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What is BNI?

Ben101Ben101 subscriber Posts: 6
I was recently invited to a BNI meeting by a distant "friend". I not exactly sure what the organization does, to be honest, I have near heard of it until I visted their website. (www.BNI.com)Here is part of the email he sent me, BNI
Business Network International is a business and professional
networking organization whose primary purpose is to exchange qualified
business referrals. It is the largest networking organization of its
kind. Currently, BNI has over 4100 chapters internationally. Last year, members of BNI passed over 2 million
referrals which generated a billion dollars worth of business for each other.   What
makes BNI unique is that it allows only one person per profession to
join a chapter. Thus, once you have joined, none of your competitors
can participate.  So is this a good opportunity to meet more people and establish more connections or just a total waste of time?ThanksBen


  • watergalwatergal subscriber Posts: 10 Bronze Level Member
    From what I heard from other people that are members, the first year`s
    dues are $395, second year is $295.00. It is a specialized networking
    group that requires the members to attend each week. If you cant
    attend, you have to find a substitute to go in your place. You can go
    to two meetings to see if you like it and you also can go to other
    chapters. Some people like it and some dont. Hope that helps!
  • aaronmuttaaronmutt subscriber Posts: 1
    BNI is a terrific referal group though I question the business end of it.  It is a similar organization to the rotary minus the good semaritan affect...
    As appealing as it will always be to network myself with a group of people who become obliged to do business with me- I have found the time is better spent networking and marketing in other ways- the commitment to these groups is a bit too much.  Depending on your industry I would consider if it is not limiting my ability to grow..
    be good!
  • JoetheRoadWarriorJoetheRoadWarrior subscriber Posts: 2
    I have been invited by several local chapters. It is what is known as a "Strong Networking" group meaning only one discipline is allowed per chapter, e.g., one lawyer, one doctor, one roofer, etc. There are specific requirements that each and every member of the chapter has to follow to develop referrals for other members of the chapter with specific reporting requirements weekly.
    I did not join as while I could readily understand what the lawyer, doctor and roofer did for a "living", I could find no one that understood the global marketplace and how to generate referrals for my company. I believe it is probably a good referral organization for local businesses but like aaronmutt above, I question the business end of it and how the "organizers" are reimbursed for setting up the chapters. There are several others around like LBN but the real value would be in determining the relative ROI based on membership fees.
    Have a great and successful week.
  • FinteraCapitalFinteraCapital subscriber Posts: 0
    I am a BNI member in Bonita Springs, Florida.  I represent the commercial mortgage & business lending.  I have had success with the group in terms of being introduced to speres of influences within the community.  Afetr 6 months I have no closed loans but working on one deal currently that should net me over $7,500 when closed.  You can not join the group thinking short term.  It will take awhile to get to know fellow members and forge relationships that will make you money.  It is a more locally run organization but BNI does have chapters around the world and you can refer to any chapter and get credit within your local group.
    The idea behind the group is givers gain, which says give referrals to other members and you will receive more referrals of your own by giving.  Long term I think that the group will be lucrative for me. 
    Feel free to email me with our questions about BNI.  I can also direct you to your local chapter president if anyone is interested.
  • MelissaMelissa subscriber Posts: 7
    I am an aspiring BNI member here in the Bay Area - just turned my application in today!  Wish me luck! 
    Anyhow, I joined because I look at every advertising/networking dollar as investment.  I figure if I get one client from a referral then my dues were worth the while! 
    I actually did a little "shopping" when trying to find the right group for me, too.  Because I hope to busy myself with clients who want and can afford superior levels of service, I went for groups that were in the areas where I figured more of those kinds of referrals would be.  I found a gem of a  group that has a hair/makeup artist, a florist, a jeweler and a person who enjoys planning small intimate, but upscale, parties (perfect for handing off engagement parties, bridal showers, etc.) and so I`m now awaiting an answer on whether I`m "in" or "out."
  • williamwilliam subscriber Posts: 2
    I was a BNI member and my
    experience was beneficial.  I was in a geographical area that most
    networking groups are filled with my field, computer services.  I
    attempted for three years to enter into a target area with great potential on
    the suburbs of St. Louis.  Nothing
    ever opened in the target area I was after. 
    I opted to join an outer region, 30 miles from St. Louis,
    in hopes of finding another association during the time I was a member.  I
    did do business through the networking, but is failed to produce enough revenue
    and the investment wasn`t too beneficial.

    Either way it is very dependent of other factors other than networking. 

    Three fields that benefit mostly from my experience are real
    estate agents, mortgage companies or banks, and title companies.  These three sectors work hand-in-hand.

