The Best Weekly Presentation - a Vermont Practice (May 2021)
Link to Video Recording
For years BNI Vermont chapters have had a nuance in their meetings unique from other BNI regions – The Best Weekly Presentation Award. This practice was not part of all Vermont chapters when I was a member. It really came to fruition in the early 2010’s when I became the Executive, learned about it from one chapter, and spread the word. Now it’s ingrained into our culture.
But why? What is the purpose of this practice,
and what does it bring to our chapters and our businesses?
For many of us, BNI’s Core Value of Recognition stands out as the reason behind this Vermont practice. It obviously gives us a reason to put one another on a pedestal for training us in unique and engaging ways. However, there is more to this practice than the weekly “pat on the back” to one member.
The evolution of our speaking skills is one of the many benefits we get by being part of a referral group. The question is how efficiently are we evolving? Without something to strive for, to view as a goal, such as winning recognition, many of us won’t quickly receive the benefits of getting better and better at training in 1 minute. Also, the power of self-reflection really increases when we know that our peers will be listening with a constructive ear, trying to pull out the nugget of information we are training on each week. Because we know we are being judged, we put more effort into what we’re saying and how we’re saying it.
So throughout your membership, and your hundreds of Weekly Presentations, think on the benefits of being recognized by your peers for the effort and intent you have each time you speak!
Who is Your Next Referral Partner? (April 2021)
Link to Video Recording
It’s time for your weekly BNI meeting. You wake up early, dress-to-impress, review your Weekly Presentation training topic, and get to the meeting early for networking. But there’s something different about today… There’s a person in the room that you don’t recognize.
Are they a visitor?
…a member from another chapter?
Maybe this person is one of my BNI member’s brothers or sisters.
We BNI members are used to having strangers at our meetings. Strangers play a huge role in the opportunities that we get by being in BNI! And yet, where do these people come from?
When we talk about inviting visitors, we usually recommend starting with the people you already know, which is easy because we already have a relationship with them. But when you’re thinking about growing your business through word-of-mouth, you really need to meet with and connect with people you don’t know. This is because strangers offer us the best opportunity to develop new Referral Partners and Customers. So when it comes to inviting, sometimes your time is best spent identifying and inviting people who
Once you make the shift from inviting people you know to inviting people you don’t know, you’ll see your chapter grow in strength, increase in diversity, and generate more unique referrals. You’ll also see yourself blossom in curiosity when a stranger attends your BNI meeting. You’ll naturally reach out to that person during and after the meeting to get to know them. When you increase your curiosity about professionals who you don’t know, you’ll find amazing and powerful new Referral Partners in your future!
What Does it Mean to be a Proud BNI Member? (March 2021)
Link to Video Recording
Thankfully it’s been a while since I’ve heard someone call BNI a cult. There’s too much confusion and negativity around that word because few realize that it is derived from the word culture, and speaks to the enthusiasm that a group of people have for the same thing. In BNI, we know that feels like; being part of a group of people who are all “in it together”. In our case, this enthusiasm and culture focuses around our for- and non-profit businesses, and over times evolves into our care and support of one another personally.
And this is what it means to be a Proud BNI Member!
When our BNI chapter is productive, fun, and engaging, we find ourselves doing two things:
Pride is joyous! It wants to be spread! And with Givers Gain® at the fore of all we do in BNI, we know the impact we can have by spreading it. What we do together really does Change the Way the World Does Business.
So let your BNI pride show! You’ve worked hard with your members, as they have with you. The more you spread information about their businesses, the bigger an impact you can make for them, and the pride will spread even farther. Let your experiences show through telling stories, though social media, and through giving of your time and attention. Thank you for being a part of BNI!
Why? – The Referral Reality Check (February 2021)
Link to Recording
One of my favorite things about BNI is that there’s a story behind everything! Whether we’re talking about Continuing Education Units, the Renewal Membership Evaluation form, or anything else we do in BNI, there’s a story that birthed the activity. So today I want to share the story behind the Referral Reality Check.
The Referral Reality Check was introduced into BNI back in the early 1990’s thanks to a remarkable Visitor Host Team. This team was really focused on EVE – Exceptional Visitor Experience. One thing that all exceptional Visitor Host Teams understand is that when visiting our chapters, our visitors have an experience that is very unique from what we as members experience. They don’t have the relationships and comradery that we have, so they are not focused on ‘farming’ a relationship. Instead, they are focused on the WIIFN – What’s In It For Me. Decades back, this Visitor Host Team realized that it was important for visitors to see the referrals that we generate (specifically what is announced during the “I Have…” or “Referrals and Testimonials” portion of our meetings) result in new clients. When the Referral Reality Check is done well, it shows our visitors and substitutes that our group is getting results. And when done with attention to how you and your fellow members are sharing your results, it helps visitors see the benefit of applying for an interview with your chapter. The Referrals Reality Check is mostly for visitors, and also holds an important role in our Core Value of Accountability.
When it’s your turn to present the Referral Reality Check, really tell a story. Bring this referral to life so that your visitors see the power of your chapter, and your members see the joy you experience in working with the referrals that you give and receive.
The Power of "Why" (January 2021)
Link to Video Recording
“Why do you do what you do?” I love this question – especially in an environment like BNI. Being surrounded by small businesses, non-profits, and sales professionals lends itself to a certain buzz of passion and drive! However, as much as we love what we do, it’s surprising how few of us can really answer this question. When asked, most respond with “I like to help people.” Although true, this answer lacks depth. The funny thing about helping people is that I can help people by being a mortgage expert, or a general contractor, or a graphic designer. So, think really about this question…
Why do you do what you do?
Consider what is it about your business, your industry, your location, target market, and clients that makes you enjoy what you do. Ask yourself “What event(s) happened in my life to lead me to want to work in this field?”.
When you come to realize the true story behind this answer, you will have then set yourself apart from the pack of others who also do what you do! Let’s say you’re a chiropractor – there are lots of chiropractors in the area. What makes you different? You might say well I’m located here, or I do this kind of chiropractic, but really, the differentiator is the story or stories that lead to you being where you are today. It’s not just about how you do your job or what you provide in the way of products, services, or benefits. People like to do business with people who are truly connected to what they do. So, allow me to ask one more time - Why do you do what you do?
Mentoring Builds Your Business! (December 2020)
Link to Recording
Making money in BNI can be attributed to the following quote:
“What you do thunders above your head so loudly that I cannot hear the words you speak.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
In other words, your actions produce more quality referrals than your words. This is why I want to connect with you about the power of being a Mentor.
Trust is a critical part of the referral process, and time and again I’ve seen the strongest Mentors in a BNI chapter make incredible strides for their own businesses because the Mentor Role is such a powerful way to build trust. Mentors truly put Givers Gain to work. They are primarily focused on their Mentee, honing in on the areas where they are struggling or missing important insights. Mentors expect nothing in return and find joy in watching their Mentee gain traction in their membership. This self-sacrifice earns genuine trust that translates into referrals.
Are you interested in helping your peers level up? Try out these ideas:
When others view you as an expert an area like BNI, they learn to trust your insights in others. Show others that you understand how to use a BNI membership and that will translate to trust when you speak about your own business!
There is Power in Numbers! (November 2020)
Consider cleaning your house, building a shed, coaching a client, or passing referrals, all with a team of one. The results would take a long time to achieve. There is power in numbers! And this is why the BNI Vermont Team exists and wants YOU to take advantage of their knowledge and participation in your meetings!
Just like your business, your involvement in BNI builds upon itself year over year. This can be a dynamic experience when shared with others and recognized, and your interaction with members of the Vermont Team can help you achieve that.
This group of BNI members care so deeply for Givers Gain and the mission of this organization that they beyond their own membership to learn more, to share ideas, to support chapters and individual members, and to help everyone attain more. It’s a beautiful and impressive labor of love!
Our team has many skills and brings many benefits to BNI Vermont members. Examples such as
Since 2012 this team has ebbed and flowed with the best that BNI member professionals have to offer, and with your help, it will continue to evolve and thrive. The next time your Director Consultant, Ambassador, or Executive Director are at your meeting, reach out and say hello! Ask questions and uncover helpful insights to building success through your membership. And when you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to be a part of this incredible group of leaders, reach out to any member of the team. We look forward to supporting you for years to come!
