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Will Joining A Business Networking Group (BNI) Help Grow My Business?

Updated on June 16, 2016

Are you new to business?

Are you ready to take the next step of promoting your business locally?

Are you a local brick and mortar operation?

Are you looking for a customer base to get started with?

Do you need to improve your professional skills? Your speaking skills? Your people skills? Your presentation skills? Your time management skills?

If you can answer, "Yes," to these questions then imagine one group that can do all of that. It's called Business Networking International (BNI). I was a member of BNI for six years.

There are other groups available, so go ahead and visit them too. Everyone has their own idea about what works for their business the best. Most groups will allow you to visit 1-3 times before they require that you join their group or 'officially' become a member.

Being a BNI member for 6 years was nothing but a positive experience for me. I quit after six years because I felt that it was time to allow some 'fresh blood' into the group and I didn't want to stagnate.

Get Up Off the Couch

Join A Business Network Opportunity

The BNI motto is, "Givers Gain," meaning that the people who give the most to the group get the most back - That goes with anything.

Some groups are better than others because some groups allow MLM members to join - never a good thing with BNI. The reason is that MLM people are looking for a different kind of customer than a brick and mortar business is looking for. It creates some difficulty to refer people to an MLM for many reasons. It also can create some hostility between members and if there is a problem then it will most often be the MLM business that is asked to leave.

Most BNI groups require your presence weekly at 6 am, most only have coffee, not breakfast. They all have rigid guidelines about contributing to the group, getting a substitute if you are absent, and not going over 3 absences in a specific time frame (less than one year-there are penalties for people who abuse that).

You are also required to prepare and deliver a 30 second to one minute elevator speech every week and on occasion you must also prepare and deliver 3 minute and 10 minute speeches (handouts help). And at some point you must accept a leadership role for 1 year in the group - President, V.P., etc., although you may decline it is frowned upon.

These are all things that helped me gain confidence and grow as a business professional, but I became so busy that the time commitment was too much and chose to leave the group to let in a different bookkeeper (they only allow 1 profession per group - 1 bookkeeper, 1 plumber . . . ) so that I didn't stagnate in the group. I felt good knowing that it was my time to leave.

Business Networking Cash Investment

Consider any fees in whatever group you join. Joining BNI requires an up-front investment of over $300.00 a year plus one time joining fees.

For some people who are only starting out in business you may want to know that there is an option to joining a BNI group. If you like a group then visit up to your allotted 'visitor' meetings and then sign up to be a substitute for a BNI group or even several groups in your area. When I left the group you could get a substitute and that substitute didn't have to join the group and pay the membership costs. It was the most cost-effective way (at the time) to get the benefits without the up-front costs (especially for beginning business owners who may be strapped for cash). If you are a substitute often enough in one particular group then that group you sub in may ask you to become a member. You are obviously getting the benefits without the costs and that's not fair to the other members.

Want To Save $$$! - Be A Substitute

Substitutes prevent people from accumulating an absence. And as a substitute, once you are done representing the person you are substituting for, you may give a 30-second 'elevator speech' about your own business and pass out your own business cards - If there is no one else in the group in your profession (no other internet marketers, bookkeepers, plumbers, etc.).

If you are a substitute and your profession duplicates someone else in the group then be creative enough to use a part of your business that compliments but doesn't duplicate any business in the group and you'll be allowed to give your personal presentation that way too. Being creative is a little challenging, but if you are classy about it nobody will mind. For instance when I was a sub for an accountant in a different group and he wanted me to talk about his bookkeeping service that day, I did. When I was done with his speech, I also mentioned that I owned a bookkeeping business, but I only talked about doing payroll and came away with three new referrals for quarterly payroll filings that day - a service the accountant I was representing did not provide. That meant $180.00 + (four times a year) to me for exactly 2 minutes of talking to get the referrals. The person I was subbing for added to my credibility because he was an accountant.

