337 Derek & Melanie Coburn: Un-Networking
We’ve all been there. Nametag precariously affixed to blouse or lapel. Wine glass in hand. Wondering who to talk to or whether anyone in the room is a potential client or the right person to help us advance our business. Networking can be painful.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business Couplepreneurs Edition, we talk about how to do networking the right way plus how to leverage communication and community in business.
Derek and Melanie Coburn have elevated communication and connection to an art form … in working on their own relationship consciously from the start … they now bring that sensibility to one of the best local entrepreneurial networking groups around. He and his wife Melanie are co-founders of CADRE – an un-networking community of CEOs, business leaders, entrepreneurs and thought leaders here in Washington DC. Derek is a financial advisor who game-changed his business by reinventing the game of networking. He’s the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections. And before co-launching Cadre, Melanie was the marketing director for the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders – the first-ever marketing position in the NFL devoted to cheerleaders.
Today we talk about why the traditional wine-sipping event just doesn’t work … how to create a cohesive community and host inspiring events – plus how to create a business as a couple that supports the lifestyle you want to live.
Now back to the inspiring Derek and Melanie Coburn – and how they’re leading a movement turning networking on its head for entrepreneurs.
Derek began his career as a financial advisor in 1998 and built a successful wealth management practice – which he still runs today– mainly through cold calling in the early years, and then networking. Then came the 2008 economic collapse and Derek was focused on serving his existing clients with less time for one-on-one prospecting. It lead him to some high-level networking groups … and a feeling of meh. A few had some good speakers but mostly sold a mediocre experience – so Derek got so fed up he wrote the book Networking Is Not Working.
Melanie, meanwhile, is a former Washington Redskins cheerleader who created and built from the ground the first ever NFL marketing operation exclusively for cheerleaders. Over the years marketing for the Redskins she built a very diverse network of clients, partners and friends, and focused on building these relationships over time. With cheerleaders, she was in the business of smiles.
Then, co-founding Cadre with hubby Derek, Melanie says she has become a cheerleader for world-class professionals bringing smiles each time she creates a business opportunity by connecting great people to each other.
I know firsthand here in DC what an inspiring community Derek and Melanie have built with Cadre since 2011, and it is a way for elite professionals and game-changing entrepreneurs to learn from top experts in the world, whether Lewis Howes or Gary Vaynerchuk, all while connecting, having fun and developing meaningful relationships with like-minded peers.
So are you ready for Derek and Melanie Coburn? Let’s fly!
Melinda Wittstock: Derek and Melanie, welcome to Wings.
Melanie Coburn: Thanks, Melinda. We’re so excited to be here.
Derek Coburn: Yes. Can’t wait.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. You know, you guys are celebrating a milestone of sorts and so I’d love to start the interview there because Cadre, which I know very well because I’m here in DC as are you, is almost at its eighth anniversary. That’s so exciting. Congratulations.
Melanie Coburn: Thank you. Yeah, we celebrated eight years in March, and yeah, we’ve evolved over the years. We’ve changed our format quite a bit. We’ve had lots of people in our community, and we’ve built our tribe which has been really exciting to do that together as husband and wife.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. The whole concept of networking is terrifying for a lot of people or it’s just boring. And you guys are turning all that on its head. What was it that made you want to start Cadre to begin with?
Derek Coburn: Well, for me, I’ve been a financial advisor since 1998 and sort of became quote, unquote, “successful by the metrics of that industry by being really good at cold calling initially”. And even though I was good at cold calling, I still couldn’t wait to stop like everyone else who asked to cold call. And that sort of led me to attending networking events as a way to develop new relationships and meet centers of influence. And I kept running into a lot of people that were there focused on what they could get out of it and they were pushing themselves and their companies and it wasn’t, it was very hard to find a giving environment.
Derek Coburn: And we had this crazy idea like most businesses, where you’re forming something to solve a problem that you have, which is a problem that I had in my wealth management business. We had this idea to start Cadre, first and foremost, to bring people that had the ability and the desire to show up focused on how they could add value for other people as opposed to being focused on what they could get out of it. And so that was kind of the idea and that’s what we weren’t sure if it was going to work initially. And our vetting, I think right away was pretty good but not perfect. And we’ve gotten a lot better at that over the years. And like Melanie said, it’s evolved quite a bit, but that’s always sort of been our primary M.O. in terms of building and growing Cadre.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s such a mindset shift, isn’t it? To go from thinking that business is all about taking to actually understanding that the most successful people in business are those that are giving or, I like to call it giving forward. Did you have to do a lot of kind of training I guess of people to get them into that more abundant mindset?
Derek Coburn: Yeah, I think so. Maybe not a lot. And what’s interesting is, the better job we do at vetting people on the front end, the easier our job is once they are members and a part of the community. Now having said that, there are some people that have slipped through the cracks that really didn’t have very good intentions and they were focused on sort of, like what they could get out of it, and that’s fine.
