EO, Vistage, C12, YPO - Which executive peer group should you join?
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Your Complete Guide to Executive Peer Groups
Most entrepreneurs run their own companies because, frankly, they don’t like anybody else telling them what to do.
Being in charge certainly has its benefits. But owning a business can be isolating. Unlike your employees, you don’t have any peers within your company. No matter how close you are with your leadership team, you’re still always their boss.
It’s lonely at the top.
To thrive, business owners need a community of other business owners. That’s where you find the people who can identify with your opportunities, commiserate with your struggles, and share experiences when it comes to handling difficult problems.
We interviewed leaders from four executive peer groups—Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Vistage, The C12 Group, and Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO)—to give you a sense of how each group works and what makes them different.
All four organizations are fantastic options: keep reading to see which group is right for you.
Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
EO is a global peer organization broken into regional chapters and subdivided into smaller forum groups. The EO network has over 14,000 business owners in 61 countries, including a robust chapter in Boston. The organization is not-for-profit, and chapter leadership is made up of fellow entrepreneurs who volunteer their time.
Who It’s For: To join EO, you must be a founder, owner, co-owner, or controlling shareholder currently involved in running the business. The revenue minimum is $1 million annually.
EO also runs a mentorship program, EO Accelerator, to help entrepreneurs with at least $250,000 in annual revenue grow to $1 million+.
Structure: The heart of EO is its forum groups, which are composed of 7-10 members. Forums typically meet for 2-4 hours every month to share experiences and work through challenges.
EO Boston also hosts 1-2 learning events each month, which feature experts who offer business insights, challenge current perspectives, and encourage creative thinking. Members also have access to global events, including conferences, retreats, and more.
Fees: Varies by chapter
Principles: The guiding value of EO is to help members learn and grow. EO prioritizes shared experiences over giving advice. Forum agendas are guided by the current problems chapter members are facing.
EO has a strict non-solicitation policy among members in order to create a trusted environment but does offer sponsorship opportunities for businesses (Crews Consulting Group is an EO Boston sponsor).
“I initially joined EO in 2008 at the urging of my partner in Polymita Technologies. Each EO meeting was so amazing that I kept coming back. I was totally hooked.
I like that EO is focused on the growth of their members in all aspects of their lives—I’m a person, father, husband, entrepreneur, community member…EO offers value for all parts of my personality.
Everyone can share their experiences openly. For most entrepreneurs, it can be really hard to find a community where you can speak honestly about what you’re going through, in life or in business. EO is one of those rare places where you can.”
Vistage is a network of CEO peer groups that focus on providing executive coaching. Full-day sessions are driven by a combination of set curriculum and member challenges. Vistage is a global organization in 20+ countries.
Each regional group is run by a Chair, usually a professional executive coach, who builds their own group. Vistage for-profit organization and Vistage Chair is a paid position.
Who Vistage is for: Vistage is for high-performing individuals who have a proven track record of success but want to fulfill more of their potential. Vistage members may hold a range of executive roles within an organization. All members need to be open to executive coaching and to an examination of their behaviors and belief structures. Most members run companies with at least $1 million in annual revenue.
Structure: Vistage groups are capped at approximately 12-15 members. Membership requires a significant time commitment: groups meet once a month for a full 8-hour day. A different member of the group hosts each meeting, which includes providing space and catering.
Members also receive ongoing private coaching with their Vistage Chair.
Fees: Approximately $16,000 per year
Principles: Vistage emphasizes group settings that foster trust, openness, and vulnerability. Participants are encouraged to ask deep questions about who they are, how they’re showing up in their lives, and what limiting beliefs might be holding them back.
“I found out about Vistage serendipitously, through a colleague who was a member and a Vistage Chair. The organization sounded interesting, so we met up for lunch to discuss the group. Since then, I’ve never looked back.
There’s tremendous value in giving yourself an opportunity to improve, and Vistage is instrumental in doing that for our members. It offers fellowship and a sounding board of other executives—a group of people with no agenda who just want to help. When you’re with your peer group, there’s no need to perform.
