Do you want to find out everything about BNI also know as Business Network International? Are you wondering out how BNI can help you with your business growth, personal development, and your interpersonal skills? Are you curious how BNI came to be about?
In this article, we share everything you need to know about Business Network International from the history to how they operate. By the end of the article, you should be able to decide whether or not BNI is a match for you and your business.
Unlike other BNI reviews or web complains that solely focuses on a dimension view of BNI, we provide you with a helicopter view of the networking organization.
Let me be totally honest with you from the start, although we mentioned that this article is, “everything about BNI”, it does not cover everything in here as some topics related to BNI deserved their own individual pages because we felt that we can expound more on them and keep the topics relevant to you, the reader.
To make it easy, we have created a table of contents to help you navigate through our write up.
Tables Of Content
If you are running a business, odds are you might have touched based with this term known as “BNI”; either someone invited you to visit their chapter or you were asked to substitute your friend for a meeting.
But what exactly is BNI?
Well, Business Network International is an American franchised networking organization with around 227,000 members in 8,211 local chapters worldwide. Simply put, it is a networking platform where members gather weekly to build trust and help each other’s business growth. In some countries, BNI is also known as business breakfast because members gather once weekly in the morning.
However, it is not all sunshine as with any venture or platform as not everyone who joined may see the benefits of the system. In fact, if you are looking for an easy way to grow your business without any effort whatsoever, BNI is definitely not for you.
Frankly speaking, it is not a money tree or a miracle pill that instantly create wonders. For BNI’s system to work, one must put in effort.
As long as you are willing to put in the effort and watch your network flourish in BNI then it will work out for you.
All in all, BNI is a global referral organization where business people like yourself gather with other likeminded individuals with the sole purpose to help one another grow.
Have spare time? Why not check out this short video introduction of BNI:
History Of Business Network International
Business network international or BNI for short was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner. Since then BNI has expanded to more than 50 countries globally and has 227,000 members in 8,211 local chapters (a chapter is a group.)
But you must understand one thing, that is BNI had humble beginnings; it did not kickstart as a big organization. In fact, it started off with Dr. Ivan Misner and friends in January 1985 in Arcadia, California. as a small networking meeting.
You may be thinking now, how did BNI grow to what is it now?
Well, the answer is found in the mission and values of this amazing networking platform.
The Mission Of BNI
The mission of BNI is to help members increase their business through a structured, positive and professional referral marketing program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals.
Have you ever wondered why BNI’s mission is powerful? Think about it, what happens when you go to a networking event? You pass your name cards around and briefly talk to some people.
But does that work? Well for some people it does because they managed to talk about a topic that is harmonious with the other party and got to connect with him on a deeper level.
Sadly for most of us, networking events or meetups does not work because there is just not enough time to build up trust and form a deeper relationship.
Altas, once the event is over; everyone loses touch with everyone.
The thing about BNI’s mission is members get to meet once every single week whether you are happy or sad, rain or shine; this regular meet up will create a spark between members.
Eventually, members will refer business to each other.
Consider this, if you have a business deal to refer to, will you refer it to someone you just met or will you refer the business case to someone whom you had built a strong relationship?
I will leave you to think about it. For me, it is definitely the latter.
7 Core Values Of BNI
For the business networking platform to be well versed and professional, BNI has a set of guiding principles which form the foundation on which members interact, conduct themselves and fulfill their goals.
In fact, if there is one word for me to describe BNI, it will be discipline; everything we do in BNI follows a set of rules or a system that clearly defines how every single gathering runs.
Let’s check out what are the 7 core values that BNI adopts.
The underlying philosophy of BNI where they believe by giving business to others; you will get business in return.
This is in line with the principle of reciprocal; when an individual continuously receives benefits from another party, he/she will want to return the favor.
This is especially true when the receiving party reaches the empowerment state where he has the ability to do so.
BNI provides a variety of opportunities to support lifelong learning as they believe in the continuous improvement of personal and professional skills.
Do not underestimate these pieces of training because you do not know when you will need them; I remembered my friend once told me, he was on a holiday trip in China and met Jack ma in the elevator!
He was tongue-tied and did not know what to say.
The sad thing was he knew about BNI’s 60 seconds elevator speech but did not apply it as he did not practice it seriously.
Since the incident, he took all BNI’s training with pride and dedication.
In every organization, the tradition tells us who we are and where we come from; this is very important as the management will continue to stay humble and continually seek growth.
This leads me to the next point of innovation – for a business to exist in the ever-changing world, it must adapt and leverage on innovations.
In BNI, this value of traditions and innovation has become engraved as part of the organization.
One last thing, even the Chinese has a saying, 饮水思源 (yǐn shuǐ sī yuán) which means don’t forget where your happiness comes from.
Clearly, this core value is something that everyone can embrace for a better life.
One of the key core values of BNI is that it enables business owners to surround themselves with people who want to help them succeed.
Imagine going to a meeting where people are negative as opposed to an event where everyone gives off a positive vibe.
What do you prefer?
Consider this, most entrepreneurs surround themselves with positive and driven social circle. Why?
