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4,000 Connectionssurpassed a milestone of sorts last month. When one Russell Bush reached out to me on LinkedIn requesting a connection, he became my 4,000th connection. FOUR THOUSAND! There was no balloon drop, no marching band, nothing to mark the occasion, only another cup of Starbucks coffee when me met up a couple weeks later (I did give him a signed copy of my book, Amplify Your Value, however). 4,000 connections.

OK, I can hear you now, “You must accept everyone’s requests” or “You can’t possibly know that many people”. The truth is I do not accept all requests. There have been some doozies over the years, like the guy trying to tell me my long lost relative left me with $10,000,000 in gold bullion, or, the woman from eastern Europe looking for a “friend”. Fortunately, those are few and far between. Mostly, I look for people who want to share insights, are in transition, or just looking to make a professional connection. (I’m not really looking to be sold to, so if that is why you are reaching out, chances are I won’t accept.)

As for knowing 4,000 people. I have to admit, there are some names in there that I do not remember how we connected. Sometimes, looking at the date we made the connection helps jog the memory banks, other times, that doesn’t even help. However, I do try to stay in touch will all of them. Part of my morning ritual (in addition to coffee with my wife and the Today show), is to review the notifications in LinkedIn and send birthday wishes, congratulations on work anniversaries and new jobs, and sometimes just to say “hi”. Sky Caserotti and I get a good laugh every year on his birthday when I send the message, we’ve been dancing that dance a long time!

I started on LinkedIn September of 2006, just a few short years after the platform launched. My first connection? Steve Johnson. Steve and I worked together at Thomson (RCA, now Technicolor). I recruited Steve to relocate his family from California to Indianapolis and join me at Lauth Property Group. During the real estate crash of 2008/2009, I was forced to lay Steve off as the company downsized dramatically. Believe it or not, we are still friends (I think)!

Those first couple of years, most of my connections were with colleagues from my Thomson days. I found LinkedIn a great way to stay connected as we all went our separate ways and our careers grew. Eventually, I started connecting with business partners, CIOs from other organizations and “old” friends. My oldest friend being Andy O’Donnell.

Andy and I worked together at Indiana National Bank (now Regions) a million years ago. We were in the bank’s running club, the Bison Stampeders. Just about every day, we would meet for lunch to go running. Andy was a bank officer and therefore had access to the Officer’s Lounge, complete with showers and lockers. I was Andy’s guest so often, I still get emails about Officer reunions, even though I never was one! We ran when it was hot (once being featured on the news for what NOT to do when it is 97 degrees), we ran when it was cold (weather too bad to be outside, we ran the stairs – 36 flights up, 36 down – twice).

Since Thomson was a global company, my LinkedIn connections were also global. My dear friend Laurent Ricard, jumps off this list. During one my trips to Paris when Carmen joined me, Laurent and his beautiful wife Agnès hosted us for a fabulous holiday dinner of quail and brussel sprouts. We met his two children. As time went by, his son Guillaume and I connected on LinkedIn and Facebook. He once recorded a guitar riff for one of my presentations. He is now contemplating an internship here in the US. Connections. Multi-generational connections.

In 2009, my number of connections jumped. I had left Lauth and was launching my own4,000 Connections business, Confluence Dynamics, a green business consulting firm. I added clients and colleagues in the “green” industry to the list. One of my first clients (perhaps my first) was Kevin McKinney, publisher of Nuvo, an alternative newspaper in Indianapolis. Kevin was gracious enough to take a risk on my business very early on, though he did question me extensively on what an IT guy knew about HVAC systems, plumbing, electrical and industrial cleaning. (For the record I was LEED Accredited!) Kevin would later play a major role in one of my son’s music videos. While that is a story for another day, it did spawn the phrase, “It’s not a rap video until the cops show up”, just sayin’.

To no fault of Kevin’s, my foray into this space was short lived, and in early 2010 I launched a job search. As a result, my LinkedIn connections jumped again. I was amazed at the number of people who met me for coffee. People I hadn’t seen in 20 years, said yes, I would be glad to help (Elaine Bedel). People I didn’t even know, said yes, when can we meet (Geoff Endris). It was humbling. Dozens and dozens. When I landed the CIO role at Goodwill, I was thankful for each and every one who said yes (no one EVER said no). I made a promise to myself, two promises actually. Promise one: I will never let my network go stale (hence the birthday and anniversary greetings, Sky). Promise two: whenever anyone asked me to network because they were in transition, the answer would always be “yes”.

Goodwill enabled me to connect with hundreds of people. Some colleagues at Goodwill of Central Indiana, some colleagues at other Goodwill organization, tied together by a common brand and a common mission. Some, like me, have moved on from Goodwill, but I know I speak for all of them when I say, we carry Goodwill in our hearts. Together we accomplished some amazing things. Together we built an amazing network.