Outlook, Intention, and Expectations (October 2020)
We’ve all heard the saying that Life is a Mind Game. We’ve learned this lesson in real time through repetition and experience; that what think results in what happens. This concept, simplified, is called Managing Expectations. And in our BNI membership we experience exponential growth and joy when we all learn to be aware of and manage our expectations.
The real life application of this concept starts with Choosing to Observe Yourself. Our expectations tend to be so ingrained that we aren’t even aware of them, and without realizing it, we find ourselves frustrated, angry, or overwhelmed because we wanted something to go one way, and then reality sets in.
The second step is to Take Action. This means redirecting your thoughts in more productive ways. Instead of “I’ll be late if I don’t get there in 20 minutes!” try “I’ll get there when I get there”. The result will be arriving at your destination relaxed, calm, and engaged.
To keep the momentum, your third step is to Get Curious. This means opening up to possibilities. Maybe you’re frustrated about attending a work or BNI training for the 4th time. Instead of setting yourself up for a miserable experience, get curious about what opportunities might arise!
Fourth, we have the importance of Surrendering. This means taking a deep breath, going with the flow, and giving yourself and those around you Grace enough to be the flawed and amazing humans that we are.
Now, all of this said, let’s be clear that Managing Expectations isn’t about removing goals and drive. You are on a journey to success and happiness, and that entails having a vision. What we’re talking about is the difference between thinking yourself into frustration, anger, and overwhelm, or thinking yourself into curiosity, opportunity, and happiness.
Proof that you are a LEADER in your BNI chapter (September 2020)
There are many great side-effects to BNI Policy #1 – the One Person Per Profession policy. One of my favorites is that we are our chapter’s expert in our field, and as such, we are responsible for the training and insights that these adults will absorb over the coming years. It also means that we are Leaders in our chapter. We lead the rest of the membership in our area of expertise; guide them to see the powerful benefits of what we do and how we do it; set the tone and culture for our industry. These are all attributes of a leader.
You may be thinking I’ve never considered myself a leader. If so, consider this. A leader possess a combination of many traits, including:
► Clarity of Vision ► Decisiveness ► Passion ► Humility
… to name a few. When I look out at the hundreds of professionals gracing the BNI Vermont membership, I see these traits. What is missing for many of us is the realization that we are Leaders and stepping up to wear that mantle proudly! When we, as a member/chapter/region take that mental step up and recognize the power we have and the good we can accomplish, we could change this world for the better beyond our wildest dreams!
So how do you put this new insight to work? First, believe it. Don’t take this for idle prattle. Second, step up. Step up into your role as a trainer in your field; in the chapter role you’ve accepted in the coming year; as a mentor to your fellow members in their word-of-mouth marketing journey. My dream of $5 million a year chapters will be a joke in short time when we all step up and become the leaders they are meant to be!
The power of Video in your BNI Profile (August 2020)
Imagine taking out an ad in the newspaper and leaving it blank. What a waste of money, time, and opportunity! The funny thing about this concept is that it’s what some of us do with our BNI membership. We pay dues and put in a lot of time with our members, but our public ad is blank. What am I talking about? Our public BNI Profiles.
As part of our membership we are each given the opportunity to put an ad about ourselves to the world. And BNI Vermont has worked, and continues to work, to teach our communities that BNI is more than a place for businesses to generate referrals – it’s also a place where our friends and neighbors can go for reliable local products and services! But in order to encourage our fellow Vermonters to reach out to us, we need to have a friendly, knowledgeable place for them to go. That means working together to make sure that we all have our profiles completed. Just ask around! Many members who have set up their public profiles have received referrals from the public and from other BNI chapters. Click here for a 3 minute video on how to create and update your BNI member profile.
My public profile is already set up. Well then, it’s time for an opportunity to level up! Allow me to introduce you to the ability to ADD VIDEO to your profile! This short video will show you how to do this. And if you don’t yet have a video for your business, don’t hesitate to work with one of BNI Vermont’s great videographer professionals to create and share something amazing!
Tribalism and its Ability to Build or Halt Your Business (July 2020)
Tribalism: the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one's own tribe or social group.
It’s impressive what a group is capable of achieving through forging strong relationships; from sharing insights and opening new doors, to halting progress or neglecting important change. The tribal mentality has the power to create and destroy, and the choice between one and the other is based on the cumulative focus of each person in the tribe; in other words – Tribal Mindset. Tribalism is a big part of what we create in our individual BNI chapters. And in this time of constant change, the mindset and practices of our tribe is creating wildly new opportunities or slowly shifting us towards boredom, frustration, and lack of results. Shifting a tribe’s mindset takes intention, patience, and communication, and has incredibly dynamic and impressive results. In fact, the success of a business, a BNI chapter, even a society, is highly based on the cumulative tribal mindset of all involved. It shines a light on how important it is for us as a team of professionals to address our tribal mindset and make sure that it is solutions focused and addresses every individual. This networking tip encourages us to consider our tribe and how we think about another, how we communicate with each other, and how we collaborate together. If you are experiencing a struggling tribal mindset in your BNI chapter, your business, or elsewhere, seek resources. In BNI these resources are your Director Consultant, your Executive Director, courses in BNI University, and your fellow BNI members. Open up the lines of communication to address the areas of struggle, and set yourselves on a path of working together for the greater good! Your power in BNI is based on your tribal mindset, and the stronger that is, the better the results and experience is for all involved!
Tips for Virtual Networking (June 2020)
There are plenty of articles out there on how to network online in this time of physical distancing. However, these articles all have one thing in common; they assume that the reader doesn’t already have a reliable network like we do in our BNI community. So today let’s share some insights about leveraging our BNI community in an online environment.
Share Practices Specific to your Profession
There are other members in BNI globally who share your profession. Why not connect with these other professionals outside of Vermont to purposely share ideas about how you have each leveraged your membership? There are many testimonials from BNI Vermont members who have done this!
One to Ones
I’ve done some math. When I remove the travel time, I can have 2 virtual One-to-One meetings in the time I could have completed 1 One-to-One in person. And One-to-Ones help us move through the VCP Process. Grow your network during this time by spending quality time with other like-minded professionals.
Contact Sphere Meetings
Our Contact Spheres generate 50-80% of our Referrals Received. So creating an active Contact Sphere is definitely in your businesses’ best interests. And with easy access to Zoom meeting rooms, we can all put our Contact Spheres to good use! Have you checked out the Contact Sphere Meeting Agenda in BNI University?
Regional or even National Contact Spheres
Image the idea and opportunity generating power of creating a Contact Sphere among BNI members throughout the region or country! Check out the Worldwide Search option in the BNI Connect app or website and make some new connections!
These are just a short list of networking tips. What experiences have you had in your online BNI membership that have achieved results?
Is there such a thing as a “Good” absence? (May 2020)
The BNI Attendance Policy - possibly the most discussed and debated policy in BNI because we interact with it annually. It creates activity for our Membership Committees and can create stress for us because it requires Accountability – a Core Value of our BNI collaboration. For most of us, we see our fellow members as a limb of our business and as such we work hard to be reliable and professional. To others, we haven’t yet crossed into that important perspective of treating our chapter like the Marketing Department that it is, and as such, missing a meeting is something we do without concern. So amidst these perspectives, is there such a thing as a Good Absence? Many of us believe the answer is no; we assume that missing a BNI meeting means breaking a promise and commitment. I’m here to share with you that yes, there is such as a thing as a Good Absence!
Rule #1 is your perspective going into the absence. Are you committed to attending, or do you easy miss meetings when other situations that arise? If you are the first, then it means you take your Absences seriously and you understand the missed opportunities. The Absence you are considering or necessitating might be a Good Absence.
Rule #2 is whether you tried to find a substitute or not. If you did, then this might be a Good Absence.
Rule #2 is how you communicate. A Good Absence is transparent. You inform your Leadership Team and Membership Committee that your substitute fell through or you or your family member had a sudden illness that is forcing you to miss the meeting.
Rule #3 is what you do to make it up to your members. After your absence you reach out to your Featured Presenter to set up a One-to-One, you follow up with your LT about any important points from the meeting, and you reach out to members to follow up on referrals given and received.
Consider your mindset around Attendance. It is such a pivotal part of our success in BNI because without it many of us would not to attend. Make a decision starting today to only have Good Absences!
