Five core values make this group special, writes Stephanie Bennett
Recognizing the need for help is difficult at the best of times, let alone when you’re already a success in your chosen field, but for a group of about 100 Queenslanders, accepting the words of a mentor is all about taking themselves to a higher level.
The 103 businessmen and women comprise the Brisbane chapter of the global Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), a non-profit group whose stated mission is to “engage leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow”. While that might sound warm and fuzzy, Brisbane comprises a serious cohort of individuals, with employees exceeding 3200 and revenue of $1.5 billion.
EO has to a large extent not engaged publicly as an organization but spoke to BOOM following the completion of a survey of members last month.
Those members – with turnover ranging from $1 million to $200 million- like most businesses have been through a torrid five years, testing the mettle of these natural risk takers, but as new chapter president Rob Nixon says, it is often the ones who sense an opportunity that thrive in troubled times.
“We have all types of businesses, all shapes and sizes, though each business can only be represented by one member, “ the Proactive Accountants Network founder says. The chapter’s recent survey of members showed 46 percent had an annual profit if more than $500,000 last financial year.
The world of EO gives members access to other like-minded individuals complete with exclusive events, monthly meetings and guest speakers.
Unsurprisingly, joining this exclusive club requires adherence to strict criteria – business must open their books up and prove they have generated minimum annual $US 1 million revenue, they must be the founder or majority state shareholder and, as Nixon says, “you need to be the one calling the shots”.
Perhaps most important are the five values which an individual needs to meet in order to gain a place in the EO.
Those values are: boldly go, thirst for learning, trust and respect, make a mark, and cool.
“When we look at a new member these values ascertain to us, ‘are you an entrepreneur? “Nixon says.
The values make clear individuals need to be pushing the boundaries and be leaders in their field to be considered.
“Trust and respect is also a big one, we ask ‘are you an individual of character?” he says.
“We’ve turned away plenty of people who we believe are not doing scrupulous things and that’s not going to cut it.
Mr. Nixon began his first business at 12, selling eggs he’d collected them from an egg farm, and by 14 was selling archery equipment. Nixon’s own business serves accountants in 38 countries.
He joined EO two and a half years ago and spent two years on the board before stepping up as president.“ Being a leader among the leaders- it’s a bit like herding cats, “he laughs. “But it’s a safe place for entrepreneurs to be themselves, to talk about sensitive matters and get experience from others.”
One man making the most of EO is Hancey’s Turf founder, Nathan Hancey (pictured). After being “born and bred” into the lawn mowing industry, Hancey’s business has grown into a multi-million dollar turf-farming operation. “I joined EO a couple of years ago after it was recommended by a friend, “he says.
“There’s plenty of benefits within the organization, there’s great camaraderie and you get to know some good quality people going into business.”
Hancey’s team of staff has grown to about 20, with a firm focus on local projects including construction, servicing turn and renovations. The company also works with local councils to improve sporting fields and community green spaces.
Hancey, along with all the other Brisbane EO members, is part of a “forum”.
“We have 12 forums in Brisbane, each with about eight members,” Mr. Nixon said. “I treat my forum as a non-executive board of directors of my life.” Mr. Nixon said the forums are divided so no entrepreneurs are paired with competing businesses, meaning confidential information can be divulged with less risk. “The forums meet once a month and there are very strict guidelines,” he said. “Firstly you cannot attempt to sell or solicit what you do to other members. “This is not a networking group. You do that and you’ll be kicked out.” An utmost and extreme confidentiality is also key to successful forum meetings. “When that door is closed everything that’s said in the room stays in the room,” Mr. Nixon said. “You need to know the things you say are not going to be repeated”. “In this environment we talk about things we talk to no one about and they could be of very sensitive matter, good or bad.”
Perhaps one of the more unique concepts is giving other entrepreneurs advice. “Basically we don’t ever give advice. We speak from experience,” Nixon says. “For example, someone may have a cash flow problem. One by one we’d tell a story about a similar experience we had and what we did, but we would never tell someone else what to do. “A lot of people give advice, even professional advisers, about something which they have learnt about but never done themselves”. “This is completely different.”
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