Why it took me 4 years to join BNI?


Photo taken in our garden last year inspired this metaphor

I’m a keen networker and I love recommending and helping others find business.

So why did it take me so long to ‘get‘  BNI ?

BNI is the world’s largest global networking group, with over 145,000 members worldwide. They demonstrate the 10 traits of master networker, they show you what they expect  because they know it gets results and yet I resisted and put if off for so long?

The reality is that I was not listening when I first started to network.

My head was so full of my own needs and wants that I didn’t listen to what was being said in terms of the advice being shared by the group.

I got hung up on how ‘bossy’ they were, how controlling they ‘seemed’ and then came up with all kinds of reasons why it was ‘too expensive’ ( Are you noticing where my focus was, yep!! all about what they were doing wrong no awareness what so ever of my part in this whole process)

I have since learned that networking is like a big dot to dot. You start with yourself and you must be clear what you would like to have happen and who you love working with and then you listen to someone else. The hope is that this will start a chain reaction and they will then listen to you. ( unless of course you meet someone new like me that don’t yet get the rules of play, in which case please be kind and listen for longer, be a good role model)

Once the chain reactions starts to work both ways the dots are joined.

Once you both understand each others you can turn and find another dot but always taking time to keep connected with the original.

Eventually when everyone is working at keeping the connections, you together create a huge sticky web that attracts people to it.

Now I am not sure that a web is the right kind of metaphor, but imagine if this web were more like a huge safety net that you can have fun with, bounce ideas off and generally enjoy the whole being connected process then what happens?

For me this great big safety net is what it is like when networking at your best. Everyone is really listening to what others want and need.

With just one strand of a web you have very little strength and jumping from one networking group to another will mean your web is cast far and wide but may well have large holes.

That’s when I realised now that BNI was right for me, they had the structure in place and they met regularly enough to create a big strong net that not only consisted of the 20 or 30 people in our group but also the external contacts they had plus the huge worldwide BNI connection. I have already connected on facebook with a fellow BNI member in the USA who has be incredibly helpful in sharing my work and supporting me.

Why it took me 4 years to join B.N.I.?

I have been self employed for 13 years and only in 2008 was I introduced to the concept of networking to grow my business in the formal sense. Ros Bristow and I have had many conversations about the concept of networking over the years and which are the best for us.

The truth is that they all work.

It’s more about where you work at your best and what kind of group is right for you.

What do you need to communicate and build relationships?

The reality is that we all need to give information and ask for information. It takes time to develop relationships. Do you have the clarity yet of what you want others to know about you and your business. I know that when I was first attending BNI I talked a load of twaddle because everyone said ” we really like you Sheryl but still don’t know what you do”

BNI and other networking groups can give you the learning ground to perfect your message get it clear, yes you maybe out of your comfort zone but rest assured everyone is when they first start. I remember one of the biggest turning points when I finally said something that made sense and I told the group that I helped people hear and to be heard. 5 of the male members all suited and booted came up and asked for feedback on their 60 seconds.

Don’t expect to stand up and say what you do in 60 seconds and then for someone to come and buy, you are hoping to simply give them a glimpse of who you are and what benefits your business brings to others.

BNI could be compared to London Waterloo train station, a busy exchange of information. You can’t possibly take it all in and you can’t try every service. But the more times you take time to pause at Waterloo (the breakfast meetings),  the more chances there are that you will notice what is really on offer.

At the group you can:

Gain great business insight into how to do a 60 seconds and how not to.

Gain insight into what works for you in the way people approach you as well as what doesn’t.

By watching the other trains you can yourself gain some incredible training about what works and what doesn’t work in terms of relationship building.

Once you have this skill, it’s easy to create networks anywhere at a time and place that suits you.

Can you really experience the service simply by standing at Waterloo?

You can if you stand and chat and listen to those coming off the trains, giving testimonials of their own experience or you have to choose to take a short journey on a few of the trains to really experience the service yourself.