I Just Got 2 Hours Back in my Week! (April 2020)
It’s a necessary part of being in business – computer time. Our devices have increased our ability to tackle more in a week than ever before! They have also led us into a rabbit’s hole of tasks, communication, and desk-time. Today’s tip is going to subtract the time you spend on your computer so you can spend more time doing what you love!
Boomerang: This amazing software allows you to control your email in ways never dreamed of! Writing an email at 11:15pm, but want it to send tomorrow at 8:17am? DONE! Do you want an email that you just received to temporarily disappear and reappear in 2 weeks? DONE! This app is available for Gmail, Outlook, and Mobile with free and paid options.
Remember the Milk: So many things to remember, so little time! Remember the Milk is your preverbial “string on your finger” reminder software. Jot down your ideas, projects, and reminders, easily organize them as you like, then watch your brain relax under the removed strain of trying to remember everything.
Loom: Remember the last time a client asked for directions on how to tackle something, then you spent 30 minutes writing out the steps? Save yourself the time by using this amazing app that records your computer screen and your voice into a seamless video that you can then effortlessly email to your client. Now they have a much simpler step-by-step process, and you saved 25 minutes!
Dashlane: A place we all waste time is searching for our passwords to websites. This app does it for you! Available for desktop and mobile, it will not only track your passwords safely, but it will remind you to replace them, and it will pre-fill the password forms for you on the websites!
Chapter Strength Starts in the Membership Committee (March 2020)
Don’t let the title of today’s tip fool you! Unstoppable, profitable, and exciting BNI chapters are a well-oiled machine when it comes to how each member takes ownership of their role in the chapter. Instead, today’s tip is meant to bring attention to the power of your Membership Committee. Chapters experiencing a shift in culture usually start the shift in the Membership Committee when the MC members make the decision to step it up. This means finding that sometimes elusive and always powerful balance of two of BNI’s Core Values: Accountability and Recognition. See, a healthy MC is focused on creating a safe and reliable space for members to get and give referrals (Accountability) and while building members up and communicating openly and honestly (Recognition). Let’s take BNI’s Attendance Policy as an example. Say John Doe is absent from today’s meeting. A member of the MC reaches out to John via phone just after the meeting to ask how he’s doing and if everything is okay. As part of the dialogue in supporting John, the MC member also informs John that today was his 2nd absence, offering help should he need it, as well as encouraging John to have a One-to-One with Mary Smith who gave her Feature Presentation that morning. That same day, the Vice President or Attendance Chair realizes that Jane Martin has had perfect attendance (no absences, lates, or substitutes) for 6 straight months, so another member of the MC calls to congratulate her, and they announce her in next week’s Membership Committee Report during the meeting. This is just one way a healthy and productive MC supports its members, creates an space to generate business, and does it in a way that is encouraging and reliable. In what ways can you “put the fun in the fundamentals” when it comes to your Membership Committee?
Best Practices for Visiting Other BNI Chapters (February 2020)
One of the benefits of BNI membership is the greater ‘family’ of chapters worldwide. We can apply our networking skills throughout our Givers Gain communities with an open mind and a purposeful intent to help others and grow our business. Today’s Networking Tip is to provide you with Best Practices so that you can continue to thrive in your BNI networking efforts.
TIP #1: Pre Register Yourself
Pre-registering informs a chapter’s Leadership Team and Visitor Host Team that you are coming! Most chapters prepare for their pre-registered visitors.
TIP #2: Review the Chapter’s Roster
Review the chapter’s membership through the public website (such as BNIVermont.com). Select 1-3 members that you specifically want to meet because of something you may have in common, such as the location of their business, the profession they represent (Contact Spheres!), or because you’ve had experiences in the past with them.
TIP #3: Schedule One-to-Ones in Advance
Schedule One-to-Ones with members of that chapter. Just like Visitors or Substitutes, your attendance is more easily forgotten than remembered. Make an impact on a member (or three) by taking time to get to know them and discuss possible business opportunities.
TIP #4: Arrive Early
Your actions speak louder than your words. Your willingness to arrive 10-15 minutes early shows your Givers Gain attitude. And take it up a notch by offering to help set up the room or pass out Weekly Handouts.
TIP #5: Make an impact
If you’re a really successful Mentor Coordinator, find the Mentor Coordinator and offer to help! Or if you’re good at converting visitors in your own chapter, help that chapter’s visitors see the benefit of membership and apply in that chapter (not your own – “poaching” visitors from other chapters for your own chapter can result in negative press for you and your chapter)
Making the Most of 90 Minutes (January 2020)
The start of a new year brings a lot of enthusiasm for what the future will bring. Think about the impact you and your business can make on the world when everything lines up just right! Your BNI membership will play heavily into your success this year, so let’s talk about how you can make the most of your 2020 membership. It’s important to start with the basics… i.e. “What you do thunders above your head so loudly that I cannot hear the words you speak”. That is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, and in short it means that your actions speak louder than your words. When you’re ready to get the most out of your BNI membership, then it’s time to address your actions in BNI. This means simply but profoundly things like:
It’s funny that as established professionals we are still in need of the occasional reminder about how important we are to those around us, and how influential our actions can be on each other. When we consider what we want and need from the world around us, especially from our fellow BNI members to help us succeed in business, we need to reflect on our impact through our actions. Show up to your next BNI meeting with “wings on” – be attentive, purposeful, and open to the incredible opportunities that your chapter will provide you in the coming year!
What are Your Core Values? (December 2019)
Short of a paycheck, what makes you roll out of bed every day? For many people, motivation is made up of simple survival; work a job and make money to put food on the table, pay the mortgage, save for retirement, etc. We’re rarely taught in our youth or school that ‘adulting’ is about finding ourselves and our raison d’être (“reason for being”), so we pursue what everyone around us is pursuing. Lucky for us in BNI, we are surrounded by passionate and driven professionals – people who have learned that there are more reasons than a paycheck to get out of bed every day and do what we do. We’ve found something that we enjoy doing, that we’re good at, and that makes a difference in the world one person/business/building at a time. However, what many of us are missing is true clarity at our core. What we’re missing are our Core Values. Over the last several months I’ve introduced each of BNI’s 7 Core Values as a means to help you connect to the deeper meaning of BNI. And this networking tip is about helping you turn this concept inward. You’ve partnered your business with a worldwide organization that is steeped in value and purpose. It’s time to partner with yourself to consider what your Core Values are. This can be as simple as spending some time in self-reflection, or Googling “Finding Your Core Values” to watch videos and read, or even hiring a Business Coach. I know that my Core Values are about Communication, Compassion, and Understanding – hence my drive to connect with, care for, and collaborate with everyone I interact with. So now it’s your turn. What are your Core Values?
Should Recognition be a Requirement? (November 2019)
Recognition is synonymous with Appreciation and Respect, which is why it’s one of BNI’s seven Core Values. Showing respect for one another’s expertise and appreciation for each other’s efforts should result in us taking action to recognize one another. Consider how often you have a positive thought about a fellow BNI member. I’ve learned from my time on this planet that I and those around me have not developed the ability to read each other’s minds, which is why when I think to myself “Brendan did a great Weekly Presentation this week” or ”Liz is at our meeting early every week to set up” I need to take the time to transfer that thought to that person. Otherwise, a huge relationship-building opportunity will pass me by. And since our ability to give and receive referrals is based on Building Relationships, it becomes obvious that taking time to share those positive realizations can become a core action behind the success we experience in our BNI membership. BNI truly supports this activity; it’s literally built into our weekly meeting, manuals, and events! Consider your chapter’s Notable Networkers each month; your Feature Presentations; the annual BNI Awards Banquet; and behind-the-scenes events that recognize the actions of your BNI Vermont Director Consultants, Ambassadors, and Regional Office staff. It’s important to remember that recognizing others isn’t always about buying gifts or mailing cards (although those actions can sometimes speak louder than words). Recognition is as simple as saying something. Use your Open Networking time each week to share your appreciation with one other member. Imagine the impact of a fellow member telling you that they see the effort you’re putting into your business and membership!