And we proactively removed those individuals but … Then there’s people that I think had really good intentions, but they were just doing things that they probably didn’t fully think through. So it’s always been interesting and a challenge I’ve welcomed to sort of help people navigate that and point out, “Hey, maybe this is kind of what you’re thinking, but maybe you should be thinking about it this way instead.”
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. So, Melanie, when you think about the vetting question, right? About like what makes someone good at networking or good in a group such as Cadre. What are the characteristics? What do you look for?
Melanie Coburn: I mean, we actually, we look for members who are generous with their time and with their networks, they bring a lot to the table, they’re established in the market. And then there’s some folks that are bringing their knowledge to the table. We have so many thought leaders and speakers in Cadre who share within our community. We have different presentations and formats as I mentioned.
And we’ve been very, very lucky starting with 14 founding members back in 2011, who were all from different circles of influence in this area, but they brought lots of different people together. And I think by identifying those folks and relying on them to sort of help us build from the ground up was very good for us.
Melinda Wittstock: Do you notice any difference in the way men and women approach networking or how they are in Cadre or any of the other groups? I know that we’re in so many groups together. Do you notice any difference between the two?
Derek Coburn: So we early and often reached out specifically to the women that are in Cadre for feedback and their thoughts in general around the experience from a female perspective. And like a couple of things were interesting. One is, pretty much every single one said that they felt very comfortable being a part of the group. I would say that our membership is about a third female right now, which I think we’re happy with. I mean, obviously it’d be great to have more.
But the one thing that was interesting was a lot of our female members said in one way, shape or form that the thing they liked most about Cadre, from the perspective of being a woman, was that they felt completely welcome and secure being there, but they also liked that it was … the conversations were more centered around business and that when they sometimes experienced all women networking events, that the conversations then turned to be more female centric and problems or issues that female specifically go through and sometimes that didn’t include business. So that was, it was interesting to get that feedback randomly from different people at different times, but pretty consistently.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh Gosh! That’s so interesting about networks for women in particular, who are entrepreneurs who’ve built six, seven, eight, even nine-figure businesses and can’t find other women to talk about business with because they’re unusual. There’s not very many.
Melanie Coburn: Right.
Derek Coburn: Interesting. Yep.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s interesting too because I think men are more used to having time to invest in that, to grow a business, whereas women have so many other things. You know, Melanie, you guys have two young children, right?
Melanie Coburn: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: You’ve got a lot of other things on your plate as well. And I find that women sometimes don’t invest in networking in the way that they need to, to really advance their businesses because they just don’t have that kind of time. I mean, how do you balance that in your own life? And how do you suggest that other people do that?
Melanie Coburn: Well, we sort of built a business around it so [crosstalk 00:07:58]-
Melinda Wittstock: Right. The beauty of entrepreneurship is to be able to do that for sure.
Melanie Coburn: Exactly. It’s more of a lifestyle business. So I’m hosting all these events monthly for all of our members. I get to meet with them and they invite guests, bring new people into our network. So we’ve really been blessed to have such a unique opportunity to network within our business. But I do obviously support all of our members’ events too. So we like to lift them up and attend their events and support them as well.
So that’s also extended our network quite a bit. The balancing part really is just, there’s … We could probably do a whole episode on [crosstalk] and figuring out how to do the work life integration. But yeah, just finding the right people in your work life, personal life to help support you. It really does take a village.
Melinda Wittstock: How conscious were you at the very beginning, say, eight years ago about figuring out, “Okay, we’re going to build this business exactly around the type of lives that we want to lead.” Was that a conscious impetus or is it something that just evolved over time?
Derek Coburn: No, I think it was conscious in the way it was set up and we’ve kind of been the lucky as it’s evolved. And what I mean by that is, when we first set up Cadre, we knew that we wanted to have the majority of our events take place around the lunch hour. And the reason for that is a) traffic is really bad in this area and we have members in Montgomery County and Baltimore and Reston, and you put all those people on the road at four 4:30 or five o’clock-
Melinda Wittstock: Oh God, I know
Derek Coburn: -inviting trouble. So that’s one thing. But the other thing is, I think, even when we do our larger events where we bring in thought leaders and bestselling authors, those events are four to seven. And when we first launched, our events were open to the public. They’re not open to the public anymore. But we figured, “Okay, without drawing a hard line in the sand and exclusively forbidding non-CEOs and entrepreneurs from coming,” and 90% of our members fall into that category, we’re just going to say the event starts at four o’clock knowing that unless you’re a CEO or an entrepreneur, you’re probably not going to be able to break away in the middle of the day for an event.
But more specifically to our lifestyle, we knew that we wanted to have the evenings to ourselves and to our kid at the time and eventually kids. So by having everything end by seven, we still have, we’ve missed traffic and we still have the entire night left for ourselves and to ourselves to be able to spend time with our family. The reason why I say we’re lucky is, we’ve pretty consistently and regularly pulled our members to see what they want more of and what they want less of.
