It’s lonely at the top, they say. But the Cincinnati chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), a global peer-to-peer network comprising 14,000-plus members across 61 countries, creates a safe space for entrepreneurs to belong and be known. In September, the chapter will host the U.S. Central Region’s annual XCentric Conference for the first time in its history.
“Our main focus as a committee to land the conference here was showcasing our town,” says Jim Salters, the event’s sponsorship chair and co-founder of Quanta HCM. “People are going to be blown away from a tourism standpoint.”
Salters pitched Cincinnati to the conference committee wearing traditional German lederhosen to celebrate the region’s beer culture and sold the city as “the Napa Valley of bourbon.” The kitsch worked. EO XCentric is expected to attract 500 entrepreneurs from the Central EO region’s 24 chapters—from Austin and Louisiana to West Michigan and Pittsburgh—with 5 to 10 percent of attendees hailing from the coasts or outside of the U.S.
The conference presents three days of keynotes and breakout sessions September 19–21 themed “Tell your story, change your life,” plus an additional two days of programming for visitors to experience Cincinnati; think history walks and food tours. “Nobody knows how amazing Cincinnati is,” Salters says. “That’s been the drive for so many of us (in the local EO chapter) to volunteer hundreds of hours over the last year and a half to put on this event.”
Salters hopes the conference experience will leave a lasting impression on visitors, so that Cincinnati is top of mind when entrepreneurs think of future office locations, new business ventures, merger and acquisition opportunities, or even just personal travel destinations. The conference will also spotlight the local EO chapter’s power. Within each local chapter, members are connected in an eight-person forum group that meets monthly to delve into personal and business affairs.
“Forum groups have been the source of the most influential and intimate relationships in my life,” says Salters, who is now in his 14th year of EO membership and is a recent past president of the Cincinnati chapter. “There’s no way as a first-time entrepreneur CEO I would have been able to have success and also keep my marriage and family life intact without EO. I’m loyal to the organization for what it did for me personally.”
To apply for EO membership, entrepreneurs must be a founder, co-founder, or controlling shareholder of a business with at least $1 million in annual sales. A feeder organization for those in the $275,000 to $1 million sales market is also available. The Cincinnati EO chapter comprises 53 members who account for 1,197 employees. “We’re creating an event that we want to change our own lives and, by extension, everybody is going to benefit,” says Salters.