With a pretty inspiring history BNI is one of the most famous networking groups in the world. Founded by Dr. Ivan Misner in 1984 it started its life as, “the Network” – small, intimate networking meeting which Dr.Misner hoped to use to increase the number of clients for his personal consulting business and help other people in the local area to gain clients. Fantastically, by the end of the first year it had grown to 20 chapters across Southern California. And the rest, as they say is history. Now one of the biggest networking groups not only in the UK, but in the world, it boasts 211,000 members in close to 8,000 chapters. According to its website “in 2016 alone, BNI member referrals generated $11.2 billion USD in revenue for our member businesses.” Although it’s worth remembering that joining BNI costs around £750.00 in the first year and then another £400 every subsequent year, which doesn’t include the monthly cost of the breakfast which is generally around £50.00 a month (although this depends on the group.)
And there is no doubt that some businesses really do extremely well from BNI, with many individuals relying on it as their sole networking activity. However, there are also a number ex-members or will query the pressure and of the organisation.
And the truth – well it’s somewhere in the middle really. Certainly, there is little doubt that BNI does make certain expectations of its members, these include:
– Attending 1 meeting a week – these generally start at around 6.30 am – remember the early bird catches the worm, although there are a few lunchtime chapters
– If you are unable to attend, finding a sub – obviously if you are a sole trader this can prove somewhat challenging
– Having regular 1-2-1s with other members
– Attending trainings put on by BNI HQ (so many acronyms)
– Bringing a contribution to each meeting which can be
o A visitor
o A referral for another chapter member – this is the most important part, in truth
o A testimonial for another chapter member
These demands are pretty non-negotiable, BNI is built around the motto of givers gain which basically means they expect you to get fully involved. Unsurprisingly, for a number of people this is basically too much and they feel unable to keep up with the rather rigorous demands. And, of course, just like in any networking group – there are good groups with phenomenal teams and groups that are less good with…shall we say…challenging characters.
However, for a number of other professionals BNI has completely changed their business – allowing them to access a fantastic, supportive sales team who are actively going out and trying to help them drum up business. Particularly for those in the trades BNI can prove to be immensely useful – allowing them to access a new pool of potential clients.
For those who are considering joining BNI, at I want 2 network we would recommended trying out a number of different groups in your local area to see which one fits and where you feel most comfortable. Also it’s worth taking a look at the members and determining if you have synergy with people in the group – for example if you are in marketing you would want to see that there is a web designer, graphic designer or other professionals acting within your sphere. Not only will they be able to refer business to you, but you will find it far easier to recommend work to them.
If you have any more questions about BNI please don’t hesitate to drop us an email on email@example.com and remember to take a look out for next month’s blog which will be on WIBN.