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Clear your head!

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How a business owners group can help you relax these holidays – or next

As we head into Easter those of us who run businesses probably hope to clear our heads.

For too many of us there will be those persistent worries that buzz around, often unresolved, as we try to wind down. One of the reasons our heads are too full is not all of us have people we trust to talk things through with.

Two years ago I joined EO (http://www.eonetwork.org/Pages/default.aspx) - a business-owners-only, member-based organisation that delivers peer learning & support.

Since joining EO I’ve gained access to a “money can’t buy” way to learn from other business owners – people I respect.

Part of the deal is that members also “give back”. In practice this means sharing our own experiences in a way that helps others.

Thanks to that very positive experience I’ve become evangelical about the right kind of business owners organisation. Personally, that means somewhere I can learn, get and give support to peers and, last year, help set up my business for more buoyant times. EO exists to support business owners “grow and learn” – peer learning plays a huge part – particularly through small groups knows as forums. With clear “rules of engagement” these groups typically meet monthly. Members talk about a range of issues and learn from the experiences of their peers. The results can be life changing.

Last year, many business owners really struggled. Some faced the threat of closing down, others saw steep revenue drop, cash flow issues or simply found it harder to win business. Interestingly while many won’t talk about such hard issues publically, they can share business challenges privately inside forum. That can lead to hearing experiences that help them achieve, in some cases, dramatic results.

One person I know left a forum meeting in October 2008 having talked about a 50% drop in revenue in a single month, then went back to work and within a week had the confidence to make expense cuts that took 40% out of the cost base and saw the business return to break even the next quarter. Had that business owner not heard their peers’ experiences they may have tried to ‘hang on’ and burned too much cash to recover.  

Of course in another forum that didn’t have strong governance and confidentiality rules they’d never have shared the issue either.

In a non-judgmental environment business owners can share all sorts of issues and learning with each other.

A strong business owners group also gives entrepreneurs access to ideas, people, events, economic insight and some very positive attitudes.

Just talking to other business owners (whether at larger events or via forum-type experiences) reveals a lot about what’s going on more broadly in the economy and how diverse businesses are thriving, holding steady or dealing with downturn. That peer learning is extraordinary in its ability to transform businesses.  For example I have a whole new service line in my business thanks to something a buddy said in a forum meeting a year and a half ago.

Of course the business owner has to be open to new experiences and want to learn – it’s not for everyone. A typical EOer is usually pretty oriented towards learning all they can, sharing their experience with business owners peers and getting a lot back along the way.

Being the business owner can be a lonely journey - organisations such as EO give access to everything from education to health benefits and an instant global network.

Certainly I wish I’d found out about EO or something like it earlier on!  

Published on: Friday, April 02, 2010

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