The Power of Peer Groups

I had a phenomenal day. 

A few months ago my friend Bill Flagg recommended that I be a speaker at this year’s Gathering of Titans (GOT) event.  This is an annual gathering of graduates of the Birthing of Giants (BOG) program.  I participated in the first or second BOG event back in the early 1990’s and it was my introduction to the Young Entrepreneurs Organization (then about 100 members; now called EO and over 7,000 members around the world).  BOG was a transformational experience for me – it was the first time as an entrepreneur that I really found my true peer group.

I came to GOT as a speaker but immediately felt like a part of the gang.  There were about 70 people in the room that were entrepreneurs of a wide variety of businesses, many of them on their second, third, or fourth company.  These weren’t all tech businesses – they covered a wide range of industries and experiences – but shared a common passion for creating things and for entrepreneurship.

After about 15 minutes in the room listening to the first speaker today (Jack Daly) I was immediately entranced and emotionally transported back to 1992.  The energy in the room was fantastic and very familiar.  The next speaker – Ayanna Samuels – was equally awesome and inspiring.  I was up next, had a lot of fun, and was met with a warm reception.  Kyle MacDonald and Neal Petersen were the afternoon speakers – both dynamite.

It wasn’t just the speakers, but the Q&A, discussion in the hallways between sessions, and the energy in the room that was so inspiring.  I was invited to attend next year as a member of the gang (instead of just a speaker) and immediately accepted.

The theme for this year was something like “addressing adversity” which translated very clearly into – as Jack so beautifully stated over and over – “Golden Rule: Purpose”.  The day stimulated a lot of interesting blog fodder that I’m sure I’ll be wrapping into some of my posts over the next few weeks – whenever I use the word “purpose” you can tie it back to Jack!

As I was reflecting on the day, I realize that one of the key pieces of advice that I regularly give entrepreneurs is to “join a formal group of your peers that meets regularly and spend deep time with them.”  I don’t mean “industry associations” or “random networking clubs” – I mean things like EO, Vistage, or YPO.  When I was a first time entrepreneur, I often thought “I don’t have time for this.”  Bullshit – I didn’t have time not to do it.  And that continues today even after having been involved in hundreds of companies.  Entrepreneurial communities aren’t merely geographic or industry focused – peer groups that build deep, intimate, and long term relationships between the members play a key part in the process of entrepreneurship.

I’m heading out for a run to reflect a little more on the amazing day and then I’m going to the Olde Irish Alehouse in Dedham, MA for the GOT afterparty.  Wow – what a great day.