Founder and Chief Idea Officer: Mark O’Donnell
Wall Street Marketing at Main Street Prices
When Mark O’Donnell laid the groundwork for Revenue Generating Activities, he introduced a fresh approach to professional business networking in Pinellas County.
“I’d had years of networking experience,” says Mark, “but most of the groups never ‘clicked’ for me.”
Some had no- or low-cost membership fees, but attracted people whose businesses were more of a “side hustle,” not their primary source of income. Other networks’ membership came at a premium, costing hundreds of dollars to join, and hundreds more to maintain throughout the year.
“They all had too many rules,” adds Mark. “Your membership could be terminated if you missed too many meetings, or didn’t bring enough guests or referrals to the group. There was a real need for a network that not only helped its members develop relationships within their business community, but also offered them opportunities to learn about strategies for growing their success, without so many rules getting in the way.”
Revenue Generating Activities network was born in February of 2010. Forty business professionals and entrepreneurs attended the Founders Meeting at the Chili’s restaurant at US 19 and East Bay Drive, and 29 remain active in RGA to this day.
“We started when the country was still experiencing a recession,” reminds Mark, “and the Gulf oil spill only made it harder for our local businesses. Restaurants were eager to have us schedule meetings with them. As we grew and added chapters in the Tampa Bay area, we developed relationships with a number of restaurants, and we’ve maintained many of those sites ever since.”
Mark notes that RGA’s organizational model was designed to be simple and effective: weekly networking meetings that welcomed people who were serious about success, and provided a sociable setting for getting to know, like, and trust other members. Members were invited to be featured speakers at meetings, allowing members to gain a greater understanding of each other’s businesses. Speakers also offered high-quality seminars. RGA encouraged, but did not mandate, referrals among its members. After Hours events were a fun outreach, inviting members and non-members —and members of other networks and Chambers of Commerce — to gather and socialize.
As RGA grew, RGA University was created to offer seminars on a monthly basis, delving deeper into topics that were too weighty for a breakfast or lunch meeting.
Mark looks back on the past eight-plus years with satisfaction.
“Our members’ success is proof that the RGA model works,” he confirms. “One of our service providers was a one-man/one-truck business. Today, he has several crews that reach clients all over the county, and he’s an outgoing and respected community leader. Another member saw her company grow from a single office with two employees to two buildings housing 30 employees. We’ve seen that growth repeated in a variety of businesses!”
RGA now has 24 chapters throughout Florida, and has expanded to include chapters in Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, and California. At 750 members and growing, with new chapters on the horizon, RGA is one of the fastest-growing business networks in Florida, and possibly in the United States.