“Business is about promotion, connection and communication. More is better. Less is not.” James Burchill

By Pepper Parr

March 11, 2014


James Burchill, a totally shameless self-promoter, has built the Burlington Social Fusion Network to 1500 people and is currently developing an additional nine – read that again, nine social networks elsewhere in the province.

Later this month – March 20th to be exact, Burchill will be holding his third mini-trade mart at the Performing Arts Centre.

Burchill doesn’t charge a dime for any of his events.  There is a fee if you want to exhibit at his events – but getting in the door is free, free, free.

He will try to convince you that a typical Chamber or Rotary networking group typically costs about $1 a day or $365 a year. It’s not uncommon for people to join multiple groups so it would be pretty easy to spend $1000 a year on networking memberships.

Quite a business card isn’t it? James Burchill, the guiding force and the energy behind the Burlington Social Fusion Network is all business.

“At the SFN we don’t charge money for membership … and believe me when I get a whiny email from someone about “too many emails” I shake my head and think maybe I should reconsider charging!

He goes on to suggest: “For instance, if I charged each Burlington member just $25 per person per month for membership, I’d be banking MORE THAN HALF A MILLION DOLLARS … A YEAR! And with 9 other chapters growing steadily that would be some serious money.”

“But that’s NOT why I built the network. Charging money changes the dynamic. It stifles growth and makes people treat the experience differently. It would be a short term gain for me but in the long run the network would eventual suffer the fate many “old school” networks are experiencing today. Dwindling memberships, falling revenues, lack of engagement and more. Technology has changed how we connect and network and SFN reflects that.

“So I’m not going to change the SFN model … but please remember this: The Social Fusion Network is not a charity, it operates as a business and therefore needs to cover costs and other expenses. That’s why we license the networks to smart businesses who see the marketing value of the platform and we also offer advertising … which is why occasionally you’ll get more emails.

It’s all about networking.

“Business is about promotion, connection and communication. More is better. Less is not. That’s my opinion and I know not everyone agrees, which is why I said you have choices. However I hope you’ll stay a member because I believe in the model as do thousands of other local businesses.

People do attend.  It is not uncommon to see someone pull up in front of the Ivey Bar and Kitchen and wiggle out of a pair of jeans in the front seat of their vehicle, wiggle into a shirt, fluff their hair and walk briskly into a room full of people they can network with – some they know, others they expect to get to know.  The SFN events are not a dating pool – this is business.  If you’ve not been – give it a try.

The Social Fusion Network trade show always draws a good crowd. It’s small but it is busy and clients keep returning – so something must be happening.

Back to that trade show: 517 people have registered for that Burchill calls his Business Networking and Trade Show.

Burchill has this ability to make everyone he works with feel important – because for him they are important. Graham Frampton, the Performing Arts Centre Operations Manager quickly became a critical part of the team that makes the trade show work.

Watching Burchill work with Frampton, who is his service supplier, is a lesson in customer relationship development – except in this case Burchill is the customer who goes out of his way to make Frampton’s  job easy and as a result gets  great service.  Burchill has lessons for all of us.

If you want people to be part of your team – make them feel like they are part of your team. James Burchill, on the right, drafted Mayor Goldring, centre and Performing Arts centre Operations manager Graham Frampton as part of his team. It worked very well.

Burchill wanted to add some zip to his event and gave the Mayor a call:  The Mayor responded, showed up and – well let Burchill tell that story. “Mayor Rick Goldring graciously delivered the opening remarks. I was thrilled when The Mayor publicly acknowledged our networking efforts and what they’ve done for local business. Very gratifying indeed.”

The enthusiasm is all part of what Burchill does.  What you see is what you get. “I have to say,” says Burchill, “it’s been a real thrill producing this event. When I started this project it was nothing more than a fleeting idea. It took shape and with some hard work (ok … lots of hard work!) and a little bit of luck, it all worked out in the end.”

March 20th – 5:30 at the Performing Arts Centre.  Look for James – he might be wearing a bright orange vest and matching bow tie someone gave him – I can’t believe for a second that he bought it.

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1 comment to “Business is about promotion, connection and communication. More is better. Less is not.” James Burchill

  • Hi Pepper, as always I enjoy your coverage of our events and hard work. Figured I’d give you the inside scoop on some of the metrics to date (March 18, 2014)

    We now have 11 chapters – Brampton joined us yesterday.

    Conservatively in the SFN group I’d say we have between 5,000 and 6,000 members. This does NOT include any social media which would put our membership reach into the 30+K range.

    Attending one of our open b2b monthly networking events is free – that’s the deal. Our events are “dollarized” through advertising, sponsorship and licensing fees (no change there.)

    Accepting email is the “payment” members agree to in exchange for free lifetime membership.

    One thing I reckon is VERY COOL is this … Once you’re a member of SFN you’re a member of ALL THE CHAPTERS. So if you want to attend the Burlington, Oakville, and Hamilton chapters for example, there is no need to pay 3 groups for the right to attend. You just can.

    As for what I’ll be wearing this Thursday … I might be sporting an orange tie. It’s not quite shorts and t-shirt weather just yet but “Bermudian Business Casual” will be back as soon as it’s warm enough.

    #StayFrosty 🙂