And fortunately for us, every single time we’ve done this, what they have wanted more of has been, have been the things that we actually want to do more of and not less of. I feel like we still, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now looking at eight years of running Cadre if three or four years ago our members had said they wanted us to double down on the things that we weren’t enjoying and that we didn’t feel like we’re adding value for our members, but because they wanted more of the things that we like doing, then it made it obviously easy and more exciting to continue going down that path.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, I love it. I love when businesses are really in alignment, right? Where you’re doing the thing that you love to do and you’re attracting people that love to do those same things. I mean, that’s just beauty of business where you’re able to get into that alignment. So what are some of the things that they specifically want more of?
Because this I think is very interesting for an international audience where different countries and different areas of the United States just have different cultures around networking and whatnot. So what are the things that are most of service to business owners and entrepreneurs that you’ve found over the years? What do people love doing the most?
Melanie Coburn: Well, you know, what’s interesting, Melinda, is that we started off Cadre just hosting the lunches, the round table lunches. That’s how we launched. That was our plan. And we just happened to get a really great opportunity to have a speaker come in, DeMaurice Smith. He’s the head of the NFLPA, and he offered to speak to Cadre and we hosted our first university event and that was the November after we launched, so back that was also in 2011, and our members loved it.
I think they all loved being in the same room and seeing each other, connecting, learning together, and it just … it wasn’t something that we started Cadre thinking that we would do. We sort of started Cadre to get away from the big shoes type networking events. And so we were surprised that it was such a hit. And obviously we’ve since continued on those bigger, larger events and really focused on bringing in some awesome thought leaders and speakers to share with our community.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. And I mean, in terms of activity, how does it work in terms of the balance between what entrepreneurs really want? Because obviously everybody wants the latest business hacks and tips and advice and like, what’s the best tool for this or that, or all those kinds of things, right? Or what’s working right now in marketing or whatever, right?
Derek Coburn: Yup.
Melinda Wittstock: How much do they also want? Like life hacking advice, that stuff about how to create great relationships or balance business with like being healthy or say the mindset, a healthy mindset around business.
Derek Coburn: Yeah. So we’ve had a number of speakers, some pretty big names that everyone’s heard of on the marketing and business side, but we’ve also brought in folks like Dave Asprey and Andrew Herr, and we have Steve Young and JJ virgin presenting at our upcoming Cadre Con event. And I will say this, we are pretty bored of the typical marketing business sales-type advice. And there’s no shortage of those kinds of individuals out there who can share their ideas and that’s great.
But I feel like, I will say this, I don’t know if Melanie feels this way, but I feel like we’ve earned the right, I’ve earned the right, over the past eight years, to take some chances. And what is exciting for me, because Melanie and Serena probably run 80% of Cadre, but one of the primary things that I do is identify the speakers and book the speakers. And I feel like I’ve earned the right to focus on giving our members what they need more than what they want.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, that’s the secret of business, right? Like sell what they want, but deliver what they need.
Derek Coburn: Right. So we had an event, I’ll give you an example, we had an event, a university event about a year and a half ago, and we brought in two speakers. One of the speakers, Jeremy Epstein presented on block chain. Our second speaker, Jonathan Foust, who’s married to Tara Brach, spoke on meditation. And I knew that if I had one of them speaking by themselves, that 25 to 30% of our members would say, “I’m not interested in block chain technology. That doesn’t apply to me. I’m not going to come. It’s not going to be valuable.” And then a different 25 to 30% would have said, “That meditation woo-woo stuff.” Like, “It doesn’t work. I tried it twice. I don’t have to show up for that.”
But I knew that there was a really good chance that everybody would be interested in at least one of those things, and the thing that they were interested in would serve as the Broccoli that was hiding the mash … the mashed potatoes that was hiding the Broccoli of the thing that they didn’t think they were interested in. But then I had, we had their captive attention once they were there, and we had a lot of members say, “Wow! I didn’t realize block chain was going to be relevant to me,” or, “I didn’t realize meditation could be this,” you know, “I could take a different approach to meditation than what I’ve tried in the past.” So that’s just one example of where I took liberties to kind of do what I thought they would benefit from as opposed to kind of giving them what they wanted if I would’ve asked them what they wanted.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, exactly. Actually there’s a really interesting conference in the tech world called Collision, and it’s based on that same principle in a way, when you have different ideas colliding or different things like magic happens when there’s sort of a chocolate peanut butter moment. You know?
Derek Coburn: Oh, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Right? And so if you’re attracting people from lots of different industries, that cross-fertilization is always fascinating. Do a lot of your members end up collaborating with each other or doing things together or is it mostly just, you know, it’s just a good peer network?
