The original dues-charging entrepreneurial peer group is the Dallas-based Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), founded in 1950. All 8,000 worldwide members are presidents or chief executives under 50 years old, who pay $2,000 to $6,000 a year for the privilege of attending monthly YPO meetings to hash over business with fellow youthful CEOs.
The growth of the nonprofit YPO attracted profit-seekers 40 years ago, when a similar group called The Executive Committee (TEC) was formed in San Diego. TEC members, numbering about 5,500 worldwide, are mostly executives of larger organizations, and pay $5,400 to $8,700 for much the same thing YPO offers.
Recently, several new peer group networks have sprung up, charging similar dues for similar benefits. One is Inner Circle International Ltd., the Minneapolis-based group that advised Mollerud on financing. Egge says peer groups thrive because they fill needs left unsatisfied by groups such as chambers of commerce.
Peer groups are not about networking and prospecting, like most civic and business groups, Egge notes. Nor do they let just anyone join. Many accept applicants by invitation only and require unanimous approval from existing members. Egge adds that high dues keep out casual joiners and motivate members to attend, contribute and try out suggestions they receive.