Entrepreneurs Organization is built on candor and openness

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

VEGAS INC Coverage

Acting as their own bosses and assuming their own risks, it makes sense that entrepreneurs are by nature an independent breed. So I must say the concept of a formal organization for entrepreneurs seemed to me an oxymoron at first.

Still, we all benefit from associating with smart people with whom we have things in common, and EO — the short acronym for the Entrepreneurs Organization — makes it clear that even an independent breed is no exception.

EO, which this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary, is an international confederation of more than 8,000 business owners. It’s designed to help entrepreneurial men and women learn from one another, and to help them attain greater business success and a more enriched personal life. Its membership is rather elite, reserved for founders and owners of companies generating at least $1 million in annual revenue.

When I’ve thought about entrepreneurs in the past, I often pictured someone working solo, hatching a business plan in relative secrecy, and then making it work largely on his or her own — the Lone Ranger type.

My mistake. Turns out EO is a place where people talk to one another. And listen, too.

That’s what I learned from Jason F. Griffith, an entrepreneurial certified public accountant who is the 2012-14 local chapter president for EO. He talked of an organization that promotes trust as a core value, enabling open, candid and honest discussions, and creating a no-holds-barred forum for ideas and suggestions.

Griffith says his own experience with EO and its members is a good example of how the organization works.

“I can be completely open with what I say and not worry they’re going to take one of my clients,” Griffith said. Nor will they try to sell him something: a non-solicitation policy prohibits members from trying to hawk their goods or services to one another, although members are free to initiate such an overture.

There are other qualifications for EO, which has about 30 local members at present. Men and women are welcome, as long as they’re under age 50. Applicants need unanimous approval from current members to get approved, and then need to be willing to pay dues of about $2,800 annually. And it helps if you bring some diversity to the table, such as a new or unrepresented industry or skill.

They’ll also tell you that if you get in, you can’t miss or be late for meetings without consequences.

“We want to make sure it’s a good fit for you and us,” said membership chairman Xavier Peterson, who owns QI Security Services. His firm supplies both uniformed and plainclothes personnel for a wide variety of protective-service tasks, like patrolling and monitoring commercial, industrial, residential and governmental facilities. “You want to be with people who respect your time.”

“And will tell you what you need to hear,” Griffith added.

They also want to make sure you are willing to embrace the EO culture, including the unwritten rule related to mentoring that gives a member 24 hours to respond to an email or phone call from another member — regardless of where it may have originated from.

“I get calls from entrepreneurs all over the world,” Peterson said. And when he responds, he speaks candidly and with facts, rather than providing a viewpoint or judgment.

“In EO, we don’t give opinions,” Peterson said. “If I don’t have knowledge on a subject, and somebody else does, I’ll sit here silently. Opinions change. Experience doesn’t.”

There are seminars and workshops and leadership programs, but thankfully, it’s not all business. That’s because a core value of the organization is its ability to put together “once in a lifetime” experiences for members. They take retreats in some cool places, too, and the ones they mentioned sounded like great adventures.

But it’s the candor they seem to value most. Peterson said EO mentoring had inspired him to look outside Nevada after business slowed dramatically a few years ago and compelled him to try some new things. Today, his company is licensed in other states and doing significantly better.

Given their professions, one would expect both Griffith and Peterson to be accustomed to confidentiality and keeping critical information to themselves. But they’re proud of not having secrets when it comes to communication with other EO members.

“Every month, I get to sit with people doing $1 million to $20 million a year,” Peterson noted. “That’s irreplaceable.”

I don’t qualify for membership, but if you do, you can check out EO at