Melanie Coburn: Oh, no, there’s tons of collaboration going on. It’s funny, one of our members did a testimonial after Cadre Con last year and said Cadre is all about the three C’s, connection, collaboration, and content. And so yes, there’s a lot of events that are being hosted by multiple members. You know, Ian and Joey and Marcus did their events the last few years. There’s books that are being co-authored, there’s podcasts that are happening. Lots of really interesting unique collaborations that are very exciting for us to see. And again, it’s a way that we can support them and promote them. And yeah, I love seeing it. It’s part of that magic.
Melinda Wittstock: So for folks who don’t live in the DC area like we do, I mean, you guys are everywhere. You look like you have this amazing social life where, you have a very full life. Just … And everybody I know and like on Facebook and stuff like that, like everybody’s posting their highlight reels and all of that, but you guys really like, you’re really involved in the community and you seem to be everywhere. How do you do that? It’s awesome. But literally how or is it a mirage?
Derek Coburn: Well, we [crosstalk 00:18:40]. We’re not together a lot when we do these events. So like in terms of balance, we had talked, we had touched on this a little bit earlier in this conversation, but Melanie is for sure an extrovert and I am an introvert, and a lot of people are surprised to hear that. I think maybe because I can do the extrovert thing okay if I need to. But when there are events that are going on, especially business related events, like we went to a concert together last night, but a business type event, like we very rarely will go together. One of us has to stay home and watch the kids.
And I’m more than happy to let Melanie take the lead and take charge on a lot of those. And I think she’s happy to do it. She really enjoys it, I think much more than me. So I would say that’s part of it. But also again, like I think some of it is luck. I mean, we have a great school and a great church that we go to and those two communities have led us to meeting some incredible people that care about our kids and enjoy watching our kids and our kids feel comfortable with, to give us the opportunity to experience life maybe more fully than people that aren’t blessed with those options.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. I love the introvert-extrovert thing. I mean, I’m on the introverted side and Derek, I understand that because most people think I’m an extrovert. But then I’ll go to something and then I have to recover. Like I have to go and sit in a quiet room somewhere, right? So you know, like you can do it, but it’s harder. Do you think that really great founding teams though tend to have that little bit of extrovert-introvert, or even great marriages, that everybody kind of has their role, whether in a marriage or in a business team and a founding team?
Melanie Coburn: Oh, absolutely. I think that there’s so many things that we complement each other especially … The introvert-extrovert thing is one thing, but we’re also, Derek’s very much a visionary. He’s very creative in thinking and he’s got this big vision, and I’m more, I’m a little more averse to risk and I’m pulling the reins in a bit. So I think that we just, you know, he’s the vision, I’m the details, I’m the extrovert, he’s the introvert. I just think that we complement each other very well. And I think a lot of successful business relationships have that complementary.
Melinda Wittstock: Gosh! Yeah. It’s like with the book Rocket Fuel, every visionary needs the integrator, was the term that the author of that book used, and I think that’s so right. So someone’s really detailed and kind of operational, someone’s visionary, someone’s introverted, someone’s like … It’s so funny in 10XTogether that this has really been a theme that’s run through every single couple or couplepreneur as we call them, who’s been on this show because it’s a matter of really understanding what is in your zone of genius I guess.
And both, you know, the couple, both of them, both individuals really letting the other person doubled down on that genius and kind of getting out of their way, and really being interested in allowing them to fly rather than kind of competing or any of that kind of stuff. I mean, so is it really important, do you think in marriage, to be different in that sense? Where are you the same and where are you very different and how does that work in practice?
Melanie Coburn: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s very important. Even in the marriage, I’m the one who’s setting out the clothes the night before for the kids, packing the lunches, packing the snacks, logistically planning our calendar-
Derek Coburn: Everything. You do everything.
Melanie Coburn: -making sure the babies are [crosstalk 00:22:21]-
Melinda Wittstock: That’s a lot of work Melanie-
Melanie Coburn: All of those details.
Melinda Wittstock: -hats off. I mean, I know when my kids were younger, I remember all of that. They’re a little bit older now, so it’s a bit easier.
Melanie Coburn: Yeah. The share calendar is our, I mean, it’s like our storm center, right? Like we’re always sharing everything going on. But yeah, I mean, I think it’s important in business and life that you know your role, you accept your role, and you really support each other in each other’s roles as well.
Derek Coburn: Yeah. I don’t know that we knew we were this complementary when we started Cadre, but it’s pretty, it’s really interesting, and we’re really fortunate that the things that each of us are really passionate about individually are things that the other person’s not really that into. So that’s been kind of cool. And I think another thing that we have going for us is, it’s related to the quality of our members in Cadre.
Like for years we were asked, “The people are so great. Why is that?” And I would always give it lip service the way companies would give lip service to having great customer service. Like they couldn’t articulate it, but hey, if you become a customer, you’ll see it.
