Photo by Roy L. Williams.
Chatting during an iRefer Vestavia/Hoover meeting at Crazy Cajun’s are, from left, Scott Elliott, Stephanie Constantine and Leisa Crossley. Anyone interested in joining iRefer can email email@example.com or visit the group’s website, irefer1.com.
As a longtime mortgage banker, Trey Horton of InterLinc Mortgage Services knows that making connections through networking is essential to success.
Horton, who has taught classes on business networking, decided two years ago to create a nonprofit organization to utilize tips he had gained from attending networking sessions. The result was iRefer Vestavia/Hoover, which has met weekly since November 2013 and now has a core group of more than two dozen members.
iRefer Vestavia/Hoover has weekly Tuesday morning meetings at Pump House Conference Center, 4012 Sicard Hollow Road, in Cahaba Heights. On the fourth Tuesday of each month, the group instead holds a social networking evening meeting at area restaurants.
Horton said he came up with the concept based on years of attending networking sessions, both good and bad. He said in today’s competitive business world, networking is essential. iRefer focuses on providing a positive, supportive and structured environment where professionals can meet and get to know each other without the stress of continual sales pitches, Horton said.
“We offer members a chance to share ideas, contacts and business referrals in a relaxed environment once a week,” he said. “We also educate members new to business networking on how to go to other events, make the best use of their time and build relationships that further their business.”
One of the keys to its success, Horton said, is that iRefer Vestavia/Hoover is a very diverse group, focusing on getting a variety of professions involved.
“Passing referrals on builds relationships, and we show members how to do it right,” Horton said. “We welcome visitors. There is no sales pressure, and we exchange business cards and get to know each other.”
At each Tuesday morning meeting, attendees briefly introduce themselves, and on a rotating basis one individual gets to make a 10-minute presentation to the others. The social meetings are a chance for members to relax after work and get to know each other better. During an Aug. 25 meeting, attendees and visitors spoke highly of how the group had benefited them.
Stephanie Constantine, a registered nurse with Signalling Molecule Biotech Co., has been involved since shortly after Horton formed iRefer.
“Trey has done a good job of making the group feel like a family,” Constantine said. “I’ve been to other networking meetings before and have found this one to be more embracing and helpful in getting you referrals.”
Scott Elliott is the director of ministry and development at Grace Klein Community, a nonprofit at 1678 Montgomery Highway that gives away food and other items to those in need. He said joining iRefer Vestavia/Hoover seven months ago was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“Trey found out about us and reached out for me to join, as he wanted an organization to partner with to help,” Elliott said. “Members have donated canned food for us. The people belonging to this group seem real and have a genuine concern for others. It’s about more than just getting business. They want to give back.”
Scott Pylant, who owns The UPS Store locations in Cahaba Heights and 130 Inverness Plaza, said he has gained business through his association with iRefer Vestavia/Hoover.
“It’s a great tool for effective business networking,” Pylant said.
Horton said anyone interested in joining iRefer can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the group’s Facebook page or website, irefer1.com. It costs about $100 a year to join, but visitors are welcome to come to a few meetings for free to see how it works and determine whether it fits their needs.