I know you will all find this hard to believe, but there was a time when The FENG only had 20 members.
In May of 1995, I was invited by Ed Devlin, the then Chairman, to join what was at that time The Fairfield County Financial Executives Networking Group. (Ed had recently taken over from Don Gonsalves who started the group in 1991.)
Being a bit of a computer expert, especially compared to Ed, I volunteered to act as social chair and take in resumes, adding them to what we now know as our membership directory. Believe it or not, we actually discussed job leads at meetings as there was no evening newsletter. Some of our founding members such as Brad Hughes who now lives in Chicago, brought printed copies of job leads they received from meetings they attended and we passed them around the table. What fun!
Although most of the job leads discussed were dead on arrival, we enjoyed each other’s company and made lasting friendships.
At the end of 1996, Brad had taken a job in Atlanta and he had an assignment in Brazil that required someone who spoke Portuguese. This was a job that had Ed’s name on it, and on his way out the door before leaving for this “temporary” assignment, he asked if I would Chair the group. (Actually, everyone else took one step back.)
Fortunately, I had heard about Al Gore having invented something called the Internet and suggested to the assembled group at our first meeting that we send out leads using my AOL account. That way leads that accumulated between our bi-weekly meetings could circulate. At the first meeting I chaired, only 3 other participants had email addresses. By the 3rd meeting, EVERYONE had an email address, and we stopped discussing leads at our meetings. It was quite a breakthrough.
One of the issues that Ed and I had already worked out was how we decided to invite new members. Basically, it was what we now know as our sponsorship requirement. Unless you had at least one friend in this world, you couldn’t join our august body.
Time has certainly marched on. We now have a dedicated server sending out our newsletter and it runs for the better part of 8 hours to grind through our entire distribution. With 38,000+ members around the country and around the world, we are the largest networking group of our type in the entire world. (By “of our type” I mean, we actually know each other.)
As we head into the quintessential American holiday of Thanksgiving, we have a lot to be thankful for.
If any of you are given the opportunity to mention The FENG during your celebrations with family and friends next week, I hope you will do so.
It is our spirit of friendship and helping one another that makes this whole thing work. Perhaps the message of what we do for each other day in and day out will act as inspiration for the rest of the world.
Who knows? Perhaps we can help make this world a better place.