Click here for Part 1 Making local networking easy, fun, and mutually beneficial Curt Kowalski is the president and founder of Team Network, a professional networking group for business people in the D.C. metropolitan area. Members are assigned to Teams that comprise organizations and entrepreneur in various industries and service areas, and attend “Martys”: monthly functions that could be considered a combination of meetings and parties. Team Network also equips its members with a comprehensive directory of Trusted Partners, who give members discounted rates for products and services. Curt Kowalski spoke with Gregory Johnson for this interview. GREGORY JOHNSON: How has Team Network grown and changed since it first started? CURT KOWALSKI: Well, once again, I’m really proud to say that we’ve been in business 24 years. The last time I looked we had over 25 members that were 15 to 25 years with us. So, it becomes like family. A lot of these people started in business the same time I did, and we’ve literally grown up together. And, when there are weddings and things that go on, oftentimes I’m getting invitations because we really have become friends over the years, and I am proud of that, you know. What do you think keeps people joining and coming back to Team Network? It’s more than just business in Team Network. If they’re looking for something that is relationship-oriented, that’s flexible from the standpoint of the kind of time that they’re going to put in, that they feel confident that they don’t really need to be babysat to be successful in a networking group—if they feel they’re confident that they can build relationships, that they’re confident in their own abilities—there’s so much opportunity here in Team Network to meet. I can introduce them, and over the course of the year, they could develop relationships with 100, 200 people—and certainly develop very close meaningful relationships with the people in their own team. And, they can do that in a way that fits into their life. We tend to meet in the evenings mostly, though we do have some other some other events—morning events—but, you know, the happy hour, evening 6–8 time slot, so, for instance, if someone says, “Well, I’m a mother of three, and I need to be home, and the kids are going off to soccer,” and things like that, that’s typically difficult for someone like that. But there’s a lot of people that look at some of the other networking that is going on there in the area, and they see that they’re meeting every single week, and a lot of people are just not willing or able to take a commitment of that size. And if you don’t show up, they take that very seriously, and we do too. I don’t want to say that that’s not a good thing to do; however, we just take each case at a time. If you miss a meeting, you can certainly make up for it in other ways by emailing your group and visiting with people between the meetings, visiting other groups, going to breakfast—all those things like that. So, I think a lot of people really like that sort of friendly touch, but a serious business background. How do you keep members accountable? People are accountable to the way they treat you, because we all know each other, we see each other on a regular basis, and so you can’t refer someone or do business with someone in Team Network and that experience not be broadcast in some form or another through the grapevine, or what have you. So, when someone is asked to take care of someone, and you refer someone to a fellow member—a family member, a friend, a neighbor—that person is accountable for the way they treat that referral, and there’s a certain confidence in that. We’re developing a new program that we’re going to be calling the “Trusted Partners Program,” where we’re going to market to people, we’re going to ask our members to refer people to us and get on a list, and we’re going to, in a way, take the referral process to another level and market to the people that we know. That’s to come very soon. I’m working on developing that program right now.
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