EO Q&A: Celebrating 20 years of EMP Excellence

By EO Staff

The Entrepreneurial Masters Program (EMP), EO’s longest-running executive education program, was created 20 years ago by EO DC member and founding partner of Gazelles, Inc. Verne Harnish. In this special interview, Verne discusses the birth of the EMP, its role in EO and its impact on members everywhere.

What inspired you to start the EMP?
“The inspiration for the EMP came from a similar program that the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) hosted at Harvard. I approached the program’s faculty chair to see if Harvard would consider running a similar program with EO, but that didn’t work out. So I went next door to MIT, and the rest is history.”

What were your original goals for the program?
“My original goals for the EMP were three-fold: First, since one of EO’s missions is education, I wanted EO aligned with a top-notch university that would give us the freedom to create a first-class executive education program. Second, I wanted the EMP to be a recruiting tool for top entrepreneurs, and it has been. Many of EO’s early chapters were launched by entrepreneurs who were attracted to EO via this program. And third, EO badly needed a source of revenue. The program generated nearly US$150,000 net each year, which went a long way in helping to establish EO.”

How far has the program come since its inception?
“The EMP has come a long way since 1992. The program continues to thrive 20 years later, with demand for the program high each year. So far, we have more than 1,200 graduates! That’s a testament to the value of the EMP for entrepreneurs and their businesses everywhere.”

What value does the EMP provide?
“Through three yearly courses, the EMP affords members the kind of environment and relationship building that fosters deep sharing and learning. Also, the opportunity to spend quality time with some of the top business thought-leaders provides the ideas and inspiration EO members need to drive their businesses and lives in a better direction. Lastly, there’s a unique design element to the program. According to dialogue theory, the ideal group size for creating important breakthroughs is 40-60 people. It’s intimate enough that everyone can get to know each other, but large enough to provide the necessary diversity of backgrounds and ideas to generate breakthroughs.”

How has the EMP impacted you?
“A large number of my closest friends and business relationships have come from the EMP. As the program chair for 15 years, I got to hear the same message from various thought-leaders year after year, and their ideas became ingrained in my DNA and that of my company’s. As a result, I’ve become a stronger entrepreneur and built a better business!”

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