Accountability and the art of Relationships and Results (October 2019)
Accountability. This noun is closely related to words like Responsibility and Obligation, and these words hold a seat of importance in our lives. Ever since we stepped out of childhood and embraced adulthood, we’ve learned how vital we are through our promises and commitments. This is why Accountability is one of BNI’s Core Values. Our partnership with our fellow BNI members is built on an agreement to play by a certain set of practices so that everyone involved can get results. And we’ve learned that when one of us is playing with a different set of habits than the rest of us, the impact is negative and wide spread. It’s why we’ve come to deeply appreciate that our fellow members will hold us accountable to our commitment and actions within the chapter, as long as that accountability recognizes that we are doing our best and that our best does and will ebb from time to time. The key to BNI’s practice of Accountability relies heavily on just that – the balance of holding one another responsible for our commitment and actions, alongside the importance of recognizing our business and personal struggles. It’s why our Membership Committees (who truly are the backbone of our BNI chapters) are coached on the importance of Progressive Coaching for those of us who struggle with our commitment, followed by Probation for those of us who need a stronger nudge, and ending with Opening a Member’s Seat in the chapter for those of us who a membership with BNI is no longer a good fit. Accountability is a core piece of making sure our chapters do what they are supposed to do – generate referrals in a supportive and professional environment. And we hope you’ll embrace the importance of Accountability in your own life and business.
Tradition + Innovation keeps your BNI chapter healthy and happy! (September 2019)
BNI’s Core Value of Tradition + Innovation tends to be overlooked. These unassuming words do not instill excitement or direction, and yet their impact on our us BNI membership is profound! Consider each noun unto itself. Tradition is a collection of habits and beliefs that we all hold to. It tells us who we are and helps us communicate to the world what we do and how we do it. BNI’s traditions are made up of things such as our structured and organized meetings, our practice of recognizing fellow members for generating referrals and bringing visitors, and our Visitor Host teams who support our visitors and substitutes week in and week out. Traditions are what we value and “What you value increases in value”. The second part of this Core Value, Innovation, may not at first seem to fit with Tradition. However, it’s the combination of the two that makes this Core Value so powerful. Innovation is all about new methods and new ideas, and what better place to find new and improved ways of doing things than with hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs from all over the world! Innovation has allowed our motto of Changing the Way the World Does Business to evolve from decade to decade to meet the needs of our many diverse personalities, nationalities, and professions. For example, our weekly BNI meeting is very different than what was started in 1985 with additions such as the Education Coordinator role, Referral Reality Check, Testimonials, and the Visitor Host Team. Not to mention the evolution of technology such as BNI Connect and BNI University. We’ve learned that if we don’t innovate, we stagnate. It’s our Traditions, partnered with our ability to innovate, which has led to such an incredible environment of support and results!
Lifelong Learning and the quest for knowledge (August 2019)
“If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Benjamin Franklin.
It’s no wonder that Lifelong Learning is a Core Value of BNI. This organization and its members have worked to create an environment that engages and encourages the development of each and every single one of us. When you look at those of us in BNI, we are made up of a diverse collection of life experiences. And yet, we all hold one thing in common – we’re coming together to help move ourselves forward; forward in finances, in relationships, in opportunities, and more! A large part of that momentum is generated by new ideas and perspectives, which is why learning plays such a huge and valuable role in our memberships. When we remain static in our skills and knowledge, the ultimate result is stagnancy. The backbone of our BNI chapters, our Membership Committee, is looking for this Core Value in every New Member Interview and every Renewal – making sure that together, your chapter is a collection of curious and engaged professionals so that we all succeed! Today, we want you to reflect on your opinion of learning. Is Lifelong Learning a part of your self-identity? Do you have a regular practice of unearthing new information? Being as diverse as we are, it’s important to recognize that we all take in information differently, whether from books or newsletters, podcasts or mentoring relationships. And if you’re looking for some ideas or support to find a way to get Lifelong Learning into your life, that’s as simple as an email to your Director Consultant!
Building Relationships – The Bedrock of BNI (July 2019)
Building Relationships is one of the seven Core Values that make up BNI because it is integral to the referral process. Our ability to refer another professional is based on developed trust and knowledge. Our aptitude in building that trust and knowledge is firmly based on how much time we spend with one another and what we do with that time together. Building Relationships is about developing and maintaining contacts in a way that is mutually beneficial for everyone involved. So in BNI, what actions do we use to strengthen and evolve our relationships? First, we are involved in our Weekly BNI meetings. We arrive early as a way to say “hey, I care and I’m reliable!” We pay attention during the meeting, actively seeking out ways to learn and generate referrals for our partners. And we follow up on referrals given, past and future One-to-Ones, and referrals received. Second, we are organized and intentional with our One-to-One meetings. We plan them in advance; we prepare for each meeting with documentation and goals; we arrive on early (or at least on time); we share our goals with our One-to-One partners; and we follow up on the results from each meeting. And Third, we recognize the balance of personal and professional within our chapter, working to make sure that we’re not “All fun and no business” or “All business and no fun”. Building Relationships is an art that constantly ebbs and flows, and as Networking Professionals, we recognize the flexibility necessary to give and take with our Referral Partners. When we accomplish all of this we are able to Learn with one another, Laugh with one another, and Grow with one another!
Positive Attitude and its Connection to Referral Generation (June 2019)
Positive Attitude makes up one of seven Core Values within BNI. It may seem obvious why we would encourage our members to bring a Positive Attitude to their membership, but it’s important to touch on how this powerful Core Value can result in more referrals for members who use it regularly. BNI is an oddity in the business world – a place where professionals build personal and business relationships side-by-side. In the dichotomy between personal care for one another and the goal to build one another’s businesses, we sometimes lose sight of the necessity to stay professional. We know that our Referral Partners care about us, so when we have a tough time with something or someone, we share (or air) our difficulties. Doing this from time to time isn’t the issue. The concern is for those of us who are constantly sharing our frustrations with our Referral Partners. When we lean too heavily on the ‘friendship’ side of our membership, and we overuse the “airing of our grievances”, our fellow members become Friends instead of Referral Partners and referral generation comes to a grinding halt. Positive Attitude is about recognizing the opportunity in even the difficult situations in life and business. A flat tire may result in missing a meeting, but it’s also forcing you to slow down and address the needs of one of your most important assets – your vehicle. An angry client might make you feel frustrated, but it’s also an opportunity to hone your mediation and communication skills to alleviate that client’s discontentment. How are you bringing Positive Attitudeforward to build your referral relationships? When your Referral Partners see you as someone who is focused on opportunity and solutions, watch the trust build and the referrals increase!
What is Givers Gain®? (May 2019)
Givers Gain® - it’s something we throw around in BNI with regularity. When things get used over and over, they can lose their meaning and the impact can be minimized. Givers Gain® is truly the most important Core Value that BNI has. It is at the heart of everything from the work ethic in BNI’s International Offices, to our individual chapters throughout 9,000 communities worldwide. Today’s networking tip brings our philosophy to light in a new way – to reflect on its impact not just in our BNI membership, but in our lives; because networking happens everywhere! “Karma”, “The Law of Reciprocity”, Givers Gain® - these concepts are not something new and vogue. We learned long ago that what we do and say intercepts everything else we come in contact with. Our relationship with our significant others and children are built, layer upon layer, by our awareness of what goes around… comes around. Our relationships with our co-workers, employers, vendors, and referral partners are the same. And it’s our individual commitment to giving, over and over again, that results in success for everyone around us. Because it is true that “we are like the top 5 people we surround ourselves with” it means that whoever you build up around you will, in turn, build you up. But the true to key to Givers Gain®is really about giving without the expectation of receiving. When your expectations are to get back when you give, you set yourself up for disappointment by laying out how the world should respond when you do something. Givers Gain® truly works in unexpected and incredible ways when you keep your thoughts and options open. So, how are you giving?
Positive Attitude Tradition + Innovation Lifelong Learning
Accountability Building Relationships Recognition
These Core Values are firmly entrenched in our Mission
to help members increase their business though a structured, positive, and professional referral marketing program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals..