I could go on and on. I am sure there are people in my connections where my memory fails me and I don’t recall the circumstances under which we met, however I’ve scrolled through the first thousand names and I remember each one. I could tell you where we met and under what circumstances. I could write a book…huh…I could write a book! I could write a book from the stories. What an epic story it would be. An amazing group of people. Some I’ve never met face to face, yet we have a shared history. We have touched each other, if only briefly. You are all part of my tribe. Thank you! Thank you for connecting, Thank you for sharing yourself. Thank you for your role in making me who I am.

I have always been a believer in the power of a professional network. I am a member of several, both on-line and in-person. However, this power was never clearer to me than it was last week. Friday was the culmination of months of planning for the inaugural Sustain the White River Excursion. This “experiential workshop” was designed to raise awareness about the impacts that development has on the river and its watershed. Throughout a 10.5 mile canoe trip, five local experts (or as we called them, “Guides”) met us along the river to describe various impacts, such as storm water, waste water, fresh water filtration, residential impacts and even the history of settlements along the river. You can read more specifics about the event by going to the News & Events tab on our website at www.ConfluenceDynamics.Net.

What really got me thinking though was watching 34 area professionals (described by one guide, as a real all-star team) standing on the beach after canoeing 10.5 miles over seven hours and exchanging business cards and contact information. Relationships were forged over the course of the day that I believe will have a positive impact on the community and the river.

But, as I said, that was the culmination. The idea for this workshop occurred to me while sitting through various lectures held by the US Green Building Council’s Indiana Chapter. Several of these presentations discussed the impacts of development on the watershed. During one of these, I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to learn about these impacts, but from the perspective of the river…a river school of sorts?” I really wasn’t sure if anyone else would think it was cool, but being a long time River Rat I couldn’t think of a better way to see and feel the impacts.

Several weeks later, during lunch with a former colleague (read “in-person networking”), I mentioned the idea to her. She thought it was a great idea and encouraged me to plan and host the event. We went on to discuss other topics and since I was just launching a new business, she mentioned several people I needed to meet and to add to my network. A few hours later I had an e-introduction to Jennifer Roberts of Elements Engineering. Jennifer and I met over coffee and while she was very interested in my new business venture, what she really wanted to hear about was the “river school”. I guess word of my idea was spreading!

Fast forward a couple of months, I attended the Green Building Power Breakfast sponsored by the Indianapolis Business Journal and happened to sit at a table with Ken Remenschneider of Remenschneider Associates. Coincidentally, I had actually attended an event at Ken’s home several months prior, but had not met Ken. We got quite a laugh when I exclaimed, “I’ve been in your house!” Throughout the breakfast we realized that our networks intersected as he has done business with Jennifer for years. We agreed to meet in a few weeks so that I could explain more about my new business.

By the time we met for lunch, he had obviously spoken with Jennifer because he brought a map of Indiana so we could talk about the River School and weigh the pros and cons of various rivers on which to conduct the event. I guess I was committed now!

Ken, Jennifer, my wife Carmen and I began the planning process. I wanted to flush out the ideas and formalize the aspects of the River School. I also wanted their input as to who we should invite. Again, the power of networking, between my network and each of their networks we sent out invitations to what was now called the Sustain the White River Excursion. We had agreed to limit this first event to 30 people and within days we had all the seats filled…and then some!

One of the segments of the Excursion that I felt was key was to engage Conner Prairie Historical Park in some way. The Park sits on the banks of the White River and would be about our half way point. Being a history buff, I wanted to reach out to them, but didn’t really have any contacts in their organization. I turned to LinkedIn. There I found Ken Bubp, COO of Conner Prairie. Ken and I had actually met about three years ago at a Park board meeting. I noticed from Ken’s profile that he had recently joined the Green Group on LinkedIn. That was my in! Using LinkedIn, I sent Ken a note that I hoped would pique his curiosity about our event. Within a few weeks, Jennifer and I met Ken Bubp and Nancy Stark in the conference room at Conner Prairie. Not only were they supportive of the idea, they embraced the idea! An on-line network at work!

As it turned out, all of the Guides came through networking: Tim Stottlemeyer from the City of Noblesville, Katie Hodgdon of River Watch, Jim Willaert from Conner Prairie, Lou Ann Baker representing Veolia Water and Shaena Smith from Hamilton County SWCD.

One final example for today, Jennifer continues to e-introduce me and my business. One such e-introduction, led to a meeting with Kevin McKinney, publisher of NUVO a local newspaper. During the meeting with Kevin I explained about the Excursion. Come to find out, he was not only a River Rat as well; he was neighbors with Ken Remenschneider! He decided to join the event and asked if he could bring Rae Schnapp from the Hoosier Environmental Council…another organization that I wanted to reach out to but did not have a connection!

