I'm curious about people's experience with BNI (Business Networking International). It seems like a great thing for cabinetmakers. I would appreciate anyone involved with it to share their experience.
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor B:
My brother in law is in insurance and financial planning. He told me about it and he swears by it. Unfortunately, the closest meeting to me is 1/2 hour away, and I can't commit to that kind of time on a regular basis. If I remember right, you can't miss more than a small percentage of meetings. It is certainly worth looking into. I think you can go to a meeting to check it out with no commitment.
It kept me busy for 2 years, and while I was a member I met my best client, an insurance agent in the group. He lives in a wealthy area of S. Florida and has a lot of friends with money. My first high end job was for him and I was quickly passed from friend to friend, doing mostly equally pricey work. I guess this means I give a lot of credit to BNI for where I am today.
- referral based networking. Nothing better than referral work. Period.
- Very organized meetings.
- Very inexpensive advertising. Costs about $300 per year dues plus the cost of your breakfast.
- Not a chamber of commerce. Only one person from each job description is allowed to join, thereby locking out your competition in the group.
- Many chapters in most large towns. You can visit as many groups as often as you wish to spread your name.
- Not everyone is poor and just starting out. My CPA introduced me to the group and he's been in business for 20 years. Lots of professionals (lawyers, DR's, bankers) including a realtor and mortgage broker in every group who can give great leads.
- Meetings are mandatory. Means that only people who are serious about it are in the group.
- Meetings are mandatory. Sometimes you just don't wanna go. Only allowed a few absences, but you can have someone else from your company go in your place.
- Must also attend mandatory workshops.
- Pressure to provide referrals for other members. I felt this often led to some weak referrals from some members, but you quickly learn who gives what.
- Kind of cultish. Like any group, some people are super gung-ho and eat it up. I just wanted the business, which I got in spades.
Overall, great organization and great source of work. Like anything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it. I quit after 2-1/2 years because I was getting more work than I could handle and it didn't make sense to me to keep "advertising." The referrals from my referrals became all I needed.
I did not get much business through the group, but I also did not refer a lot of business to the group, as I did not network in this city on a daily basis. I really think that you get what you give in BNI, which can be a very good thing. Too many people go into it just wanting to get referrals, but the more energy you put into giving referrals, the more other members will do the same for you.