Four unexpected benefits of making professional friends

Have you been to the meetup yet?

Here’s how they go: At the start, I give a little intro, pronounce the name of our community (design-dev-OKC), and say something like, “Our goal is to get you connected to other professionals like yourself.” And then we do just that: We form and strengthen our connections by listening to each other’s ideas, having a lively group discussion, and hanging out and eating snacks after.

Are you thinking, “This sounds great!” yet? It’s a bit of a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you want to connect with other creatives? You already know that it’s good for your career to not only build a network, but to find creative friends doing what you do—friends who can understand, offer feedback and boost you up when you need it.

The whole premise of creative professionals getting to know other creative professionals happens to be the secret behind our amazing turnout each month. People show up for the people, every single time.

But I gotta confess. While it’s great you’re making new friends and growing as a professional and all, when we meet up every second Monday, there’s something deeper happening in our local creative industry. When we start forming a community and taking down the walls that separate us, magical things start to happen.

1) We stir up stagnation

If our businesses and our agencies and our professionals are putting up walls to keep each other out, those same walls are keeping us in. We can only grow by staying open to teaching and learning from others. We are holding ourselves back and our city back when we live by the “dog eat dog” mantra—and everything around us becomes stagnant.

When we stop building those walls, when we teach each other and learn from our competitors, we get more competitive—and this competition is healthy. It keeps us innovating and moves us forward. It fuels our desire to improve our quality of work and our strategy, which helps us to deliver more value to our clients.

Our wonderful, isolated city is smack in the middle of the great plains of Oklahoma, and while we dearly love it, sometimes it could use some help. Why not do everything we can to move ourselves and our city forward? Why hold on to the past and old ways of doing business?

So let’s take down our walls. Be friendly. Show appreciation for our competitors. Cheer for other professionals when they succeed. Be excited for people when they do great work, and challenge ourselves to also do great work.

2) We start respecting our competitors

What happens when get to know our competitors and start appreciating the work they’re doing? We start respecting their point of view. We start respecting what they’re doing well—and their full capabilities to win clients.

It’s a funny thing—when we don’t take the time to understand how our competitors are actually competing with us, we assume they must be beating us on price. But when we respect our competitors’ work and realize they have other selling points that our potential clients would pay good money for, we get motivated real quick to find our own selling points.

Instead of undercutting our competitors and competing on price, we start competing on strategy, with great work and proven results, because that’s the only way we can win projects against our competitors. And this is awesome.

An undercutting economy isn’t healthy. It devalues our work and tells our clients that the only thing that matters is price. If clients only see a price tag and don’t see the value behind what we do, how do we expect to make money as an industry in the long term?

3) Our industry voice is amplified

Let’s picture this: Together, as the OKC creative industry, we come together and talk about strategy and technology and what it does for our clients’ businesses. The more we talk among ourselves, and sharing ideas, the louder we get. Our clients start hearing us and understanding the importance of our industry. Our clients start valuing our services.

And when our clients start valuing us, understanding we can benefit their business, they start putting money into our services. They put more dollars towards marketing, towards branding, towards systems and apps and technology. They know these services benefit their businesses because they hear us talking about it.

And—I like to think—if all of our clients’ businesses are benefiting because we are more knowledgeable and competitive, then the whole OKC economy gets a boost. We all have happy pockets, our clients have happy pockets, and our city grows faster than ever before.

4) We form a hub

When we create a thriving, active creative community, our city LOOKS like it is home to a thriving, active creative community. Mind-blowing, I know. But it’s more powerful than it sounds.

OKC is sprawling and, as a result, we professionals are spread far and wide. Getting together isn’t always easy, but man. When we do, it sure is good for the soul. The creative energy that lights up when we get together becomes fuel for inspiration. Just from being in the same room, we come up with better ideas, we collaborate in new ways, and we start our own new cool things. It’s a domino effect for innovation.

Not only do we inspire ourselves—we also inspire those looking in on us. Professionals looking to move here see that there’s a creative community they can join. Anyone considering a job here can see that even though the creative industry in OKC is a little stagnant, there is a creative movement starting to shake things up. Just by getting together, we invite more people to join.

Just by getting together, we start forming a place where people meet. We become the place to be on a cold, rainy Monday night in February. We become a creative hub, growing our industry, growing our city, and growing our local economy.

Join our collective voice

Now, these are pretty lofty ideas I’m throwing out. It’s a pretty big leap to say that a bunch of too-cool-for-school hipsters are growing the local economy. But is it a stretch? Are these goals unattainable? I don’t think so.

The catch is, you (talking to you) have got to show up. You have to connect with other people. You have to set your goals higher, talk about your work, share your unique perspective. Be inspired by other businesses. Learn from them and push yourself to be even better.

Let’s put all of this into action. Here’s how you can contribute to our community:

1) Go to the meetups

Every second Monday we get together to learn from local speakers doing cool things, eat snacks, and just hang out. You’ll find it easy to have a conversation here.

2) Join our Slack team

The DSN+DEV+OKC Slack team has 190 members and counting. The conversation is lively, and it’s a great way to get to know people if you can’t attend the events.

Not sure about Slack? It’s not just another social network. It’s laid-back and puts emphasis on conversation—very little self-promotion and no unnecessary notifications. It’s for sure worth trying—participate in the conversation for a few weeks, and if it’s still not for you, delete it from your phone or desktop forever.

3) Join #ama on Slack (the Ask Me Anything channel)

Every Tuesday morning we bring in an expert to talk about their career or recent success or a specific project. You have the opportunity to ask them questions, and they give you candid answers. (This is new ?)

4) Write a post for the blog

If you have unique way of working with clients, or sage professional advice, or have just learned something everyone should know, our community needs to hear it. Blog posts are perfect for sharing your knowledge, because not only do you get to be a voice in our community, you also get a paragraph to promote your company or service, and we help promote the post on our social accounts.

And don’t worry—if imposter syndrome strikes, just check out our blog tips that will help you write your blog post from start to finish.

5) Do a takeover on the DSN+DEV+OKC Instagram

These might be a community favorite—takeovers help introduce you and your work to everyone else. They can be as beautifully designed or as real “in the moment” as you like—there’s no wrong way to do it. Plus, we make takeovers easy to plan by giving you content ideas and questions to answer.

Will we see you soon?

We want you to get involved—because when you connect and contribute to our community, we’re all better off for it. We are no longer accepting a dog-eat-dog world here in OKC, and anyone who leaves up their walls will get left behind. We’re moving forward—together.

The goal of DSN+DEV+OKC is to help you get connected with the creative professional community. We want to make it easy for you to contribute. We want you to feel welcome and for your ideas to shine. We want you to not only meet creative professionals, grow your network, and boost your career, but to make real, tear-down-the-walls friends here.

So, have you been to the meetup yet?

Cara helps consumer brands connect with their customers through ecommerce and digital content strategy. She's owner at and also founder here @dsndevokc.

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    • Clint
    • September 11, 2017

    This is really great, Cara. Thanks for putting it together so nicely.

    • Jarod
    • September 11, 2017

    Great read. Thanks.

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