Or as he calls it, “one-night stands, not meaningful relationships.”
So in March of 2011, he and his wife, Melanie, founded Cadre, an exclusive networking group for “remarkable business professionals” whose stated mission is to help each other. Cadre joins groups like the Potomac Officer’s Club, the Tower Club, the Young Presidents Organization and others as the latest hangout for those at the top of the corporate food chain.
“It’s networking for people who are usually prey at networking events,” said Coburn, who splits his time between Cadre and Washington Financial Group, where he is a partner. “It’s is for people who want to avoid being hit in the eye by a flying business card. If you’re meeting people in Cadre, they’re vetted, they’re high-quality.”
The group meets in the District about four times each month to talk, eat lunch and hear inspirational speeches from business owners. Cadre currently has about 100 members, and Coburn caps the number from each industry in order to prevent the group from being overrun by techies, lawyers or any other sector.
Cadre stands for Connecting Advocates Deepening Relationships Exclusively, and the “exclusively” means it’s harder to get into than similar groups. Each new member must be invited by an existing member, and about six out of 10 prospective applicants, “aren’t a good fit,” Coburn said.
Membership costs $500 a month, higher than several other executive-level networking groups in the region. (The Young President’s Organization costs $3,000 a year plus various chapter dues, the Potomac Officer’s Club is $795 per year, and the Tower Club dues range from $140 to $250 each month.)
If it sounds steep, make sure Coburn doesn’t hear it in your voice: He said he rejects members who seem overly focused on getting their money’s worth in business deals.
“If they’re focused on ROI [return on investment], if they have that bit of desperation, like, ‘If I’m going to be paying $500 a month -- when do you think I’ll start making money?’” Coburn said, explaining the types of warning signs that might cause him to turn away an applicant. “If you don’t feel like you have a great business, Cadre is not a place to become great.”
Cadre events aren’t as fancy as the price might suggest. A recent gathering was held in the back room of Affinity Lab, the hip U Street co-working space. Folding chairs were assembled in rows and several dozen attendees, who wore everything from suits and ties to jeans and t-shirts, grabbed chicken wraps on their way in. The events are not for the hurried: each one is approximately two hours long, with time for lunch, an hour-long presentation and for networking.