Networking Notes
by Stephanie Hopkins

An interview with TEAM Referral Network franchise owner Derlene Hirtz.

Derlene Hirtz is a speaker and author, and is the owner of the St. Louis franchise of TEAM Referral Network, and You Empowered Services, a success-focused training and coaching service.

Her goals include meeting and learning the stories of 1200 world changers, providing the plan for businesses to grow their businesses beyond their dreams, being known as the NLP guru in St. Louis, and sharing her message:  to see change, you must be the change.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing her about her small businesses, networking, and how she helps professionals pursue their Success Portfolio.

Q. TEAM Referral network is based out of California, how did it come about that you brought it to the midwest?

A. My coach, friend, and business partner owns five TEAM Referral Network franchises. I also appreciate a woman-owned company that has had a successful record for over 15 years.  I saw this as an opportunity to serve many businesses in St. Louis at one time. It is an opportunity to live my vision, “Transform the World, One Conversation at a Time.”

Q. There definitely isn't a shortage of networking groups out there.  Why do you think small business owners are choosing TEAM Referral Network?

A. St. Louis definitely has its fair share of networking organizations.  Each offers their own unique opportunities to create success.  The benefit of TEAM is we are focused on building strong relationships of know, like, and trust.  I like to say, “on steroids.” Our members have a website within the national website that increases the SEO for each individual member. And our members appreciate that we offer a gifted seat to a non-profit. It is a blessing to offer our gifts to support the success of the non-profit as well as the opportunity for each chapter to collaboratively support a program.

Q. You often mention your first networking experience and how spectacularly bad it was. Do you have a time you were out networking that is your personal favorite, that was the best?

A. Each networking opportunity offers so much possibility. There is not one that particularly stands out as a favorite; I enjoy many networking events in which true networking takes place:  meeting like-minded people and taking a step forward in creating an opportunity to help them find more success, and having an opportunity to build a strong relationship as referral partners, power partners, or know them well enough that you would recommend them to your family. The goal is to recognize potential when networking and follow up to either confirm or recognize perhaps you may know someone who could use their product or service.  That is the greatest feeling! Connecting two people together because there is a need, want, or desire, and I have the business that can satisfy it. I love that! I call it my “high.”

Q. What is the number one thing you wish you knew when you started to network for your business?

A. I would say that I was naïve in the world of networking, that is certainly fair.  The number-one thing I wish I would have known when I started networking is that some people are only takers.  They “net-sell,” not network. I have found these are not my people and that is a good thing to learn! In transparency, I have found that through some experiences I’ve had, I learned the hard way.  Having said that, each of these offered opportunities for me to learn and move on.

Q. I have a firm belief that networking needs to be a part of a small business owners marketing plan, what networking strategy do you have for yourself?

A. My businesses are all about networking, sometimes nine different events a week. Our personal spheres soon run their course, especially, if like me, I began “professionally” networking after I turned fifty. My strategy is to attend one new event a week.  My growth opportunity is to set aside time as soon as I get finished networking and send follow up emails or call.  I believe that is the least of what happens after we have gone through the huge time offering of going to network events. From my experience, I would estimate 1 out of 75 people I meet networking actually follow up.  My goal is 100% follow up after an event. Even if we are not a good fit for each other, “nice to meet you” speaks volumes as far as professionalism.

Q. You run three businesses; I'm sure that keeps you busy.  Do you find the entrepreneurial experience is a challenge when you have multiple businesses?

I sometimes get really tired! Running multiple businesses can be very exhausting. However, I gain much energy from success and my ability to help so many businesses, all of which are a result of networking.  My target audiences are very similar, so that is very helpful. The secret is to surround myself with a team of support staff. I remember thinking I was going to build these businesses alone.  I got over that as soon as I realized you cannot build a business without clients and believing I could do it all by myself in only 24 hours in a day!

Q. Speaking of your other businesses, I hear amazing things about your NLP trainings. I personally can say the Success Bootcamp made a positive difference for me. Can you share how those trainings are good specifically for business professionals who network? 

A. NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming – is the scientific study of human excellence.  I tried the perfection thing, that ended up nearly destroying me. Our Success Bootcamp is designed to teach how to create excellence in life and business.  This includes teaching how our mindset has everything to do with success. Once we have this awareness, we are motivated to turn our dreams into reality.   We are able to take full responsibility for the success or failure (which, by the way, is only feedback) and regroup, set new goals and move into ACTION!

Q. There is currently a trend for networking events to end on a quote.  Can you share your favorite quote with the readers?

Values aren't buses... They're not supposed to get you anywhere. They're supposed to define who you are.” ― Jennifer Crusie