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Connext Nation


By Debby Peters,

Celebrating Our 18th Year of Helping Our Grads to REALLY Connect!

Monthly Lunches
It’s back!  Monthly lunches are now on the calendar for 2019.  We will again be at Smokey Bones 512 W Dussel Blvd, Maumee.  They will be from 11:30-1. The dates of the lunches in the first and second quarter are:

June 17
July 15
Aug. 19
This is the third Monday of the month.  We are going to ask you to register in advance which means you can use your business credit card to do so.  The fee for lunch is $16 and the link to register is:

Social Events
The second event of the year will be Sept 26 from 6-7:30pm at Clara J’s Tea House at 219 W Wayne St, Maumee.  The owner and young executive chef, Gretchen Fayerweather, has breathed new life into this old location.  To say the least, it’s not your mother’s tea house! There will be other beverages served that have nothing to do with tea!

Mini Classes
Coming up in we have several mini classes on the horizon.  If you want to send one of your friends to experience a little bit more of CN, this is the best way to do it.  The cost is only $35 although; if two people register at the same time it is only $40 for both.  Registration is easy at this link. .  All of these mini classes below are at the BNI office from 11am-1pm.
June 14
July 19
Aug 23

New Classes
We have scheduled another Why class for June 17, 10am-1pm at Higher Ground Advantage at 315 N Main Street in Bowling Green.  The cost is $89 and you can register at .  There are only ten seats reserved for this training.  Our first one in January was SOLD OUT and had rave reviews.  Maggie Sullivan said, “OMG, it was a wonderful 2 hours!  I loved seeing you and meeting new friends.”  Kathy Burrus said, “Currently, I am writing a second book. The working title is Envision You: Unstuck and Confident. I have been aware that many women I work with are struggling with wanting to make their difference, but they feel stuck.  I thought I was writing it for them.  But after yesterday I came to realize that I am writing it because of my own WHY.  My journey with confidence was challenged in the 2nd grade.  Those messages/lies that I have carried with me as truth now for 50 plus years are the reason I want to write this book.  I rewrote my intro.  I’m leading with my WHY.”  Debby would love to help you find or find-tune your why!
Then in July a second special topic session will be launched entitled, “Who’s Your Who?”  This session will help people to select or fine-tune their target market.  We will all work together to help each other determine the best referral sources for the chosen market.  The date is July 22, from 11am-1:30pm.  The cost of this session is $89, however if you register for both at the same time you can have both for $160,

Board of Action
Jason Madasz, BNI Northwest Ohio, has decided to step away from the Board of Action because of how busy this region has become for BNI.  Between teaching Membership Success Program and launching new chapters and of course taking his son to hockey and Lacrosse, many weeks he is just trying to keep up!  Jason wants all to know that he still will be a strategic partner with Connext Nation because of how useful it is to the members of BNI.  He has been on the board since June 2009.  We value his contributions, always thoughtful and thinking outside the box.  Thank you Jason for your support!

Social Media
Stay in the Know!!
Never miss out on a networking event again!  As CN confirms an event, it is set up under the Events tab on our Facebook page with all of the info and links to register if applicable.  While on our Facebook page, simply click on the Events tab and you will see the Subscribe button on the right just above the list of events. Click on it and you are set to go! You can also invite people to the events and share them to your Facebook page as well! Visit our page at today!

Member Spotlight:

Sheri Brokos
by Kerri Brimmer,

In 2006, Sheri Bokros, added “Sales Management” to her marketing coordinator responsibilities at The Mannik & Smith Group (MSG) in Maumee, Ohio. “The only thing I ever sold before was Girl Scout cookies, and I cheated by sending them to work with my Dad. I didn’t want to do sales.” confided Sheri. “The CN class, taught by Merri Bame, made me realize that there were many ways to sell. I have a softer sales approach. The CN course made me more confident in finding my own style of selling. Merri was amazing!” It seems Sheri has not slowed down since. She is still with MSG, and became their youngest shareholder three years ago. She now serves as Principal/Vice President of Business Development across the 12 offices, and does quite a bit of traveling.