The biggest challenge people have is investing the time that is required to build relationships and maintain them. With the questions we train you can gain a greater understanding of someone in less time and you will forge better and more solid relationships faster but you still need to make the time to have the discussions in the first place.

Sadly some people arrive at the Waterloo with their train doors open and screaming all aboard with no awareness that no one has any idea where the train is heading and therefore is unlikely to get on board. They can often attempt to hurry people on board when in fact their is a better suited train across the platform.

What do you want from networking?

In my experience no one achieves success on their own, every leader has confidants and a support network that they can depend on.

Networking for you might be more about peer support, business ideas and it might all about referrals and business. The problem you have right now is you don’t know what others want. By joining BNI I am clear that this group of people want to generate business for each other and that is exactly what we are doing. Other Networking groups are more about support and training so it is up to you to find the right group for now.

I personally prefer to know what to expect so you would have thought that BNI would have been my first choice with all their rules and principles. The truth is that the BNI model works but it took me 4 years to work out how I could work within it. I felt they were treating me like a child and being patronising repeating the rules week after week.  I can now see that I was behaving like a child.

I complained about them and never actually asked so why do you do that, what is the intention or the purpose. Had I had more confidence to speak and ask questions like an adult perhaps I would have got an adult explanation.

I have since learned that the real relationship building takes place over coffee on one of the trains and that the breakfast meeting is simply a summary of the weeks activities. I use to be frustrated that they did not give people time to talk or really listen but I was unaware all the listening was happening before the meeting. Guess what I was not listening, I would attend and judge them for being rude, uncaring and so formal when in fact now with wisdom I recognise they do want the same as me.

How often do you judge without real evidence only your perception?

For those distinguished BNI attendees this might be so obvious but please never make assumptions about the new members joining your group like so many people I train it is all too easy to assume that what is familiar and obvious to you is also familiar and obvious to others. (hence the repeating of the rules doh!!)

I have now joined my BNI Uplands chapter and I am really looking forward to developing great relationships, please do feel free to come along if you would like to know more.

Here is a free video link by BNI about the top 10 traits of a master networker. Interesting listening and worth a few minutes of your time.

Back by request of our clients

We are bringing back Step by Step Networking a session where you will be able to network whilst learning how to ask great questions so that unlike me you never make assumptions again that can be to the detriment of your business or family.

We will be running 2 sessions one face to face 7.30am to 9.30am  and 12noon to 2pm at our home office Gosport Hampshire or we have the Listening Post conference call  7.30pm to 8.30pm via conference call. For our latest events click here

You might be surprised to know that the 8 Simple Steps to Success without Stress  can provide you with the strategies and resources to develop all of the 10 traits mentioned in the BNI video.

Want to unravel what is holding you back in your relationship building skills then join us now.

Plus share below what kind of networking has worked for you and what you heard and saw that tells you it works?

Thanks for Listening




6 thoughts on “Why it took me 4 years to join BNI?

  1. Sheryl, well said; this is the best ‘BNI” article I have read to date and believe me, I am a bit of an article junky! John MacLennan, BNI Northwest Success, Grande Prairie AB Canada

    1. Thank you John, I really value that kind of comment I am great at talking,fab at listening when I focus my mind and I am learning how to share my experiences in writing so that is a great boost for me, so thank you again for taking the time to respond. Do you use twitter? Facebook?or Linked in it would be great to connect and keep in touch

  2. An honest appraisal of networking and BNI Sheryl. Being a member for 10 years and a RD for nearly 5 years in Herts and Beds I loved the way you put it – great read! Its all about camaraderie for me i.e being there for each other with tips, hints, guidance and help in abumndance, which in turn makes everyone’s business journey a better one to be on. People often misunderstand me when I say that I would keep on attending even if I never recieved another referral. Reason being any real business person should have fellow like minded people around them; we need raditaors around us, not a drains? Carry on BNIing:-)

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