Nearly 600 business owners and CEOs are sharing insights, building networks and touring Tampa Bay as part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s (EO) Nerve conference.
EO is a global, peer-to-peer network that fosters learning and entrepreneurial success. In June 2022, a selection committee awarded Tampa the three-day summit, held at the JW Marriott Tampa Oct. 18-20. Today is the final day.
The average EO member generates $17.3 million in annual sales and employs 182 people. The Tampa Bay chapter’s members each produce about $2.8 million annually and employ over 1,100 people throughout the region.
Podfest founder Chris Krimitsos, co-chair of the Nerve committee, compared the event to hosting a Super Bowl. He called it a “game-changer” for the Tampa Bay community.
“We’re over the moon with the results,” Krimitsos said. “It allows us to showcase Tampa in a new light to CEO’s and founders from across the globe.
“EO Nerve will have lasting impacts on the city and business community – as all attendees are major decision makers for their respective companies.”
Founded in 1987, the nonprofit organization boasts over 15,000 members throughout 220 chapters in 62 countries. In 2009, the organization’s east region – from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale – launched the EO Nerve conference.
Entrepreneurs must show at least $1 million in annual gross revenues, $2 million in private investments or $5 million in publicly raised funding to attain EO membership. Despite that level of individual success, the summit’s speakers stressed the importance of human capital during the Oct. 19 sessions.
“Hire the best people, set the strategy and give them the resources to succeed,” said Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. “If I’m hiring the right people and they’re hiring the right people, those people are better …”
The former hedge fund manager and local billionaire helped transform 50 acres of downtown Tampa into the bustling upscale Water Street neighborhood. He said two years at Harvard Business School helped shape a lifelong philosophy.
“Pay 30% more for the best person because they’re 10 times as good as the second-best person,” Vinik said.
He explained that investing in the surrounding community fueled the team’s success. In 2010, Vinik purchased what thehockeywriters.com called a “rotting franchise.”
He immediately gave Lightning jerseys with embedded microchips that provided concession and merchandise discounts to 4,500 season ticket holders. Vinik also started the Community Hero program, which recognizes upstanding citizens and awards $50,000 to a charity of their choice at every game.
Vinik noted that the initiative has contributed over $30 million to local nonprofits over the past 13 years. The team has also won consecutive Stanley Cup Championships and plays in front of consistently sold-out crowds.
“It’s all about the people,” Vinik said. “And we benefitted from our love and support for the community. In many cases, it led them to love and support us.”
Event chair Matt Weiss, founder of the Weiss & Associates law firm, said EO similarly supports the entrepreneurial community through peer interactions and education. He noted that members encompass myriad industries, and the organization strives to eliminate silos.
The overarching goal is to help founders grow fledgling startups into established businesses. However, Weiss said, “You can’t do it alone.”
“You want to get the right people on the bus, as (business author) Jim Collins has said,” Weiss added. “Not only the people who have the ideal intellect and passion, and who buy into your culture, but also ensure they have the right seat on the bus.”
Ryan Iwamoto co-founded 24 Hour Home Care, a California-based home healthcare company, in 2008. It now boasts 28 locations in four states and will generate around $180 million in revenue this year.
Iwamoto believes entrepreneurs can earn their first $1 million through hard work and perseverance. However, he said moving beyond that benchmark requires an exceptional management team.
“If I had to give one piece of advice, it is making sure you surround yourself with the best people,” Iwamoto said. “If you find yourself being the smartest person in the room – you’re in the wrong room.”
EO attendees are touring local companies today, and Krimitsos said many have noted the region’s recent transformation. He said feedback has exceeded expectations.
Weiss said the event’s primary benefit, and the reason most people join EO, is the educational aspects that foster success. “We like to say that in order to grow your business, you need to grow yourself,” he added.