Derek Coburn: One day I just blurted out, “The reason for this is because of the revenue that I’m bringing in from my wealth management business, affords us the flexibility and the luxury to be really particular about who we’re going to allow to be in Cadre and what we’re going to put up with.”
And so the reason I bring this up, right is, if Melanie and I were running a business and it were the only business that we were running, and us generating revenue from this business was the only thing that was going to assure that our mortgage was going to be paid six months from now, I feel like there would be a lot more tension in our personal and business relationship than what we currently experience. And it’s not to say that this, that … We take Cadre very seriously and work very hard on it, but I do feel like because there is another revenue source, it sort of, it takes a little bit of the pressure off and it’s allowed us to each focus on those things that we’re really passionate about, really enjoy doing and support one another in those roles.
Melinda Wittstock: I think that’s true in any sales situation. If you need the sale, like, I don’t know, your customer can feel it. It’s like some sort of vibe. It’s just out there, and so if there’s desperation or a scarcity or something like that, around getting people into a group say, “That’s just not going to be in flow.”
Derek Coburn: Yup.
Melinda Wittstock: So I think that’s a really good … Because there are so many people out there, almost every entrepreneur that I know, including myself, is having events or having retreats or doing groups or doing masterminds. It’s kind of like, it’s like everybody has a podcast too all of a sudden, right? And so what advice would you give people like that? I mean, apart from it shouldn’t be your sole gig or that the only way you make money say, so that’s really good advice. What other things should they really know and think about before they jump into doing something like this in their community or perhaps an interest-based type mastermind or something like that?
Derek Coburn: You mean, if they’re going to run it as a couple?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, if they’re going to run it as a couple What are the go-to things that they have to make sure that they’re doing or not doing to make it work?
Derek Coburn: So Melanie and I have been going to couple’s therapy for 13 years, well, weekly, most weeks. We’ve obviously missed some here and there. And early on we started going before we got married. Early on we went and it was more of a need and it was more to make sure that we were right for each other and that we were making a good decision getting married. And for the past, five, 10 years it’s been more of a luxury. It’s been more just to support us and talk about … make the space to talk about things in our relationship then maybe we otherwise wouldn’t talk about.
So all that is to say that we are not perfect, but we have a lot of practice and a lot of work that has gone into learning how to communicate more effectively and it’s never something that we’ve really taken for granted. So I do think that again, we were flying by the seat of our pants when we did this initially, but I think that if somebody else was thinking about doing this, I would have them consider if their relationship is one where they have had talks and discussions around things that were not easy to talk about. If they were able to navigate those things effectively, if they fight a lot.
Melanie and I don’t … Melanie and I disagree on a lot of things, but I think we argue really well without things coming to a head, without things getting out of hand, and we are able to compromise a lot. So I have to imagine that served us really well in a way that we didn’t really appreciate or acknowledge how important it was going to be when we started. So that’s one thing I would say. I don’t know if you have anything to add.
Melanie Coburn: Well, absolutely. I mean, I think being very intentional with the type of person you’re looking to have in your group too, just in terms of the group itself, you want to be very intentional with the type of person that you’re seeking. I think us, like I said before, identifying those founding members and really leaning on them to help us build the initial group of Cadre was very important. So I think that those things along with the communication are very important.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. The communication piece is vital, and how to communicate in a way that’s not personal. So it’s tricky. When you’re a couple, I mean, it is personal because you’re a couple and yet business isn’t necessarily personal, but it can become personal. So how do you work the boundaries on that? Around the communication?
Melanie Coburn: Oh, yes, those boundaries. We talked about those boundaries a lot in the beginning. How to keep work at work and home at home. And obviously in the beginning when we were building it and everything was new, that was, we were working that out as we went along. And that was something that really took probably a couple of years for us to refine, keeping it separate. But now that we’ve mastered it, it’s very easy for us to … There’s occasionally where things come up, obviously, especially around event time and those larger events that are happening but we’re very good at keeping it. Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: So when there’s a disagreement on something, like say, you vehemently disagree about a business strategy or something, you know? Is there a certain way that you communicate that you’ve learned in the therapy that really works for you, that you’re able to share, say, with some folks who are listening today? Because this is always a challenge, I think for lots of couples.
Melanie Coburn: I mean, if we’ve ever like really disagreed with something and it was an issue, we’ve always brought it up in therapy, I feel like that’s a safe place for us to bring it up.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Good plan.
Derek Coburn: I always say, if she disagrees with me about something, that, to me, means I just need to make a better case for why.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s hilarious.
Derek Coburn: Give her more supporting evidence.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Because we all have these ways of working things out and compromising. And I think if we can speak to each other in a way that just obviously values the other person and is not like, yeah, like it’s just about speaking in a way that’s not necessarily personal or at least validating the other person’s opinion or, I don’t know. I guess there’s different ways to do it. I think it’s really intriguing and wonderful that you guys just took on therapy intentionally right from the beginning.
