Given her track record, Larraine Segil will probably carry off her latest venture successfully, too.
Segil -- one of those people who, if she weren't so disarmingly pleasant, could induce feelings of inadequacy in the rest of us -- either has been or is now an attorney, trade expert, business founder, turn-around executive, and masterful organizer. As chairwoman of an infant organization called WorldTEN, she proposes to build nothing less than a global network of technology entrepreneurs -- "sort of an international Young Presidents Organization," Segil says, referring to the association of men and women who rose to the title of president or chief executive officer before their 40th birthday.
It won't be for everyone.
WorldTEN is modeled on the successful, four-year-old Southern California Technology Executives' Network, or SoCalTEN, headquartered in Los Angeles. Both rely on the relationships formed when small numbers of similarly situated CEOs and senior executives can talk privately, with candor, about their common experiences and problems. "We've seen," says SoCalTEN cofounder Steve Panzer, "that the roundtable format gets people to talk about things that they wouldn't otherwise talk about." SoCalTEN members can bring specific business problems to the group, with questions like: Should I invest my limited money in this new product? How long will it take? Am I missing something? "A company president can be assured," says Panzer, "that he'll get honest feedback from people who have no personal stake in the company."
Segil anticipates that WorldTEN will promote a similar intimacy that transcends national borders. The objective, however, is not to make friends, but deals.
At a series of test-run roundtables in Japan held not long ago, small-company executives from the United States joined their Japanese counterparts to talk over specific issues such as joint ventures -- what works and what doesn't; finding capital in Japan; and how Japanese small companies cut deals with the Hitachis of the world.
The potential American-based WorldTEN member, Segil says, will already understand that his or her company's real competition is in the global market, not just in the United States. She expects the organization to run four or more roundtables annually, beginning this year, and to create a network that members can plug into. "You can say, 'I'm going to Sydney, and I need a distributor. Who do I talk to?' You'll get the name of someone we already know. That," says Segil, "is worth a lot of money."