YPO. No Mo.

YPOI recently made the decision to drop out of an organization that I had belonged to for 27 years, Young President’s Organization (YPO). I had mixed feelings about leaving, but felt it was time.

Since I am no longer young (at least in body), nor am I a President of a large company any longer, how does one get to join and stay in such an organization? For those not familiar, YPO was founded in the 1950s and is an international organization in 130 countries with more than 25,000 members who are (or were) the President/CEO of a business organization of a certain size prior to a certain age (now 44). I qualified years ago and joined in 1991 at the age of 39 as the President of Earle Palmer Brown/Philadelphia, at the time a large ad agency.

One “graduates” from YPO at age 50 into the 50+ organization, now called YPO Gold, and obviously, I graduated into the older group years ago.

As with any organization with which one is involved for 25+ years, I saw the good, bad and ugly. There are many, many more times more good in YPO than bad/ugly (yes, alas there is some small part too).

The good is overwhelming. People.

I have made close friendships with several people who I would not have gotten to know other than through YPO. Ironically, I recall going to one of my first events in 1991, which was a graduation ceremony for those aging out into the 50+ group. I heard graduates talking about their love of YPO and the people they knew. As a cynic, as I heard the speeches I thought (wrongly) that it was a bunch of crap and that YPO was a merely a cultish group of spoiled rich kids—good for business networking and little else. Wrong again. Very wrong.

YPO has many levels—local chapters, regional and international. There are many ways one could get involved. My involvement was largely local in the Philadelphia Chapter, and particularly with a local forum of 10 people across a variety of businesses who you meet with regularly and speak about your business and life. Those are the deep friendships I have gained (and those will not be lost in my non-membership). I also more recently had the opportunity to be a part of a marketing industry forum for members in the NY/NJ/PA/MD region. This was a different experience. Not as deep on a personal level, though it was getting there, but obviously more directly relevant to my business. That too has been very valuable and meaningful.

But in dropping out I felt it was “time”, at least for me. There was no urgency for me to drop out. I see members far older than I am at local Chapter meetings. One never ages out of the 50+ YPO Gold. But the core of the organization is still appropriately based on business leadership and its associated issues—personal, work/life/balance, etc. My issues are not nearly the same as they were 20 years ago, so its value on that level was not as great to me any longer.

So I leave after 27 years appreciative of the opportunity to have been a member, knowing the door is open for returning should I chose to do so. Not likely, but you never say never. But I know I became a better business person and more importantly, a better person as a result of my membership and for that I will always be grateful.

But for me, YPO No Mo.

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