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Recap of this year’s annual convention

Members of CEO Focus, Level 7 Un-Networking and their guests enjoyed a morning of business building and education including a presentation on Business Models for Dummies. A variety of best practices were shared by the guest panel consisting of Connie Shepherd, Mike Peck, Mike Corbitt, and Brian Knoderer.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion centered on the recruitment and management of 20-somethings. Many of the 35-and-over business owners struggle to understand the motivations of the younger generation so the insights and best practices of some of the CEOs was appreciated.

Bridgewater Club

The conclusion of the group was that younger employees do pose a management challenge to older managers. However, the rewards greatly outweigh the risks as this generation has varied and sometimes superior skills to baby boomers.

In case you missed the meeting, you can find a replay of the Business Model Presentation at

The afternoon golf scramble enjoyed the best weather in years. Sunshine and 78 degrees instead of the balmy 103 degrees we tolerated last year. Best ball honors went to Joel Erwin with Bud Shore coming in a very close 2nd.  Long drive honors went to Michael “The Beast” Goldberg with a nice 290 yarder.

Thanks to all the members and guests who made the event such a success.

Stop the Insanity

Networking is NOT working!  The process has been hijacked.  Too many business owners attend traditional networking meetings only to find:

  1. The wrong people.
  2. The wrong process.
  3. The wrong philosophy.

The Wrong People

You can’t have a productive meeting with the wrong people in attendance.  A true network is designed around mutuality, you help me and I will help you.  In order for this process to work, like-minded people must be in attendance.   Most small-to-medium-size business owners who sell to other businesses (B2B) find few other B2B businesses at traditional networking meetings.  Instead, only chiropractors, realtors, solo lawyers, low-level salespeople, and professional networkers are there.

When the bulk of the attendees at a networking meeting are the wrong people, what’s the point?  Sure, there are many people in attendance.  But if they are not the right type of people, isn’t the meeting just a cocktail party?  A good meeting of un-networkers is full of like-minded business people with similar interests.

Business people attend networking meetings to get introductions to meaningful people, in particular, prospects.  But there are no prospects at networking meetings, only salespeople.  Never in the history of networking has someone said: 

“Gosh, our copier is acting up.  I think I will go to the networking meeting tonight and see if I can’t find someone to sell us a copier.”

At traditional networking meetings, virtually all of the attendees are there to sell something.  The room is full of people, and talking to lots of people can be enjoyable.  This enjoyment is what creates the buoyant feeling of networking but inevitably falls short of any meaningful relationship building.  Ask yourself:  Does the person you are talking to at a networking meeting have a need for your product, the decision-making power, and the financial ability to purchase it?  The answer is always “NO.”

Networking:  An uncontrollable compulsion to offer services to total strangers while ingesting small blocks of cheddar cheese on a five-inch circular foam dish.

Alternative Definition of Networking:  A business procedure that simulates all the work of selling but yields no results.


The Wrong Process

Traditional networking meetings use a broken process.  They use forced lead quotas.  Meetings have excessive frequency, i.e., weekly.  The meetings are held in places that are not conducive to doing business.  Most important, they focus on information sharing or card flipping rather than relationship building.

Referrals come from those who know, like, and trust us.  In order to build know, like, and trust, we must build relationships, not share information.  Traditional networking has tried to shortcut the relationship-building process and hijack it.

In fact, there is no such thing as networking.  A productive network is the RESULT of activities, not the activity itself.  A powerful network is the result of relationship building.  Relationship building happens indirectly, not directly.  Think of your most meaningful business connections.  Where did they come from?  Most likely they came from small, structured group activities designed for something completely unrelated to business like church groups, social clubs, charitable organizations, or neighbors.  The process was simple, spend time with like-minded people doing something other than “networking” and form a relationship.  Later, this relationship proved to be valuable in business.  It was simple and natural, relationship first, referral second.

At this point we have bad news and good news.  The bad news is relationship building takes time.  It happens over months, not minutes.   Traditional networking groups conveniently choose to ignore this fact.  They work under the illusion that meaningful business relationships can be made and referrals can be obtained from card flipping, the business version of speed dating.  All relationships begin with knowing, liking, and trusting each other.

