Archive for November, 2011

It’s been a long and eventful year for many businesses, and we are all looking forward to a well-deserved Christmas and New Year’s break.  Festive parties, holiday events in our businesses or with our clients fill our social calendar.  We’re busier than ever socially – and it’s fun!  But… could your chapter suffer?

Silly Season: Keep The Energy Up!

Does your chapter lose momentum as we inch (then suddenly bound!) towards the Holiday Season and Christmas?  Are you worried that your BNI “sales team” might lose focus amidst the festive frivolities, or that you will experience a dwindling number of referrals leading up to (and during) the holiday break?

Fear not!

We have assembled some great tips on how to conquer a possible holiday slump in your chapter, and to keep you and your chapter focussed – while having fun, and a good break.

So, What’s The Problem?

From early December to the Christmas break, and through the (long) period to Australia Day, it can be a tricky time for chapters.

After a year of building a great group, we become pre-occupied with the festivities.  Family and social engagements, plus the need for a break, can create high member absences in December and January, as businesses close and people take annual leave.  Australia slows down, and often even comes to a complete halt until Australia Day.

The potential problem for your BNI chapter is that absences can become a starting point for declining referrals and people dropping out.  So you need to get people back in the weekly habit as quickly as possible after the break.

But even during the holiday break you can keep the momentum going.

Keep It Strong – Keep The Break (and Absences) Short

One of the key elements that differentiates BNI from other networking groups, is its structure – combined with the weekly protocol.  Not unlike a business that has sales meetings each week, the strength of the BNI system lies in the frequency and the accountability it provides.

It’s like going to the gym: once you get out of the habit, it’s hard to get back on track.  It’s human nature.

BNI attendance is no different.

Breaks that run from three, to up to five or even six weeks are a concern.  That is a long time not to see your sales team – and your team not to refresh their memory of your business.

So what to do? The shorter the break your chapter takes – the easier it will be to get back on track.  And the more you continue to engage before and during the break, the better 2012 will be for you, your business, and your chapter.

10 Tips – Before the Break

It is important for the ongoing success of your chapter to close the year on a good, uplifting note.  After a busy and perhaps demanding year, you want to go into the holiday season on a light note that will make all members look forward to returning to the group soon.

Here are some tips on what you can do leading up to and at the last meeting of the year:

  1. Get creative – fun is healthy, and contagious!
  2. Make the last meeting of the year a “thank you!” meeting to acknowledge members’ input – and encourage continuance in the New Year.
  3. Create a secular advent calendar (or two if your group is big) with some treats.  Everybody likes a little surprise to sweeten their day.
  4. Have a champagne breakfast – bubbles go perfectly with those brekkie strawberries!
  5. Decorate your meeting venue. Create some ambience, surprise your chapter.
  6. Have a themed Sales Manager Minute – and have a prize for the best one – or make the last meeting a Holiday Season fancy dress event.
  7. Psst… Organise a Secret Santa.
  8. Do something festive for the 10-minute presentation, like having different members explain their Christmas, Hanukkah, Saint Nicholas Day, etc. traditions, and how they celebrate.
  9. Organise a December social event – a harbour cruise, a lawn bowls afternoon, a BBQ, attending a carols picnic together – the options are endless!  Involve partners and families to create more personal ties.
  10. Remember to be aware of the different religious and cultural backgrounds of your members, and be sensitive to them.

Keep in mind that most members tend to be small businesses, and the majority are owners or sole traders who might not have any other work related festivities planned.  Give them something to look forward to!

Include BNI in Your Holiday Plans – Have Fun!

To keep it humming, you ideally don’t want to close your chapter at all over the holiday period.  But the need for rest and family time might make that too ambitious a goal.

Consider creating opportunities to connect during the holidays in a relaxed atmosphere, especially in your powergroups.

Here are some thoughts and ideas for you and your chapter:

  • Not all companies close at Christmas other than for statutory holidays – so referral opportunities do not stop for long.
  • Continue to meet on your allotted day – but focus on, for example, internal training or projects.
  • Like any business, give your chapter the best start to the New Year – take the opportunity to plan ahead during the break. Together.
  • Encourage powerteams to meet during the ‘closed’ period in lieu of a standard meeting.
  • Be less formal with the meeting – extend the open networking section, have a themed Sales Manager Minute, and use the 10-minute for fun networking tips.
  • Have themed Sales Manager Minute like: “my ideal referral for 2012 is…”
  • Make the first meeting after the break a casual dress day if most people are still on holidays from their work or business.

So, even if you cannot achieve a no-break meeting schedule, try to keep BNI activity up during the break: your referral levels will stay up!

Got Any Tips?… Let us know at how your chapter is having fun while creating ongoing business during the holiday period.

