(Source: www.inc.com)

A CEO and entrepreneur’s secret weapon is his or her peer groups.

I was fortunate in the fifth year of my company I joined what was then called YEO, Young Entrepreneur’s Organization (It has since been renamed EO). I was in EO for six years and then joined Young President’s Organization (YPO). Each has certain requirements; number of employees, minimum annual sales; annual payroll. Each one has been my secret (or not so secret) weapon.

While each group has thousands of members around the world, each city has smaller sub chapters. Within that group are smaller groups of 7-10 people who create what is known as forum. The forum meets for half a day every month. Yes. Half a day a month, you commit to building relationships with a peer group of company presidents, CEOs and entrepreneurs: people who understand what it is to have that job.

What’s it like to be scared of not being able to make payroll? Who knows the conflict of having a major client meeting the same night as your child’s birthday? What are you feeling when the investors who seeded your business are unhappy? These are all the types of questions that come up in forum meetings. Every industry and company is different. But the pressure of being a leader, of having a job no one else in your company has (or usually has had) is hard. It’s challenging. It’s lonely.

Business is a competitive game. It is for the successful people. We like to win. Even more than winning, we hate to lose. We want to beat our competitors. The truth is, we can learn from companies outside of our industry. A fresh set of eyes. A different perspective. My secret weapon was forum.

I made some of the best friends I have in life. I know their families. Their spouses. Their companies. I share in their success and they in mine. We call each other 24/7 and add value to one another’s lives. When I needed hire someone and wasn’t sure I could afford it, they gave me counsel. When I had insecurities, they gave me confidence. When I doubted the longevity of my brand, they showed me the obvious. I hope I did the same for them.

The expression in these groups is that you get out what you put in. It couldn’t be more true. You also learn how personal life and business are intertwined. That when you are stressed about marriage or relationships, kids or elderly parents, siblings–whatever–it affects you professionally. Having a group of peers where everything is confidential is crucial. It’s a true peer group. I’m not sure how secret it is, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do battle with out having it as a weapon.

More Info: www.inc.com