So, will joining a business networking group help you grow your business? It did for me. It can for you, but only if you are willing to contribute to the goals of the group - no matter what group you join.

Besides that, when you are new to business it helps motivate you to be somewhere once a week and that will help you with a positive mindset.

The first step is owning a business. The second step is promoting it. The next step is up to you. Good luck!

Will Joining A Business Networking Group Help Grow My Business? Comments

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    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Mike what a surprise! I am so glad you made the connection! I got lucky with the group I joined in Portland! They called themselves the best group in Portland, and after visiting a few of the others I can tell you that they really were! they were all about relationship building and mentoring. My decision to leave was indeed a difficult one, because I felt the connection to the people in the group as friends. Thankfully, I still maintain a few of those relationships.

      Hub pages is wonderful! There are so many amazing people here! I hope all is going well with you! It is so good to see you here! You can't tell me it's not a small world!

      Take good care and I'll see you again soon! :-)

    • profile image

      mikeq107 6 years ago

      Michelle the Penny just dropped :)))

      BNI ,thought you looked familiar..I knew I had met you before!

      Boy that was 2 years ago or three...I moved to bend then and did not like the group out there.

      To me it was not just about promoting my business but having real relationships, after all that is how we did Business in the Emerald Isle...

      That is also why I love Hubpages!!

      Glad to connect with you again!

      Later fellow writer

      Mike :0)

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Hi stars439 - Thank you! I can't tell you how I would have survived in my profession without taking this step because when I started I could not even stand up in the crowd long enough to say my first AND last name without jumping back into my own seat red faced and flustered. Public ANYTHING terrified me, but with a few months under my belt, I was giving speeches and introducing myself to strangers without ANY hesitation. you would have never known I was 'that' person in the beginning to know me now and it is because of joining this group that I can say that with pride.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Wow ! You really know some fantastic stuff. Very educational Hub. Will have to read it more times to understand everything fully. Love the dog. Very beautiful and Princely. God Bless You Dear Heart.

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Hi Lady Guinevere - The first thing that came to mind when you said seamstress was this - Have you considered adding to your services by sewing names into uniforms. One requirement for utilizing the uniform write off on your taxes is that you must have name tags. People often order 100 name tags at a time and have them sewn into their clothes. It doesn't say where you have to have them sewn on so I've seen them on the inside near the tags - I've seen them everywhere. When I was a substitute I had to think a bit more creatively about what people wanted that wasn't being provided at that time. Creating that service became a skill. Learning to talk to people too and introduce my services was the result of that experience. Find out what people need and want others to solve for them. Sometimes there are enough people wanting the $4.00 solutions that you don't need any other clients. Etsy is a great place. I would also check into a service called Digi where you can get other people to help you promote your product. Decide how many you can produce well, then go for it. You might also check in with Omgili to do a little research in forums to see if you have a winner product - Use Google free keywords tool to see if you get any searches for that keyword. Do what you love - Life is too short not to.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

      That is great and I can see why you would get something back right away! I used to be a seamstress and had my own company until I moved to the sticks up here in WV. I was doing pretty well then but when we moved and then they shorted us my space I had to give it up. Tehre is way too much competition here for that with others doing seamstress and alterations in town. I thought aobut selling for Etsy, but I don't kow I am still thinking on that. I was going to make small drawstring purses from some velvet that I have. I can still make small things, just not dresses and such.

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Hi Lady Guinevere! I started a bookkeeping business in 1999 and operate between Vancouver BC and the USA. My business has taken me to several different states, but I primarily operate out of Portland Oregon and Vancouver BC. In the last 2 years I have added to my services and expanded as well as developed interests in internet marketing. It's been a heckuva ride, but when I come sliding in for my last base then I hope my friends and family can say that I got there with a chocolate bar in one hand and an apple martini in the other, yelling, "Woot Woot!" Life is an adventure, so I keep learning. Thank you for asking! ;-)

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

      What is your business, if I may ask?