We like to thank David Cole, BNI Ambassador, 9-year member and current President at BNI Sky Scrapers for his contribution to this article.  David currently serves on the BNI International Board of Advisors, which ensures open communication between our international members and BNI Headquarters.  David is also the founder of management and business consultancy firm Focused Management Business Coaching.

“BNI has so many policies – why?”, some of you have asked us over the past month. So in this Question Corner we are explaining why BNI is a system based on a comprehensive list of rules – and how you benefit from them.

Many Aspects, Many Proven Rules

Let’s look at the “many” in this question first:  What areas does BNI have policies for?  The BNI system has proven rules and recommendations around:

  • Joining
  • Attending
  • Referring
  • Training
  • The Weekly Meeting
  • Leadership

As you can see: there are many parts that contribute to creating a successful networking and word-of-mouth marketing group.  While there may be “many” rules at first glance, policies to govern the principles under which a group comes together and decides to do business are crucial for achieving a common vision – and for the group’s success.

Look at it this way:

You would not accept or start a job without having seen a job description and salary offer.  So why would you want to join a networking group (= job) that has no direction, no expectations of its members, no way to measure its efforts (= no job description) – or can’t articulate the likely reward (= salary) you will receive for your hard work?

Structure = Foundation of Success

Cold calling only gets you so far… In 1985 Dr Ivan Misner assembled a group of business friends that understood each other’s businesses well.  Their aim:  to work on building their businesses through networking and word-of-mouth marketing.  Their experience and practical input created a system that could be passed on.  BNI was born.

What was – and still is – so unlike other networking groups about BNI, is that BNI provides its members with a structure and a plan based on their needs, which enables them to network in an effective and professional manner.

Membership Rules!

Rules without a reason or purpose are of no use.  Policies must serve the common goal of an organization.  And every rule in BNI is aimed at enabling its members to understand, practice and benefit from Givers Gain®.

As a member, how do you benefit from the BNI rules and system?

Here are 10 examples:

  1. No Competition:  Only one person from each professional category is permitted to join a chapter of BNI.
  2. Sales Team Commitment: Members must represent their primary occupation, not a part-time business.  An individual member can only be a member of one BNI chapter at any time.
  3. High VCP:  The weekly meetings last for 90 minutes. Members need to arrive on time and stay for the entire meeting.
  4. Continuity/Trust:  If a member cannot attend a weekly meeting, they should send a substitute.
  5. Business Opportunities: Members are required to bring bona-fide referrals and visitors.
  6. Earned Access to VCP: Visitors may attend chapter meetings up to two times only.
  7. Sales Team Attendance: There should be no leaves of absence, except for medical reasons.
  8. Recognising Your Effort: Individual PALMS and chapter tracking keeps you and your sales team accountable – and recognises everyone’s hard work on each other’s behalf.
  9. Smooth Sailing: Clearly outlined expectations make it easier to run the chapter professionally, based on merit, and not personal preferences.
  10. Support:  All new members must attend Member Success Program (MSP) training in their region within the first 60 days of joining.

The BNI Meeting Agenda

Some new members and visitors ask why the meeting agenda is so “strict”, referring to the set rules on how to run the meeting.

The answer to the “why?” is simple – discipline creates value.

There is a lot of information, content and value contained in each weekly meeting:

  • Visibility for members/visitors (business cards, 60-second & 10-minute presentations)
  • Credibility (referrals, raps, and presentation)
  • Profitability & Measurement (referrals and closed business)
  • Accountability (VP and Treasurer Reports, Referral Reality Check)
  • Training (MSP, etc.)
  • Social Connection (events)

There are only 90 minutes available weekly that need to be used effectively.  To lead a group of 25 to 75 people orderly (!) through a meeting of that length, and provide value to all participants – now that requires discipline.

Conclusion: No Structure, No Givers Gain® 

Please send us your questions for next month’s Question Corner to   

Welcome back to our series on the BNI Leadership Team roles! After looking at what the Education Co-Ordinator gets up to every week within their responsibilities, this time we turn our attention to the Event Co-Ordinator. This role represents the glue that binds chapter, members, BNI regional directors, visitors, and the greater community together.

Let’s take a closer look.

Did You Know…?

The Event Co-Ordinator will be known as Chapter Growth Co-Ordinator in future – you will hear more from us about that soon.

No mater the name, though: the role’s responsibilities come in a number of shapes and forms. If there is one role within BNI that has to wear many (and quite different) hats, than its this Leadership Team member!

As the Event / Chapter Growth Co-Ordinator you perform a central role that ensures that members are well-educated, and get a chance to get to know each other better outside dances and regular meetings. For your chapter as a whole you open business opportunities that exist in your wider community. And you can have a lot of fun doing it – creativity is encouraged.

