When I was on my way home from my recent Entreprenuer’s Organzation (EO) forum retreat in Austin, I was asked by a one of my group colleagues if I sometimes felt like I was on a lonely island. I replied with, “Yes, that is exactly what I feel like.” He then told me that the saying “It’s Lonely at the Top” doesn’t just refer to big companies — it also hits close to home with many small business owners who share this common sentiment. You see, it can be very lonely owning a small business and being the visionary for your company … at least until you meet your people who are willing and want to go on that journey with you. Then we can start to fill that desolate road and populate it with like-minded, motivated, and inspiring individuals.
My own journey started when Arnie passed away and the baton was passed on to my mother Rhonda and I to run the company. Rhonda had worked at Shop4ties with her husband Arnie as well, and though she never particularly aspired to run the company, she found herself in that position after his passing. During the transition, we quickly decided on roles and responsibilities and I became the CEO and she the CFO. Since then, she’s excelled and grown leaps and bounds in the past five years.
When I first took over as CEO, I only had a couple years under my belt with Arnie by my side. He tried to be the best teacher he could, and instilled excitement and inspiration into my newly discovered passion for business. But after his passing, I wondered how was I going to find my people in this lonely, yet exciting world of entrepreneurs. I didn’t spend much time worrying though. Instead I quickly started applying for different programs and opportunities that would allow me to grow and develop as a business owner.
When I was accepted into the Goldman Sacs 10,000 Small Businesses program, it allowed my lonely island to become populated with like-minded small business owners in Chicago. This first group of incredible people helped me grow into someone who thrives on every opportunity to learn something new, connect with other business owners or get involved with other organizations with shared values. My ever so lonely island was quickly becoming populated after really taking the time to connect and get to know the people I met. It was an incredibly inspiring time in my life, though all the networking and being on the go became a bit exhausting.
Then a fellow 10KSB cohort friend suggested I consider EO (Entrepreneurs Organization). He said it would single-handedly be the biggest thing that would change me and in turn change my business. Every single person I spoke to about EO had felt their lives had been changed. I interviewed earlier this summer and decided to join in June, and they’re right, EO is different than anything else I have been a part of. It forces you to open up and be your most vulnerable self with strangers who quickly become some of the people you are closest to in life.
I am only a few months in and I feel very lucky to have been chosen by an incredibly established and solid forum to join as one of their rookies. We just came back from our annual retreat in Austin where the eight of us spent three days bonding over life: the good, the bad and the ugly. I am energized in a way I haven’t been in a long time and I am grateful to have further populated my island with inspiring, thoughtful and incredible individuals. Being at the top isn’t so lonely once you find others who are also on that same journey!