It was 2006 and I was ready to embark on the next phase of my career. I had spent the majority of my life as a B2B manager and owner, dating back to 1977, and now I was ready for a little fun. I was going to operate as a quasi-independent sales contractor in the electric sign industry.
This meant that, while I would be associated with only one firm, I was going to work on a straight commission basis. No draw. No benefits. No leads. I told the company president that the deal would be … “Pay me if I sell something. Leave me alone if I don’t”. I worked out of my home and at my own pace.
Mind you, my pace has always been full-throttle. I had been out of the industry for 3 to 4 years and I needed to generate some opportunities and do so quickly. I reached out to my old connections, power partners, and they were phenomenal! It was like I had never left.
I also needed a good leads group. I found one. It was a leads group but it was far from good. Still, I made it pay. I had started a member-run group in the early 90’s but had to leave that in 2000 due to my move to another company (my old company wanted to maintain that membership).
No problem. My old group was already headed down the path that so many member-run groups fall prey to. Shifting focus. Inconsistent leadership. Diluted membership. The list goes on and on. Still, now in 2007, stuck in another crummy group, I needed a solution.
I had long had a model in my mind but the technology needed to bring those elements together was not, at the time, available. Well, now it was and I began the design of my new group in earnest.
Along the way, I experienced an epiphany. There was going to be a lot of hard work to keep it running after it was launched and there was also going to be some necessary investments in both hardware and software. While it was not my original plan, I came to the conclusion that I would need to run this group as a business.
I was also going to need to charge dues that were double what member-run groups, on the upper end, were requiring. If it’s a business, I needed to generate a fair profit. This meant that I would need to offer a suite of services in addition to a good lunch. The group must return to its members an ROI in excess of their investment.
As it turned out, one of the best selling points of the group was that it was not member-run. Members would not be required to serve in an officer capacity or on any committee. I would do it all. They would never miss a meeting only to find out that they were the newly elected Secretary-Treasurer. My joke was … “Leadership might suck, but it would suck consistently”.
I launched NetWorks! Boise in October 2007 and the crash came in 2008. Great timing. I made the pivot to consulting and I soon added a breakfast group and another lunch group. Now, I have always been involved in breakfast groups but I had to give up trying to get people up in the morning. That group only lasted one to two years.
The additional lunch group was actually requested by a good friend who had a bunch of folks who needed a group. However, they didn’t want a leads group. They wanted a relationship group. I asked what that looked like, never got a straight answer, but I was ok with it since I knew I could bend these folks to my will.
I could not have been more wrong. Try as I might, I simply could not convince the members that building relationships and sharing leads were not mutually exclusive activities. I warned them that I did not believe that the format of the group was sustainable.
I was right about that. There were some great people in the group (some are still with us), but I dreaded going to those meetings every week. As people started to fall out, I decided to stick a fork in it and shut it down. While what they wanted to do might have had merit … it was not what I was equipped to provide. I do leads groups.
I was able to offer certain members the opportunity to transfer to the main group but it was with the understanding that they were going to a leads group and that there would be expectations. I know that, once they got there, they soon came to appreciate what they had been missing out on.
Through these past 15 years I have been so privileged to have developed amazing relationships with our members and this includes many of those who are no longer with us. We are a family and, if you have ever been to one of our meetings, you know that we combine unbridled fun along with the commitment to increasing each other’s revenues.
I turned 69 this year and it is time to turn over the reins to a new leader. One of our members, Virginia Cunningham, will be assuming the ownership and leadership of the group in January. I have known Virginia since 2007 and she has been a member since 2008. We have been grooming her over the past five years and I have no doubt that she will do an awesome job!
NetWorks! was instrumental in allowing me to follow my dream these past 15 years and, for that, I will be forever grateful. I’m off to the next chapter of my life where my focus will be consulting, forming a rock band, and napping. It’s been a wild ride and it’s not over yet! Thank you!
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