Every entrepreneur knows that it’s lonely at the top. Jeff Smith is no exception. Smith co-founded two technology companies, Taborda Solutions and Pondera Solutions, and continues to run them with co-founder and partner Jon Coss. While he had acquired plenty of experience in sales within the technology industry, he knew he didn’t have all the other skills needed to grow his Folsom-based businesses. Given an always-packed schedule, how could he gain expertise in areas like operations, human resources or finance?
Then an acquaintance told him of the nonprofit Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and now, Smith says, “I’ve found a cadre with all those skills and more, a group of talented people willing to share information and experiences in a safe environment.”
Tom Kandris, long-time EO member and CEO of PackageOne in Sacramento, agrees. “I’ve gotten more out of my EO membership than any other professional organization I’ve been involved in — and I’ve been involved in quite a few. The lessons in leadership, the trust and the sharing are just unparalleled.”
EO is a global network of nearly 10,000 businessowners, founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs. Its mission has not changed in those nearly 30 years: Help entrepreneurs learn and grow, both professionally and personally, so they can transform their companies and communities. Today, EO boasts 131 chapters in 40 countries.
Sacramento has had an EO chapter for more than a decade and with some 35 members. Each month, Smith, Kandris and their fellow members meet in small groups to update each other on “the good and the bad in terms of my business, my personal life and my individual goals for, say, health or learning,” Smith says.
For Smith and most others, these groups become the board of directors they don’t have, as well as a group of like-minded friends always willing to listen and help.
In addition, EO members participate in four to six local learning events each year, often with local business legends, like Tower Records founder Russ Solomon. They and their spouses also regularly gather for dinners, lectures and discussions.
The national organization provides opportunities to connect with a larger group of entrepreneurs by hosting regional, national and international events and conferences.
“Whether it’s at home or abroad, you’re interacting with fellow entrepreneurs who have the vision and passion to build an enterprise,” Kandris says. “If you haven’t been in that position, it’s pretty impossible to understand and empathize with the entrepreneurial mindset.”
Smith agrees. “I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I get tremendous energy from others like me, not only like-minded but like-positioned. I leave EO every month recharged by the people around me, feeling even more creative and motivated,.” he says.
“The impact has been much more than I thought it would be, and I’ll bet that’s true for virtually every member of EO.”
Sharon Frederick is a Sacramento-based freelance writer.
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