Steps to Networking – Step 60: The Hubble Group

Written By Rick Frishman Published April 12th, 2010

STEP 60: The Hubble Group

The Hubbel Group was a loosely-knit, grass roots, women’s group that sprung to life in Spokane, Washington, and enjoyed a remarkably productive five-year run. In that time, it enriched many women’s lives and profoundly changed the community.

In 1997, Julia Hubbel’s world collapsed, she lost her job, lost her land, got divorced and ended up living in a Spokane, Washington, with few friends, contacts or prospects. Plus, health was a serious mess. Desperate for work, she joined every organization, networked like mad and sent out 400 resumes. She got one interview, but not the job. She filed for bankruptcy and lost her house, car, credit rating, career, her dogs and her self-respect – – – everything but her gumption.

While Hebbel’s life was falling apart, the seeds of her networking started to sprout. In her travels, she met wonderful women who were at the top of their fields: entrepreneurs, community leaders, senior regional directors, executive vice presidents, artists, writers, dancers and university professors. Through her networking efforts, she found Spokane to be an insular and conservative community that didn’t know what to do with the emergence of so many high-powered women. Hubbel also realized that these women needed to meet each other, form a support group and she could make it happen.

Hubbel scheduled lunch with one of the women and was so impressed that she couldn’t wait to introduce her to other women she had been getting to know. The next time they met for lunch, a third woman joined them and “it was overwhelming.” By the fourth lunch, nine women showed up, all hand-picked from Hubbel’s growing list of friends/contacts. None knew each other, but they instantly liked, respected and realized that they needed each other. So, they agreed to meet regularly.

Within three years, the group grew to 60 members, with a core group of about sixteen who were the most active. In between meetings, Hubbel networked to recruit potential members.

Originally they called themselves the Great Broads, but they became Hubbel Group to appear more professional. Hubbel personally interviewed each new candidate over a cup of coffee to see if she would fit. During interviews, Hubbel tried to spot the woman’s needs and connect her to group members who could help, even those women who did not join. Age was not a determinative and members ranged from 27 to 54. The requirements for membership were brains, accomplishments, skills, an understanding of the need to give for the larger good and the need to learn how to receive from other women. The women who joined did so to serve and make a difference. The Hubbel Group never competed with, but complemented, the area’s existing women’s groups.

The group met for lunch once a month. It charged no dues; the only requirement was that the women show up and be totally present for the 90-minute lunch. At meetings, the women went around the table and answered a set of questions, staying within a crisp time frame in order to give everyone a turn.

At meetings, each woman:

• Told the group what she did better than anyone, without using I think, or I guess, or other wishy-washy language. The sentence had to begin with “I’m the best _______________” so the others would know what she had to offer.

• Told the group about a recent event she wanted to celebrate: a contract, a promotion, a political appointment, a job offer, a new grandchild or anything else that she wished to share with the group. At this point, the speaker had her time in the spotlight.

• Told the group about updates or news of interest to the members such as a high-level dinner, a political campaign needing volunteers, a job posting, community news of importance or whatever may have an impact on the group members’ lives. Updates brought special value women who traveled or didn’t move in the same circles.

• Asked for help from the group. According to Hubbel, this was by far the hardest part. The women asked for advice on potentially difficult legal situations at work, marketing an email list or referrals for a job; it didn’t matter. In response, the group enthusiastically jumped in and tithed their social capital. The group members, who were powerful women, competed to brainstorm and put forth the best solutions. At the next meeting, the women who had requested help reported on how the solutions worked.

All of the women spoke up at each meeting, which enhanced their relationships and the quality of the time that they spent together. Instead of racing for the door at the end of meetings, a group of stragglers always remained to talk, which frequently lasted until mid-afternoon.

On the first Friday of each month, the group hosted a regular potluck dinner. The potluck allowed them to spend comfortable for hours at a member’s house and further develop their relationships. As they grew closer, they bought from each other, laughed with each other, provoked each other, promoted each other and grew with each other.

Over time, the Hubbel Group provided referrals to local boards and placed a woman on the Chamber of Commerce Board. They mentored young women coming out of the military to help them find high-paying corporate jobs. They supported each other through divorces, job and location changes.

Smaller, more intimate groups grew out of the larger whole as members formed closer bonds with groups of four or five. Those in the offshoot groups, continued to draw on resources within the group, celebrated accomplishments, supported each other through hard or sad times and found different reasons to become active in the community.

In 2000, Julia Hubbel moved to Colorado to be close to her ailing mother. The group found another leader and continued to meet for another eighteen months. Since then, the friendships formed in the group have remained intact, but the group dissolved.

“The most important lesson I learned through The Hubbel Group was that when I believed I had nothing to give, I discovered that I had everything to give. When I had hit rock-bottom and was facing living out of a cardboard box on the street in a city far from family and friends, I found a way to be of service. And through The Hubbel Group I discovered that when everything else is stripped away, all the trappings of power and influence that we believe that are so powerful, all people really want from us is to be acknowledged and valued. By providing that to these powerful women, and by putting them together and helping to foment their relationships through celebration and storytelling, we changed much more than many women’s lives. We helped change the face of a community.”

(Excerpted from NETWORKING MAGIC: Making Connections That Will Change Your Life By Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin With Mark Steisel)

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