Want to make a great first impression? Invite a great speaker.
Written by Jeanne Noorman
In 2014, when I left my full-time position to pursue a writing career, I asked a friend, “What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a freelancer?”
This wasn’t just any friend though. This was a friend who had started her own business as a freelance photographer, who had grown her business to being profitable, whose photos had won awards and been featured internationally, and who now had the freedom to travel the world doing what she did best and enjoyed most.
Her response to me was simple. “Network, network, network.”
If you do a search for business network groups in the greater Grand Rapids area, you’ll find hundreds. Eventbrite currently has 37 Grand Rapids events listed under the category of Business Networking. Meetup.com lists more than 50 career and business groups in GR ranging from Mitten Rocks to the Young and Restless. In addition, there are 40 Business Networking International (BNI) groups registered in West Michigan. I’ve visited several of these groups, some of them more than once, and I’ve even found work through networking in these groups. But I’ve never been inspired to join any of these groups, until now.
On Friday, October 28, 2016, I was a guest at the Medical Mile Resource Group (MMRG) meeting. It began like many of the other meetings that I’ve been to: contact info filled out, name tags put on, introductions made, and business cards traded. Then the meeting started, and I was inspired.
The speaker at the morning’s meeting, Teresa Neal, is the Grand Rapids Public School Superintendent. A 1977 graduate of Creston High School, Mrs. Neal has been employed by GRPS for more than forty years, beginning part time while in high school and working her way up to her present position. The passion Neal has for the students and faculty she oversees is obvious when you hear her speak. There were a couple phrases repeated several times that illustrate the theme of her talk and the accomplishments of her tenure.
“These are our students, our schools, and this is our city.”
“I’ve made unpopular decisions and taken action even when it was hard, but I’m committed to doing what’s best for the students, the schools, and the community.”
Since Neal became Superintendent of GRPS in March of 2014, she has reduced truancy levels and increased high school graduation rates every year, and this in a district where 84% of its students live below the poverty level. She has worked hard to support programs that have the greatest benefit for students and families such as the International Baccalaureate Program and GR Parent’s University. She has closed schools and sold buildings that were no longer meeting the needs of the students and the district, and she has instituted difficult policies such as requiring school uniforms for the betterment of all students. As a result of her leading, GRPS has received national and international attention, and Mrs. Neal is now working to improve schools across the state and in the critical Detroit Public School district.
To put it lightly, I was greatly inspired by Teresa Neal. How does that relate to being inspired to join the Medical Mile Resource Group? MMRG is a group dedicated to the growth of the greater Grand Rapids area. While their purpose is to provide assistance and direction to all individuals and businesses within the greater West Michigan area who seek to expand and grow their businesses, as is the goal of most networking groups, they also desire to become a resource for the greater community, the schools, the ministries, the people.
Like Teresa Neal, MMRG believes that it is the ‘collectivity of the community – a combined effort being greater than the sum of the individual parts’ that will have the greatest impact on both education and economic growth in West Michigan. As an outsider, looking in, I see an organization that wants to have a positive and lasting impact on the West Michigan community, and I want to be a part of that. If you’re interested in knowing more about this group that does more than just network, check out their website at MedicalMileResourceGroup.org.
Attend an MMRG Event
The MMRG holds monthly events to allow our members to learn more about our amazing city and region. Join us as a guest and learn more about how you can add value to the growth of the region.