The Entrepreneur’s Organization in San Francisco Turns 25

Entrepeneurs Organisation Celebrates 25 Years!

The Entrepreneur’s Organization, (EO) had a celebration last week to celebrate the start

Veteran Entrepreneurs Organization Reunion

Veteran EO Members at the Palace of the Legion of Honor

of its San Francisco chapter 25 years ago.  I was one of the intrepid founding members of what was then called the Young Entrepreneur;s Organization,  or YEO.

(As an aside, I was 7 months pregnant when I joined EO.  I remember the other  mostly single young members being shocked when they politely asked me if it was my first child, and I replied, “no, it is my third.”)

Back in 1991, you had to have sales of $1mil before you were 35,and you were kicked out of the organization at 40. Many members went on the the Young President’s Organization, (YPO), once they hit their 40s.  As one of my kids once said, who would want to be in the Old Entrepreneur’s Organization?

About 10 years ago, they got rid of the Young in the title and just branded the association as the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO).  As one of those folks who made the transition to YPO, I have to say that EO was different YPO remains a wonderful organization for me and I am proud to be an active member, but it was not the same as EO.  In YPO, you could have members who were hired guns, presidents recruited to grow, turn around or manage an existing enterprise.  Similarly, there was the “lucky sperm” cohort, of those presidents who stepped in to a family business.

In EO, everyone was a founder.  Everyone had that experience of  having that kernel of an idea in your mind.  You kick it around, you nourish it, and ultimately you get it growing. As a female entrepreneur, I liken it to being pregnant.For awhile when you are pregnant, only you know what is happening inside your body  Chances are, your husband doesn’t even know for a few days anyway .  But slowly it becomes apparent to others.  At some point, i.e. the birth, to continue the metaphor, you let some others into the tent.  Still, you are very careful how it grows.  Over time more people become involved, but you  remain the one most involved with shaping the future of this enterprise.

As the business grows, your entrepreneurial role is akin to  parenting.  Gradually, other people begin to influence the development of the company.  At some point, you realize you are no longer in total control, and then there is the moment when the company is growing in ways that you had never envisioned. Hopefully you imbued it with the right core values to ensure that this maturation is true to your original vision.

EO was a great support while making this journey.  Sharing concerns, opportunities and problems with a like minded group of peers was a tremendous learning experience.  I grew in ways in those years that I did not appreciate at the time. Along with MIT and Inc. Magazine, EO put on the Birthing of Giants Program.  This was an amazing  program for a cohort of 40 young entrepreneurs.  We would spend a week together each spring for 3 years. In the intervening years, many things would happen to the fortunes of these young firms and their founders. Companies, went public and bankrupt, firms were merged, rolled up or sold. And through it all, we learned lessons from each other that would stay with us through the years.

So I was grateful to be able to attend the wonderful 25 year celebration at the Palace of the Legion of Honor last week.  The EO chapter put on a terrific program with 4 different speakers, all of whom were inspiring and provocative. One lesson EO taught me is we can never stop learning, so it was wonderful to continue my education at this event.  Thanks EO.

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