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  • Writer's pictureSusan Tatum

Networking For People Who Hate Networking

Jonathan Rosen’s Collaberex is more than a networking group, it’s a place where you can build personal, impactful relationships between business professionals. Can you replicate this experience with your external peer groups? Jonathan explains empathetic listening and other group learning skills that not only benefit your business but you as a person.

Notes from the Show

Jonathan Rosen is the founder of Collaberex, which services nine peer groups in the Northeast United States, with members from around the world joining via Zoom. Jonathan stands by the statement that Collaberex is NOT a networking group, but an environment where personal relationships are grown between business professionals through group learning.

Jonathan explains the format of these group meetings, which are very much focused on personal skills and details. These groups are not about transactional points, elevator pitches, or large quantities of leads. But instead, focus on skills like empathetic listening and other skills that translate not only into your business but into your personal life as well.

How do you build personal relationships? Jonathan equates it to friendships, family, etc. The key is getting to know people for who they are and the challenges they face. He explains that you can create your own group by doing just that; creating friendships with like minded people who will share the burden of support. Where Collaberex comes in is with the facilitated meetings that maintain accountability even when life gets busy.

This isn’t just a feel good meeting. Personal relationships are necessary for practical reasons. It helps people in their businesses better than a traditional networking model. With these skills, members of Collaberex become better leaders, better salespeople, better operationalists, and maybe even better people.

You can find out more about Jonathan Rosen or Collaborex by emailing Jonathan or visiting the Collaborex website!

What's Inside:

  • A networking group that goes beyond transactional relationships.

  • How group learning can impact business and personal relationships.

  • How to create your own impactful, personal networking group.

  • The key to creating personal relationships.

  • How personal relationship skills impact the business bottom line.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:35

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Stop the Noise today. I'm very happy to have Jonathan Rosen back for the third time to talk about networking. Jonathan is the founder of Collaberex, which is a peer advisory professional development community. I think of it as a networking group, Jonathan will explain to us why that's not the right way to go. Jonathan, welcome back. It's so nice to have you here.

Jonathan Rosen 1:02

Susan, thank you so much for having me. I'm, I'm surprised that I behaved myself enough that you'd invite me back.

Susan Tatum 1:08

Oh, you always have a good angle on things, a different way of looking at stuff. And we met when you had one or two groups in New York. And now you're up to what?

Jonathan Rosen 1:19

Now we have nine groups, and they're clustered mostly in New York area, Boston, Philadelphia. But I must say, since we've been on Zoom, we have a member in Portugal and one in the UK and one in Scotland and one in Dubai. So we're we're going global?

Susan Tatum 1:38

Well, you know, that made me think of your a good example of a because I recall you saying we had a conversation pre COVID about would this work online, and you were very hesitant.

Jonathan Rosen 1:51

Very, you know, it's actually good that I was hesitant, because when COVID started, and we switched to zoom, my first thought was very hesitant, was like, This is not good. This is not, you know, the feeling that people get from being in the same room and the relationships they build there, you know, it's going to be hard to translate on to, you know, Zoom onto video. So what it forced us to do is not take our model and put it on Zoom. But it forced us to say to reevaluate and say, How can we make our meetings more personal, and more impactful, and more productive than they were when we met in conference rooms in midtown Manhattan.

Susan Tatum 2:33

So what was the answer?

Jonathan Rosen 2:34

So we leaned into our mission, we just said, okay, so you know, company should always do this, to find their mission and, and values, and then hold all their actions up to what those things are to see if they're completely aligned. And our mission is to build relationships, it's to build the most meaningful, impactful personal relationships between business professionals, because we know that that's what leads to individual and business growth. We also encourage empathy to drive those relationships. We create communities of support to help people achieve their goals. But it kind of comes down to one thing, we want to just show people that we care. So how do you lean into that when you go to zoom is we started to have more personal conversations, less things that have to do with business development, and more things that have to do with personal development, such as we'd have conversations on, on gratitude, and resilience and science of happiness, and things that cause people to really want to open up to each other and have more personal conversations where they kind of show up as their true authentic selves versus, you know, hiding behind a an elevator pitch.

