What You Need To Know About BNI
I often get asked by my clients, if they should join Business Network International (BNI) or if they should pass on this strategy. I have had over 20 years experience with this organization and with mentoring small business owners, so I will share my learnings and lessons and you can decide if this type of a group is good for you and your business.
I joined several business networking groups the day I started my business coaching and consulting firm. I learned as much as I could before attending each group and I became clear on which type of networking groups were going to be a fit for my business. I first went to a LeTip group. I was not warmly greeted in this chapter and I saw people paying fines and I wanted to make money and not spend money. I was turned off. I attended some events with a few Chamber of Commerce groups, too. Mostly I saw people handing business cards to one another and I didn’t think this was the way I wanted to build my business. I was seeking to form relationships, connection, and wanted to join a networking group that would do all of those things.
I looked into several local BNI groups that I found on BNI Connect. I decided to attend a local chapter open house. As soon as I walked in the door a woman smiled at me and then came over to find out about me and my business. Shortly after, I was seated at a table with 5 other people, some members of the chapter and some guests, like me. I felt that the chapter members were engaging and they seemed to have camaraderie amongst each other, too.
Then a representative of the region spoke about the concept of business networking international and talked about the founder Ivan Misner and his philosophy of “givers gain’. Since I was trained as a Zig Ziglar “Born To Win” trainer back in the 80’s, I have lived by Zig’s motto, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want”. So, I was sold on the BNI concept.
I applied for membership and was accepted. I made a point of being a giver by getting to know each person in my chapter and meeting with them one to one. I created value for each one by helping them with their business and letting them try on my business consulting and business coaching. I worked hard to bring referrals to each member and I also hired members and used their products and services and gave testimonials for them whenever I could.
By the end of my one-year membership, I had earned about $40,000 from my chapter. I did notice that I wasn’t getting referrals from them to people outside the chapter and my business was taking off, so I left. I did, however, refer my husband to the same chapter as their Financial Advisor. He was accepted and has been a member for about 19 years.
Been Before … Back For More
Then, about 3 years ago, or so, my company expanded and we had many more consultants and I decided I would join a BNI chapter again. I applied and became part of a chapter. It wasn’t until I was in the chapter that I realized this was a start-up chapter and they were not having full meetings. For months there were no 10-minute presentations, which is part of their chapter meetings usually, and my chapter was mostly getting training.
I recruited 5 members to the chapter to help build the chapter faster. I was giving referrals and I was getting them. Within a year I had brought in about $80,000 from this chapter to my company. I wasn’t making the deep connections I desired. People often didn’t want to do one to ones or re-scheduled them and there weren’t many leads flowing to most members. I could feel the discouragement and I decided to quit. I had no idea that almost all the people I brought to the chapter would quit when I did.
What I learned from this experience, is that for me, being forced to give leads, to use chapter members (some weren’t up to par) and to only have one person per industry, really was limiting for me. It was the opposite of how I live and breathe which is based on abundance. It wasn’t resonating.
I saw that service professionals like plumbers, printers, massage therapists, and others were profiting by being members, while many others were struggling in the chapter.
I didn’t like the fact you were not to miss meetings and had to commit to weekly meetings. I felt that a very successful business owner would be too busy to do so and I didn’t want to hang out with struggling business owners. I do believe we are the financial value of the top 5 people we hang out with and I love to be with people making more and achieving more than me.
I continued on being active on the Advisory Board of my chamber and sitting on the board of one of the largest sub-groups of my chamber – the Women’s Net group. I would often speak for the group and loved to add value to the women I was building relationships with.
Are You A Dot?
One day, a few months ago, a client asked me, “Are you a Dot?”. I had no idea what she meant. Then, when I was speaking to a large audience as a keynote speaker, on a break, someone came up and said, “I bet you are a Dot”. Again, I was clueless.
Finally, 2 weeks later, I was having a cup of coffee with a local business owner and she said, “Are you in Polka Dots?”. I asked if that was like being a ‘Dot’. She chuckled and sent me to this website Polka Dot PowerHouse.
That night I checked it out and knew I had found the community and network I had been seeking.
I instantly joined and then attended a local chapter meeting about a week later.
The minute I stepped foot in that meeting I knew I was at “home”. The energy of the women coming from that room, the warm greeting by everyone there, the collaborations, celebrations, and the fact it is a drama-free-zone, all resonated with me. At the meeting the Managing Director mentioned that they were seeking more leaders to start chapters. I instantly said I wanted to apply.
After many interviews and assessments, I was selected to start the Montgomeryville PA Chapter. In a few short weeks, before the official chapter launch, I have 44 women (filled to capacity) who joined the pre-launch event and 6 (so far) who became founding members of the chapter with me.
I know, for me, Polka Dots is where it is at. I want to be in a supportive community with no expectation of leads, no forced meetings to attend, and with people who really want to connect, both on-line with the over 1,000 women community, and off-line – face to face and heart- t0- heart – and share and contribute and support each other personally and professionally. I am honored to be part of the leadership team with Polka Dots and tell all professional women I meet to join the worldwide community if there is not a chapter near them, and if there is to join it. And if, they want to start a chapter to join first and then apply for Membership Director.
I am at home with Polka Dots!
If you decide to join, put in my name as the referrer, and let me know that you did. I have a special gift for women who take fast action.