Scott Talley: What’s your background, and what brought you to Network In Action?
Julie Rowland: I am an independent business coach. I coach one of three ways. My one-to-one coaching is the most in depth. I spend a couple hours every week with the clients as we map out and implement their strategy for success. This is the most expensive, and that’s the one that pays the bills. And then I do what I call my “Board of Directors” coaching. I have ten business owners come together, and they throw their problems on the table, and we spend four hours once a month hashing them out. Then I have an online program that has modules for the startups as well as long programs for the experienced entrepreneur who wants to do it on their own time. As a business coach, though, I’m not the kind of professional that you immediately recognize that you need. It’s not like when you wake up and your roof is leaking and you know you need a new roof. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “I’m going to hire a business coach today” without ever thinking about it. I must have a lot of in-depth discussions with potential clients before they’ll open their books and business struggles to me. I had tried various networking groups, but I found the other networking groups just weren’t working for me because they weren’t at that deep level. I figured there had to be something better. When I had rotator cuff surgery and was laid up for three and a half months, I started researching different networking groups. I came upon Network In Action, and I thought, Can it really work like it says it does? But there weren’t any NIA groups in Ohio. Then COVID hit, and all of the group meetings had to go virtual. So, I talked to various NIA franchise owners and asked them if I could sit in on their meetings, and then I looked for the person who seemed to be the most disinterested in the meeting and started a chat with them. I thought they would give me the truth, and they did. Even though there were one or two things that they didn’t like, it was usually leader-driven and not about the group itself or the way the organization worked. So, I spent about nine months doing my due diligence and then jumped in. One of the things that I liked most about Network In Action is the fact that it has longer meetings. This allows people to really get to know each other—much better than doing the same thing one hour a week. There’s a different group here that has meetings all over the city, and you can attend any meeting, any time. That’s great if you’re transactional; that’s not great if you’re in the relationship business—and I’m in the relationship business, so those types of things don’t work for me. I need to be in the trenches, getting to know the people and who they know.
Scott Talley: What is your why?
Julie Rowland: My family is my why. Right now, I live seven and nine hours away from my children and grandchildren. My ultimate goal is to design my coaching business so I can be on the east coast with them two weeks a month and in Cincinnati the remaining two weeks; Network In Action fit right into that. I can structure the business so that my in-person meetings are all the same weeks and I can live the life I want with my family the remaining two weeks every month.
Scott Talley: What do you think is the future of networking?
Julie Rowland: I am still one who believes that without networking, you cannot grow a successful business. Your center of influence will not support a business, especially a service business, forever. Networking, when done properly, grows that center beyond what you even know. When your group becomes your salesforce, the sky is the limit.
Scott Talley: What would you say to a business owner who maybe hasn’t had much experience with networking?
Julie Rowland: Too often, people look at a group of people and say, “Those people would never use my product, so why would I network with them?” I tell them that you have to network through the group. When you go to a meeting, you need to go prepared. You should find two or three people who you want to connect with, who you think you can help and who, maybe, can help you. It’s a reciprocal thing. But it’s not networking when you say, “Hi, I’m Julie Rowland. I’m a business coach; here’s my card. Hi, I’m Julie Rowland. I’m a business coach; here’s my card. Hi, I’m Julie Rowland . . .” People see through that, and if COVID has taught us anything, it is that people need human contact, and business contacts are no different. The days of hanging out a shingle and opening the doors and business comes are gone. People want to do business with those they know, like, and trust.
Scott Talley: What jumps out at you as the biggest differentiator between Network In Action and traditional networking?
Julie Rowland: Honestly, it’s the time commitment. I find that my members do many more one-to-ones and many more follow-ups within our group because we’re only truly meeting once a month. That gives them other times when they would be traveling to and from meetings to delve down and get to know the other members better. Our group holds two meetings a month, but only one is the required meeting. The other one is more of a social. It is a Lunch and Learn, and it is 100 percent led by a member. That person will speak for the hour, which gives us an in-depth look into their business, and they provide the lunch for the group. I have just as good of attendance at those as I do at my regular meeting, and they’re not even required.
Scott Talley: What would you say to somebody who’s considering purchasing a Network In Action franchise?
Julie Rowland: Do what I did: visit the groups, chat with people. It’s not always easy—you do have to put a lot of effort into it—but it’s so worth it. My main meeting is my favorite ninety minutes of my month. I just absolutely love those meetings, and my members love them as well; it’s so different than the way they’ve normally networked in the past. I also want there to be more groups here in Cincinnati so that we can blend! I spend so much time having to explain what NIA is because it’s just not known here in Ohio.
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?
Julie Rowland: NIA is a perfect fit for me as a business coach because I have a business and networking background, so a lot of what I’m doing here is what I already do. So, I take the agendas, I tweak them a little bit, I put my personality into it, and I put the personality of the group into it because my group is unique. So, it’s nice that we have that format from which to work, but we also have some latitude with what we can do because we are all different.
Scott Talley: Is there anything you would do differently if you could go back and start your franchise over?
Julie Rowland: I would follow the steps that are laid out. I was a rebel, I will admit. I hate the phone; I absolutely hate, hate, hate the phone. I did everything I could to avoid the phone—and I wouldn’t do that again. If I start a second NIA group, I will definitely go back and follow the steps. Thankfully, now you’ve trained us on five different ways we can build groups, so it’s not just about phone work. There are a lot of models to follow, so I think that would make it easier the next time around, too. My biggest concern with doing the Lunch and Learns was that I had to deal with a major curveball in my health, and I never knew how I was going to feel; I never wanted to plan something and then have to cancel it and have that look negatively on NIA. But really, that just speaks to the flexibility of this model because even though I’ve had some major health issues, there’s still been room for the business to stay alive and be a success.
Scott Talley: What is one of the major success stories that has come from your group?
Julie Rowland: This is a story about the group itself. Like I said, I ended up dealing with a lot of health issues. Not only that, but my mother also was very ill and ended up passing away in the middle of my own struggles. My ability to attend the meetings and to get things ready just went down the tubes; I was not able to keep up with it. I sent out an email to the group that said, “I’m not going to be able to attend these meetings.” I didn’t even have to go into detail; the word came back, “We got this.” Three of my members stepped up, and they helped find some new members to replace the only two who left; they took on finding the venues; they took on sending out the emails and even setting up who was going to lead our Lunch and Learns. I gave them a credit card, and they made sure the bills were paid and that everything got done. They took that initiative because they did not want the group to fall apart. They did that for me—for all of us—for months. They valued the group that much. One of my members’ wife is also struggling with cancer. He sent me a note that said, “The best we can do for each other in this world where people often only care for themselves is care for each other. That’s why this group you’ve put together is so special. I truly feel each person cares for me. You are a great leader and facilitator. I appreciate you. All my Christian love.”
Scott Talley: I don’t think there’s a better testimonial than that.