    Good luck and wish you the best.
  • MelissaMelissa subscriber Posts: 7
    Update on my BNI prospects:
    I learned yesterday that I`m not a perfect match for the group I was hoping to join.  Actually, no, I do think I was a good match.  The only problem is that I have been in business less than a year and they prefer not to take people who`ve not been in business at least that long.  C`est la vie...at least I made some excellent contacts whom I can still network with outiside of BNI.
    I now have the option of auditioning other younger groups which also haven`t been in business terribly long.  I can see the value in this in one sense, but because most of the groups do not have people with whom my services are well-matched, I`m not sure it is the best place for my $$.  I will be thinking a little more about what I want to do...
  • AccentVAAccentVA subscriber Posts: 0
    I joined a BNI group in March, and to be honest, I wasn`t sure how much it would really help me because I am virtual and wasn`t interested in local clients ONLY, but I knew for sure I would get one client if I joined (which would then pay for itself) and I currently have that client plus 1 more client and another potential client from the group itself, plus ALL these people working on referrals for me.  I think it is great tool for MOST people, but of course there are those businesses that it might not be as effective for!
  • williamwilliam subscriber Posts: 2
    If your in the services industry such as computers, carpet cleaning, appliances and such, don`t waste your time.  The only sectors that seem to benefit are hand-in-hand time business evolutions.  For example, real estate agents that pass business onto the title company and the bank.   
  • writerwriter subscriber Posts: 0
    I was a BNI member for 4 years. My primary goal was to expand my contacts for selling my employee benefit. It didn`t help me much, although I covered my expenses by selling individual coverages.
    Some have mentioned that realtors/mortage companies/title companies do well. In reality if you have any niche group that works together it will benefit all of them, For exanple wedding photographer/wedding consultant/DJ service/florist..., or the construction industry with painter/handyman/contractor/plumber/electrician/banker(home improvement loans).
    There can be a problem with some people playing business, and with some places that are extremely difficult to make referrals for. But BNI`s code of ethics helps to insure that your referrals are treated well.
    The group also helps you learn how to do a 60 second pitch for your business every week. You can learn a lot from the structure of the meetings and from the interaction with other business people.
    But that being said, BNI is not a good fit for every type of business. Be sure to visit twice before making a decision if you want to join.
  • TmorrissimTmorrissim subscriber Posts: 0
    As one of the local franchise owners for BNI (yes BNI is a franchise just like McDonald`s and not a not-for-profit organization), I wanted to add some additional input on this subject.  In case you do not know, BNI is now the world`s largest networking organization as of January 2008 - pretty amazing.  Coming from a world of commercial real estate brokerage and consulting, my first visit to BNI found the structured process very interesting - in the commercial real estate lending environment, there is an old saying that "money follows structure" - and I was very interested in finding out how many of the referrals passed actually turn into closed business and what the amount of the closed business was - per chapter, per member, per transaction, etc.  I think most folks would agree that the best evaluation of how good referrals are is whether or not they turn into closed sales  - wouldn`t you agree?  Thus, I wanted to share information from our franchise territory  for the last year, our territory being the State of Missouri (not including Kansas City) and the southern part of Illinois, from highway 70 south.  Our members closed in actual business over $145 Million for 2007, with the average closed sale amounting to @ $1,600 per referral passed.  And since we know our members don`t report every closed sale using our web based program, we guesstimate true dollars in closed sales are actually significantly higher than this already amazing figure.
    That being said, BNI is certainly not for everyone.  Because BNI chapters are set up like a marketing company with members holding one another accountable for business and service quality, production and attendance (just like you would general partners in a partnership), BNI is not for folks with quality and performance problems.  To put it simply, BNI is a very structured plan to generate pro-active referrals; follow the structure and it works, but if you don`t follow the structured plan, you will not reap closed sales through referrals.  But over 100,000 business owners, professionals and sales reps agree that "If you`re looking for the most cost-effective marketing strategy for your business product or service, priced low or high, you can find what you`re looking for in BNI!"
    Teresa Morris-Simon
    BNI Co-Executive Director
  • SandyPISandyPI subscriber Posts: 8
    I cost a lot of money to join.  You see basically the same people every meeting and hear the same thing.  May work for some, but not for me
  • VickersVickers subscriber Posts: 0
    Two issues keep coming up.  One is that a person is only supposed to promote ONE category, ie, plumber, photographer, etc.  but they end up promoting their spouses business which conflicts with another BNI member.  I had to quit due to this.  Then in another BNI meeting I was told that a chiropractor that was already a member did not sell nutritional products (that is what I do) so I joined.  The chiropractor did her 10 min presentation and promoted a nutritional product.  Too many people get in BNI and try to sneak in plugs for other things for themselves, spouses or friends.  It is totally out of integrity.  I am about to give up on BNI.
  • williamwilliam subscriber Posts: 2
    Frankly, I am actually surprised this thread continues.  BNI is a sore loss of productive time, loss of money, and will not work for services based companies.
    I have seen numerous turn-overs, chapters start, and chapters close.  It is just a fad that is slowly dying.
    This proved the case for me in the network / computer / data repair services industry at least.
    Wish you luck.
  • williamwilliam subscriber Posts: 2
    I find this very biased.  If I owned a restaurant franchise, it surely will be promoted as the best eat in town.
    If my mother dies today, I am not running over to Jane in the floral business to see if she knows of a good funeral director.  If a toilet is flooding the bathroom, I am not going to call Bob who owns a nutritional snack shop for referral.  In both cases it is rather simple to anticipate either the YellowPages or internet directory will work.
    If I am a real estate agent and sold the property, then pass this over to the title company, who will pass it over to the home inspector, then who passes it over to the bank BNI members.....then we are onto something.  It is the "you scratch my back....I will scratch your back."  However, this is performed all the time in the business world in 99.999999% of the cases.  In even that scenario, BNI is not necessary and most business savy owners have their own developed networks and trusts.
    BNI is proactive at making you attend, taking hoards of annual monies from starving entrepreneurs, pushing trade show attendance, and paying for a weekly meal.  Call it a bad attitude, but the points you make are generated from the training you have received directly from BNI and are pushed by all franchise-district owners who are motivated by the membership dues and reliant on them for salary.
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