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Entrepreneur group looks to grow Connecticut ranks

The Connecticut chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a global peer-to-peer network of business owners, is making a push to grow its membership.

“It’s a valuable resource for any business owner and entrepreneur,” said board member Patrick Brandon, partner and president of Contract Medical Manufacturing in Oxford. “I’ve been a member for two years and it’s given me a great deal of exposure to business-related insights, no matter the industry you’re in. There are a lot of the same challenges business people face, regardless of industry.”

EO specializes in providing experiential information rather than advice, he said.

Entrpreneurs connecticut
Steven Showalter

Founded in 1987, the nonprofit bills itself as “the catalyst that enables leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow, leading to greater success in business and beyond.” Worldwide its membership stands at more than 12,000 business owners in 167 chapters in 52 countries, who employ more than 2.8 million workers.

The Connecticut chapter, founded in 1999, has 44 members with median company sales of $2 million — a far cry from what it should be, Brandon said.

“We just haven’t had enough exposure to business owners and entrepreneurs in the area to let them know the advantages of joining,” he said.

One such business owner is Steven Showalter, owner of Statlinx of Ct LLC in Stamford, which provides medical call center services to health care providers.

“I didn’t know anything about it until my mentor, Malcolm Pray, suggested I check it out,” Showalter said.

Even the charismatic Pray — the late owner of Greenwich’s largest complex of automobile dealerships — had some difficulty in persuading the younger man to join.

“You really have to sit in to get a good idea of what it’s like,” Showalter said. “It’s not a networking group, which turns a lot of people off. It’s more informal than that. We usually have six to eight people in a room who are responsible for turning the lights on every day at their businesses, sharing best practices and telling war stories about everything from sales and human resources to taxes and the economy.”

The by-design informality extends to EO’s physical presence. Simply put, there isn’t any.

“We meet once a month at one of our members’ offices, either in person or by Zoom,” the cloud-based teleconference system, Showalter said. “Sometimes we’ll have an outside speaker from a construction company, a law firm or elsewhere and we talk about the common threads that are found in every industry.”

Monthly forum meetings are also held around the county, moderated by an EO member and emphasizing the right number and mix of other members to maximize relevance. The forum program is constantly evolving, Brandon said, with a focus on specific challenges faced by the entrepreneur.

There are also global EO events for members, which again “focus on the same mindset, the same DNA that all business owners have,” said Showalter. “There’s never any pressure, just opportunities to get different perspectives on the challenges we all face.”

Members of EO must be the owner, founder or majority stakeholder of a business earning a minimum of $1 million in the most recent fiscal year. Venture-backed companies must have either privately raised funds of at least $2 million or publicly raised funds of $5 million and a minimum of 10 employees. Once vetted and accepted, members undergo an EO orientation within three months of membership.

EO Connecticut annual dues are $1,600, with a one-time new member chapter initiation fee of $500.

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