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Bringing Entrepreneurs Together to Overcome Today’s Biggest Challenges

By fostering collaboration among small business owners from around the world, Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) aims to empower these critical leaders to overcome adversity and thrive for the sake of our communities. 

We talked to EO CEO Carrie Santos and EO chair Dave Anderson — an entrepreneur who founded the public relations company Off Madison Ave — about how small business owners can succeed amidst the challenges presented by the pandemic.


Dave Anderson

Chair, Entrepreneurs’ Organization

Why are small businesses and the entrepreneurs who run them so critical to our local, national, and global communities?

Dave Anderson: Every statistic will show that small business is what drives not only the U.S. economy, but the global economy as well. Entrepreneurship is where innovation comes from. Corporate America counts on us entrepreneurs to innovate — I’m not saying they don’t do that on their own, but a lot of corporate innovation comes from entrepreneurs; acquiring entrepreneurial businesses, and adapting those businesses and their platforms.

Small business is the backbone of driving employment and innovation around the world. There’s also no shortage of challenges that this world faces on any given day, and we believe that, while the government plays a role, the entrepreneurs of this world are going to be the ones who solve the world’s problems. We are the innovators, and we are the ones who will solve the world’s problems, with the support from our governments.

Carrie Santos: Entrepreneurs are crazy about solving problems — they just can’t help themselves. So anything we [EO] do as an organization, we use that energy. And wherever people feel despair or discouragement, we as entrepreneurs can say, “Wait, I know there’s a way. I’m not going to give up until I find it.” That’s just one of the most beautiful things about humanity.

How does EO help small business owners succeed, both in general and during pandemic times?

CS: We are an organization that takes people who are already somewhat successful as entrepreneurs, people who’ve already been able to establish their business by amazingly hard work, and that work is usually done alone. 

Our members get to a point of success, and then they really discover that they need fellowship, they need support, they need their peers to help them get beyond their blind spots and go to that next level. Basically, it’s the kind of support you can only get from someone who’s walked in your shoes — someone who has faced bankruptcy, someone who has not been able to make payroll, somebody who may have had three or four failed businesses — these are the people who really understand what you’re going through and can help you get to that next level.

What are some things entrepreneurs can do to help their small businesses thrive over the next couple of years?

CS: Your time and attention are the main resources you have to manage as an entrepreneur and a business owner. Being deliberate and intentional about where you’re putting your attention and where you’re putting your energy can really help you through the tough times. 

You may feel like you’re at the end of your rope, and may not have noticed you’re putting your energy into the wrong part of your problem. Are you putting your energy into the part of your business that’s working? Or are you getting dragged down by the little stuff? Time and time again, I hear from our members that one of the most effective things they practice is reflecting on what you’re good at and what your strengths are, and then really driving the attention to those areas.

DA: Whether or not it’s EO, you need to find a community to be a part of as a business owner that can help you find like-minded people who might be suffering as bad as you are. And find those who have found a way to get through the tough times, because we need that mental and emotional experience that can only come by working with each other.

My final thing is that while I have been fortunate as an entrepreneur, there have still been some really, really rough times. And during those times, I’ve learned that you just have to dig deep and find the grit to power through it. As bad as it is right now, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. And you know what? A lot of the times, non-self-imposed failure, which COVID has caused a lot of people to go through, gives us lessons to learn from. So perhaps this is a chapter where we can learn a lot and find the strength to move on to the next thing.

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