Scott Talley: How did you get involved with Network In Action as a franchise owner?
Dan Fetsch: It was during the COVID times. Like a lot of people, I spent a lot of time reflecting on what I really wanted to do with my life and if I was really happy. I worked for a great company, and still have a great job, but I just thought that there was something missing. During that COVID period, I spent a lot of time reflecting on this, and just out of nowhere, a woman reached out to me on LinkedIn and asked me if I was open to considering franchise opportunities. I’ve always had an interest in being a business owner—I come from a family of entrepreneurs—I just had never had an idea of what to do. I never really thought about franchising before. But when she reached out to me, it dawned on me that if I didn’t know what to do as a business, a franchise made all the sense in the world because I didn’t have to create something from scratch. I told her I was interested. She then handed me off to a franchise broker, and he was really helpful. He made it very clear that I didn’t have to pay him anything and that he doesn’t get paid until he finds the right fit for me. So, to be a successful broker, his biggest interest was to find the right fit for me. He spent a lot of time understanding my goals, my desires, my strengths, and what I could bring to the table as far as investment. Then he went off and looked for opportunities that might be a good fit for me and brought back three options. They all looked interesting to me, but he told me, “So, this first one here—I don’t normally say this—but this has got you written all over it. From getting to know you, this is a no-brainer; it’s a great fit for you.” That was Network In Action. Since I hadn’t been a small business owner ever before, I didn’t really understand what networking was and what that meant. But I liked the idea of it. He detailed how I would lead communities or groups of business owners and help them grow their businesses and succeed. I’ve always loved being a coach and mentor and leader, so it really spoke to me. Then, after I reached out and talked to you, I realized there’s something special about this organization. I’ve always had a desire to help and serve others, so NIA just hit all my hot buttons. In addition, I felt it could be done part-time as well, which would allow me to keep my full-time job. With this business, I’ve found that the more authentic you can be, the better. When I started this, I knew I didn’t have sales experience; I thought I needed sales training. But what I found I needed was mindset coaching. That’s what really helped me a lot. With that mindset coaching, I was able to be successful by being my genuine, authentic self; it doesn’t require any gimmicks or high-pressure commitments. The value is already there for NIA; it sells itself.
Scott Talley: You were looking at multiple franchise opportunities. What were some of the factors that made you choose the Network In Action franchise over others?
Dan Fetsch: The other franchise opportunities I was looking at required me to have employees, equipment, and vehicles, So, in addition to purchasing the franchise, I would also need a minimum of $25,000 to $40,000 just to start, which meant I was going to be in the red for the first six months to a year. That was just not a situation I was comfortable being in, especially since I was planning to keep my corporate job. There was a time when you would have no choice but to put up a huge upfront investment to float a business until you got to a point where the cash flow could sustain paying employees and a huge upfront investment. That’s what is so great about Network In Action—you really don’t need anything invested up front. It’s just a matter of going out there and working the business. It’s a great, great place to start as a new entrepreneur.
Scott Talley: Since you weren’t coming from a business background, what life experiences or professional experiences most prepared and qualified you to be a franchise owner and leader?
Dan Fetsch: When I was about six years old, my dad traveled quite a bit for business. This was back in the days where there was no TSA; you could literally walk right up to the gate and say goodbye to your family members, then watch the plane back off and leave. I would go and just be glued to the window; I was really fascinated with airplanes and aviation. So, at a pretty young age, I knew I wanted to fly. Then, at some point, I saw the movie Top Gun and knew I wanted to fly fighter jets. So, after high school, I joined the Air National Guard in St. Louis, where I lived, as part of an F-15 unit. I was basically reservist, and I was a mechanic on F-15s. Being in that environment and watching the pilots strap in and go off to fly every day—man, I wanted to do it so bad. I didn’t have very good vision, though; it was pretty bad. Back then, you had to have 20/20 vision to even be considered as a pilot. Instead, I planned on getting an aviation degree and going into the airline world, but I still really want to fly fighters. Then, early in my senior year of college, my mom introduced me to an eye surgeon in St. Louis and said that he had a lot of connections to military doctors and knew the ropes. He had told her that there was a waiver process now and there was a possibility that I could get laser surgery to become a pilot. Long story short, I got my eyes corrected. Then, I qualified as a pilot. I started talking to the Air Force