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Moments of Terror, Times of Success: Larry Kavanaugh on the Importance of Entrepreneur Support

Updated: Jun 21

Entrepreneur Support with Larry Kavanagh

Larry Kavanagh, CEO of NaviStone and incoming president of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) Cincinnati knows firsthand the ups and downs of entrepreneur life. 

In the spring of 2000, he was sitting in his basement office staring blankly at a whiteboard that had a launch plan for his new company. He had installed three phone lines: one for his modem, one for his fax machine and one for calls. One of those calls had brought bad news from a venture capital firm he had signed a term sheet with a month before.

“I thought I was 10 days away from closing on $5 million to fund my new company,” Larry recalls. “The venture capitalist told me one of the partners had a change of heart and the deal wasn’t going to happen.” 

Larry had closed a very successful solo marketing consulting practice because the VC firm said he should focus on the new business. He had helped his former clients find other firms to work with. 

The news was crushing. “How was I going to pay for my two daughters’ private school? How was I going to tell my wife, who had supported me unblinkingly, what had happened?” 

Fast Forward

Five years after that phone call, Larry was at an awards ceremony being recognized as the founder of the fastest-growing company in Cincinnati. His business ranked number 485 nationally on the INC magazine list of fastest-growing companies. “Sometimes boot-strapping an idea can be better than venture funding,” he says, “though I wouldn’t have believed it years before.”

Larry’s ups and downs reveal what he describes as the life of an entrepreneur. “Moments of terror and defeat,” he says. “Times of struggle, sometimes followed by joy and success.” These are all reasons why  Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) can be a lifeline. 

“Back then I wasn’t aware of EO,” he says. The entrepreneurs support organization is a 17,000-member, global, nonprofit that brings entrepreneurs together to share experiences, provide support and celebrate  wins. “It would have been helpful in my early days as an entrepreneur! I’ve been fortunate enough to be an EO member for the last 15 years.”

EO Cincinnati as an Entrepreneur Support Lifeline

Larry joined EO Cincinnati in 2007, about 10 years into his business. Previously, he had joined an organization in California, but the membership wasn’t limited to entrepreneurs and flying there often was an extra hassle. 

He found that EO Cincinnati provided more support for the challenges he faced rather than just information on sales. Information he gleaned from EO Cincinnati even helped Larry close the knowledge gaps from his MBA program.

This support was critical when once again an unexpected and unpleasant obstacle popped up.  

One Friday after work, he walked in the front door, ready to relax and enjoy the weekend. Then he spotted a large envelope with a return address he didn’t recognize. Maybe it was a mistake or a bill he wasn’t aware of. When he opened it, he discovered a meritless lawsuit had been filed against his company. 

The false claims suit was one of the biggest entrepreneurial challenges Larry has faced. For the next six months, he leaned on his EO Cincinnati support. “You’re thinking though that this could be the end of the business,” Larry said citing legal costs and reputational damage that could have harmed his 20 employees and his livelihood. While EO didn’t provide legal advice, he was able to face this entrepreneur challenge with the help of his EO forum. 

Fortunately, when the lawsuit hit, Larry was far enough in his career to take a step back and put it into context. He communicated with his team, and it gave him a chance to be transparent with them. Because of the solid culture he built, he was able to trust his team to help him through the rough spots. “You don’t need good culture for when things are good,” Larry says. “You need it for when things are bad.”

“Like other setbacks before, you find a way around it. I have not met an entrepreneur with smooth growth. It’s a rollercoaster not a straight line. You have to take a breath, take a step back.” - Larry Kavanagh

Overcome Entrepreneur Challenges With EO Cincinnati

As an entrepreneur, you’ll always need to expect setbacks. As Larry’s experience illustrates, you don’t need to live in fear of them. Opportunities to learn and grow come from the hard times, Larry says. Today, he stresses the critical importance of meeting regularly with other entrepreneurs, as networking is critical to learning and growing. 

EO Cincinnati is an entrepreneur support organization for business owners, offering networking and learning opportunities. Learn more about membership and events.

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