Susan Tatum 4:06

Good point. Yeah. So we were just catching up recently. And you had mentioned to me that you had looked back over the past year or years or whatever, of people in your groups and how successful they had been, really did they stay in the group or not, which I think is what you were looking at. But then you saw, if I understood you correctly, a very different mindset among the people that were that were really doing well in the group and succeeding in, in getting new business and growing their businesses versus the people who didn't do well. And I really want to dive into that because I think that's important on a couple of different channels, which we'll get to so let's talk about that.

Jonathan Rosen 4:48

Okay, so I have found so I'm always looking back and looking at, oh, we're membership organization, and to see what our renewal rates are and to see if we could always improve those renewal rates and finding out why people do renew, why they join, why they renew, why they don't renew, why they don't join, figuring out all those things and trying to be better at providing more value to their members. And we have found that people, so you would mention that I don't like it to be called a networking group, which is so true. Because when we get people that say, Oh, I'm going to join Collaberex, because maybe it's a better networking group, what their mentality is, is they have a transactional mindset, because traditional networking groups are have that transactional mindset, even though there are many traditional networking groups that talk a good game about relationships matter, but their actions don't reflect those values.

Susan Tatum 5:50

Yeah, so I know what you mean by transactional approach or mindset or whatever. But just to clarify, for anyone that's listening to this thinking, What the heck are they talking about? A transactional mindset would be I'm here for the purpose of networking, in order to build my business in this in this particular case,

Jonathan Rosen 6:11

Right, so the transactional mindset is they show up, they're allowed to give their elevator pitch and talk about their features and benefits. And they say to others, this is what I do, do you know anyone that could use my services? So it's, this is what I provide, you know, anyone that could use them? And then people, if they know someone, they say, Oh, sure, you know, I'll introduce you to so and so. And a lot of the groups say, they count those things, how many referrals you give, how many referrals you got, all those kinds of things. And what that encourages, is a quantity of generally semi cold leads. And because that's what they're measuring the quantity, not the quality of them, yeah, that it's much less likely that those leads will convert to closed business. So they become a waste of everyone's time. It's just to keep statistics in the group. There are other groups that don't measure those things. But they do everything else, they go around the room, they spend half the time in your meeting, with people going around saying, "Hey, this is what I do, this is my pitch." And it's it's a waste of time, everyone, you know, that's when everyone checks their email on their on their cell phones, when people are giving their their pitches, it doesn't help build a relationship with that person, or help you want to refer that person more. So that's the transactional mindset is based on that transaction, I do this. And it's true in business, too, you know, in in once you get a client, if the relationship with your client is transactional, that generally based on price, and if someone comes along, that's a penny less, if your relationship is based on price than that customer is going to go somewhere else. If it's based on value, and you're you have more of a partnership relationship of let's solve your problems together, and let's work together and then it's based on trust. And it's more likely to be long term, you'll get more loyalty from your your clients, and it won't be based on price, it will be based on the overall value that you provide them.

Susan Tatum 8:20

So yeah, and what you're describing is also true in any kind of sales situation where if you are so focused on selling, and what can I get you to buy right now you miss the point. I mean, if you talk to enough people, you'll hit somebody whose hair's on fire, and they need you right now. But the vast majority of people and we've seen research on this, the vast majority of ideal buyers are not in the market right now. And by vast majority, I mean, like 95% of them. So if you hit with an elevator speech, as you call that, you're not relevant, and you're just completely lose them.