first because that’s all I knew—the Air Force flies airplanes. But unfortunately, it was so soon in the process of allowing pilot candidates with eye surgery that they didn’t really know the process yet. The recruiter ran me around in circles for a little bit, and then he told me it might take a year and a half to two years to get in. I had about $70,000 in college loans coming due, so I was not going to wait around that long. I went to the Navy after that because I knew from Top Gun that the Navy had planes. At the time, they had closed down the F-14 Tomcat and S-3 Viking, so they had lots of pilots there trying to move around to other platforms. They weren’t looking at taking any new pilots. But somebody in that office told me, “You should go talk to the Marine Corps. They have the fourth-largest air force in the world. They fly everything from fighter jets to helicopters.” I had no idea the Marine Corps even had aircraft at that time. I made an appointment with a Marine Corps officer recruiter. It was interesting because, up until that point, all the other services were trying to sell to me. They had the attitude of, This is what we can provide you if you come in as a pilot. This is what we can give you. This is why it’ll be so great for you to choose us. But when I walked into the Marine recruiter office, the first thing I saw was a guy who was chiseled and mean-looking, and his uniform looked like it was pressed cardboard on him. He just stared at me. Then he says, “You want to be a pilot, I hear.” I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “First, you should explain to me why you think you would be able to lead our Marines.” That was not what I’d gotten from any of the other branches. That kind of perked me up. He then explained to me that in the Marine Corps, as an officer—whether you’re a pilot, a lawyer, an infantryman—you’re always a leader of Marines, first and foremost. He talked about how challenging, how tough it would be and how, even as a pilot, I wouldn’t fly all the time; I would have to go to other things and serve on the ground. It was a big challenge to me. I wanted to take that challenge. So, I signed a contract with the Marine Corps and went to OCS and then went on to be naval aviation. In my time in the Marine Corps, I saw some of the best examples of leadership and also some of the worst. But as an organization, they focused heavily on leadership; that’s the most important thing. When you look at the common officer scenario, they’re basically taking a kid out of college and possibly throwing him in charge of a platoon of combat-hardened men, some who are much older than him, and he has to lead them in combat. It’s really tough. Leadership is really important in the Marine Corps, and they really spend a lot of time developing that and working on it. Now, as a leader in the NIA organization, I am aware that I am leading men and women who are sometimes older than me and have more business experience than I do. But it’s not uncomfortable for me at all; I’ve been in that situation so many times. I found that what made me successful in the Marine Corps was just a willingness to learn, educate myself, work hard at that, and then being a genuine leader who cares about my people.
Scott Talley: Is there anything you would do differently if you could go back and start your franchise over?
Dan Fetsch: When you’re starting out, you’re tempted to take anybody who wants to join, but it doesn’t mean they’re always the right fit. One of the mistakes I made was taking on a couple of people who probably weren’t a good fit for the group. I knew that, but I was just under pressure and I wanted to get the group open and launched and running. That really didn’t help me because, in the end, they didn’t work out. I was wanting to charge forward with my second group, but instead I had to backpedal and repair the first group because of those choices I made early on. It’s not a mistake that’s going to kill you, but you want people who are the right fit—and it’s okay to say no to somebody who isn’t.
Scott Talley: Why is it important for businesses and business owners to network?
Dan Fetsch: Everybody needs to network; I don’t care what you do. At the end of the day, it’s people helping people. That’s how we get by and succeed. Even in the corporate world, I saw people being promoted, not always on merit but on who they knew. It’s just a fact of life. People open doors for people. They connect with people who can help them. So, everybody needs to network, but it’s especially important for a small business owner because it’s the most efficient way to grow your business. I talk to people all the time who spend two, three times more than what NIA costs a year in marketing. They tell me they get no results out of it or don’t know if they get results out of it. What we tell people is that a warm lead or warm referral is always 76 percent more likely to close than a cold one. So, when you have a group of people who really know you and like you, and they’re referring people they know and trust to you, there’s a higher rate of close of business. There’s not a more efficient way to grow a business than through networking. I think people realize that. I see people all over the place networking as much as they can, but they’re not being as efficient as they can be with it.
Scott Talley: What would you say to someone who is skeptical about the value of networking or being part of a networking group like Network In Action?
