Talk about a feel good story of just helping people, and making a business out of it! It in The D is one of those. Bob and his friends wanted to find a networking group where they could meet like-minded IT people. When they failed to fall upon one, they decided to start their own.
IT in The D is now over 5,000 members, has a podcast with almost 2 million downloads, and they have helped over 1,000 people find jobs. Not bad for just wanting to network. Their company continues to evolve in more of a pull versus push fashion, and they're doing great things for the IT industry in Detroit.
It started when Bob and two of his friends got together and started a networking meeting where no MLM'ers were allowed, and they just wanted, good solid networking to take place. They made it a goal to really police the people coming so it was quality people.
When the economy tanked just a bit they decided to have an alternative to the standard job fair, and they had a pink slip party, where it was the first no charge to anyone, and the whole goal was to help others find jobs.
What were some of the things you did to police the event? They first said absolutely no MLM people could come. Then once they started seeing a pattern of people, where they would hear others say 'oh no, that guy is here again,' they started a blog called 'Don't Be That Guy.' They would never call anyone out by name. However, it was pretty obvious if you were that guy they were talking about. Once they started gaining an audience, people came telling them they were not going to be that guy.
Once they started getting regulars, they also made sure to police a little more, and if there was a pushy sales guy, or an MLM'er, they asked them to leave.
So after the pink slip parties how did you keep growing this to now over 5000 members? Bob's partners all worked well together, and they were asked to do speaking engagements on networking, etc. People told them they should do their own radio show. It happened that they had a friend who had a studio, so they decided to actually record a show every Monday night. Since they had the audience already, the podcast just worked as a natural fit.
Explain the business model, and how you've set that up. They had no intentions of making a business out of this, as they just wanted to help people. However, when their first podcast hit over 100,000 downloads in the first five days, they knew they had an audience and were on to something. Their first step was to open up sponsorship packages for the podcast and events. They didn't even have to sell those, people just started handing them checks. It was one of those things they got pulled into it instead of pushing it.
Bob insists it's their cadence and persistence that has paid off. They started it out where it was just him and his friends meeting at the bar for six months.
Since you're bringing in sponsors how are you still maintaining the original integrity? They draw a line, and most of the people who sponsor have been with them for over five years. They limit the amount and type of company that are sponsors. Bob also knows they could charge people, but he just doesn't have the heart to charge people who are looking for jobs.
So far their events have helped over 1,000 people find jobs.
Detroit is also on the upswing with several companies moving there. The cost of living is so much less out there, and it's a hot bed for IT talent right now.
Is it part of your company's mission to reach out to these new companies and try to find them people? Bob says although they hadn't made a decision to do that, they are getting drug into the talent acquisition side of things. They're actually to a point where most people who should be employed are, and so finding the talent is really hard right now.
What's been a big obstacle for you to overcome? When they first came up with the name they didn't know what to do with it. Well suddenly it became important to some pretty big companies. Their initial idea of partnering, was really they just wanted to come in and take the name. Luckily, they had Dave, one of the partners, who had his shield up, and they backed off on the partnering. The big companies would have just tried to pull the rug out from under them and stolen their name, if they had.
What's next for you guys? The podcast is over 1,000,000 downloads. They had no idea that it was going to take off. They really want to fine tune that and get some bigger guests. They're also getting pulled into talent acquisition, even though they didn't intend on that.
What's a tool that you can't live without? Since Bob travels, he uses Yelp to find restaurants, and then he always uses Shazaam.
More About Bob: Bob is a Sales of the group, working for such tech giants as NTT, NEC, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and most recently Cisco Systems. Bob was recently awarded the Elite 40 under 40 designation from L Brooks Patterson, he serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals for the City of Auburn Hills as well as sits on the Oakland County Business Roundtable. Bob is also on the Board of Directors for the German-American Marksmanship Club, served for 2 years as the President of the Auburn Elementary PTA, and is a regular speaker for the Michigan Shifting Gears program, winning 2013’s “Outstanding Contributor for the Transformation of Careers and Lives”.
Get on the list, and we'll send you info when we open our next challenge!