I don’t rattle this information at you lightly. When I quit my job and BNI Membership back in 2012 to take over the Executive Director role for Vermont, it was (and is) this Mission and these Core Values which motivated me. I wanted to partner with something bigger than myself; something that could make a significantly larger impact on this beautiful state we call home. My experiences with my BNI chapter, and the ripple effects of those experiences since, have taught me that the way to make a difference and change our lives for the better is to create partnerships! We can and do get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives that we lose track of the impact of strangers, and one of the ways we overcome our repetitive habits is to engage with our BNI members, our visitors, our substitutes, and all of the amazing referral connections we receive throughout our years of membership. This networking tip is meant to encourage your reflection on why BNI exists – what we are trying to create throughout 77 countries, nearly 9,000 chapters, and over 250,000 unique members. You play a pivotal role in this mission! Stay tuned to future networking tips where I will bring perspective and insight to each of BNI’s seven Core Values!
At 24 years old I experienced a couple snags in my BNI membership that apply to many of us, regardless of our age or experience. The biggest of these was communicating with professionals who were significantly older (or in many of our cases, younger) than I was. Since these monthly tips are all about building your Relationship Networking skills, I’d like to share some perspectives about Generation Gaps that will help you build your word-of-mouth success. The first thing worth touching on is recognizing the power we have in being as diverse as possible in our chapters! When we represent a variety of ages, personalities, and professions in our chapters we are able to touch the lives of countless more people. Second, it is perfectly acceptable to be aware of the communication gap that sometimes occurs when we are talking with someone who is decades older or younger than us. The problem that can arise after this is when we convince ourselves that the age gap is too large to build a professional relationship. When we’re young we sometimes convince ourselves that we are not worthy and that we must prove ourselves, which results in taking fewer chances to open up, to teach our fellow members, and to ask for help. And when we’re wise and experienced we sometimes convince ourselves that we don’t have the energy, drive, or new ideas to partner with someone who is younger than us. Have you ever run into a Generational Gap “snag” in your BNI membership? Take a moment to reflect on the power of diversity and relationships. Convincing ourselves that age is a hurdle means fewer opportunities to build strong business relationships. Instead, recognize your generational “head game” and get a step ahead of it to build long-term, meaningful, and profitable relationships with your fellow BNI members.
“Social Media”! These words ring sweetly to many of us because they play such a pivotal role in our Marketing. So today’s Networking Tip is about how to utilize your online imprint through Keywords in your BNI Member Profile. Many of us have taken the time to complete our BNI Profile by uploading a headshot and logo and writing up a blurb about ourselves. However, what many of us have missed is the opportunity that lies in writing out the dozens of buzz words that our customers and clients use when they think of us and our industry. When people visit our BNIVermont.com website to search for a specific profession, they tend to use Keywords to locate you. However, if you have not updated the first tab of your BNI Profile through BNIConnect.com (not the mobile app) with these Keywords, many visitors to our website will never find your profile, which means lost revenue to your business. Also, you may not be aware of this, but we’re taking steps to encourage non-BNI members to use our website anytime they need a vendor for their business, help with their personal to-do list, or information about potential vacations or employee/employment opportunities! So taking a few minutes right now to log onto BNI Connect and write out as many Keywords as you can think of will only add a benefit to your BNI membership! Don’t miss out!
$33,000! That’s how much BNI Vermont members made from Visitors in 2018! Not a bad chunk of change! And we know that this number is 5 to 10 times lower than should be because we members don’t remember to submit TYFCB from visitors and substitutes. Raise your hand if a visitor or substitute has used your services without becoming a BNI member? I’d say “look around the room”, but that’s impossible.
However, I’ve asked this question at many Vermont BNI meetings and it’s amazing how many hands go up! Non-BNI members are a huge benefit to our membership for more reasons than I can list. So allow me to share how we can work as a regional team to get the most out of these new relationships.
First = Tracking. For those of you who raised your hand, it’s just as important to submit TYFCB from non-BNI members as it is from our BNI members. When we drop this ball we are not able to see the real total income received through our BNI commitment, and our chapter’s gross TYFCB numbers are thrown off.
Second = Referring to Other Chapters. The power of BNI lies in relationships, and building as many relationships as possible is the key to successful word-of-mouth networking. This means we need to agree state-wide to introduce our visitors and substitutes to other chapters! And for this to work we need to A) know the chapters around us and B) have an idea of the other professionals in those chapters. Use BNIVermont.com to access chapter details and rosters, and take the time to register visitors for other meetings through the website!
When 100% of us make these two shifts, we will all benefit from the increase in visitors to our meetings, and the income to our businesses!
In many ways I believe that communication is the backbone of BNI. Givers Gain® isn’t the only Core Value that keeps BNI alive – it’s also Positive Attitude, Lifelong Learning, and Tradition + Innovation (to name a few), and none of these are possible if we don’t communicate with one another regularly and with good intention. Throughout our BNI membership we find that it’s easy to communicate when things are good! When we receive a referral, a member helps us with our Weekly or Feature Presentation, or a member attends our business event we enjoy saying Thank You during Open Networking or through a card or email. However, it’s the communication piece that struggles when the topic is less than optimal. When we receive a lead (or nothing at all), when a member makes a mistake with a client we’ve referred to them, or when we don’t feel supported by our fellow members, we tend to do what we were taught to do as children – keep our mouths shut. In spite of this, we need to remember that no one is capable of reading our mind, and the only solution to overcoming an obstacle is to approach it. Communication is the tool to Building Relationships, getting results through Accountability, and Recognizing the achievements of those around us. And this isn’t just in BNI! Even someone without a Givers Gain® mentality can be shown how beneficial it is once someone takes the time to explain the power of farming versus hunting. The ability for us to openly and honestly communicate can mean the difference between success and failure in countless ways. Remember, your words are the key to unlocking your full potential in BNI!
Maybe you’ve heard this whispered during your years of membership and yet you haven’t really been told what it is. “The BNI Gold Club” is open to any and every active member of BNI and it is a prestigious designation to achieve! Currently 7% of Vermont’s BNI members have achieved this, and now it’s your turn. The BNI Gold Club represents those of us who have sponsored 6 or more new members into any BNI Vermont chapter. Because the average member passes $36,000 in Thank You For Closed Business a year, the act of sponsoring new members into BNI makes a huge impact on that chapter and that new member, and truly lets your Givers Gain® colors show! Gold Club members receive special recognition at BNIVermont.com and at BNI’s Annual Awards Banquet. There are also some stirrings about an annual reception just for Gold Club members coming in the next year or two. So how can you be a part of this prestigious group? Your first step is to sponsor (or co-sponsor) 6 or more new members into various BNI Vermont chapters. If you haven’t achieved this yet, start inviting and start tracking. If you have, the next step is to fill out the Gold Club Qualification Form in BNI University and submit to the BNI Vermont Regional Office. One submitted you are all set! Your chapter’s Director Consultant will arrive to your meeting with special items in tow just for you, and we look forward to having you as part of our Gold Club!
We’ve all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. And upon further inspection it becomes apparent that it takes a village to accomplish many if not most things! Think about your business – you may be the “head cook, waitstaff, and bottle-washer”, but where you’ve been and where you’re going are highly impacted by the actions of others. Maybe it’s a bookkeeper, a graphic designer, a significant other, or even your volleyball league! When it comes to pursuing and achieving success, going it alone just won’t do the job. Your BNI chapter is a perfect example of this. It takes a village to bring success to each member of the chapter, and by “village” I am referencing all of the roles that make up a chapter. Each role is responsible for several needs of the members. In order to get an average of $5,000,000 per chapter per year, every member of your chapter must thrive. And thriving isn’t simply attending weekly meetings and having One-to-Ones. Truly thriving in BNI encompasses the basics (CEUs, One-to-Ones, Referrals, Visitors, and Attendance) plus the critical components (website and social media, training, culture, teamwork, visitor conversion, attending events together, mentoring, systems, accountability, and recognition). The result of each chapter role functioning at their highest level is a membership with high retention, a lot of energy, and a lot of business being passed! There is no such thing as one role being more important than the other because when one role is missing, your village is incomplete. Congratulations on the start of your new term and we look forward to being your partner through the establishment of your 2018-2019 “village”!
It’s happened to all of us; our sick child or family member needs us at the same time that we’re scheduled to meet with a client, or that phone call goes much longer than planned and now you’re racing to get to that one-to-one. If there’s one thing we can count on in life, it’s that it will constantly change, and this is good! Even when sick, having children and family who love and needs us is wonderful. And those phone calls tend to go long because we are getting things accomplished. What bugs us the most is the discord in our carefully manicured schedule and our intention to be reliable and on time. Luckily, there are ways to overcome the discord and keep to your word to be on time.
