“Being in Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), ultimately, might have saved my life,” says Michelle Menard, co-founder of Choice Translating and member of EO Charlotte. Founded in 1987, the organization is a global business network of 12,000+ leading entrepreneurs in 160 chapters and 50 countries.
“I was dealing with some medical issues at the time and through my involvement with EO, I came into contact with a medical group who identified something that had gone unnoticed before and it really changed my life.” She feels that story is a great example of what sets the organization apart from other business networks. “We are used to investing in the business, but as entrepreneurs we don’t about think taking care of ourselves personally – that was a huge lesson.” EO enables business owners to learn from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life, an approach which is unique to the organization.
In 2002, Michelle and her husband Vernon joined the Charlotte chapter, which counts over 80 members and is the creator of the Global Entrepreneur Indicator (GEI). The survey collects information from both local and global EO members on topics ranging from planned capital expenditures, hiring plans, and overall economic outlook. Globally, EO members generate over $530 billion in sales annually, so the quarterly report provides a barometer on current business conditions from an entrepreneur’s perspective. For example, over 75% of the more than 7,000 global respondents to the latest survey believe that business revenue will improve in the next six months.
She also points out the power EO Forums, a group of 9-12 peers that each member is assigned, as a sounding board, while providing insight and experience whenever needed. She says her Forum even alerted her to the impending impact of the financial crisis. “We were hearing from our Forum members that banks were beginning to call in lines of credit – without notice.” She continues, “Having that advanced notice allowed us to take the steps to be able to sustain ourselves during that period.” Michelle believes that warning, which she might not have had without her involvement in EO, was crucial to the survival of her business. “People thought we were a little bit crazy at the time, but when the recession hit full force, we were in a much better position to weather the storm and that was because of the experience sharing we had in our Forum.”
When asked what makes EO special as an organization, she points to the fellow members, the format and overall experience as key differentiators. “As entrepreneurs, we are used to creating our future and then finding the resources to do it. Not everyone understands the challenges we face as entrepreneurs, so to be in the room with people who ‘get it’ and are willing to share their successes and failures is huge.” And with clear growth at the Chapter and Global level, it’s obvious that many of her peers agree.