So there were all were. 34 professionals representing 29 different companies, organizations and municipalities, standing next to the river exchanging business cards…who needs golf for doing business deals when you have a river?

P.S. If you want to link up on LinkedIn send me an invitation to connect, I am always looking to expand my network! Who knows, next time, even you might be paddling a canoe during a workshop!

I have always been a believer in the power of a professional network. I am a member of several, both on-line and in-person. However, this power was never clearer to me than it was last week. Friday was the culmination of months of planning for the inaugural Sustain the White River Excursion. This “experiential workshop” was designed to raise awareness about the impacts that development has on the river and its watershed. Throughout a 10.5 mile canoe trip, five local experts (or as we called them, “Guides”) met us along the river to describe various impacts, such as storm water, waste water, fresh water filtration, residential impacts and even the history of settlements along the river. You can read more specifics about the event by going to the News & Events tab on our website at www.ConfluenceDynamics.Net.

What really got me thinking though was watching 34 area professionals (described by one guide, as a real all-star team) standing on the beach after canoeing 10.5 miles over seven hours and exchanging business cards and contact information. Relationships were forged over the course of the day that I believe will have a positive impact on the community and the river.

But, as I said, that was the culmination. The idea for this workshop occurred to me while sitting through various lectures held by the US Green Building Council’s Indiana Chapter. Several of these presentations discussed the impacts of development on the watershed. During one of these, I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to learn about these impacts, but from the perspective of the river…a river school of sorts?” I really wasn’t sure if anyone else would think it was cool, but being a long time River Rat I couldn’t think of a better way to see and feel the impacts.

Several weeks later, during lunch with a former colleague (read “in-person networking”), I mentioned the idea to her. She thought it was a great idea and encouraged me to plan and host the event. We went on to discuss other topics and since I was just launching a new business, she mentioned several people I needed to meet and to add to my network. A few hours later I had an e-introduction to Jennifer Roberts of Elements Engineering. Jennifer and I met over coffee and while she was very interested in my new business venture, what she really wanted to hear about was the “river school”. I guess word of my idea was spreading!

Fast forward a couple of months, I attended the Green Building Power Breakfast sponsored by the Indianapolis Business Journal and happened to sit at a table with Ken Remenschneider of Remenschneider Associates. Coincidentally, I had actually attended an event at Ken’s home several months prior, but had not met Ken. We got quite a laugh when I exclaimed, “I’ve been in your house!” Throughout the breakfast we realized that our networks intersected as he has done business with Jennifer for years. We agreed to meet in a few weeks so that I could explain more about my new business.

By the time we met for lunch, he had obviously spoken with Jennifer because he brought a map of Indiana so we could talk about the River School and weigh the pros and cons of various rivers on which to conduct the event. I guess I was committed now!

Ken, Jennifer, my wife Carmen and I began the planning process. I wanted to flush out the ideas and formalize the aspects of the River School. I also wanted their input as to who we should invite. Again, the power of networking, between my network and each of their networks we sent out invitations to what was now called the Sustain the White River Excursion. We had agreed to limit this first event to 30 people and within days we had all the seats filled…and then some!

One of the segments of the Excursion that I felt was key was to engage Conner Prairie Historical Park in some way. The Park sits on the banks of the White River and would be about our half way point. Being a history buff, I wanted to reach out to them, but didn’t really have any contacts in their organization. I turned to LinkedIn. There I found Ken Bubp, COO of Conner Prairie. Ken and I had actually met about three years ago at a Park board meeting. I noticed from Ken’s profile that he had recently joined the Green Group on LinkedIn. That was my in! Using LinkedIn, I sent Ken a note that I hoped would pique his curiosity about our event. Within a few weeks, Jennifer and I met Ken Bubp and Nancy Stark in the conference room at Conner Prairie. Not only were they supportive of the idea, they embraced the idea! An on-line network at work!

As it turned out, all of the Guides came through networking: Tim Stottlemeyer from the City of Noblesville, Katie Hodgdon of River Watch, Jim Willaert from Conner Prairie, Lou Ann Baker representing Veolia Water and Shaena Smith from Hamilton County SWCD.

One final example for today, Jennifer continues to e-introduce me and my business. One such e-introduction, led to a meeting with Kevin McKinney, publisher of NUVO a local newspaper. During the meeting with Kevin I explained about the Excursion. Come to find out, he was not only a River Rat as well; he was neighbors with Ken Remenschneider! He decided to join the event and asked if he could bring Rae Schnapp from the Hoosier Environmental Council…another organization that I wanted to reach out to but did not have a connection!

So there were all were. 34 professionals representing 29 different companies, organizations and municipalities, standing next to the river exchanging business cards…who needs golf for doing business deals when you have a river?

P.S. If you want to link up on LinkedIn send me an invitation to connect, I am always looking to expand my network! Who knows, next time, even you might be paddling a canoe during a workshop!