Derek Coburn: Yeah. Like I said though, but it was more out of a need at that time, right? That wasn’t, it wasn’t like, “We have this amazing, perfect relationship, let’s make it even better.” At the time it was like, “We’re not sure if we actually should go forward with getting married.” So it wasn’t like we made this really proactive responsible decision at that time. I think that that’s been a decision to keep it going over all these years. But it was more of a need I think at that time.
Melanie Coburn: And it was also a lack of communication. So I mean, we were not communicating effectively in the beginning. And I think that … We have very, very different backgrounds, very different upbringings. And I think that that caused just a lot of tension and a lot of miscommunication. So I think we were lucky that we took a proactive approach and figured it out. And I think that that has really led to us being more effective communicators ever since.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I think it’s fascinating too that the skills that you learn as a couple in communicating, if you get that right, those are the very same skills you need to lead, grow and lead an amazing team in business. Those communication skills to manage and inspire your team are sort of the same things in a way. So either you learn it in business and apply it to your relationship or you learn it in your relationship and apply it to business.
Melinda Wittstock: And so what is next for you two with Cadre? Is this always going to be a local group? You’re going to keep doing the same thing or is it something that you were going to expand out or what’s the vision? What’s the … Where do you see yourselves in 10 years, say?
Derek Coburn: Yeah. It’s interesting, we’ve considered expanding to other cities and people have said to us that, “Well, you’d obviously need another Derek and Melanie if you were to go to another city.” And I thank them for the compliment. But then I also will point out that, “If Melanie and I had been hit by a Mack truck three weeks ago, there’s a number of people, if they wanted to, they could step in and lead the current group of people that we have right now.” And it’s not even lead, just like make sure that everybody keeps doing what they’ve been doing.
And I think that the power is really in the curation. And we tried to do this in Baltimore and I think it didn’t, it just didn’t work out. Our goal in trying and testing in Baltimore was to see if we had something that was scalable and in order for Baltimore to work, we quickly realized that it was going to have to be run completely different, completely differently. And so we were quick to bail on that. And we’ve always been open to having, to exploring the model in other cities, and when people would reach out to me, I’d given them just different things to think about. Like, “Hey, what I did before we started was I was hosting these lunches and support of my wealth management business.”
And it’s a great way to see, you know, if you do have 15, 20, 25 people over a few months that are going to be interested in participating in something like Cadre. And I wrote a blog post and I’ve given probably 20 people that have reached out and said they were interested in starting a Cadre in their city. I’ve, at the risk of sounding like a pompous jerk, like I’ve given them an assignment to say, “Hey, here’s how you set up a lunch. Before you focus on launching Cadre, see if you can organize a lunch for 15 people. Here are the email templates, here are the scripts that you want to use, here’s how you want to facilitate the meeting.” And zero of those 20 people actually went forward and hosted.
Melanie Coburn: Oh my God, really? So it was just sort of like the restaurant dream that everybody has?
Derek Coburn: Kind of. Yeah, yeah. And of course I’m not … like it’s not my goal to grow Cadre and take it global so I’m not going to be super pressed about bugging people to do it.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Exactly. So that’s a really interesting model though, because it’s can you create “Cadre and a box”, with all the templates and the processes and the SOPs and all that kind of stuff, you would just need a highly motivated, yeah, Derek and Melanie in some other city who can adapt to that city and really has the probably, yeah, has the same motivation or desire to do it and yeah, maybe those people exist, but it’s interesting that [inaudible] none of the people actually did it.
Derek Coburn: Well, here’s the key, right? The key is finding somebody that is not going to be motivated to break away from the system, to make a break away from the process because they need this new member’s $500 a month to pay some bills a few months from now.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. So again, like it would be qualifying. It’s sort of like Ray Kroc and McDonald’s, right? You’d have to have your, you’d have to have your system absolutely water tight and the brand and all of that. It was a very different sort of a business because then you get into like enforcing that and all that kind of stuff as well.
Derek Coburn: Yep.
Melinda Wittstock: Interesting. Interesting. And so you’ve got another Cadre Con coming up and I want everybody who’s in this area who’s an entrepreneur or a business owner listening to this, it’s an amazing conference I’ve been before. I’m going to try and I’ve got to see if my dates line up, but I would love to join you there. Talk a little bit about it. What happens at Cadre Con?
Melanie Coburn: Well, this is our second annual Cadre Con. It is a one day conference featuring 10 different speakers. Last year we had Dan pink keynote at the event. This year we’ve got Seth Godin lined up the marketing brain, and we’ve also got JJ virgin as well. And lots of very interesting topics, lots of diverse topics, ranging the gamut from business to health, all kinds of things. So we’re super excited about it. We were out at Valo Park in McLean, Virginia on May 20th. And Yeah, we’d love to share a discount for your listeners if they’re interested in joining us.