Sheri moved to Northwest Ohio to attend the University of Toledo. She started out pursuing a Broadcasting degree and after interning at NBC 24 and ESPN, she decided, “It was not for me. I switched majors to public relations and took a job with MCO (later MUO, now UTMC) in their media relations department”. MSG contacted her about a position, which she would be able to create into what she wanted it to be. “I never would have guessed I’d be a shareholder at an engineering firm. I hated math. I can help them to sell though, and we have created mutually beneficial relationship. I have so much respect for the engineers,” said Sheri.    

Her department at MSG, Business Development, includes both marketing and sales. Sheri defines marketing as the tools you put in the sales person’s toolbox, and sales as the act of using those tools and selling. She has a staff of 7… scattered across 12 offices in Ohio and Michigan. Sheri is happy to have such a great team, having been able to select employees near any office location. The multiple locations also make up her greatest challenge. Sheri travels to meet them individually, plus they keep in touch with bi-monthly meetings and weekly conference calls. (She is currently looking for sales people if you want to send a talented sales person her way!)

Her favorite MSG project thus far has been the 2014 rebranding initiative. The new logo was a combination of the historic MSG logo colors of navy and gray, combined with green for the merged-in Midwest Environmental Consultants, and an orange dot representing construction support.  “We changed the mission, vision, core values, promise, logo, everything. I argued two months for the orange dot,” said Sheri with a smile, “and now it is everyone’s favorite part of the logo.”

Sheri has a few activities to fill her free time. She coaches soccer for Anthony Wayne United Soccer Club, and is also on multiple boards, which strung together create big bowl of alphabet soup….
•    WCEDC - Vice President of the Wood County Economic Development       
•    UTFREC - Board Member of the University of Toledo Foundation Real Estate
•    APARC - Architectural Review Committee for Arrowhead Park Association
•    NORED - Marketing Chair for the Northwest Ohio Regional Economic
     Development Association
•    TMACOG - Communications Committee for the Toledo Metropolitan Area
      Council of Governments
•    FCEDC - Business Development Committee for the Fulton County Economic
     Development Corporation
•    AASPARK - Business Development Committee for Ann Arbor SPARK
•    ECNWO - Development Committee for the Epilepsy Center of Northwest           Ohio
•    TRCC - Leadership & Advocacy Panelist for the Toledo Regional Chamber of
•    BGSU WBL - Women in Business Leadership Mentor at Bowling Green State
•    LT - Graduate of the Leadership Toledo Program
•    LLS  - Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man of the Year Committee for Rod

A little plug... “The Epilepsy Center holds an event called the, ‘Practically a Golf Tournament,’ each year. The first year they held the event at Levis Commons they raised $30,000!” said Sheri. Look for Sheri there on September 20, 2019. It’s an 18 hole miniature golf tournament, with food, adult beverages and a DJ! (See for more info.)
How does Sheri hold this all together? Her family is her glue. She and her two siblings have all landed in northwest Ohio. Her sister Jenna, is in Human Resources with Welch Packaging in Toledo and her brother, Matthew works at the Home Depot Distribution Center in Troy Township. “My Mom and Dad, Renée and Andy, still live in NE Ohio, but I am holding out hope that they may retire near Toledo.” A favorite recent memory is her wedding last year near Traverse City, Michigan. Her wife is Allison Hammons, a 2007 CN graduate. They live in Perrysburg with their dog Benson, a Dachshund Chihuahua mix. (Picture sad puppy eyes on a long body.) 

Keep up the great work Sheri!


CN Horn Tooting


Nick Nigro tells us about his new position at OhioMeansJobs (yes, it is all one word) Lucas County - formerly known as The Source. He is the Workforce Development Coordinator and will be coordinating all of the resources that are available at the county One-Stop for workforce development. He is very excited and honored to serve in this capacity, which has lots of responsibilities and he feels that it is a wonderful fit for his qualifications.

Matt Lee, Accessible Renovations, reports that they received the 2019 BBB Torch Award in the small business category and they celebrated their 14th year in business in March. As licensed remodelers in Northwest Ohio, we have the unique focus of assisting the handicapped and the elderly remain independent in their home, while assisting everyone with modifications to their Kitchens, Baths or even their Commercial Work spaces.

Greg Peters, The Reluctant Networker, has been out on the road recently. He's been presenting to organizations to help their members develop their networking skills. He has recently spoken for Consumers Energy, the Association of Corporate Counsel, and Meeting Planners International.

