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?
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Featured image courtesy of Sean MacEntee licensed via creative commons.