Sunday, June 2, 2002

While the lunch isn’t free;
the networking is

An alternative business networking group has been quietly operating since January of last year and is now seeking new members.

Lest the "alternative" description conjure up images of teens and twenty-somethings with backward baseball caps, too-long cargo-pants and multiple piercings, it should be stated right now that it's alternative because it does not cost $150 to $250 per year to belong.

"We don't have any membership fees," said Honolulu Business Network co-founder Deane Y. Endo, which relieves the "unspoken pressure to get some business or my $250 is wasted." Endo is a principal of Pacific Technology Consulting LLC, a network computer consulting company.

He said the bigger reason the group doesn't charge is, "What would we do with the money, anyway?"

"A lot of groups emphasize leads or referrals," he said. "We put the horse before the cart. We focus on building relationships."

Having coffee, lunch or a beer with someone can build a foundation first, then "the leads and referrals will take care of themselves," he said.

HBN member Tracy Nakashima agrees the relationship-building makes a negative or improper referral or lead less likely; the relationship builds comfort, he said.

While there are no membership fees "there is a small fee if you miss a meeting," Nakashima said. "It's $5."

"The only other thing is the Happy Dollar," he said, which is assessed if a member did not accomplish at least one of three weekly goals; either meet with another member outside of the group meeting; pass a lead to someone or to bring a guest to the meeting. A "happy dollar" is then assessed and the member paying is to tell a "happy story" about being so busy with business going so well that there wasn't time to meet one of the challenges.

Funds collected go back into the group to be put toward a party or other social event, Endo said.

Lunch meetings are each Thursday at Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar; members are required to purchase lunch to support the restaurant, which does not charge HBN for use of its meeting room.

The 25 to 30 members gather with a specific meeting routine, beginning with a reading of the group philosophy. Meetings are facilitated by the same person for three months when the role rotates to another member.

The next facilitator is not the person who missed the meeting, Nakashima chuckled. "We don't pick on people like that."

As with other groups, the Honolulu Business Network is category-exclusive. More common categories such as banking, accounting and real estate are already represented, but the group seeks members in a wide range of categories from a florist to an estate planning attorney, a caterer to a travel agent.

Contact information is available on the group's Web site at

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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