Being a CEO or entrepreneur can be a lonely existence, particularly if you’re facing problems you don’t know how to solve and you need advice. Many of us don’t have a business partner to consult with. Others have a partner who is part of the problem! Spouses often don’t understand and can’t help. So where can we turn for useful advice from someone who knows what we’re going through?
In the popular book Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, author John Warrilow tells the story of Alex, a fellow who was trapped in a nightmare of a business. In frustration, he consulted with Ted, a longtime friend who was a very successful entrepreneur.
Over many months, Ted guided Alex in revamping his business so thoroughly that it became a finely-tuned, well-oiled machine, and a valuable one at that. So valuable that Alex began receiving offers to buy from larger companies. Alex found himself in the enviable position of owning a business worth owning that he could choose to sell if he wanted to.
So how do we entrepreneurs find our own “Ted” to provide us with such useful counsel? One way is by participating in CEO peer groups. Sometimes these go by the names of “executive roundtable” or “business leaders’ forum”, but all follow a similar model: bring together eight to fifteen CEOs, and over time, build them into each other’s board of advisors. Sort of a personal coaching circle, if you will.
Peer groups offer confidential sounding boards, as they require signing non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements which are strictly enforced. Practices vary among groups, and they can be relatively informal, like quarterly Chamber of Commerce roundtables, or more structured with monthly or bi-monthly meetings. Some even have a paid advisor who leads regularly scheduled programming.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “I’d love to be in a peer group, but I don’t think they’d be able to help me because my business is too unique.” But you can benefit! Entrepreneurs who participate in peer groups recognize that 95% of running a business is the same no matter what the industry, and perhaps 5% is unique. With the regular support of other CEOs from diverse, non-competing industries, we gain invaluable insight into how to solve problems that are common to all businesses, as well as meaningful input regarding our own specific challenges.
In my EOS® Sessions with clients, I can tell which entrepreneurs have participated in peer groups. They often are wiser, having benefited from the rigors of airing their challenges among true peers, and have learned life lessons from the war stories others have shared about similar problems. That does not make them better than those who have not been in peer groups, but I think their peer group experience makes them better equipped to absorb what they learn in our EOS Sessions and spread it throughout their companies more effectively to achieve the transformation they desire.
My own experience with EO Birmingham some years back brought me invaluable insight into issues I was having with understanding my customer base, and helped me grow my business and my brand. In addition to the business value I received, I made several lasting friendships I would never have had without that experience.
As entrepreneurs, we are all on a mission to master our own particular line of business, but none of us can do it alone. Your peers can be powerful allies in your quest. You can use the list below to start looking for group that is right for you. And who knows? You may have knowledge and experience that could make a life-changing difference to someone else.
The Alternative Board, Tennesse Valley (Huntsville) Jim Morris 256-655-0940 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Birmingham Business Alliance Entrepreneurs’ Roundtable Victor Brown - email@example.com
Convene - Birmingham Harris Wheeler - 205-313-6313 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Entrepreneurs’ Organization - EO Birmingham Chuck Gault - 205-222-9915 or email@example.com
Truth at Work James Justice - 205-908-6408 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Vistage International Birmingham - Frank Day or Gary Kitchen Mobile - Robert “Bob” Slade
Young President’s Organization (YPO) Edmund Doss - 205-326-0490 or eDoss@deepsouthfreight.com
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