Melinda Wittstock: So we’ll put a link or something in the show notes just in case, you know, a lot of people are driving when they’re listening to podcasts. I don’t want anyone to drive off the road. But yeah, no, it’s an amazing thing that you guys put together and having been in Cadre, just hats off to you both for creating something so magical.
Derek Coburn: Thank you. Yeah, we … Last year our goal for doing Cadre Con was to feature our members, right? And we have a lot of remarkable members in Cadre. The format is, everyone shares a 101 version of their talk, which is 10 to 12 minutes. All 250 attendees get to hear the high level 12 minute version of each talk. And then you get to pick which of the four speakers, 201 version you want to attend, which is more of a deep dive workshop style. And so we … The end result of our event last year was, we ended up with all white guys presenting and one white woman.
And what’s interesting is like we’ve been trying to work on diversity, more diversity within Cadre, but the thing that was kind of disappointing was even though we have over 30 members, the way that we initially got our speakers involved was we reached out to our members and we said, “Hey, if you would like to be considered to speak at Cadre Con, please submit the title of your talk and a brief description of your topic, and then we’re going to have all of our members vote on the topic that they want to hear. So we’re not going to include who the speaker is.” And out of our 30 female members, only one of them threw their hat into the ring. And she ended up getting voted in as one of the speakers people wanted to see.
So this year, because it bothered me a little bit, this year, I said if we do it again, I want to really go out of my way to branch out, from my comfort zone, to branch out from the easy introductions that I’d been getting, because let’s be honest, when Dan pink introduces me to Dan Heath, and when Gary Vaynerchuk … or Lewis Howes introduces me to Gary Vaynerchuk, like that’s just low hanging fruit and I’m going to take it all day long. And so I started having more conversations and the end result is, we said we’re going to do this but we’re going to have no more than 50% of our speakers be white guys, and right now we have 10 speakers and Seth Godin is actually the only white guy.
We have just as many female speakers as male speakers, and I’m really excited about it and I’m just passionate about it in general, not from the perspective of how is it going to advance Cadre or make us money, but I think it’s something that we should all be talking about more because there are a lot of events and no matter which event that you go to, it’s pretty segregated. I mean, I feel like business events and networking events should be included along with barbershops and churches as the most segregated places in our country.
And I’m interested in using Cadre as a little bit of a playground, a little bit of a lab, a way to test, “Okay, what are things that we can do as event planners that might increase a more diverse group of attendees, that might increase a more diverse group of speakers.” And if we figure out what works and what doesn’t work, then be able to share that with other event organizers.
Melinda Wittstock: I love it. I think that’s great that you’re doing that. And I think there’s a lot of women in particular that don’t necessarily put their hand up as readily or just aren’t in that kind of network for kind of referrals or for whatever reason. I don’t know, Melanie, do you find this too, that women tend to … tend to be a little bit perfectionist to the point where, “I’m just going to make sure this is absolutely amazing, amazing, amazing, before I put my hand up,”-
Melanie Coburn: [crosstalk 00:41:41].
Melinda Wittstock: -[crosstalk 00:41:41] less likely to do that so.
Melanie Coburn: Yeah. I mean, there’s one woman in particular in Cadre who’s a member and she’s working on her speaking career and she’s doing great and I was pushing her to do it last year, but she said she wasn’t ready. And I do think that we tend to be a little more perfectionist and want everything to be perfectly refined before we put ourselves at risk for failing.
Melinda Wittstock: I know, right? I think there should be an AA for a perfectionist for women. Really. Because we put all this stuff in the way like ahead of the sale or planning for the sale or like just like making the product perfect without talking to a customer early enough and these sorts of things. Right? So getting women to really kind of put their hands up and I think it’s great both of you two, to diversify where they’re just having white guys. So that’s awesome.
Derek Coburn: Well, I think there’s a lot of … there’s a lot of miscommunication. And one example … And look up, the main reason that we have this predicament is because there’s a bunch of white, mostly white guys who were running events that were intentionally going out of their way to exclude other people from attending, right? So that’s … I’ll acknowledge that. But I also wanted to just say too that there’s this issue of people I think being on guard, and I had one, two conversations in particular with women, black Women about speaking at Cadre Con.
I got the vibe from both and one of them specifically told me that she felt like I was asking her to speak at Cadre Con and I wasn’t … and not offering to pay her, that I thought I was asking her to do that, and I thought she would do that specifically because she was a woman of color. And what I told her was, “No, actually we’ve never paid any of our speakers ever. That includes Gary Vaynerchuk, that includes Lewis Howes, and we buy books from them when their books come out.” But it’s this game that every white guy that I know was playing in terms of, “When my book comes out or when I have something of … that I can potentially offer,” not selling from the stage, but people will come up to me after my talk and say, “I want more of that.”
