BNI (Business Network International) is the largest referral network in the world. With over 270,000 members in 9,400-plus chapters worldwide, BNI member referrals generated $16.2 billion USD in 2019. In the UK, the figure was £520 million, and in our region, Scotland North, we passed £19.2 million which was up by £3.44 million on 2018.
I was invited to a BNI meeting in 2014 at the Sports Village but decided that it was not for me. I had been to other networking events and never saw it as being effective. At this first meeting, I was uncomfortable speaking to the group and did not join. Two years later, a friend of mine, Paul Clarkson was President of BNI North and invited me as a visitor. It took a few invites and persuasion before I eventually went to a meeting at Clan on Westburn Road. I have to admit I went out of courtesy and had pre-decided not to join. However, seeing the business being done changed my mind and I completed an application form at this first meeting. Adrian George of Eye Candy, who I knew, said that he was sure it would work for me, as it had been very good for him. Four years later, and Adrian and I are still both members and regularly work together. From the outset, I was lucky to get a lot of business from fellow members and referrals, and some of the new clients I met in 2016 are still clients now.
The concept is simple – only one supplier per category can be in the group, and all members look for opportunities for each other, making your BNI group your sales team. BNI was started over 30 years ago by Dr. Ivan Misner, when he discovered that he managed to get over a business difficulty by meeting with friends and getting referrals from their Rolodexes.
Although generating sales is a key part of being in BNI, there are other benefits including support from your fellow members and lifelong learning. The ongoing training available is very valuable and personal development has been very valuable. We meet every Tuesday at 6.30 am at the Village Hotel and network over coffee before the meeting, and continue this over breakfast after the meeting. Having to present to my fellow members every week for 60s, and two or more times per year for 10 minutes helped me become more comfortable with public speaking.
Another major advantage is making new friends, extending your network, and having a group to go to for advice or support.
Every week, I feature photographs from a recent shoot on an A3 print, and now I have a large set of these, and I also have them in an online gallery.
I was lucky to have very able ladies with me on the leadership team, Ruth McIntosh from Clan was the Vice President, which is the most demanding role, and she did a superb job. Deborah McCombie from DXD Media was the Secretary-Treasurer, and did a great job in this role, transforming our finances and the quality of the presentation.
During our year, we had
For the last two weeks of my Presidency, we had to transition to on-line meetings using Zoom. There were very few technical issues, and although we are all looking forward to getting back to face to face meetings, the online experience has been very good.
Deborah listened to a BNI webinar which suggested inviting influencers to our meetings in order to provide inspiration and motivation, and on Tuesday 14 April we have Andrew Bowie, Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, as a visitor.
My last meeting as President was 31st March, and the new Leadership Team did a great job for their first meeting on Tuesday. The new President is Derek Mair of Hall Morrice, the Vice President is Adrian George of Eye Candy, and after a last-minute change, Deborah has kindly agreed to carry on a Secretary/Treasurer until we get back to face to face meetings. It is a great team, and Derek handled his new role superbly and was a much better speaker than I was. My role for 2020 is Education coordinator, and it is my responsibility to arrange an education slot every week to help members make the best of their BNI membership.
Having a local MP as a visitor enabled the leadership team to quickly establish a great new initiative, sanctioned by our Director Consultant and Executive Directors, we now have a Business Inspiration section. We are looking forward to inviting more business people to come and talk to us, in this slot.
I am up for renewal in June and although during this extremely difficult period, every expenditure has to be scrutinised, my BNI annual fee will be a vital investment. During, and especially after this lockdown, the business generated from BNI will be vital.
If you would like to be an on-line visitor to BNI, please email me and I will be delighted to send you the invitation and “welcome” you to our online meeting.