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      HI Nell - Thank you for stopping! I hope that you are doing better! I was really sad to read of your friend. BNi groups are all over the world now. It is a time commitment - that's really hitting the nail on the head. It's so helpful for confidence building, though. If ever there was a group that helped people become better business owners, then this is it. One thing that also helped me was to shedule my first client immediately after our weekly meetings. I was already dressed and downtown and so upbeat and positive afterward that seeing my first client that early was always a joy - My most productive day, too! Thanks again!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, this certainly sounds like a great idea for your business, I must admit I had never heard of it before. if it helps then it is a very useful thing to do, I often wondered how people got together and helped themselves become successful, if you have the time and the determination then it is a great idea, cheers nell

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Hi Lady Guinevere - Thanks for your feedback. I do absolutely agree with you that the cost is high for a beginning business owner. The only way to look at the up front costs are to determine if it is something you will get back shortly. In my business, I was able to recoup the costs the first meting I went to with my first referral. Others aren't so lucky, but truly, it is a worthwhile investment for what you can get out of it. Also, just as you mention, for someone with a business (like Avon) it is much harder to get leads that benefit your business model. MLM's really don't work well in BNI because of the nature of the business and the goals of the BNI groups. We never had an MLM in our group that lasted more than 6 months because of that reason. I was brand new in business, as were the others in my group, so I can honestly say that for all the professionals there, no matter how long they had been in business, they received their membership back ten-fold in a very short time frame. I was able to test all my marketing ideas out on the people there and either move ahead with those ideas or kill them in their tracks. The experience, feedback, and value was there for me 150%. It paid for itself for years yet to come.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

      I was brought to a meeting for this BNI group and I must say they do network--for those who want to pay the high cost. I had to decline like so many other cosmetic companies that they are trying to get in their group. I understood a few reasons why. One was the cost. A New Sole Proprieter just cannot pay the $400.00 sign up fee to start and two you have to be there at every single meeting. That is difficult at best with a sales company like Avon.

      It's good if you have the money to actually put into it every year and if you are established.

      I even used the services of the one who brought me to the meeting but saw nothing else out of it.

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Wow, Kowality - Thank you! to answer your question about whether BNI is a good choice for other professions or not - Yes, it would be an excellent choice! We had a handyman, a carpet cleaner, and a roofing contractor in our group and they were very successful with the group. There were others too, but these were the most active members. It's true that you take out what you put in and the group is very pro-active in letting people know if they don't participate actively. Quitting the group for the reasons I did is something the group celebrates. They do, also, give you feedback on any ideas you may have or new marketing testing. They are also some of your most loyal customers and deep friendships are developed. I was in an exceptional group and would advise anyone to go to a few different groups to find a great one - not just a good one. It's also important to ask when you are attending a group as a visitor - "Is there any profession in this group that struggles with referrals?" If the answer is Yes then you need to know which profession and why. Here's a tip - Some groups seems to have a theme and only refer to each other - I sent my partner to a meeting that was wedding themed and she never got one lead, so I sent her to a different group and that changed immediately. When we explained to the acting President why we were leaving their group and what they needed to do to help other members and grow their group they did not want to hear what we had to say, so it was a good move. Be careful of that one thing in smaller groups - Look for a growing and enthusiastic group with a variety of members. Variety helps you find leads for others and be more active in your group.

    • kowality profile image

      kowality 7 years ago from Everywhere

      I remember knowing you when you were in this group. You grew and blossomed quickly as a professional. The members were so supportive and helpful. As a contractor we have Builders organizations, but they are not the same type of thing. Is BNI a good resource for all professions or does it work best for blue collar business owners? Great information you have here. I can't wait to find out what you have to say. As a network marketer, I also believe that these are excellent groups to test the waters in. From observing your experience, I know that they will help you test ideas and products before you go public with them. it's also a group that one of Donald Trump's people used to earn over $5,000 in leads in one week which kept her from getting "Fired." Rated up, mwatkins-Great job!