Equal time Featured

7:00pm EDT January 30, 2003
It's easy to get stuck in rut when running a business. You tend to solve problems the same way, try the same growth strategies and call on the same people for advice. Eventually, you run out of new ideas.

That, in part, was why the Young Entrepreneurs' Organization (YEO) was created. The group, which has chapters all over the world, accepts business owners from all industries, as long as you join before your 39th birthday. The Cleveland chapter includes entrepreneurs from around Northeast Ohio including Akron, Canton, Alliance and Bath, says chapter President Adam Kaufman, who is also vice president of Renewal by Andersen window replacement.

"It's a forum where entrepreneurs with growing businesses can get better educated, better connected, and get more confident," Kaufman says. "I've gained a lot more confidence through my leadership of YEO and being exposed new things beyond my own industry."

The Cleveland chapter was founded in 1998 and had 32 members as of press time.

The average YEO entrepreneur age is 36 years old. The average company has $22.6 million in annual sales and 44 employees, although company sizes range from $600,000 in sales and two employees to as much as $500 million in annual sales and 140 employees.

The Cleveland chapter was awarded last year as one of the "healthiest" mid-sized chapters by the International YEO, which includes 130 chapters in 36 countries.

As with other peer groups, entrepreneurs meet to discuss how they solve problems and grow their businesses, but the YEO includes entrepreneurs from different industries for more perspectives on common business issues.

"We sell windows," Kaufman says. "If I were only to talk with window people or remodeling people, I would be limited in what type of brain power I would be exposed to."

YEO offers networking opportunities, but also partnerships with firms like law firm Arter & Hadden LLP, for legal seminars on business issues. Educational seminars are usually held about once a month.

"There was a tremendous amount of take-home value that I could take home and apply," says David Lazor, president of Lakewood-based Lazorpoint. "Having the opportunity to spend some time with firms like Arter & Hadden to educate us, when I go back to the office, I have new things to think about that I didn't even know about. There's a tremendous amount of value."

YEO Cleveland's annual membership fee is $800. International dues are $849 a year, plus a one-time $300 initiation fee. How to reach: The Young Entrepreneurs' Organization, (216) 476-8400