Because positive energy bounces off each other and adds to the fuel that drives one towards success.
On the other hand, negative energy is a thousand times stronger than the positive energy and will leech the life out of any individual.
One good advice given by Jim Rohn is to “RUN” when you encounter the rotten apples.
The fundamental of BNI: building relationships or farming connections.
BNI believes that networking is more about farming connections with new contacts than hunting for them.
Most people want to do business with people they know and trust.
It’s about cultivating those relationships with the people you meet in BNI that really makes a big difference.
Accountability is one of BNI’s essential values; without accountability, BNI will become a social group where everyone meets up for chitchat and hangs out for fun.
To build a powerful personal network, accountability is a must.
Frankly, everything in BNI is tracked and that includes being on time.
The last and final core value that BNI adopts: recognition.
Ever wonder why is it important to recognize those who are contributing.
Well, the answer is simple really, we humans are reward creatures; we work for rewards.
Why do you work so hard? For your family or to improve your lifestyle, everyone has their own reasons.
Likewise, the reason why people will contribute readily is via recognition.
What Can You Expect In BNI
Another common question that people love to ask me is what can you expect in BNI.
Honestly, the best way to experience BNI is to visit a chapter.
However, for whatever reason, if visiting is not within your reach or you do not want to have a first-hand experience of BNI, it is fine as I will briefly describe the flow of an official BNI meeting next.
First up, you must understand that not all BNI groups are the same because the vibe of the group is determined by the synergy of the members. But the structure of meetings remains the same due to the 20 points agenda that the members have to follow faithfully.
Basically, the 20 points agenda helps to guide the flow of the meeting, therefore, keeping it structured and professional.
You will also observe that:
- Each BNI weekly meeting lasts 90 minutes.
- The attendance at the weekly meetings are critical for members; one must get a replacement if he cannot attend a session.
- Members must only represent their own primary trade.
- There can only be one member per trade in a chapter.
One last thing that you will notice in BNI is that time is of the essence in all BNI meetings.
In fact, don’t be surprised to notice that one member is in charge of timekeeping and be making sure no one overruns.
With that, you will now understand that BNI is well structured but may be too rigid for some people.
Nevertheless, the system has helped many businesses over the years; in fact, in 2017, members passed 9.8 million referrals which generated over SGD15 billion dollars worth of business for its members!
Want some more?
Why not check out a short video of a BNI chapter in India:
Is BNI Meant For You
Over the years, I had met with many individuals who ask me, “is BNI meant for me?” or “should I join BNI?”. Even today, I still get these questions on a regular basis.
Frankly speaking, asking these questions is no different from asking yourself, “do I need a strong network” or “does having a strong network affect my business in a positive manner”.
We all know the answers to those questions but why do we still doubt if BNI is meant for us?
The answer is simple really, whenever we want to do something new, our mind overreacts; this is because it is out of our comfort zone – we are stepping into uncharted waters.
Honestly, I can’t answer the question, “is BNI meant for me” for you, only you can decide it for yourself; you must experience it firsthand to decide for yourself if it works for you.
Reason being, BNI is a personal thing, it doesn’t mean if it did not work out well for your best friend, the same fate will bestow upon you. You can also check out my own personal experience of BNI that I had written out: BNI Connect Review.
Think about this, 100 students attended a famous school, 1% passed their exams with flying colors, 9% did above average, 80% did average while the remaining 10% did below average. Does this mean this school is a lousy school?
Not really. If you speak to the people who experience goodness in BNI, they will tell you all the benefits and advantages that BNI has to offer. However, if you speak to the people who had bad experiences in BNI, they will sing a different song; in fact, their song will go along the line of how bad this business platform is, how it is a scam and all the different disadvantages of BNI.
Personally, I cannot deny that BNI comes with strengths and weaknesses; the fact that everything on this planet has their sets of pros and cons.
Whether or not BNI is meant for you, I leave you with one of my favorite advice by Jim Rohn.
“Be a student, not a follower. Don’t just go do what someone says. Take interest in what someone says, then debate it, ponder it and consider it from all angles.”
I am sure if there are many articles out there you can find about BNI – read what I have and then read what they have written, before deciding what is best for you.
All in all, networking requires effort and commitment; the successful groups in BNI are made up of members who are sincere with helping one another grow and succeed.
Think about this, what will be the outcome if everyone goes to a meeting with the typical thinking of what is in it for me?
No one is willing to give out referrals or business since everyone is just thinking about themselves.
Inversely, what do you think will be the result when business owners focus on how to help the rest of the group first?
Everyone will start giving out referrals and business deals since everyone is thinking about everyone else.
Everyone becomes a winner!
And that is how BNI operates; what goes around comes around. If I help you, you’ll help me and we will both benefit as a result.
That is all I know about BNI and I hope you enjoyed the article.
Now it is your TURN!
I will appreciate it if you can drop me a comment on whether the article helped and let me know your experiences with BNI’s networking system.
Additionally, if there are other pieces of information about BNI that I might have missed out but you want to see in this article, do let me know as well.