At the core of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s mission is an unrelenting commitment to supporting the complete entrepreneur with inspiring learning opportunities designed to provide tangible take-home value for leaders, in business and beyond. Noted Ivy League schools, including Harvard and MIT, tout the benefits of including the C-suite in continuing executive education. We talked with EO entrepreneur Hao Lam and two of his top executives about their experiences pursuing executive education as a team, specifically in a partnership with MIT. Here's what they shared.
"Before we attended an executive education program together, when I shared insights and strategies I'd learned in other executive education courses, it was difficult to convey the depth of inspiration I felt because my team didn't share the same context," explained Hao Lam, CEO of Best in Class Education. "The opportunity to learn and subsequently brainstorm alongside my executive team was a phenomenal experience that continues to positively impact our company. After the program, my executives and I went through our notes and began implementing ideas inspired by it."
Which top executives did you bring with you, and why?
Lam: I brought two key executive team members: Laura Leddusire of our corporate division and Stephanie Zhu of our franchise division. I wanted the three of us to learn together and bring what we'd learned back to the office to galvanize our team.
All three of us gained valuable insights and unique perspectives into common challenges we face every day while running a growing, fast-paced company, in addition to actionable takeaways that have improved our company.
We asked the executives Hao Lam enrolled in the Key Executive Program to share their perspectives.
What were your top takeaways from the program?
Laura Leddusire, VP of Operations: I loved the energy of the event! Each of the participants was there to learn and grow; it was inspiring to be part of such an ambitious and driven group of individuals. Attendees were incredibly open to sharing experiences―both successes and failures―that might help others achieve success. Overall, the experience strengthened our belief in how important company culture and our core values are.
Stephanie Zhu, VP of Business Development and Finance: It was incredibly motivating to hear from such a diverse group of CEOs and executives. The program was unique in that we could relate on an executive level to various attendees' experiences, and the fact that these scenarios occurred across different organizational sizes and industries provided added insights and benefits that we can apply to our company.
I appreciated the variety of material covered―from finance, to internal culture, to technology solutions―it was a well-rounded curriculum. The open-style work sessions enabled our team to immediately put action items together while they were fresh in our minds.
How did the experience impact you?
Leddusire: It was empowering. Each of us left the event with renewed passion and helpful, actionable items to implement in our business. It was also beneficial to connect with teams from around the world and share advice and stories together.
Zhu: I found the program to be invigorating. I was eager to return to the office, share innovative ideas with my team and start putting our action items into motion.
What specific aspect of the program resonated with you?
Leddusire: Hearing about the concepts previous classes had implemented and the successes that they were able to achieve was a big benefit. In addition to great outside speakers, previous attendees shared how they implemented strategies that revolutionized their businesses. This sparked additional ideas for our team and helped identify potential roadblocks.
Zhu: I most valued the sessions around building team culture and giftology, which highlighted opportunities for initiatives that would enhance our team as well as our customer relationships. The course materials that correlated with these topics were great takeaway resources that we can revisit for fresh inspiration.
What uncommon insight into a common challenge surprised you?
Leddusire: The idea of incorporating giftology dovetails with our business model, especially the suggestion of giving gifts when they are least expected for added impact. Before the program, we typically delivered customer gifts in December. However, after realizing that customers are flooded with gifts during that time, we decided to give New Year's gifts in January instead. We also identified other times of the year to send gifts of appreciation and learned how more personalized gifts could enhance relationships with our most loyal customers. By tweaking our gift-giving philosophy and recognizing that a little gratitude can go a long way, we've helped our company stand out. The resulting customer response is very positive and appreciative.
Zhu: I found the discussion on the power of company culture very eye-opening. I hadn't realized how, by truly emphasizing and paying attention to culture, it could translate into tremendous positivity and productivity for our team. In an environment of intense competition for talent and high turnover, we have to identify methods for keeping morale high and making our organization attractive to quality talent. The program addressed this need and provided strategies that were immediately actionable in our company.
Hao Lam is an EO member in Seattle. Lam and two of his company's top executives attended the Key Executive Program (KEP), which brings together entrepreneurs―each a founder or co-founder of a company that grosses more than $1 million―and up to four of their top executives for an intensive, three-day shared learning experience. This executive education-style program provides an intense blend of practice and theory to align vision and enhance synergy.