Liaisons Officer & Promoter

As a role that wears a serious and a fun(ny) hat, the Event Co-Ordinator has a hand in organising a large range of different events and related issues for your chapter. The position does important work connecting your chapter internally, with other local and regional BNI and networking groups – and in promoting you and your chapter to your local business community.

It’s All in a Day’s Work

“Training, Visibility, Fun and Growth!” are this Leadership Team member’s catch-cry when they organise and promote:

  • MSP, Leadership, and other BNI training events,
  • “Stack Days” (aka Focused Visitor Days) on which the whole chapter concentrates on inviting representatives of one particular unrepresented category,
  • Any trade shows and events the chapter wants to participate in,
  • Multi-chapter meetings,
  • Local Chamber of Commerce and community events,
  • Location of your chapter venue, and, of course,
  • Social events to build better relationships among all members.

They also assist the Leadership Team and Regional Director on any special projects, as it may be required.

Ideally, the Event / Chapter Growth Co-Ordinator reports weekly to the group, to encourage members to bring visitors, and to connect with local businesses.

Keep it Busy in the Silly Season!

Successful chapters with switched-on Event Co-Ordinators know a little secret…

The best way to keep the referral-buzz going and business steady during times when regular meetings are off, is to organize a couple of social events for this time.

So, with the long-ish Christmas, New Year’s and Australia Day period not far away, this is something to think about now. In our December issue, we will give you tips on how to keep your connections going during your well-deserved and much-anticipated break after a long year.
Create extra referrals in a fun and relaxed way… Now that’s a nice stocking filler!

Can You Wear Two Hats?

Now that you know what your Event / Chapter Growth Co-Ordinator gets up to – do you think you can fill those shoes on the next Leadership Team?

Or do you have an idea for a great social event for the Holiday Season – to keep relationships in your chapter strong and memories refreshed?

Speak to your Event / Chapter Growth Co-Ordinator about your ideas – you will help strengthen bonds and make your chapter even more successful.

Categories : Events, Leadership Teams
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Last month, we launched our “Networking Tips” section that brings you the hottest tips around making the most of your time at BNI meetings and other events. No matter whether you still have your networking training-wheels on or are an old hand at making solid connections: our suggestions are tailored to be easily implemented. Simple, practical and proven tips like this week’s “Arrive Early, Leave Late” will make your networking even more effective.

The Early Bird Gets The Worm

The trendy partygoer’s bible dictates arriving late to be the fashionable thing to do, to ensure the place is already buzzing when you arrive. But… who creates that much-envied buzz?

Correct – those clever people who know that starting a conversation among the first-to-arrive means you already have made valuable connections before those fashionable latecomers turn up.

As any Top Networker will tell you: be unfashionably early – it pays off.

Arrive Early

No-one wants to be the first one on the dance floor. But have you noticed how once the first person starts grooving, everyone else who has been too shy until then suddenly starts flocking along with that person who broke the ice?

The same principle works for networking: arrive early and be the leading connector.

As one of the first people to arrive, you have the chance to welcome new arrivals in a warm, inviting manner and – like a host – introduce people to each other. Your fellow early starters will naturally gravitate to where groups are forming, because no-one likes to be left standing alone. They will be keen to join your crowd.

Immediately your status within the group is that of a leader, and your credibility has grown alongside your visibility. In contrast, those “fashionable” latecomer types will find it much harder to break into already established groups like yours, stand out and connect.

Leave Late

Your early start at the BNI meeting or networking event will mean that you have already connected well with many visitors, members or fellow attendees from the beginning. And during a conference there are perhaps lunch and other breaks during which you can ensure you mingle with different people.

But don’t leave until you have completed your networking goal.

Ensure that you stay as late as needed to allow enough time to meaningfully interact with those people whom you may not have had a chance to talk to earlier in the day – but who could be valuable connections.

Think Beyond The Event

If you arrive early and leave late, you are highly accessible and visible. Not only will your credibility with other participants soar – but the event organiser will also notice you.

Whether that means that you are being approached to serve on your BNI Leadership Team, or the organisers of the networking event or conference you attended see a future speaker in you. Either way you have achieved your goal of being remembered for future referrals.

You made the most of your networking time…. Mission accomplished!

What’s Your Networking Story? Let Us Know!

Visibility and credibility are essential to getting referrals, making lasting connections, and growing your business.

We hope this week’s networking tip inspired you to try “arriving early & leaving late” for yourself at your next BNI meeting, conference or networking event.

We’d Love to Hear from You… Let us know at
what positive changes you experienced by arriving early, and leaving late.

Categories : Networking
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