Winning by Un-Networking, the CADRE way

Have you ever wondered whether there was a better way to network with other professionals and peers?  Tired of getting business cards thrust at you and having to listen to dozens of elevator pitches at each networking event?  Frustrated at the lack of follow-up with someone you met?  Feel like you’re wasting valuable time going to the wrong events and talking to the wrong people?

Derek and Melanie Coburn may have found the better way!  They call it Un-Networking, and it’s practiced by the members of CADRE, the community of remarkable professionals that they founded earlier this year.

The idea for using the term Un-Networking came from one of Derek’s favorite business books, Un-Marketing by Scott Stratten. What Stratten suggests about marketing, also applies to networking. In the “typical” networking experience, most people approach others in a way that they would hate if they were on the receiving end. As David Siteman Garland says, a lot of professionals are looking for one night stands at networking events, instead of looking to connect with people with whom they can build meaningful relationships. Most people attending networking events are focused on themselves and what they can get out of it: Here’s my card, do you need what I’m selling, can we meet for lunch so I can tell you even more about how awesome I am, etc.? This approach doesn’t work for top-notch professionals.  Un-Networking undoes some of our existing habits and turns on its head what we have previously accepted as the “correct way” to network.

Un-Networking Lunches provide conducive environments for efficiently and effectively meeting other remarkable professionals who are also committed to developing mutually beneficial relationships. During each dutch-treat lunch of 8-10 CADRE members, each attendee has 5-7 minutes to tell the story about his or her business and how the group can identify potential opportunities. Lunches are moderated by Derek who, by intimately knowing each attendee’s business, can facilitate ideal connections and even chime in to add color to each person’s story.  Feedback sheets are filled out and turned in, and post-luncheon commitments are followed-up on and checked by Melanie to insure accountability.  This last part is key, as it’s the following up part of connecting that often fails.

And what is CADRE? “CADRE” is an acronym for “Connecting Advocates, Deepening Relationships,  Exclusively.”  CADRE is a group of 85+ (and growing) like-minded members who believe in giving first, helping others altruistically, and advocating for each other.  It’s a powerful concept that I have not seen before.

According to Derek, “The idea for CADRE really came about after I hosted a round table lunch in November, 2010. I did this regularly for my clients and strategic partners, as a way to add value within my wealth management practice. About five days after this lunch, which seemed like a huge success, I noticed that no one had really done any follow up. I couldn’t understand. So that evening, I sent out 35 emails re-connected the folks who had met that day. 15 meetings were set up, and at least five acquired new clients, either directly from one of the others, or via referrals. The light bulb went on.  I knew there could be real value in creating a business model that provided a system for helping successful professionals in following up with meaningful connections.”  I was personally so impressed by Derek and Melanie and their concept that I immediately signed on as a member and Advisory Board member, as well.  The experience has been excellent and very rewarding.  It is refreshing to get to know and interact with a group of A Players who believe in helping others, even before helping themselves.

The Coburns’ vision for CADRE is to bring together the best of the best, and adding as much value as possible for them. Derek says, “I feel like we are building a business from the outside in. Most businesses start with a clear offering, try to make money, and then worry about ideal clients, providing incredible service and building a great culture. We are starting with all of these and are excited about how it is unfolding. I recently read a book called Little Bets and it was all about trying a lot of different things within a business, and then build on the ideas that are successful. We are definitely taking this approach within our community. We are getting great feedback from our members as to what is working and what is not, and ultimately, they will mold the vision for CADRE.”

By revolutionizing the way networking is done and the way a startup can be grown, Derek and Melanie are certainly blazing new trails.  Judging by the tremendous buzz generated so far, as well as membership growth and member satisfaction, CADRE will be here for a long time.

What do you think?  Please share some of your best tips for networking and connecting. What works best for you?

Thanks very much for reading.  Please comment below and sign up for my Blog!

Featured image courtesy of Sean MacEntee licensed via creative commons.


12 thoughts on “Winning by Un-Networking, the CADRE way

  1. This idea will work because the people joining are disgusted by the traditional East-Coast networking and looking for substance, not volume; these people care about others and are genuine.

    So many of us are so consumed with our own growth and monetary benefits, we lose interest in others. This leads people to become networking pigs…here’s my card, here’s my card, here’s my card, can I have yours! We’ve all had people approach us with a mountain of business cards in hand, interrupt our conversation and ask to exchange business cards without hesitation. How many of us actually say no? Then, if we do trade cards, we end up on their mailing list without our concent. This to me is a total lack of integrity. Like everything else, networking should have a system.

    I only bring 7 business cards to an event and only trade cards with people I have a meaningful conversation with for a good period of time (not specified). I often tell people I don’t trade cards, then explain my system; those people I say no to aren’t interested anyway and always end up walking away without their feelings hurt. I hardly ever hand out all 7 cards. In fact, the last event I attended, I was there for 3 hours and only handed out 2 business cards. Both recipients became friends and we will most likely do business in the future. If not, that’s ok. They are still people I feel 100% comfortable working with/for, hanging out with, or referring clients and friends.

    I never heard of CADRE, Tien. Thank you for sharing.


    • Thanks for your Comment, Masoud. With limited time and energy and resources for follow-up, it only makes sense to be HIGHLY SELECTIVE in your business networking. Layer on top of that the approach of helping others FIRST and you are really ahead of the game, my friend. Keep it up!


  2. Thanks for the profile of CADRE, Tien! I know you are a big fan of cooking, and it’s worth noting that the most important ingredients here (BY FAR) are the unbelievable members (as Yanik suggested). None of this would work if there were average people in our community. We are getting a ton of introductions from our current members, but everyone is being incredibly selective when considering a potential member. We are excited to grow, but also are committed to never lowering the bar for quality. Great stuff here!


  3. Tien,

    You are right on with your comments. I definitely believe in the old adage that you get what you want by helping others get what they want. Just as listening is the key in any communication finding ways you can help others is key to developing long standing and mutually rewarding relationships.



  4. Great post, Tien – and I agree about the CADRE approach to building lasting and fruitful relationships.

    Keep giving, keep sharing, and keep thriving.

    Let’s connect soon – we need to get our lunch on the books.



  5. I think the successs of a group like CADRE is pretty deeply based on a couple things 1) The level of the people involved. The “high quality” group of individuals is incredibly important. There has to be an underlying level of value that you know you will not be wasting your time by attending.

    2) The values of the group – I think the values reflect the leader. Derek does a great of job of personally living the values and it comes through to other members. That’s why I see more interaction and real engagement with this group.

    As Kash mentioned, he’s been to other similar events (so I have I) but what happens afterwards and the level of commitment each member makes is different in CADRE.


    • Good points, Yanik. The entire group and individual experience is enhanced further, turbocharged if you will, by having phenomenal people who share the same values. Really takes it to another level. And this will insure quality AND follow-ups, which are very key esp early in a relationship. Thanks!


  6. Tien – Great stuff. I am familiar to this concept and have attended one such event. There is a local networking group in Silver Spring, MD that conducts similar un-networking events where each participant (8 to 10 maximum) gets a few minutes to introduce themselves and their business. Each event is conducted at a restaurant, dutch-treat lunch, where the host is responsible for following up.


    • Thanks Kash. I think this kind of “networking” is a natural evolution away from high volume, low quality interactions. These folks figured out how to improve the quality and effectiveness of interacting, and I bet this starts to take hold across the country!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s