Leo Idrailkh and Nida Ammar, share that on April 27th, CCTRONIC won second place in Toledo Erie Hack quarterfinal round. The team advanced to the regional semi-finals which will take place in Detroit on June 5th.  Additionally, on May 9th, CCTRONIC participated at Jumpstart's Northwest Ohio's pitch competition. They competed against 8 other entrepreneurs with solid presentations and managed to gain first place.  Click on this link,, the Company with the most votes will get the right to move on to the finals in the Erie Hack.

Patty Cavins, Higher Ground Advantage, announces that they have just begun offering a new service, a personal assessment and workshop for those in the area of professional sales.   This provides strength-based knowledge and tools for business owners, sales and sales leadership professionals.

You're Limiting Your Network 
By Chris Kapelski,
If you ask people why they network, the majority reply with something along the lines of, “to grow my business” or “to meet new people” or “I want to improve my skills”. While those are excellent goals from a business and personal perspective, they’re limiting your network. Would you have answered with one of those? 

Time for New Goals
All the goals above are self-serving and only help YOU. Great networks are built on a foundation of trying to create mutually beneficial relationships where both parties gain something from the connection. Nothing is worse than walking up to a person at a networking event, and 2 minutes into the conversation they are so focused on their business and themselves that you just want to run away. But we get so ingrained in our business and trying to grow that we often fall into this trap ourselves. If any of this is sounding like you, take some time to recalibrate your mindset. Change up your goals. Understand what you bring to the table through your business services and personally. Then listen to others and find people that could utilize what you have to offer. Helping someone resolve an issue is a great way to grow your network, because you end up the hero. The next time they’re talking to a friend about how they fixed their problem. Guess whose name is going to come up?

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Since birth we’ve been told, “Don’t talk to strangers.” While as an adult we may laugh at that think that we talk to everyone, WE DON’T. People naturally gravitate toward those they know and shy away from those they don’t know. During networking situations, we need to be mindful of this and make sure we are forcing ourselves out of our comfort zone.  Outside of this zone is where the magic of networking truly happens. It’s where we meet new people; people that truly expand our network.

Do You Have A Plan?
Building great networks requires a plan. Period. Once you understand your value, as we discussed in the first section. Think about this. Have you thought about what you want your next 3-5 business years to look like? By asking yourself this question and outlining an answer, you can start to create a plan that will help you achieve those goals. While you create your plan think about these questions. How often should I go to networking events? Where? What do I want to accomplish at each event? Will one networking strategy work? Will I need multiple strategies? What people should I try to connect with? How many follow up meetings should I schedule? By answering these questions with as much detail as possible, you will come out with a focused plan for success. Not only will you be moving toward your goals, but you’ll be growing your network.


Bad Pick-up Lines
by Debby Peters,
Do any of you remember your dating years, (or maybe you are still in them!), when someone would use a line like, “What’s your sign?” as a first line into a conversation?  This usually happened at a bar and the line was so cliché that you just wanted to roll your eyes.  In most instances you wanted to turn to another person to begin a better conversation.

In networking, I kind of feel the same way about, “So what’s new?”  I must admit that I have used it and have felt very guilty as soon as those words popped out of my mouth.  During the ten week Referral Pursuit course, we teach our students to be ready with an answer to the, “How can I help?” query but not the “What’s new?” question.  Hmmm, maybe a new addition to the course!  The trouble with this question is that if this person doesn’t have anything new to talk about right off the top of his head, he now has been made to feel less than wonderful.  Not a good relationship building tactic!

What are some great questions you can use to start a conversation at the business networking event?  We all like to talk about ourselves; it’s our favorite topic.  Knowing that, we can formulate easy-to-answer, feel-good questions.  A couple inquiries are listed below:
•    Tell me a little bit about your job.
•    How long have you been here?
•    Where work did you do before?
•    Have you always worked in the area or have you moved around?
•    Where have you lived?
•    What brought you here?

There are many others, but the six above will get a conversation started that puts the spotlight on the person you are meeting without making him feel defensive.  The conversation will feel more comfortable and will probably meander on to other topics from there.  You’ll maybe even learn more about what’s new with this person without having to ask it!
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