~First – You’re Only Human – We have a tendency to put more on our plate than we are capable of accomplishing. Boundaries are good. They keep you sane and your friends, family, clients, and fellow BNI members happy.
~Second – Find a Good Scheduling App – Something like Calendly, Doodle, or Appointy. These apps will spare you the dreaded ‘back and forth’ that can happen when trying to set an appointment.
~Third – Open and Honest Communication – When you are going to be late, don’t expect your client or 1-2-1 partner to read your mind. Fall on your sword, and make sure never to make the same mistake two times in a row!
Handling your schedule is a responsibility only you can take charge of. These three simple steps will empower you, de-stress you, and help you get more done! Watch your business and BNI results soar when you put these steps into action!
What comes to mind when I say “buffet”? Probably one of those huge rooms with table after table of food; all kinds of food – more food than you could ever eat! These experiences are memorable, not just for the sheer quantity, but for the joy of helping yourself to a plate-full of all of your favorite foods. Do you love sushi, pasta, steak, a mile-long salad bar, cheese in every variety, Asian-inspired… maybe just dessert? In a buffet you can count on it all being there and you can eat to your heart’s content. What you may not have realized is that there is a “BNI Buffet” that exists for you to pick-and-choose from to find your favorite things. Like many buffets BNI has ‘buffet standards’ that we all benefit from. The food buffet makes sure you’ve got a fork, knife, spoon, and napkin (it’s difficult to eat without those). In BNI we have Attendance, One-to-Ones, and Continuing Education Units (CEUs) which we all benefit from. Beyond that, it’s up to you to fill your BNI plate with the things that you enjoy the most! Do you like social media? Find BNI on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to learn and make new connections. Do you enjoy meeting and spending time with people? Visit other chapters and set up more One-to-Ones. Are you an avid Lifelong Learner? You have BNI University, SuccessNet (BNI’s e-newsletter), books, podcasts, and in-person trainings available. These are just a few of the delicious opportunities that await you in your years with BNI! The key to taking advantage of the “BNI buffet” is to contact your chapter’s Director Consultant. They are well versed in what’s available and we want you to be walking around with a plate full of delicious opportunities and experiences!
In early May 2018 I was invited to work with BNI’s Founder, Dr. Ivan Misner, on a BNI podcast which addressed adding a benefit to BNI membership – getting business from our communities when they contact their local BNI chapter for needed products or services! Image being surrounded by a community that knew about their local BNI chapter, and used the professionals in the chapter for all of their personal and professional needs? Right now, thanks to regular advertising, many of our neighbors and friends go to websites such as Angie’s List and Home Advisor when they need something. While these websites serve a good purpose, they rely on algorithms to help you get a reputable expert. Meanwhile, there’s a local BNI chapter with local professionals who vet each other and hold one another accountable. And, unlike many online sites, BNI chapters provide access to more than just Trades – we have amazing health practitioners, legal experts, real estate and marketing professionals, and many other goods and services. Imagine being part of a BNI membership which not only produced referrals from members, but also attracted community members to their business simply because their profile was on BNIVermont.com! In order for this concept to become a reality, members such as yourself need to take steps to teach friends, family, and clients that BNI is a source for vendors for their business, and professionals for their personal needs. Use your social media and your town’s Front Porch Forum to spread the news! In each regional BNI website, simply click on Members and use a search term to find what you need. And BNI members, make sure your BNI Profile is completed as much as possible with lots of keywords to make it easy to find you!
Our One-to-One (121) time is powerful, holds amazing potential, and can literally change our lives and our businesses! It’s for these reasons that a basic BNI membership includes a minimum of one per week, and your chapter commonly encourages more than one a week! So what do you do in your 121s that gets results? Like most successful people, you definitely prepare! You send your 121 Partner your 121 worksheets a week in advance, you review your 121 Partner’s website and social media pages to see what’s top-of-mind in their business, and you spend time considering the goals you have for the 121. You do all of these things because you know that success doesn’t happen by accident! Success is a combination of habits that lead to results, and you get results! The next step is how you ‘set the tone’ in the meeting. Some of us accidentally get caught up in the ‘friendship’ of our relationship which results in 60 to 90 minutes spent talking about weather, personal stories, or (even worse) complaining about situations we’ve been through recently. In order to get the best results from your 121s, you always want to start with ‘hellos’ and efficiently get to sharing what goals you have for the meeting. Do you want to find a referral for your partner? What about teaching them something very specific about your business? How about asking for their input about something you’re considering for your business? Or, asking them something specific about their business that you want to learn about! And when all is said and done, end each 121 with follow up – reach out to your 121 Partner with a thank you card, an introduction, or, even better, a referral. With these significant actions, what the results from your 121s skyrocket!
Whether new or experienced in the ways of your BNI chapter, we all speak the language of One-to-Ones (121s)! We know that our ability to give and get referrals is based on our depth of relationships with our fellow BNI members, and while the weekly meeting plays a role in battling back the dreaded “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome, the ability to Build Relationships is really accomplished in 121s! A short time back I remember seeing data about a BNI Vermont member who was averaging six to seven 121s per week. In talking with this individual I asked why they had so many 121s and what the results were. This member smiled broadly and simply told me “my BNI membership has resulted in 60-70% of my new business, so I spend 6-10 hours a week doing 121s because they work!” Having come from a successful BNI membership myself, I too can attest to the success I achieved for my business from 121s! And now as a BNI Executive, when I have a chance to speak with a member about the results they’ve achieved from their membership, it is common for me to address how many 121s they are having, and what they are doing in those meetings. The potential for your business is hidden in the insight and connections that comes from your fellow BNI members! People help those whom they know, like, and trust! And all of those are developed by spending time with each other. The purpose of this month’s networking tip is to encourage you to reflect on the number of 121s you have each week, and to reflect on what you do in those meetings! Stay tuned for next month’s Networking Tip, which will address actions you can take to get better results from those 121s!
Online profiles are nothing new. Each time you sign up for something, it tends to come with an opportunity to post your profile on the club, business, or organization’s website. However, your BNI Profile is something very, very different, simply due to the Philosophy of BNI – Givers Gain®! What we’ve seen in BNI time and time again is that BNI members prefer to use the services of OTHER BNI members! This is mainly due to the fact that BNI members have been vetted for their membership, are continuously held accountable to Givers Gain by their Membership Committee, the giver gets ‘credit’ for Giving a Referral, and because the giver has a client who needs your skills! And this is where your dynamic, completed profile is paramount! There are amazing stories out there about new customers received to your business all because you are a BNI member with a completed profile! We’ve also encountered equally depressing stories about incredible business opportunities passed up because a member’s profile was either incomplete, or the profile settings were turned off in BNI Connect, making it impossible for others to contact them. So today’s Networking Tip is about making sure your BNI Profile is not only as complete as humanly possible (click here to view a BNI VT Completed profile), but also that the Settings in BNI Connect are turned on so that people are able to fully access your profile! This is where your Settings tab comes into play in your profile. Make sure your Account Settings are all turned to ALL so that you have the highest potential of being seen by anyone who visits your BNI Profile! And who knows, maybe you’ll receive a referral from Texas or France!
BNI Visitors… Just like prospective customers are possible future customers, visitors to your BNI chapter are possible referral partners. We are all aware of the power of visitors. What we can miss, however, is how our Inviting Mindset impacts them before they’ve even attended our meeting. Many of us struggle with over-focusing on turning Visitors into Members and this is not only wrong, it is misleading. Consider your own business for a moment. What if all of your prospective customers had to encounter your over-enthusiasm for your business? What if you overwhelmed them with excitement, information, and language such as “this product will change your life!” or “without this service you’ll miss out on so much!”? We know that this kind of language pushes people away. And yet, we do this to our Visitors. We over-focus on “this great BNI opportunity”, we give them more information than they wanted, and we drive to get them to submit an application. The Power of Inviting is not about what’s in it for you. It’s about what’s in it for them! There are 2 mindsets that are critical when inviting. The first is Chapter Pride. When you are engaged, enthusiastic, and proud to be a member, this deep-seeded pride is felt by those you communicate with. The second is What’s in it for them. When you are inviting someone to you chapter, avoid getting them to see the power of membership. Instead, focus on one benefit they will receive, such as A) Meeting a potential new vendor, B) Hearing a free training on a topic that is important to them, C) Practicing their public speaking, or D) Getting their business/non-profit out into the community. When you focus on What’s in it for them you are truly practicing Givers Gain®!
