The Cincinnati chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization hosted its inaugural Small Giants Executive Breakfast Feb. 16 at the Cooper Creek Event Center in Blue Ash. It’s an event that aims to bring together leaders from businesses around Cincinnati.

The Small Giants Executive Breakfast series will be put on six times throughout 2018. It’s the first EO breakfast, and an offering from larger network, the EO Small Giants Community. That group “…is an organization committed to the development of purpose-driven business leaders around the world,” its website states.

EO Cincinnati President-Elect Tim Rettig, CEO of Intrust IT, said the Queen City iteration of the series grew from a visit to Chicago with other EO members, where they attended a Small Giants breakfast.

“I wanted to bring a similar interview format to Cincinnati, because I thought the interview format would be a good one for servant leaders who don’t usually seek the limelight,” Rettig said. “I think entrepreneurs will find a lot of value in hearing how other entrepreneurs have created unique cultures in their organizations and have decided to grow with purpose by following the values of Small Giants.”

The first breakfast included an interview with Greg Harmeyer, CEO and founding partner of Tier1 Performance Solutions, conducted by Timbelo founder, president and CEO Barbara Hogan.

The hour-long interview explored how Harmeyer, along with associates Kevin Moore and Norm Desmarais, started Covington-based Tier1 in 2002. Harmeyer mentioned that they began the business without capital and customers, and it took time to build Tier1 from a small company that got notified about its first contract in “someone’s dining room” to the full-fledged enterprise it is today.

Building and scaling the company, he continued, was “the [hardest] thing I’ve ever done in my life,” so difficult that he said he often reflects whether he would go through that much trouble again.

Either way, Harmeyer had advice for his 12-years-younger self and others like him: it’s crucial to be persistent and have courage. He emphasized the power of the wisdom he had received once: “Just stick around for one more day.”

He also had advice for employers of larger organizations, as one thing that he noticed throughout the years is that businesses, typically these large organizations, will often go out and hire great employees, but then get in their way.

“Small businesses tend to be better places to work,” he said. “Why?”

He elaborated that oftentimes, smaller businesses form better relationships between employees, and there is more purpose in the work.

Harmeyer has encouraged these small-business traits at Tier1, and [credits them] in part with helping the company grow from a small enterprise to one boasting offices in nine cities.

Then, in 2016, Tier1 became an employee-owned business through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. The move is “just a win across the board,” Harmeyer said.

The interview from this week’s event will be typical of the additional Small Giants Executive breakfasts throughout 2018, which have thus far proven to be a success. “For the first breakfast, we doubled our goal for the number of people attending,” Rettig said. “I would love to see us double that again for the April 6  [meeting].”