I recently connected with Michael MacGinty on Linkedin as I reached out to him to see if he would be interested to talk to me about the network that he helps manage. For this installment, we are focussing on the Donegal Business Network – A Network Overview.
I’m thrilled to give you an overview of this small but mighty network, based up in Letterkenny, Co Donegal.
To start with, as I hadn’t met Michael before, I didn’t have any sense of how the conversation would go. But as soon as we connected online, the conversation was instantaneous and I knew I had met a fellow networking kindred spirit. Needless to say that the conversation lasted longer than I had scheduled, but it was totally worth it.
Michael started the ‘meeting’ by giving me a virtual overview of his backyard, as it were – and ‘wow’ is what I can relay to you! Overlooking Lough Swilly and Tyrone – well if you haven’t been to Donegal, you need to put it on your bucket list. As Michael told me, with no small measure of pride, National Geographic have named it the ‘coolest place on the planet’!
But even with lockdown and #Covid19 restrictions in place, there is no reason not to venture up to Donegal for a virtual visit and connect with this network.
As with all my interviews, I really try to ascertain a very practical sense of how the network is run, what its benefits are and why someone should visit, and/or eventually join as a member.
How It All Began
DBN was established in 2013 by Michael and his Co Founder Pascal Curran from Advice First Financial. Michael has a web design agency called MEANIt, established in 1996, that operates between Donegal and Dublin. He had long been in networking circuits, having established BNI chapters in Galway and subsequently in Sligo.
Launching BNI Letterkenny
The original idea had been to set up a BNI chapter in Letterkenny, but objections came from BNI Donegal Town chapter. So on the day of the first meeting, to set up a group in Letterkenny, 27 business owners were in a room waiting for something to happen, only to be told that a veto had been put in place and there was no permission to set up BNI Letterkenny.
Business Network Donegal
Michael and Pascal decided to give it a go. If, after four weeks, people continued to turn up, he’d make a go of it, alongside Pascal to establish the network in Letterkenny…and therein lies the start of a journey. The following week 54 businesses showed up.
BNI felt that the name of the network was too similar to its own, so the network rebranded to become Donegal Business Network.
Fast forward nearly 8 years and the network and Michael are still going strong. As with all networks, people come and go, due to being busy, life happening.
DBN plays a critical role in the business infrastructure in Donegal and I’m delighted to have met Michael and look forward to following their continued success.
Who Can Join
There is a one seat per profession/category policy.
The network is open up to business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) businesses.
The meetings happen every Wednesday. The informal part happens from 6.30am and visitors are asked to arrive for 6.45am for a 7am start.
The meeting then runs for 1 1/2 hours until 8.30am, so it doesn’t intrude on the working days.
Breakfast is arranged for those who can stay and extend the informal networking, so you can be networked, fed and connected by 9am.
Not a bad start to a Wednesday.
IRL, or in real life, the meetings take place in the Radisson Hotel in Letterkenny, but for now, they are hosted on Zoom.
There are two categories of membership.
- Full membership means exclusivity for the category, service or sector. This entitles the member to attend the meetings each week and to avail of training, social activities, referrals and a great, supportive community.
- Lite membership means that a business can attend once a month. There is no exclusivity in the category or service and should a company make an application to take a seat, the ‘lite’ member is given the opportunity to take the full seat or decline.
There are currently 14 full members and 14 lite members.
This is tremendous value. The network is run as a not for profit organisation. The monies are reinvested to develop the network, e.g. for training, PR, publicity and promotions.
- Full membership: €250 per year
- Lite membership: €120 per year
Terms & Conditions
To keep it real and to maintain the integrity of the network, there are metrics put on attendance and an expectation of engagement and referrals. Nothing out of the ordinary and nothing that you wouldn’t expect from a professional network.
Unlike many networks there is no ‘top table’. Everyone pulls their sleeves up, gets involved and is assigned a job. There is a ‘no passengers’ philosophy.
How to Connect with Donegal Business Network
You can tweet, post or ring Michael to get an invite to any of their meetings.
Connecting with Networkingjean.ie
If you have other ideas and suggestions, I’d love to hear them. You can reach out to me at email@example.com.
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