Intentional Communication to Build your Profitability (February 2018)
Thanks to our brains, we rarely have to be deeply involved with our thought processes. We are creatures of habit! So when it comes to regular day-to-day activities we simply act. If we didn’t, and we were forced to consider each and every action or word out of our mouth, it would be difficult to get anything done! This ability is useful as a general rule. However, we sometimes don’t take the time to consider how others are interpreting our habitual actions. Take “how we communicate with others”. Picture yourself talking to someone who ranks higher than you (your boss, the Governor, your priest). Do you speak to them with respect? Yes! Would you casually use swearing as a communication style with this person? No! Are you aware of your body language and posture? Yes! This is because you are using Intentional Communication! In our BNI memberships, this Intentional Communication sometimes falls to the way-side. “We’re with friends! You can communicate with these people without any forethought of their professional interpretation of what I’m saying or doing!” your habitual mind tells you. However, your habit mind is leading you wildly astray. When you are communicating with someone who is decades younger than you, are you being attentive to their view of the world and how they will interpret you? The same goes for someone decades older than you! (The Generational Divide is important to pay attention to!) How about a blue-collar worker whose body rarely gets a rest, compared to the white-collar worker who’s analytical mind rarely gets a rest? These professions have uniquely different professional experiences. When using your BNI membership to grow your business, use your Intentional Communication skills to make sure you are communicating to the best of your ability!
Diversity in BNI (January 2018)
There are many key points which create opportunities for success in a BNI membership, and one of the most prominent of them is diversity. Before our involvement in BNI, we would surround ourselves and our businesses with similar professions and similar personalities. These actions lead to the ‘same old, same old’ for our business, and less opportunity for impressive growth. Now that we have BNI as a vital part of our marketing strategy, we can leverage the uniqueness of age, profession, gender, and background to help us connect with clients throughout the area whom we would not have had a chance to connect with previously! White collar and blue collar workers, men and women, the high energy incoming generation of 20-somethings alongside our wise professionals in their 50’s and 60s’, introverts and extroverts – all of these diverse perspectives on life, business, and success means we can greatly increase our impact on community with our business and personal missions! As a side effect, sometimes diversity leads to assumptions and misunderstandings, and when this happens, a critical component to keeping our BNI chapters healthy and happy is to realize that communication has been disrupted and to re-open the dialogue. When we reach beyond our usual habits to develop collaboration with professionals who have a unique perspective, we open our minds to new ideas! We save ourselves time and money! And we experience greater success than we could have ever imagined! Work closely with your BNI referral partners, cherish the diversity that your members bring to your life, and may your 2018 be the most successful year you have ever experienced!
Weekly Social Media Use to Boost your BNI Membership (December 2017)
Social Media and BNI have a lot in common: specifically, the ability to communicate openly and regularly with others in your life on both a professional and a personal level. We know in BNI that the balance in relationships of personal and professional is key to gaining Trust on the Referral Confidence Curve. This month’s tip is about your use of Social Media to boost your success in BNI! Ask any social media expert – regular social media use is important if you want to get anything out of it. The same goes for strategically using social media to boost your BNI membership. Let’s start with visitors. Visitors on average spend $1,500 when they visit your chapter. If you want your social media connections to know about your BNI chapter, it means you have to regularly post about it! This is as easy as using the Facebook Check-In feature once a week at your BNI meeting to show everyone your attendance. Add a blurb about today’s Featured Presenter – tell the world the pride you have for the group of professionals you work so closely with! And how about referrals? Referral generation gets easier and easier the longer you’re in your chapter. And using social media to bring attention to your fellow BNI members is key to getting more “Referral Giving” opportunities. Try this: once a week post a blurb about the member in your chapter who gave the Featured Presentation, about the member you had a 121 with, and/or the member won the Best Weekly Presentation Award! Tell a personal story about their reliability, and “tag” their business so that your social media friends can link to their business to learn more! As you check-in weekly and post about your fellow BNI members a couple times a week, watch your reputation go up, your referrals given and received go up, and the amount that you get out of BNI go up!
BNI is your in-person Angie’s List! (November 2017)
While at a local networking event, preparing to give a short introduction to a room full of people, I had a revelation: I wasn’t presenting to potential BNI members per most of my group presentations! Instead, I was presenting to a room full of people who might use their local BNI chapter for the products and services! This insight led to the realization that BNI chapters are just like a live, in-person Angie’s List! See, many of us are eager to talk about the benefits of getting accepted into a chapter membership. However, sometimes we miss out on excellent referral opportunities by not drawing attention to using the products and services of our members. I have seen incredible enthusiasm from professionals throughout Vermont when I have referred to BNI chapters as “your local, in-person Angie’s List” and explained that the local chapters have a reliable vetting process to make sure they get steadfast experts, as well as a system to make sure that everyone involved continues to be professional and reliable. I then point them in the direction of BNIVermont.com and encourage them to use BNI when then need anything from fixing their house and marketing their business, to raising their family and keeping themselves healthy. Keeping money local makes a huge impact on the economy! Every dollar spent in a community is said to recycle up to 7 times. So imagine what we could do if we drew attention to the power of our local chapters not just for membership, but as a source of reliable products and services for years to come!
Using Recognition as a Tool (October 2017)
Taking on a Leadership role takes drive and passion! In BNI, those roles run the gamut from our own role as a chapter leader and expert in our profession, to our in-chapter roles of Event Coordinator to Vice President and beyond. Being a leader sometimes feels a bit like being blind – stumbling your way through new experiences and expectations. Luckily for us, there is a BNI Core Value that comes into play here that makes your leadership role easier and more fruitful. That Core Value is Recognition. As leaders, each of us will save time and get better results when we know that our words and actions are landing the way we intend them. However, it is impossible for us to see these results without feedback from those being impacted. This is where your ability to provide Recognition to your fellow members is paramount to the success of your chapter and your new Leadership Role. And when you Recognize a fellow member, you also boost the trust that individual has in you, which increases your chances of getting referrals! For example – you notice that your chapter’s Facebook Page has some really great new images, tags, and descriptions! Take a moment to tell your Chapter Webmaster that you noticed and it looks great! How about that member who just always seems to boost the energy in the room with their Weekly Presentation – tell them! And how about your Secretary/Treasurer’s reading of the “Investment to Join” statement at the conclusion of the meeting – let them know how well they do it! Using Recognition to boost your fellow members is a pivotal part of keeping the culture in your chapter positive, and it will result in a stronger chapter and better results for everyone involved!
The Power of your Service Organizations (September 2017)
Networking happens in many ways and venues. When considering networking, BNI and chamber/trade association mixers usually come to mind. However, today’s networking tip is about service organizations, and the opportunity to network and build relationships through volunteering. I was in my mid-20s when I was first introduced to a service organization called Rotary International. It was at a BNI event where the presenter told me that a professional couldn’t be successful in BNI and Rotary at the same time. I remember, even at my young age, how odd that sounded. To me, successful networking is about trusting, long-term relationships with others, and the more quality relationships you have, the more successful your networking will be. Lucky for me, although that experience has stuck, the result was respect and good-will towards Rotary and all service organizations. Now, if you haven’t yet been to a Rotary meeting, may this article encourage you to do so. Rotary is an amazing organization whose members come together to create change in the world through volunteering and fundraising, with over 16 million volunteer hours each year worldwide. Like other service organizations, they are in our local communities, making a difference! And these are great places to build relationships! For example, Rotarians meet weekly, just like BNI, where they collaborate to raise money and volunteer. Rotarians sometimes even see referrals for their business (although, unlike BNI, that is not their purpose). Rotary invites professionals to speak at their meetings to share the impact they are making, and they encourage visitors, just like BNI. Rotary is just one example of the service organizations throughout our state and the world. As you consider opportunities to network outside of your BNI membership, we encourage you to take time to visit a Vermont service organization!
