First Fridays: Experience Networking in a New Way

First Fridays is a place where people can network, learn and grow.

When Jere Johnson moved to Fort Wayne from Chicago, he was looking for an uplifting and energetic community.

Brothers Jere and Jim Johnson launched First Fridays to create a space where people could come together to learn more about our region and about each other.

We want to create a meeting forum where members can grow as individuals and where they can network and really primarily focus on Northeast Indiana,” Jim said, “because that’s where we are and we think there’s a lot of great things that go on here and a lot of great things that people maybe don’t even know about.”

First Fridays is hosted at Indiana Wesleyan University on, you guessed it, the first Friday of each month. Different speakers are featured at each gathering to take on a variety of leadership topics like conflict, collaboration, entrepreneurship, etc. Each session, attendees will come away will a better understanding of leadership in Northeast Indiana.

How it all started:

Jim told Living Fort Wayne that the idea for First Fridays was inspired by the 2017 Global Leadership Summit (GLS). GLS is a leadership conference broadcast world-wide from Willow Creek Church in Chicago, which, much like First Fridays, invites a variety of speakers to discuss what effective leadership looks like.

Their first conversation about bringing a regional leadership forum to life transpired on the second day of the GLS. They sat down over some “very expensive Coliseum hamburgers” and at the end of their discussion decided the goal for this programs was to,“have a purpose to come together that’s beyond networking, but networking happens within the context.”

Once the idea came to head, the brothers were eager to move their plan into actions. Jim told Living Fort Wayne he and his brother covered his office with large Post-it notes, mapping out their vision for First Fridays.

Recalling wisdom he learned from another influential leader, Author Tony Robbins, Jim said, “if you’ve got a great idea when you’re working on something don’t try to make it perfect, get out there and take massive action on it and you’ll see success.”

Incidentally, the brothers only planned to host First Fridays for a season and evaluate the need to continue or adjust.

“We’ve already had people saying, ‘well you’re going to do this again next year aren’t you?’”

Now there is no stopping this momentum, the First Fridays team already has several speakers lined up for 2019 and are continuing to build upon their vision.

Why you should go:

The First Fridays team has successfully created an environment where talking to people is easy.

“I’ll talk to anybody about anything, I’m not shy. Both my brother and I are like that…we’re very comfortable meeting people. There’s a lot of people maybe who hold back on wanting to go to a networking event because they just don’t know what to say. I don’t know what it is about this event, but you’ll talk to people you’ll meet people.”

If networking is a scary word for you like it was for me, check out Jim’s blog on how to have an anxiety free and rewarding networking experience.

Take it from a 22-year-old who attended First Fridays as an intern, this is a place where leaders both emerging and established come together and are genuinely interested in learning from one another. Not once have I felt intimidated by the people in this room.  

“We have CEOs coming to this, people who started their own business coming to this, senior executives, middle management, people who aren’t even in leadership yet coming to this and the interactions are phenomenal,” Jim said, “it’s amazing the things you can learn about yourself and the things you can learn about somebody else.”

And this is not about simply exchanging business cards and selling yourself or your business. It is about making meaningful connections and building community.

“If we individually as leaders get better, our companies get better, when our companies get better our communities get better and everybody benefits. That’s ultimately what we want to see happen with first fridays is that continual betterment. It’s worth that time investment.”

RSVP for this month’s First Fridays on February 2nd at Indiana Wesleyan University from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Todd Baumann, vice president of the Bakehouse Division of Aunt Millie’s Bakery will present on the importance of adding value to your company.

You can follow First Fridays on LinkedIn and their webpage.

Jim Johnson, vice president of member services at 3Rivers Federal  Credit Union

Jere Johnson,corporate representative at Indiana Wesleyan University

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Author: Rachel Stephens

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