Dan Fetsch: I understand people are looking for something real and authentic and that isn’t a waste of their time. I’m seeing more and more business owners around here trying to start their own groups. A lot is happening, and I see a lot of it. I don’t know what it is about paying for a networking group that is such a hangup for so many people, but they seem to have this idea like, Well, I can lead my own group. I don’t have to pay for one. It’s crazy to me to think like that when you have a business because how would you have time to spend building and managing a group—which is a huge time investment? It’s just like bookkeeping or accounting; outsource that. Let someone do that for you so you can spend time building and managing your business. But honestly, I think a lot of these people are trying to start their own groups because they don’t like what’s out there. One of the biggest factors of NIA that I think grabs people’s attention immediately is the monthly instead of weekly meeting. That’s huge. I think every business owner is scratched on time. The feedback I get from business owners is that when they go around to other groups, the meeting format and agenda is just so stale and boring; sometimes it feels fake. I think they see that and think they can do it themselves and do it better. If you’re one of those people, I hope you’ll strongly consider coming out to an NIA group and seeing what we’re about. Tell me about one of your members’ success stories. I have a bookkeeper in one of my groups—a relatively newer business. Normally, we’re looking at businesses that have been in business three to five years, but this woman has been bookkeeping for decades and knows what she’s doing; she’s just new to doing it on her own, so I brought her into the group. Within a couple months, one of our community leaders down in Houston posted in our beehive group that she had an accountant who had excess work. She was looking to contract out to other bookkeepers and wanted to know if any of our bookkeepers were interested. I was able to connect my bookkeeper with her. That was huge for my member because she was early on in her business and didn’t have a lot of cash flow. She had joined my group on a leap of faith, and that connection immediately gave her a positive ROI. Shortly after that, someone in our group referred her to his sister who lives down in San Antonio and owns her own business. The brother had been telling the sister for years to get a bookkeeper and outsource a lot of what she was doing so that she could have the time to work on her business and not just in it. So, the brother told his sister about our group member who is a bookkeeper, and the sister Googled the bookkeeper. Her NIA contact information came up, and somehow she got a hold of you, the owner and founder of NIA, and you took the initiative to reach out and connect them. At the end of the day, my bookkeeper got that business. That was just the cherry on the top of her year for what she’s done in the group. She said she was so impressed that the founder of Network In Action cared so much that he would take the time to reach out and connect her to that contact and make that happen. She says that NIA will be a long-term thing for her for sure.
Scott Talley: How is Network In Action different than the other networking groups out there today?
Dan Fetsch: I’ll tell you a great story. In December 2022, our monthly meeting was on the same day as a major surgery scheduled for my wife, so I couldn’t be there. I thought about pushing back or moving the meeting, but you told me, “Heck, no, don’t do it. Just leave it where it is. That’s where your members step up, and it’s a great opportunity for them to get exposure.” I took your counsel, and I set it up so that the person who I consider to be the best and strongest person in my group would take charge of keeping the group on track with the agenda. Then I planned to have another one of my members, who is also a pastor, do the gratitude exercise because I thought he’d be a perfect fit for that. Long story short, things didn’t go as planned. It was a really rough day for my wife and me. We got some bad news. I sent a text to John, the pastor who was going to be leading the gratitude exercise, to let him know what was going on. When the meeting started, one of my members asked for an update, because they knew what I was generally going through with my wife’s health challenges, and someone in the room responded, “Well, I saw his family post on social media that they were going into surgery in a few hours.” Then John said, “Well, actually I have an update for you. Surgery is not going to happen today; they didn’t get the news they wanted, and they have to change course now.” He explained what happened, and then he started to move into the next part of the meeting, but one of my members stepped up and said, “You know what? I’m not ready to go on to the next part. Can we just pray for them as a group?” So, my whole group prayed for me and my wife. When John told me about this, that brought tears to my eyes. That’s the kind of strong community you’re going to have in an NIA group and will be hard to find in a lot of these other groups.
Scott Talley: On a scale of one to ten, how much freedom of time have you experienced being an NIA franchisee?
Dan Fetsch: It’s got to be an eight or nine because I don’t have a storefront; I don’t have to physically be anywhere other than the monthly meeting. But I do find, sometimes, that other networking events I want to go to in order to prospect are during times I can’t attend. My corporate job is my first responsibility, so I can’t make a lot of the networking meetings that are early in the morning. But when it comes to making phone calls, I can do that anytime. I just find an hour or two-hour gap somewhere in the day and get on the phone.
Scott Talley: On a scale of one to ten, how much earning potential do you have with Network In Action?
Dan Fetsch: Oh, it’s easily a ten; it’s huge. I have three groups, and once those three groups are all built out and running, it’s easily going to double, or more, my current salary.
Scott Talley: On a scale of one to ten, where are you in terms of being satisfied and being able to give back to your community and the group members you serve?
Dan Fetsch: It’s a nine or ten. When you get stories from your group members of their successes, it’s awesome. It’s amazing when they share the incredible things that have happened between them and other people in the group. Of course, there’s a lot of work I put in with prospecting and building the groups—that’s probably the biggest requirement as far as my time—but the monthly meetings are just so fun, especially when you get to hear about the people who have had success. It’s amazing.
Scott Talley: What is your why?
Dan Fetsch: When I speak of leadership, I’m really talking about helping people do the best they can do and helping them grow and develop. Having grown up in an entrepreneurial family, even before I owned a business, I had personal experience with how tough and challenging it can be. My family had some big ups and downs and tough times. Entrepreneurship is very rewarding, but it can be tough and scary, too. In the Marine Corps, I learned that being a leader is about bringing a team together so they can succeed in accomplishing a mission. Those are things I really love and enjoy. I just have a service heart for people. I’m the kind of person who always wants to find something that is meaningful and impactful to do with my time. Network In Action ties right into that. I’m leading a group of business owners, and my goal is to help all of them succeed and grow their businesses. Every time a member tells me a success story in my group, it energizes me and it gets me going. I love it.