Jonathan Rosen 8:58

Right. In addition to that, buying decisions are made emotionally, they're made on gut feelings they're made on Do I trust this person? When I meet someone, I find my experience with all my groups and all the people that I've met is if I meet someone, and they tell me their profession, let's say they say they're a commercial property and casualty insurance broker, I instantly assume competencies. Oh, how long you've been in business. I've been in business for 15 years. I assume they know what they're doing. But what I don't assume is that I trust them to act on those competencies in my best interest. So that's the missing link. That's what you have to create. So that's where the relationships come about. And I have to have an emotional connection. I have to really feel comfortable with that person, that they're going to analyze my business properly. They're going to care. They're going to care about my account. I'm just not a number of just another account. So um,

Susan Tatum 10:00

And that's particularly important when you're selling a service

Jonathan Rosen 10:05

We are all professional service providers there, there's no one there. I don't know if there's anyone in any of my groups that sells things anymore, you know, as a widget or, or as a farmer, or you know, something that's not selling a service, or our country is mostly in the service business. So it's the relationships that are so important. And so therefore, that's what we focus on in our groups, our our mission is to build the most personal, impactful relationships between business professionals. And that's how we spend every minute of every meeting that we that we do, we have a rule, no elevator pitches allowed. So, for example, I had a meeting this morning, and the way that we introduced ourselves as we started off, and we don't do this at every meeting. But oftentimes we do, we break up into groups of two, and we interview each other for five minutes each. And what we asked is, first of all, what do you want me to tell the group about you? And two, what's your biggest professional personal challenge that you're going through right now? And what are you doing about it? So just two quick questions. And then everyone has to come back to the room and introduce the person that they interviewed to the group. And everyone is so proud of the person they interviewed, oh, I had the pleasure of meeting, it was so interesting. And they talk about that person much better than that person would talk about themselves. And they spend about, you know, just a couple of phrases on on, like, what that person does. And then the rest of it is all about the challenge that the person is going through. And you could see the other people in the room thinking, Oh, I have that challenge also, that's interesting. So they're creating that connection with those people. And you could see people in the room are always, you know, taking notes thinking, Oh, I have to continue that conversation. That person sounds so interesting. Because we say to our members, we say no one cares what you do. We say, we care about you. We want to know who you are as a person, not what you do for a living. First, we want to know who you are, then we'll care what you do, because we know who you are.

Susan Tatum 12:18

So let's take this into a.. all of that sounds that sounds wonderful. If you don't have the advantage of being in a group, like yours, so that people are you're guiding them into creating these relationships, you have a comfortable space for them to do this. And I talk to a lot of consultants, coach, well, not coaches, really, but to a certain extent, that are very hesitant about, I'm still going to call it networking, because because that's, you know, where my thing is, There they don't talk for half of them, it sounds half of them, it seems icky, because they associate it with sales, and they associate it with the elevator pitch. And they're not comfortable. They're comfortable talking about their solutions and their processes, but not about themselves. So that's that is an issue. What How can a person in that situation? What can they do as they're meeting new people? And whether it's one on one on a zoom call, or it's in person, or you're at a cocktail party somewhere? How do you? I mean, it's, you know, I can say, well, you just be human. But what does that mean? How do you do that?

Jonathan Rosen 13:51

So earlier today, I had a conversation with someone, and she described our groups as Oh, you're the networking group for people who hate networking. They said, because when people and she was a new guest at a group, and she she saw it this morning, our agenda was on empathetic listening. And we use humor, and we use a lot of things to help people practice listening with an agenda. And why is it important in personal relationships and business relationships, and from these conversations, people were encouraged to really open up and be themselves. So this particular person came to the meeting and did not know anyone. And by the end of the meeting, she felt that she had gone to kindergarten with them. It was this kind of transformative, you know, acceleration of the relationship building process. But what people if they don't have a group, what they have to do is to know that they have to behave the same way they have to use the same characteristics and the same behaviors. They've learned to build personal relationships. We've all built personal relationships. You know, we have significant others and children and and families and colleagues and things like that. And friends, use those same things, those same skill sets that you use to build those friendships to build business relationships. I was speaking to someone a while ago, who had moved from Boston to New York. And he said to me, oh, you know what I want the group that I had in Boston, but I'm here in New York, I don't have any contacts. I go, Well, what was that group, he says, it's a bunch of friends that I went to college with. And after we graduated, we all helped each other, we all support each other. We talked about our families, and our, you know, and everything. But we also sent each other business and gave each other advice and and held each other accountable. And all this, he says, that's what I want. I said, Let's, that's where we are.