If you can be in front of the right audience, then it’s worth it for a lot of people to speak and not get paid for speaking, right? It’s worth it for the exposure, it’s worth it for the articles that you might get written up in or the podcast interviews that might come from it. But I thought that was really interesting that in this particular case, and we ended up having a great conversation as a result of that, right? But I thought it was really interesting that she felt like I was asking her to do that and thought she would do it specifically because she was a woman.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. So that’s so interesting where you have folks who are used to being in scarcity, they’re going to assume scarcity, whereas that Like the Lewis Howes or Gary V. of the world knows that there’s so much that’s going to come, so much abundance that’s going to come from that give forward, right?
Derek Coburn: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Because they’ve been acculturated that way, right? So the woman thinks, “Oh, right, here we go again. I’m being underpaid or I’m being paid like 70% of what the guy is being paid or,” right? Like I could see that actually happening.
Derek Coburn: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: So Derek and Melanie, you have two adorable boys, they’re six and nine. It’s such an exciting age, but there are handfuls and stuff as well. And then you do all of this, and how do you involve them or do you involve them in the business and how do you explain what you do and how does that all work?
Derek Coburn: Yeah. So I think for us, we are, if we’re not going to be around on a particular night, if we’re going to be working late we try to add context to that. We try to let them know why we’re running an event. We try to let them know why we’re supporting a particular person or a particular cause. We get, we have babysitters, people watching our kids a couple of nights every single week from five to seven exclusively so we can go to the gym together and work out. So they know that working out is important. They know why we want to work out is because we want to be able to have the energy and the strength to play with them indefinitely and be around for them as long as possible.
And when we go out together, our oldest, especially now, he was fine with it for a while and now all of a sudden he’s like, “Oh, you guys are going out.” And it really doesn’t happen that often. It probably happens once a week, where we’re both are going out and we’ll explain like, “Look, we’re … We spend a lot of time with you and when we’re with you, we’re able to give you a lot of our love and a lot of our attention, but we need to be able to have that space and time to give that love and attention to each other as well.”
And so it’s been … Instead of just sort of like going out and doing things and not really letting our kids know what’s going on, we’re trying to involve them or we’re trying to put a reason behind why we’re doing certain things. And having said that, I’m coaching both of their baseball teams that are going on right now, so I’m leaving early from work, two different days, Saturdays, there’s going to be two games for the next three months, and so it’s a balance, but I think that they … that we’re trying to make sure that they understand when we’re with them, it’s about them, and how and why we need time away from them as well.
Melinda Wittstock: And that’s so important. It’s great to actually teach kids about business and about … I just think the wealth management side of what you do, Derek, teaching kids even about financial freedom, right? Things like passive income and all this sort of stuff that’s just not taught in school, and business or just relationship, all that stuff not taught in school. So to grow up around entrepreneurs and really share that with them is so interesting and so helpful I think to them.
There was this one moment where I overheard my son playing on the Xbox and he’s 12 and a half and he was playing with his friends and suddenly I heard him say, “You know what?” to one of his friends, “You don’t really have the right mindset.” Okay, this was pretty funny. So something’s kind of settling in there and you see in your kids as they grow up, they start to have these, they learn from what you do, right?
Derek Coburn: Yeah, yeah.
Melanie Coburn: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: More than even what you say. So exposing them to all of that is fascinating. Are they really interested and do they ask you a lot of questions about it?
Melanie Coburn: Oh yeah, they’re very interested. Their new favorite board game is Cash Flow for Kids.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, yeah. My kids have that too.
Melanie Coburn: Yeah, yeah. They-
Melinda Wittstock: Isn’t it great?
Melanie Coburn: -they love playing that game. And we also did a lemonade stand with them a couple of times this past summer and those kids killed it on the sidewalk of our building. Made a ton of money. They learned about tying a charity to it. They [crosstalk]
Derek Coburn: Evolved enterprise [crosstalk 00:49:19].
Melanie Coburn: -evolved enterprise. Yeah. So I would do some work with refugees through our church and they gave a portion of the proceeds to the refugees and yeah, they did really, really well. They learned all about the fixed costs and profit and it was super fun to see them so excited about it. They’ve been asking already, “Mommy is it going to be warm enough for our lemonade stand this weekend.”
Melinda Wittstock: That’s fantastic though, because you’re really teaching them initiative and how to really step up in a world that’s changing so fast. When you think that half the American population by next year is going to be … are gig workers. I mean, like freelancers going from gig to gig, and even if they’re not full blown entrepreneurs with actual scalable businesses, I mean, they have to be entrepreneurial. So to prepare your kids for that is awesome. And then it kind of make … it’s makes your life easier too. You’re all kind of aligned in the family business.
Derek Coburn: Yup.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that’s wonderful. This is so inspiring. I can talk to you guys forever.
Melinda Wittstock: Derek and Melanie, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today on our couple-preneurs edition.
Melanie Coburn: Thanks, Melinda. It was so great talking with you.
Derek Coburn: Yes. Thanks so much.