Vistage members have accomplished a lot in their lives, but they know there’s more out there for them. They hold a ton of promise in the world, and working with them is what gives my own life meaning.”
The C12 Group
The C12 Group is a faith-based peer advisory group for Christian CEOs. Together, groups work to solve problems and create businesses with an impact beyond the bottom line. C12 is a franchise-model organization that accepts members from every Christian denomination. Regional groups are run by Chairs, who recruit their own members and hold paid positions.
Who C12 is for: C12 is for Christian CEOs who want a peer group aligned with their faith-based values and feel called to a larger mission. Companies involved with C12 prioritize people and relationships with revenue being a result. Members range from owning businesses that make at least $1 million in annual revenue to multi-billion dollar publicly held companies.
Structure: C12 groups are divided into roundtables of 10-12 members. Each roundtable meets for a full day once a month, usually at the same location and on the same schedule. Curriculum for most of the day is provided by national leadership.
Each member also meets with the C12 chair each month for individual coaching.
Fees: Fees may vary by group. For C12 Center of New England, members who do under $10 million in revenue pay $875 a month, and members who do over $10 million pay $1,200 a month.
Principles: C12 is distinct in their emphasis on faith and a biblical worldview. They prioritize people and relationships, with revenue being a result of their efforts, and they apply biblical principles to their approach to business. The organization also prizes accountability and discipline as important principles for leadership.
Rick Ferris, Managing Chair of C12 Group, Center of New England
“I owned a company for 19 years, and as I grew in my faith, I started to wonder how God really cared about my business. Then I came across an ad for C12 in the back of Inc. magazine. I launched my first C12 group in 2009, and we’ve been growing ever since.
I like that C12 focuses on personal and professional wellbeing, but even more on the personal side. People are always the top priority. In our groups, members do deep dives into each other’s companies—it’s one of the most valuable parts of every session.
It’s a unique opportunity to be able to study MBA-level topics through a biblical lens. And the fellowship created by supporting one another, coming alongside one another, brings incredible value to our members”
Young Presidents Organization (YPO)
YPO is a global peer organization for executives of medium-size businesses. It’s a nonprofit structured into chapters, which are broken down into smaller forum groups. YPO has over 29,000 members in 130+ countries. Its leadership seats are 1-2 year volunteer positions.
Who YPO is for: Young Presidents Organization (YPO) is for Presidents and CEOs under age 50 (YPO does have a partner organization for members who have “graduated”). Acceptance standards vary by chapter, but most require businesses to generate at least $12 million in annual revenue or employ at least 50 people.
Why They’re Different: YPO is designed specifically for young presidents of midsize companies. The group focuses on the whole person, not just the business aspect of their lives. Because groups are composed of senior executives honestly discussing their business and personal lives, confidentiality is a main tenet of YPO. Business ethics and peer accountability are also important to this group.
Structure: Each chapter has 30-250 members, who meet both for chapter events and in monthly forums of 7 to 10 people. YPO also hosts local, regional, national, and global events.
Fees: Membership is approximately $10,000 per year, plus additional costs for some events and trips.
Principles: Confidentiality is a cornerstone of YPO. Without confidentiality, executives can’t reach the level of trust required to discuss their business and personal lives openly and honestly. YPO members agree to follow a Code of Conduct that embodies integrity and ethical practices in both their personal and professional lives.
“There’s no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for YPO. I wouldn’t have been as successful, and I would have made more mistakes and bad decisions (though I still made plenty), and moved more slowly.
YPO gave me the chance to wake myself up. A lot of people talk about being their best selves, but they don’t do anything about it. YPO offered me the chance to self-actualize every dimension of my life and held me accountable for accepting that opportunity.
In the privacy and confidentiality of YPO forums, we talk about the best 5% of things that happen in life, things so exciting they’re strangely hard to share. We also share the ugliest 5%—things that are so hard they can be difficult to put into words. YPO helps you experience and manage the extremes of emotion that are part of being human.”