Scott Talley: When did you purchase your first NIA franchise, and how did the two of you end up partnering on this venture?
Joyce: I have always placed a high value on networking. In 2009, while working as a full-time paralegal, I became a representative for J. Hilburn, a luxury menswear company that helps men project success in both casual and professional settings. With my business partner, I established a studio in Houston and, through networking, recruited over two hundred individuals to join us. In the summer of 2017, I acquired my first NIA franchise, which I focused on University of Houston alumni, and subsequently started three more groups centered around alumni connections.
David: We met online in February 2020, just prior to the COVID pandemic, and got married in June 2021. Both of us were widows. We discovered many commonalities, such as having three sons each, growing up as military dependents, and having an entrepreneurial mindset. It all worked out perfectly, and it’s clear that the Lord had a hand in bringing us together. Last year, we acquired our fifth group, The Expert Connection, a national virtual group that is not affiliated with any specific university. To become a member, one must be recognized as an expert by their peers, have at least five hundred LinkedIn connections, have a minimum of ten years in business, and have the ability to conduct business across state lines. We have received inquiries from individuals seeking to join even if they reside outside of the country, and we are currently considering this possibility. Being born in Germany and growing up in various locations has given me the opportunity to experience different cultures from a young age. I have a deep fascination with meeting new people, learning about their cultures, and now, also exploring how they run their businesses in a global market. It’s an incredible experience that has left a lasting impression on me.
Joyce: We co-lead a group with Catherine Brown, a sales business coach and author of the book How Good Humans Sell, which I highly recommend. This B2B group is composed of business owners, leaders, and principals. I have known Catherine for a long time, even before Network In Action, and we have a strong partnership. While she leads the group, we handle the backend support. It’s effective to have someone else take the lead in recruiting and leading this group, as we are still present but not as heavily involved.
Scott Talley: As a franchise owner, how much flexibility do you have when it comes to putting your own thumbprint on everything you’re doing within your groups?
David: NIA’s solid foundation has given us the flexibility to operate our business and groups as we desire. The collaborative culture at NIA encourages innovative thinking, allowing us to effectively support the growth of our franchisees and provide them with the necessary resources. NIA has been a key factor in our success.
Scott Talley: We talk a lot about the six main differences that really set Network In Action apart from traditional networking groups. What would you say are the differences that you’ve seen really create a different experience for the business owners in your groups?
Joyce: The monthly meetings for the Houston area have been a valuable change with a more relaxed schedule. My previous experience with another networking group involved weekly meetings from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM, with strict attendance requirements. The meetings provided delicious food and allowed limited networking opportunities in the first fifteen minutes. However, NIA’s monthly meetings allow for more meaningful conversation and opportunities for growth.
David: The unique aspect of NIA is the opportunity for networking beyond the local groups through its national network and virtual sales mastery and focused forums. Members can easily participate from their own location, be it the office or elsewhere, and connect with a wider network of individuals in a convenient, virtual setting, potentially discovering new professional relationships. This added benefit is highly valued by members.
Scott Talley: What would you say to somebody about the importance of networking?
Joyce: Networking is key to building relationships. Whether it’s through virtual or in-person interactions, it is crucial to establish connections with individuals. My goal, whether I am selling custom menswear or facilitating growth for businesses through our groups, is to help individuals form valuable relationships that may be missing in their professional lives. Building relationships is the essence of networking and crucial to success.
David: Some members join our community not for additional business opportunities but to have access to a network of experts for their personal or clients’ use. For example, one of our members, who is a CPA, stated that they don’t require much new business but rather a source of referrals for their clients. The principle behind our approach is the concept of reciprocity—give first then receive. This is a hallmark of advanced, professional networking. When individuals embrace this mindset, they find that the rewards are greater. Another advantage we’ve noticed is the value people find in their secondary and tertiary connections within the group. Even if they can’t offer services to someone they meet in the meeting, their connections and their connections’ connections can provide new opportunities for expanding their network. This real-life model is akin to LinkedIn, but with actual, in-person interactions.
Scott Talley: On a scale of one to ten, how much earning potential do you have with Network In Action?
David: I would rate it a nine or ten. I am constantly learning new ways to improve through the NIA leadership’s Monday morning meetings, where they bring new tools and ideas to enhance our success. I am constantly expanding my knowledge, so I can’t accurately rate it lower.
Joyce: David has already demonstrated the potential on a spreadsheet, and it’s significant. As retirement approaches, this presents a huge opportunity for those seeking a productive retirement.
Scott Talley: On a scale of one to ten, how much control do you have over your schedule and your time and your travels as an NIA franchise owner?
Joyce: The flexibility of our schedule is great, except for the designated meeting week. My custom clothing business involves in-person client visits, but I have the ability to adjust my schedule to accommodate them. Additionally, I have a business partner to support me. Currently, I would rate our flexibility as an eight, and I aim to improve it in the future.
Scott Talley: On a scale of one to ten, how satisfied are you with the opportunity you have as an NIA franchise owner to give back to your community and make a difference in the lives of your group members?
David: It’s a nine or ten, depending on one’s personality. If you enjoy meeting and helping others with a servant’s heart, the sense of fulfillment from your achievements and impact is incredible. We have a sign on our bathroom mirrors as a reminder to always think about how we can assist our clients or members. It’s a mindset that leads to success.
Joyce: Our efforts are having a tangible impact. One of the nonprofits in our B2B group, the Neighbors in Action (NIA) organization, is one we encountered at The Gathering, a monthly meeting in Houston where faith-based nonprofits gather for lunch. Our B2B group and Neighbors in Action share the same downtown location, and we made a difference by supporting them with funds for their Christmas dinner for the community. During our last meeting at their community center, we heard a heart-warming story from a woman who was rescued by Neighbors in Action. She and her husband were refugees from Honduras and, through an interpreter, she shared how this non-profit changed their lives. Our support, through raising close to $2,000, helped provide the meals and a big Christmas party at the neighborhood center for those in need. This experience highlights the power of business leaders and owners to make a positive impact on communities.
Scott Talley: Is there anything you would do differently if you could go back and start your franchise over?
Joyce: The launch of our first franchise faced numerous obstacles, including the timing of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the loss of my first husband in 2018. In hindsight, I would have approached things differently by starting earlier and conducting more research before purchasing the franchise. This would have allowed me to gather a larger pool of members and potential members, making the launch process smoother.
Scott Talley: What would you say to someone who’s thinking about buying a Network In Action franchise?
David: Building a successful business takes effort, like any entrepreneurial venture. Some people may have a built-in network of connections, but even those with established networks, such as our co-leader in our B2B group, who is an expert salesperson, have found that not everyone is willing to participate. Building a business requires time and effort, taking longer than initially expected. However, the reward is worth it as the business becomes centered on relationships, and some of these relationships have turned into friendships. Unlike traditional customer relationships, where a certain level of distance is desired, in this business, a personal connection is formed while still delivering a unique service.
Joyce: To be successful in this line of work, two key factors are essential: First, a fondness for people is crucial, because if you don’t enjoy interacting with others, it may prove challenging. Second, it’s important to approach this role with a servant-leader mindset. Having prior business experience through another business is an advantage, but your primary focus should be on serving your members and community by assisting in the growth of their businesses. If they require resources you do not have, you must be willing to help them find those resources. This may require stepping outside of your comfort zone, but when serving others is your primary focus, success will follow.