A networking meeting does a decent job of knowing, and perhaps liking.  However, how can people build trust in an inherently distrustful environment?  Remember, virtually everyone attends a networking meeting to sell something.  Therefore, two people are conversing while trying to figure out how to pry money from the other.  How can trust be formed under these circumstances?

Paradoxically, the good news is relationship building produces results with incredible speed.  When a long-time “buddy” recommends you to someone, the deal is almost always done at the speed of light (or trust).  The deal is yours to lose.  Often the provider of this type of lead invests something of himself or herself in the deal.  The deal may also be imbedded in the context of favors you have done for one another.  This is the un-networking scenario.

The Wrong Philosophy

Most important, traditional networking adheres to the wrong philosophies.

Knowing someone is enough

Great business relationships come from those who know, like, AND trust us.  These relationships do not come from those who simply know us or have our business card.  Pretending that a transactional introduction can lead to a relationship sale is naïve.  Relationship sales require relationships.  Relationships are built over time, not from a card flip.

                The more the merrier

Many networking meetings have over one hundred people in attendance.  Here is the typical breakdown:

  • Small retailers including dentists, chiropractors, lawyers (50% of attendees)
  • Job hunters (10%)
  • Wanna-be business owners (10%)
  • Salespeople (20%)
  • Professional trollers, people who appear to be like-minded business owners but who never buy anything.  Instead, they hop from networking meeting to networking meeting all day, every day (5%)
  • Interesting business owners you would like to meet (5%)

Most business owners only need to meet the 5% of the attendees that are like-minded and similarly situated.   Ninety-five percent of the audience wants something from the business owner but has nothing to offer them.  They are takers, not givers.  There is no mutuality.  Bottom line, big group equals big problem.

Great networking cannot occur in a cafeteria  

When most business people think of powerful networking, they imagine the Old Boy Network meeting in a high-society club backroom.   This image may be outdated; however, let’s look at this model.  The Old Boy Network has never and will never go away.  It is the way business gets done all over the world.  Small groups of dynamic, influential people get together and, through trusted relationships, help each other get things done.  Simply put, small groups of Good Old Boys and Girls purposefully watch out for and take care of each other in business.

The Good Old Boys and Girls do not meet in a dingy basement or cafeteria.  This crowd is successful, and they meet in a setting commensurate with their success.  Meeting in an environment conducive to success is a vital component to powerful un-networking.  The right meeting place adds to the proper un-networking environment.

                Business people enjoy mingling with strangers

This is definitely false!  Most business people would prefer to drive an ice pick through their temple than be forced to mingle.  Granted, there are the unfortunate few who, driven by guilt and compulsion, make a feeble attempt at mingling.  Most do not.  Unstructured mingling is torturous.  The right type of un-networking group creates a comfortable environment through its setting and process.

Are there Un-Networking Groups?

YesIn response to business owners’ desire for a high-level networking group, Level 7 Un-Networking was created.  Level 7 Un-Networking combines all eleven key elements into a powerful format for B2B business people.  Membership is exclusive to top executives and business owners of business-to-business enterprises.  Groups meet monthly for lunch at upscale establishments such as Ruth’s Chris, Capital Grille, or the local country club.  Meeting discussions are structured around a business topic rather than card flipping.

Our unique program is based on the following philosophies:

  • Relax, un-networking should be fun and stress free.
  • An authentic network is the RESULT of relationships, not the cause.
  • You can create an environment where relationship building will flourish.
  • Patience is rewarded with valuable long-term relationships.
  • Business owners want to have meaningful conversations with other business owners.
  • Eating lunch alone is a waste of time and money.
  • Keeping the wrong people out of a group is just as important as having the right people in it.
  • Direct selling destroys trustbuilding and should not be allowed.
  • Small, structured groups are the fastest and easiest way to build relationships.

If you are interested in learning more about Level 7 Un-Networking, download our complete membership information package at

We welcome you to join a meeting as our guest.  Simply complete the form at



Is Networking a Verb?

Networking is Not a Verb

The word network is a noun.  You possess a network just like you possess a car.  You drive a car, you don’t go carring.  Your network is the result of relationship building.  You own a car and then you drive it.  You build relationships and then you enjoy a network.  There is only one way to grow your network, expand the list of people who know, like, and trust you.

