Imagine: Going to work, with potential new business already in your hand, and having eaten a full and mighty breakfast. You have a head start on your competitors.
Now, imagine doing that every week!
Welcome to BNI networking.
Come along and see for yourself. BNI Sir Stanley Matthews meet every week on Fridays at The Trentham Park Golf Club (behind Trentham Gardens), Stoke-on-Trent.
Members, 'subs', visitors and guests begin turning up to a BNI meeting from 6.30am onwards; most arrive at about 6.45am. Too early for you? Members will tell you that there is minimal traffic on the road at that time, and that the air is refreshing and invigourating (energising you for the rest of the day), but even more importantly - you are increasing your business exposure in a pleasant, friendly and welcoming environment by networking with fellow business people.
All about networking
BNI follows a structured agenda - it is structured because the evidence shows that the format used is the most effective way to generate new business for its members. A simplified agenda is:
- networking (as described above);
- welcome and introductions - at 7.00am;
- 60-seconds introductions;
- internal admin: results to date
- 10-minute speaker;
- referrals and testimonials
- other business: details of forthcoming training and social events
- meeting closes around 8.30 a.m.
- breakfast lasts @15-20 minutes - just in time for you to get to work
BNI places great emphasis on education; educating its members to learn to network, AND educating its members about the other members' businesses. Only when you have learnt these two key elements will you be able, and sufficiently confident, to introduce your fellow members business to your own clients i.e. make a referral.
So the Education Slot provides constructive advice on ways of helping all of us gain business and good referrals for our BNI colleagues. The 60-second introductions and the 10-minute speaker slots are about educating fellow members about your business.
(As an aside: away from the formal meeting all members frequently meet fellow members to learn more about each others business.)
To provide the energy and enthusiasm in the meeting, and to set you up nicely for the remainder of the day, breakfast is provided. A wide choice is available - though most members choose the 'full English'.
Each week each member talks for 60 seconds to educate members, visitors and 'subs' about their business. They might talk about the various aspects of their business, they might talk about the ideal referrals they're looking for.
The objective is to enlighten all members about the business they're involved with, enabling colleagues to go out and pass on their business card to people they meet during the week.
Once the members have finished the visitors will be invited to do the same. (While it is not compulsory to take up the challenge we recommend you do. Talking in front of strangers is not easy for most of us; but all the members know how you feel and will be supportive. It's a great opportunity to develop and hone your own personal skills - and promote your business at the same time.
Do you run your business without setting any goals? No, of course not - because we all know that without any goals you have no direction; not setting goals is a sure fire receipe for failure.
BNI knows the importance of setting goals, and monitoring performance against them. During the meeting feedback on performance is provided by the Membership Coordinator, and the Treasurer/Secretary. Checks are made on business given to ensure real business is being passed by our members to our members.
For example: each week there is a 'Reality Check' - referrals from previous weeks are selected at random to verify the quality of the referral.
This goal setting, monitoring, and verification process is another feature of BNI that separates it from other networking events.
Its not all about work though; social events amd personal development opportunities are also arranged. These too are discussed at the meeting.
Passing of Referrals
The passing of referrals is regarded as the highlight of the meeting. It's where business is passed across the table!
The idea is to pass on referrals to fellow members - who will convert your referrals into worthwhile business.
If on a particular week a member doesn't have a referral to pass on (and in reality it is not always possible to pass a genuine referral), then members have a chance to thank another member with whom they have done business, or give a testimonial. [Testimonials are put in writing and used as a valuable document for the member's business.]