I am one of the Founders of Laguna Niguel Connectors. I remember the original touch point as if was today but I could be all wrong. It was in the summer of 2008. Somebody introduced me to Randy Miller and we had a Starbucks in my hood called Laguna Niguel. Population 62,979. Average household income of $98,000.
We were about a year into the New Normal but nobody recognized it yet on a grand scale. I had but I live very close to the streets as a consultant who has to create a job each and every day. The melt down began in 2007 but many people were still embracing the lie that things were OK.
Randy and I innocently and briefly talked about building a local networking group of like minded people. We had another planning meeting at the same Starbucks with Dipak Shan and Gregory Gaines. Our skin colors, nationalities and backgrounds were all very different but our hearts beat the same way, We talked about some very simple principles. About paying it forward. There was no great grand vision because nobody knew the misery that was coming. Somebody created a Linkedin page in August 2008. We soon had our first meeting and 23 people came to the same Starbucks. In September of 2008 the bank too big to fail failed and the world quickly melted.
Almost three million people lost their jobs that year. That’s the entire population of Orange County. Some were in in Laguna Niguel. Their average income was no longer $98,000. Then the meetings got bigger and bigger. Very quickly many people started to come to Laguna Niguel Connectors because there weren’t that many places to go for so many people in transition. When over a 100 people were gathering outside that Starbucks the Baristas asked me what’s going on here? It is a cult I joked or a local Amway meeting. They laughed and moved on.
Today Laguna Niguel Connectors has over 3400 members. We have satellite chapters that people organized. We have volunteers organizing events. Many angels came out over the years. We have name tags. We now meet twice a month. I like the meeting at Salt Creek Winery the best.
One of the lessons I have learned is the possibility of serendipity and innocence. What if Randy or I had decided not to meet at that Starbucks? What is Dipak or Gregory wouldn’t have attended the follow up? Would there have been a Laguna Niguel Connectors? Maybe yes and maybe no. Some group would have been created because the three million people in transition from 2008 and more from the following years needed some place to go.
One lucky serendipity that made Laguna Niguel Connectors successful was that outside that Starbucks there was a large area for people to meet and congregate. What also worked was the fire hose of social media and the growth of Linked aligned with the millions of people losing their jobs in the coming years. Those people quickly learned about the power of creating their own personal brand on the Internet.
What also worked was the power of the people that came. The majority didn’t have a job but they had great value and they found a place to meet and get support and offer their skills. Laguna Niguel Connectors became place to learn how to navigate the New Normal. The meetings thankfully are smaller, the attitude of people to pay it forward the same.
That Starbucks is closing soon I have been told. I hope it is a sign of things to come.
You can connect with Hank on Linkedin
Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank
You can watch a video by Hank on Networking Tips for Young People.
You can also read some other blogs that may be able to help you.