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. Continuing education is important; one way is executive education, offered through university programs and other professional organizations and institutes. Noted Ivy League schools, including Harvard and MIT, tout the benefits of including the C-suite in executive education. We talked with EO entrepreneurs about their experiences pursuing executive education alongside their leadership team, specifically in a partnership with MIT.
"As business owners, when we need to expand our personal or professional skills, we take advantage of executive education seminars or one-on-one coaching to provide new insights," said Andrew Blickstein, business coach at Petra Coach. "When we go back to our businesses and teach these ideas, we commonly overwhelm our staff. Something gets lost in translation, and we can't quite implement the programs or tackle the new opportunities to the extent we'd hoped."
What if you could bring your top executives with you as you learn strategies and techniques side-by-side, then implement new systems with the support of key executives who were trained alongside you?
"Taking a learning journey with my team where we can define goals and create action plans together is an extremely valuable opportunity as a business owner," Blickstein stated.
That's what educational programs like the Key Executive Program (KEP) offer, bringing together entrepreneurs―each a founder or co-founder of a company that grosses more than US$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.
We spoke with entrepreneurs who have participated in such programs to find out why they enrolled and what value they gained. Here's what they shared.
Why did you enroll yourself and key executives in the program, and what did you gain from the experience?
Blickstein: I was always a bit of an education junkie, but I didn't have any formal business training before starting my company. I took advantage of executive education, coaching and other learning opportunities and always appreciated the value they brought to my business. When I discovered KEP, I realized it could be the catalyst to fill in the growth gap between myself and my leadership team. I continually invest in my own growth, so it was an easy leap to understand the value of investing in my leadership team's growth. But it was the ability to learn together and make sure that we were growing along the same path that proved invaluable.
Hao Lam, CEO of Best in Class Education: During my years in the Entrepreneurial Masters Program (EMP), I gained a wealth of knowledge that helped me to fire on all cylinders. Every time I came back from a program meeting, I brought exciting plans that I wanted to implement immediately. However, I noticed that my staff was having a hard time keeping up with me because they hadn't learned the same lessons and didn't understand the context behind my ideas. I knew that if they were exposed to an experience similar to mine, they'd see an actual method to my madness. For that reason, I signed up my key executive members. I'm extremely happy that I made this decision because it allowed us to learn together, come up with action points and find ways to quickly and ambitiously bring ideas to fruition.
How will what you learned impact your entrepreneurial journey?
Blickstein: The program provides an opportunity for my team to experience the ideas and theories I am exposed to. My key takeaway was that as the entrepreneur and business owner, I'm responsible for the organization's overall vision and goal-setting, but since my team has to execute on those visions and goals, they are the ones who need to develop the execution plan. Understanding the concepts on a theoretical level before they develop action plans and execute them is of enormous value. It's these very lessons that have become the basis of my coaching practice today.
Lam: I'm ecstatic about the continuing positive impact that KEP will have on my business. Both my executives and I gained more confidence in our abilities as leaders and innovators. We were all in the same room, listening to the same insightful speakers. And, when we returned to the office, we were able to bring our individual interpretations to the table and come up with new projects and strategies for streamlining company processes.
Reflecting on your total experience, what surprised you most?
Lam: During the first night of the program, when participants were being introduced, I was surprised to find that my company was one of very few that had not attended KEP before. Many companies come back every year and bring more staff along with them. One firm explained that it was their fifth year of participating. That's impressive, considering the program started six years ago. All of this was a clear indication that learning alongside your executive team members works well; I plan to regularly return with my team to reap the benefits.
Blickstein: What surprised me most was what a great employee retention tool it turned out to be. We always preached education and learning in our business―it's one of our core values―but actually putting my team on a plane and investing in three days of their professional growth made them feel valued and extremely loyal. I consider that a hefty bonus on top of the insights we all gained!