If networking isn’t a verb, what are you doing when you attend a traditional “networking” meeting?  There are many appropriate verbs to describe what happens at a traditional networking meeting:

  • Socializing
  • Flipping (business cards)
  • Introducing (ourselves to strangers)
  • Drinking (a cocktail)
  • Chatting
  • Standing (alone in the corner)
  • Selling
  • Pretending (to care what the other person says)
  • Feeling (anxiety)

As you can see, many of these verbs are not positive, nor are they effective ways to grow your network.  So what’s a business owner to do?  The answer is simple.  Ban networking as a verb.  If you find yourself attending a meeting to “network,” don’t go.  The meeting will be a waste of time.  Instead, attend meetings with like-minded business people and focus on relationship building.  This is how you will grow your relationships and in turn, your network.

We created Level 7 Un-Networking to address the lack of business relationship-building opportunities.  To learn more about our process, visit

The Fix – Part 11

11.  Face-to-Face

There is no such thing as a Facebook friend or a quality virtual connection.  Most things are still bought from people, not computers, images, or video.  A high-quality un-networking group meets face-to-face, not virtually.  LinkedIn is a great way to share contact lists, but a grand total of ZERO relationships have been formed on LinkedIn.  People post their existing contacts and relationships on LinkedIn, they do not create them.

If you want to gauge the quality of your virtual “relationships,” email your Facebook friends and tell them you are moving and you could use some help.  See how many show up.

The Fix – Part 10

10.  Use a Positive Scorecard

There is an old saying, “What gets measured gets done.”  It’s true.  If something gets measured, things will improve.  To maximize the value of all participants’ time, a scorecard must be created.  Additionally, the scorekeeping must be positive, not negative.  This means rewarding results and behaviors desired, not punishing failures.

Many networking groups have rules stating attendees must bring a certain number of leads to each meeting.  Theoretically, the concept is good; make sure everyone tries to help each other.  However, in reality, this becomes a spanking.  Punishment ensues if leads are not brought.  Many business people have received a call from a friend in this type of group.  The call sounds something like:

“Hey, I’m sorry.  I had to give your name out at my networking meeting because I didn’t have any real leads.  Pretend to be a bit interested when Sally calls you because I don’t want to get in trouble for giving them bogus leads.”

This is an incredible waste of everyone’s time.  Relationships cannot be manufactured.  A good system recognizes this and rewards behaviors that lead to connections as well as sales.

For example, a good system would reward an introduction to a quality vendor or meeting with someone useful to the business.  The system would keep track of what connections lead to positive business results.  These results could be quality advice, customers, prospects, vendors, or simply good people to know.

The Fix – Part 9

9.  Proven Process

All great processes are proven and repeatable.  Traditional networking feels more like a grade school fire drill than a process.  However, when un-networking is done properly, a systematic process is followed, and a proven and predictable result occurs.   For instance, business owners can sit around a table and “bang around” an issue.  This unstructured process will yield some interesting discussion.  However, a structured discussion process lead by a facilitator will result in a much better discussion.  Ideally, this process should be provided by the un-networking organization rather than un-networkers inventing their own process.

The Fix – Part 8

8.  Consistency

Strong relationships cannot be built without seeing the same people on a regular basis.  For instance, if John and I attend the same networking meeting every month for five years but only converse occasionally, a strong relationship cannot be formed.  Strong relationships are only formed with reasonable and consistent meeting frequency PLUS consistency of the attendees.

The Fix – Part 7

7.  Reasonable meeting frequency

Improper meeting frequency can kill an un-networking group.  Some networking groups meet every week.  Most successful business people would rather TASER themselves repeatedly than network weekly.  They simply do not have the time to meet every week, nor is it necessary.  A proper balance between meeting often enough to feel connected, but not so often that it turns into a job, is the un-networking way.  Have meetings too frequently, and people won’t show up.  Have them too infrequently, and everyone loses track of each other.  The best frequency for powerful un-networking is once every four to six weeks.

The Fix – Part 6

6.  Delayed gratification

The best un-networkers understand and trust the process of relationship building.  A successful relationship-building process is based on delayed gratification and a bit of happenstance.  There is a direct relationship between the value of a relationship and the time it takes to develop it.  Million-dollar relationships are not built in ten minutes.  They take time.

Featured Member

Brian Simms
Brian Simms
Principal, Brendanwood Financial

Level 7 Un-Networking