Susan Tatum 15:41

So in that, in that circumstance, you would, I mean, it seems like you're advocating build your own group, you know, create a network of people that you that you know, personally and professionally

Jonathan Rosen 15:53

do it and do it in a purposeful way. Don't pick a random group, pick up a group of people, where you know that the effort that they put in, they're all like minded, that they want to help each other that they're interested in, let's say the purpose of the group is group learning, they're all interested in, in helping each other learn to be better at what they do. If the purpose of the group is peer advisory than their role interested in helping solve each other's common business problems. If it's for accountability, then they then they'll be, you know, like, good friends and hold each other accountable for the goals that everyone wants to achieve. Whatever it might be, it has to be a like minded group that's going to equally share in the burden of supporting each other. And do it purposely say, you know, pick five people that didn't have to be a big group, pick five people, you know, and then figure out what, what do you want to achieve together, and you'll find that it becomes your competitive advantage, because you have the support of these other four people that are going to help guide you to achieve your goals.

Susan Tatum 17:03

Yeah, that makes total sense. And sometimes those networks, they just happen, well, you know, like, you've got your college buddies there, or this person you're talking about, they just, they just happen organically, I suppose.

Jonathan Rosen 17:13

They do. The problem with with a lot of these other groups, and there are a lot of people that form these things is they they tend to fall apart if they're not formalized, because people's lives take over. And people get busier at work, or people have other family obligations. But if you know, like with our organization, the fact that we have paid professional facilitators that are facilitating specific agendas that help teach everyone all the skill sets they need in order to be better at their business, such as the things, the professional growth skills, personal growth skills, relationship building skills, goal setting, and accountability and business development best practices. It's the structure that we provide is so designed to accelerate that relationship building process.

Susan Tatum 18:12

Okay. So, you know, when we were talking, I think it was the last time you quoted Maya Angelou. And I think that's, so tell that's tell us what you sounds what that quote was

Jonathan Rosen 18:25

let's see if I could remember it word for word every so many people have quoted it, you know, it's it's not it's, I think it's, it's not what you do. It's not the value you provide. It's how you make people feel, that's what they remember.

Susan Tatum 18:39

So they don't remember what you said,

Jonathan Rosen 18:40

right. It's not what you said, or what you do. It's how you made them feel.

Susan Tatum 18:46

And I think that comes around to when we're meeting people for the first time to be more interested in them than we are in getting our agenda across.

Jonathan Rosen 18:57

I am such a believer that every conversation is not a promotional opportunity. Every conversation is a learning opportunity. The purpose in business, the purpose of having a meeting, is to have another meeting, is to build that relationship to keep it going. You never got out of a you know, some meeting or coffee, where you said to yourself, Wow, that was great. I got all my talking points. You get out of the meeting, say that was great. I can't believe how much we have in common, and how much we connected. And then we're going to we we honestly want to work with each other. And it could be whether it's a prospect or a strategic partner, either.

Susan Tatum 18:44

Right. And I think in doing that, yeah, you start to build the trust and the the emotion gets involved in the relationship. It's also helpful in learning what the other person is all about. And as a consultant, understanding what their problems really are. It's you're going to try to help them solve.

Jonathan Rosen 20:00

Well, that's we're kind of emphathetic listening comes in, because you get to really dig deep and try and find out what their problems are before you, before you provide solutions to a problem that maybe they didn't have.

Susan Tatum 20:13

Exactly, exactly. So let's go into empathetic listening a little bit, give us a give us a little free, mini course, in empathetic listening.

