15: Pivot and Scale Forward with Verne Harnish

It’s a great pleasure for us to have the opportunity to interview a true legend in the entrepreneurial world! We have Verne Harnish joining us today, to talk about how the EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization) was created. He will be discussing the balance between online and face-to-face events, moving forward, he will share some examples of people who have pivoted and re-invented themselves, and he will also explain what you need to do to thrive in the future.

About Verne

Verne Harnish is the founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), with over 14 000 members worldwide. Verne chaired EO’s premiere CEO program, the Birthing of Giants, which was held at MIT, a program in which he still teaches today. As the Founder and CEO of Scaling Up, a global executive education and coaching company with more than 180 partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past thirty years helping companies to scale up. He is the author of the bestseller, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, which has been translated into nine languages. And along with the editors of Fortune, he authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times, for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword.

Verne’s latest book, Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0), has won eight major international book awards, including the prestigious International Book Award for Best General Business Book. Verne also chairs the annual ScaleUp Summits, in collaboration with Bloomberg, and he serves on several boards, including being Chair of The Riordan Clinic, Co-founder and Chair of Geoversity, and a board member of the Million Dollar Women’s Movement. Verne is a private investor in many scale-ups, and he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic, as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

How Verne Harnish started as an entrepreneur

Verne grew up around entrepreneurs. Both of his grandparents on his dad’s side had companies of their own. And his dad, a rocket engineer, left the company he was working for, along with three of his friends, and they built a rocket ship of a company. Sadly, they lost it all in the recession of 1973 and never recovered.

So what Verne does today to help entrepreneurs, is very missional because he doesn’t want any entrepreneur to have to experience what happened to his dad and his company.

Verne was then hired by a gentleman who had helped build the Lear Jet and about 74 other companies. He had launched the Center for Entrepreneurship in 1982, and he wanted Verne to help him build it. The Center for Entrepreneurship has now become the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and it has 14 000 members worldwide.

Verne tells a story about Mark Cuban and EO

As part of a publicity stunt, Verne contacted John Naisbitt, who had written a major bestseller called Megatrends. Verne asked John to identify the top 100 young entrepreneurs, under the age of thirty. At the top of the list was Steve Jobs, and number four was Bill Gates. Mark Cuban was on the list too. Mark had an IT services company in Dallas.

YEO is a global organization

Verne began to get a group of entrepreneurs together and Mark Cuban started hanging out with them at their YEO (Young Entrepreneurs Organization) meetings.

From the outset, their vision was for YEO to be a global organization.

An event in China

In 1986, Verne led the first delegation of young entrepreneurs to mainland China. They held the event for Steve Jobs after he had been fired from Apple. Almost 1200 entrepreneurs from all over the world were at the event.

They went very quickly from idea to global.

Launching ACE (Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs)

When Verne Harnish launched ACE, he approached the Dean of Harvard, with the idea of posting their very first conference at Harvard. The Dean refused, so they went next door to MIT, and they were allowed to hold their conference there instead.

That was how Verne managed to build the great relationship that he still has today, with MIT, and with all the professors there.

Founding The Birthing of Giants program

After launching Ace, Verne went on to found the Birthing of Giants program at MIT.

A motivating factor to launch YEO

The idea that it is okay to be independent, but it’s no reason to be alone, was the motivating factor for Verne to launch YEO, which is now EO.

A legacy coming out of that is that now the 14 000 entrepreneurs in EO are in a forum, so they’re not alone. And they have had a great support group through the current crisis, and through all the other crises that they have gone through, personally, professionally, and economically, over the last three decades.

The future of the meetings and events industry

An expert that Verne Harnish spoke to predicts that things will start returning to normal around the fourth quarter of the year.

He estimates that about sixty percent of their audience will be physically present at events, and the other forty percent will beam in, creating a hybrid between live and virtual.

The four Ps

To scale forward, you need to focus on the four Ps with your clients and audience.

They are:

  1. People

  2. Pivot

  3. Process

  4. Price


Contact Verne – vharnish@gazelles.com

Scaling Forward

Recommended book: Bezonomics by Brian Dumaine

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Eric Rozenberg

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