Nine years ago, I joined an organization that changed my life for the better--Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO). I joined it to help my growing business, not knowing that I would meet my closest friends there and focus on personal growth and family growth as much as any business issues. I have no doubt that the formula works, though. Nine years after joining the group, I am a better CEO, leader, father, husband, and person. I urge you to consider--for your business's health and for your own personal well-being--joining a supportive group for fellow entrepreneurs.
Here are five organizations to consider joining:
1. Business Network International (BNI)
BNI is a great organization for the solo entrepreneur (solopreneur). It's focused on lead sharing and networking, and I joined after my wife and I started our first company six years ago. I met a great group of men and women, including solopreneurs and salespeople, who met weekly over breakfast and really cared about helping one another grow their sales. After a year or so, as we began to focus more on national clients, I left the organization. But five years later, I still maintain some of the friendships I got from the organization. Even if you run a larger organization, consider BNI for your local salespeople.
Recommended for: Solopreneurs and your local salespeople
2. Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)
I joined YEC at the tail end of my qualifying as "young"--age 35--but recently the organization upped the age limit to 45. (Woo-hoo! I'm still young!) If you're 45 or younger and a founder of a company doing $1 million a year or more in revenue, this organization is for you. I've found the No. 1 asset of YEC to be online PR and marketing. There's also a lot of networking and information sharing through its exclusive Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Especially if you're a young CEO in technology or communications, this is a great group to join.
Recommended for: 45-and-under founders and CEOs
3. Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)
I mentioned my love affair with EO at the start of this post--the truth is, if I had to choose just one of the five, it would be EO. For founder-CEOs of fast-growing companies doing at least $1 million a year in revenue or that have received $2 million in venture funding, EO includes great speakers, events, and networking. But the lynchpin of EO is the forum experience: Each month, I get together with eight close peers and we all confidentially share our business, personal, and family concerns. One member each month, with the help of a peer coach, does a deep dive "presentation" on an area of concern. If you're not doing $1 million in revenue yet but you're doing $250,000, you may qualify for EO's accelerator program.
Recommended for: Founder-CEOs of businesses with more than $1 million in revenue
4. Young Presidents' Organization (YPO)
YPO is very similar to EO. The two key differences are that the revenue requirements for YPO are higher (according to your type of business) and you don't need to be a founder of the company, simply its current leader. While I'm not in YPO, I've spoken at YPO forums and have made several great friends who are in YPO. And given its similarity to EO in terms of forums and amazing events, I can wholeheartedly recommend YPO for those who qualify.
Recommended for: CEOs of companies with annual revenue over $12 million
I've only attended one meeting of Vistage, the only non-acronym here, but I do know many CEOs who belong. It's similar to YPO and EO in that all members participate in monthly forum meetings with peers, except that at Vistage, they're joined by a paid coach or moderator who does one-on-one business coaching with each member. Also, with Vistage, the focus is strictly on business, versus EO and YPO, which take a more holistic approach.
Recommended for: CEOs who want to focus on business and receive coaching
These five organizations will not only make it less lonely for you as a CEO or entrepreneur, they'll help better prepare you for the challenges that lie ahead--in a fun and social setting.