Jonathan Rosen 20:24

So one of the things that we talked about this morning, is, you know, not to that sometimes when people and this involves prospects and, and personal relationships, people sometimes don't want solutions. They just want to be heard. They want to know that you care, because you listen to them. So I know it happens in personal relationships, but in businesses also, and you can't, as I said, you can't possibly solve a problem until you find out what that problem is. So there was a couple of years ago, there was a member of one of my groups, that was a very kind of his head of business development for an IT managed services company, very kind of old school guy sells, you know, hard drives or things like that. And at one time, he realized, so he used to come in and say talk about features and benefits and, and network security and cybersecurity and things like that. And he realized that he wasn't really getting anywhere. So he stopped. And he made himself listen. And he tried to talk to his customers. And he will say, so tell me what's going on? What What are your biggest challenges in your business? And then he would shut up? And he wouldn't say anything. He said it was so uncomfortable for him. Yeah, going imagine. And he realized, the longer the silence, the greater the probability that he was going to convert that prospect to a client. And so when he converted them, because there was this big silence, and then the customer would start to talk and express what issues they had. He said, he would always ask the customers, well, why did you hire me? You know why, you know, there are plenty of other people that do what I do. And they would always say, Well, you're the only one that listened. And it was because he was an expression that he really cared about them as a client. But if you practice empathetic listening, which is really kind of listening without agenda, listening to listen, not to solve, it builds trust and respect. It enables the client to discuss their emotions, it encourages kind of a partnership versus a buyer seller relationship, it surfaces more information, and creates a safe environment that's really conducive to collaborative problem solving. So it sets the tone for the relationship in so many ways.

Susan Tatum 22:54

I like that definition of empathetic listening is listening without an agenda, because empathy and has become a buzz sort of a buzzword, that I don't think we stopped to really think about what that means, often enough. But listening without an agenda is something that, that I can wrap my head around.

Jonathan Rosen 23:13

Yeah. So one thing that I want to say that I'm always have to be clear on in our groups, is that everything that we do, we're not doing it just because it's we like it, it's touchy feely, it feels good to us it's creates relationships are nice, you know, it's like one big group hug. We do it for practical reasons. We do it because it helps people's businesses better than traditional networking models. What it does, is by building those relationships, through the group learning that we do, people learn all these things along the way, takeaways at every meeting that go right to their bottom line of their business, they learn how to be better leaders, better strategists, better salespeople, better operations, people, better administrators, sometimes even better people, but they learn all these things that really increase the profitability and efficiency of their organizations. And also by building these relationships, it literally turns people's brains so that people get to know you, they want to help you in whatever way you need help. So it's either, you know, to give you advice, to hold you accountable, to be your focus group, to be your sales funnel to be a referral source. So all these things would, in whatever way you need. So it's, it's we're doing it for because it's a better methodology. We're doing it for practical reasons. And it provides so many skill sets that also help people in all aspects of their life.

Susan Tatum 24:53

So it sounds like you've cracked the code on that one, Jonathan. That's, that's awesome. So for the listeners that want to follow up with you, and I'll say You know, you, you're you've got nine groups, they're all sort of on the East Coast, well, North East Coast, New York and north of there ish. But thanks to zoom, you're we've got people that are participating all over the world. So I would encourage any of the listeners that that want to follow up with you to by all means get in touch, how should they do that.

Jonathan Rosen 25:24

And also, just to let you know that next territory, we're looking to scale to as the west coast so we can be more accommodating to West Coast time zones. If anyone wants to contact me, my company is called Collaberex. It's spelled C O, L L, A, B, E, R, E, X. So our website is And you can email me at And one of the things that we do to to allow people to experience what our groups are like is anyone who wants we give everyone a free 30 day membership. So they can come to our groups meet twice a month, they can actually go to 18 meetings of our groups. In addition, we have lots else going on. We do we do monthly open networking, we do monthly workshops, we have other affinity groups, all kinds of things, that you can really experience what it's like to be part of our community. It's not just joining our group it's joining, you have access to all the members and all the groups. If you join one group, you can go to all the groups. So it's really a community mentality.

Susan Tatum 26:42

So I know you. You've invited me to a number of your of your meetings, and I always walk away with pages of notes and new people to follow up with and that's great. So thanks. Thanks for being here again, and stay out of the bad air on the East Coast. I hope you can play tennis again soon.

Jonathan Rosen 27:02

Yes. Thank you so much Susan. This is always a pleasure. It's just such a nice conversation. I'm always happy to be invited.

Susan Tatum 27:11

We'll take care of Have a good day.


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