unprecedented opportunity for personal growth. I’ve spent five days on Necker Island with Richard Branson, had breakfast with Michael O’Leary, travelled to six new cities, built a solid international network, signed a partnership with an agency in Europe, had breakfast with the editor of the Economist and enjoyed a private tour of Clarence House (delivered by the master of the house).
EO has become central to my personal and professional development. It’s been almost 1,000 words and I have barely scratched the surface of what EO has done for me. If you know any entrepreneurs in London (or indeed the world) who would like to be invited to join EO then please ask them to contact me on [email protected]. I would be delighted to recommend them.
The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by b2b pr specialist Heather Baker, founder TopLine Comms, an inbound marketing and B2B content marketing agency and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say. Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact her via email on [email protected].
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