We had a chance to speak with cryptocurrency investor Philippe Theunissen (PT) and brand consultant Qin Guo (QG) in Shanghai, and here’s what they had to say about their experiences as EO Accelerator participants.
EO: HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE EO ACCELERATOR PROGRAM?
QG: My business is in brand consulting. I actually started working for this company and now I own and operate it, so I have a lot of responsibilities and challenges. I hadn’t planned to take over the company, and when I did, I couldn’t talk to everyone around me about everything anymore. So, I started to explore options for learning. I had a business partner—who started the business—who introduced me to EO. When I found out there was an EO Accelerator program focused on start-up and smaller-sized businesses with ambition to grow, I wanted to join. Since joining the program, I’ve been able to share a lot of those issues with other entrepreneurs. I’ve become more resolute about my decision to run the company.
PT: I was introduced by an EO member. I had been living in Shanghai for five and a half years. As entrepreneurs, we knew each other and went to the same events. I heard about EO, then someone told me about the Accelerator program and asked if I was interested. I was immediately sold by the idea and the focus of getting to a million dollars in revenue. I’m glad that I joined.
EO: DID YOU STUDY BUSINESS?
QG: I studied psychology! I enjoy observing, and I like communicating and working with people and exploring their potential. When I was younger, I felt that having a lot of money still didn’t make people happy. I think the way to happiness is in your own mind or heart. I chose a career path working with companies to generate ideas and solve problems. I did not plan to be an entrepreneur. It just happened along the way.
EO: AS AN EXPAT, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A PART OF EO AND CONNECT WITH PEOPLE WHO SHARE COMMON CORE VALUES?
PT: It’s really nice. Even back in Holland, finding people with the same set of core values is still difficult. In every country, I think it’s difficult to find people with that same mindset toward potential. I would say it’s even a little bit easier in Shanghai because, as an expat, you’re open to connecting. Also, because of EO’s core values, members trust each other and can get to the point straightaway. I feel at home at EO.
QG: I feel that we share a lot of things in common—including all the challenges—even though we are in very different businesses. We truly understand each other without having to explain so much. Before, I explored other leadership and management trainings, but many of the people were experienced in the corporate world, so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for development. I feel like EO is very different.
PT: Yes. There are a few options that arise when you join the program. First, you can reach the million-dollar mark and apply to EO. Second, you realize that growing big is not an option, so you enjoy your nice-sized business. Or third, you realize that your current business is not reaching the mark fast enough, so you pivot. I pivoted. I entered the program with my first company, but it wasn’t growing fast enough. So, I pivoted toward this new technology, cryptocurrency, and its potential for the future. With the set of tools that I’ve learned in EO Accelerator, I hope to graduate within two years. Pivoting gave me so much energy to be active in this new business.
EO: WHAT IS AN EO ACCELERATOR LEARNING DAY AND WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF IT?
PT: In the morning, our facilitator/coach explains the topic. Since everyone is an entrepreneur with problems and a burning desire to learn and grow, there’s always a lively discussion. In the afternoon, we have speakers from businesses that are significantly bigger than ours are. We ask questions, trying to learn as much as possible. And the cool thing is, it’s very practical. Everybody creates a list by the end that he or she will do tomorrow to improve their business. And then you talk about your plans in accountability groups, where there’s also a lot of energy.
QG: This program can help you to be a better leader and grow your business, but you have to feel an inner desire to make things happen. You want to create, to make a difference. You need to have a burning desire to fully commit to the program. Only if you have a burning desire can this program do amazing things for you. Think about an MBA program. EO Accelerator is much more practical and hands-on. You learn tools that you can apply the next day.
EO: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CONVERSATIONS THAT TAKE PLACE IN THE MORNING OF LEARNING DAYS AND IN YOUR ACCOUNTABILITY GROUPS?
QG: The Learning Day sets up the big picture for each topic so we’ll be focused on this specific area of learning and business interactions. Then, in the Accountability Group, our speakers focus on this topic. That’s where we learn small details about the broader topic, so that we get a complete picture.
PT: I think during the Learning Day, you don’t focus as much on your own business. During the Accountability Group, everybody shares what is on their mind about their own business.
QG: Yes. In the Accountability Group, we hear other people’s business and get different perspectives. So, it’s not all about yourself; learning from other peoples’ experience inspires so much.
EO: DO YOU USE GESTALT COMMUNICATION IN YOUR ACCOUNTABILITY GROUPS? AND CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT IS?
PT: With Gestalt, you talk about your own experiences. You never say, “Well I think this is what you should do …” By avoiding that, you build trust. As soon as I say what I think you should do, there’s judgment. By not judging, we can just be open. I listen to you, and if I had a similar experience, I tell you what I did, so you can make your own conclusions based on my experience. Otherwise, you’re always afraid of what the other guy or girl is saying. There’s always a gestalt monitor in the group who stops the conversation if it’s not gestalt. If someone really wants to give you advice, they raise their hand and ask if it’s okay—and often, the other person says yes.
QG: Entrepreneurs are a very different group of people. They are very clear about what they want to do; they have confidence, they are determined and stubborn—sometimes they won’t listen. These are not bad things, because entrepreneurs have to believe in themselves. By following the Gestalt approach, you won’t be offended by someone challenging your position. It gives you room for very open communication. Also, I think entrepreneurs are sensitive! They don’t want to be judged or criticized. This method allows trust to grow, and you are open to sharing, which is the benefit.
EO: DO YOU TAKE OPPORTUNITIES TO INTERACT WITH EO MEMBERS OR SEEK OUT A MENTORING RELATIONSHIP?
PT: Absolutely. The difficulty for me is finding the purpose of the business, so I ask everybody I see and hear about their core values and purpose. We are all so eager to learn, so it’s easy to ask about their business. As Qin says, we think a little bit alike. People read, people listen to podcasts—there’s knowledge to share.
QG: I admire how EO members give time to EO Accelerator participants because I understand that, being entrepreneurs, they are super, super busy. I admire that more established entrepreneurs are willing to help us improve and avoid the same mistakes they made. As an Accelerator, I’m very grateful that they’re willing to spend that time.