Substitutes and Building My Business (August 2017)
After my 1st year of BNI membership, my members were my #1 source of new business. Because of this, I took good care of my BNI members – even when I was out of town. Now, being out of town provided a lot of opportunities for me to re-vamp my energy, and I had a tendency to disengage fully from work during that time. But before I left, I always took care to make an impression on those BNI members who took such good care of me. I did that by arranging for the best substitute I could find! But what makes someone an amazing substitute? And how can I simultaneously build my business while relaxing on vacation? EASY! The answer lies with “what’s in it for my members?” Many of us are guilty of taking the *easy way* – we ask another BNI member to substitute for us because it’s easy! But I knew from the start that this wasn’t good for my members. Other BNI members from other chapters were less likely to hire the members of my chapter because, well, they already had those professionals in their BNI chapter! My next thought was to call on a family member, friend, or client who had substituted for me before. While that idea was more profitable to my fellow BNI members than the previous idea, I knew there had to be a better way! The best result came in finding a family member, friend, or client who had never met my BNI chapter, and (better yet) was in a life or professional transition! These folks had never met my BNI members, they were going to need a lot of support through their upcoming ‘transition’ and were in an outstanding position to buy the products and services of my members… all while I relaxed on vacation. And when I came back, the flood of “thank yous” meant that I came back to a better professional reputation with my members, which meant I had built my business while I relaxed!
Why BNI Leadership? (July 2017)
BNI Chapters are mainly self-sufficient, and BNI’s role is to be the toolbox filled with tools to be used in order to keep the chapter functioning fluidly and professionally. This is where and why Leadership plays such an incredibly vital role in the success of the chapter and your business! Selecting the right member with the right skills for each role can make-or-break your experiences in the next year. Most roles need someone who is detail oriented. Many roles need practiced and successful presentation skills. And every role needs someone who takes their role seriously and puts passion into it. Without attention to detail, or passion, the role and the chapter suffer. And don’t forget the VPC Process (Visibility + Credibility = Profitability). A chapter President who runs their meetings enthusiastically and effectively will see an uptick in referrals. A Mentor who prides themselves on the 1st-year Member Experience sees an increase in referrals. However, a member who puts little to no effort into their role takes the risk of that reflecting on their business, and may experience a drop in referrals. Your role in the chapter plays directly into the respect, trust, and enthusiasm that your members have for you and your company! When you pay attention to your impact on the chapter, your members see this and respond in turn with growing trust and enthusiasm for all you do! When you’re looking for a way to build your business in BNI, taking on a role is a key piece to your success! And when you are honored with an invitation to a role in your chapter, jump on it, bring that role to life, and we’ll see you at Chapter Training in September!
Professions and Professionalism (June 2017)
BNI Vermont has grown so much over the last 5 years! We used to be a small state-wide membership of about 100 professionals – mostly experts in real estate, finance, insurance, and construction. We lacked physical therapists, hair stylists, dog trainers, or movers, to name a few. But now look at BNI Vermont! 300+ members representing professions we never dreamed of having! Take our Energy Healer in Shelburne, our Pre and Post Natal expert in South Burlington, our Edible Landscaper in Montpelier, and our Artist/Painter in Middlebury (and this is just a small selection of the unique professions I could have chosen from)! With this increase in diversity, we have found ourselves occasionally struggling in our ability to understand their professions, and how to get them referrals! Many months back while at a BNI meeting, the members of the chapter laughed at a fellow member’s Weekly Presentation (and it was at the member’s expense) due to the topic. The members didn’t laugh to offend their fellow member – they did it because it was a topic they were uncomfortable with and they didn’t know how to react! The first step to overcoming this hurdle is overcoming our own disconnect or sometimes even prejudices about certain professions. When our Membership Committee has approved someone for membership, we know that this individual is someone with experience, passion, and a drive to be successful in that profession! That means it is our job to understand them and connect with them. When this happens, passing referrals becomes easy! As you read this, if a specific member of your chapter comes to mind, this is your catalyst to reach out to them and build that bridge between what you know and understand about their profession.
The failed 1-year BNI Membership (May 2017)
Recently while attending a local expo, a new BNI member commented to me about the learning curve in BNI, and that membership takes a lot of time. My response was to comment on how steep the learning curve has been for me learning how to dance for the first time in my life (something I only started last summer). Then I commented on how long it’s taken me to become an accomplished opera singer (and I started that back in 2001… and I’m still working diligently at it). The new BNI member immediately picked up on what I was saying – nothing you want comes easily. If you want to succeed, it’s going to time, attention, funds, mental flexibility, and the willingness to fail, stumble, and fall until you succeed. Luckily for us in BNI, a successful membership doesn’t take a lot of money, and it doesn’t take failing countless times to find that success. But it does take time; it does take your attention; it definitely takes your mental flexibility; and lastly – it takes asking for support if you find yourself struggling. This brings me to today’s topic – The Failed 1-Year BNI Membership. A couple years back a BNI member said: "You're front loading BNI if you stay only 1 year: doing all the work and reaping none of the benefits". How true that has proven to be! How many times have we seen professionals come and go from our chapters in their first 12 months of membership, saying that BNI doesn’t work? And yet they never took the opportunity to ask for support, to give you and your members necessary attention, or they weren’t willing to spend the time. A 1-year BNI membership is a complete waste of time and money. Like most things in life, success doesn’t happen in 1 year – it takes your diligence!
“Solicitations” from outside of BNI Vermont (April 2017)
It’s a common occurrence in this world-wide organization for members to reach out to one another in order to facilitate building business relationships. However, from time to time I connect with members who comment on the solicitations received from BNI members across the world, and these experiences have taught me a lot! The first and most important of these is that business culture is different throughout the world. For example, did you know that in many places in Asia is it rude to write on another professional’s business card, or to put it away while talking with that person? I share this to prove that the Platinum Rule is in full effect when it comes to world-wide networking: Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves. It recently came to my attention that there are many places in the world where professionals do not wait for business to fall into their lap. Instead, they go out there and they create business opportunities. And in a great organization like BNI, some members will use the BNI network to reach out to members such as ourselves here in Vermont to grow their network. We Vermonters may interpret their actions as pushy or salesy, but from where they come from, it’s quite professional! When these opportunities cross your inbox/desk/voicemail, instead of flexing your ‘frustration muscles’, I encourage you to consider this perspective of different cultures. Take a moment to thank them for their time. Be clear as to whether or not you want to connect with them. Or if you want to decline their request or opportunity. We’ve been taught that being solicited is bad, but I encourage you to look deeper!
The “BNI Discount” (March 2017)
Have you ever heard the term the “BNI Discount”? If not, may this Networking Tip be the only time you do. If you have, I hope today’s tip encourages you to remove it from your business and to ask your fellow members to remove it from their businesses. The “BNI Discount” is a term used by some of our Vermont members to say that they give a special discount on their products and services to fellow BNI members. This is a means to show one another their appreciation, and a tool to encourage members to do business with them. It’s a concept that comes from a very wonderful place in our member’s hearts. However, I would like to encourage us here in Vermont to stop with the BNI Discount for the following reasons. Number one: We all got into BNI to build our businesses financially - not to devalue our products and services. The BNI Discount inadvertently devalues a member’s products and services, and we would rather that your rates go UP because of your skill and expertise as shown through your BNI membership! Number two: You don’t have to put a discount on your products/services to encourage us to support you! When you truly practice the Givers Gain mentality and put others before yourself, we will gladly and enthusiastically support you and your business, regardless of price! Number three: If you want to show your appreciation to us for building your business, instead of dropping your prices, why don’t you spend your energy getting us a referral, making a new connection for us, or giving us ideas and insight to build ourselves professionally and personally? When this topic hits home, and your members decide to withdraw their BNI Discount, encourage them, and thank them! We are all worthy of the prices that we charge!
BNI Policy #1: One Person Per Profession (February 2017)
We have all experienced the breaking of BNI’s “One Person Per Profession” policy. It happens honestly and without aggressive intention, but it can and does create clashes within our chapters. Many of us have more than one source of income, but our Membership Committees only accepted us for one clearly defined classification. And some of us have a tendency to skirt the policy because our chapter doesn’t have a member in “that profession”, because we want to be nice, and/or because our Membership Committee doesn’t hold us to the policy. For example: imagine an applicant applying for a profession which one of our current members has been talking about on the side. Because we allowed our fellow member to talk about his/her other profession, this applicant now represents a financial imposition on that member’s potential to make more money. But if our chapter had stuck to Policy #1, this would never have been a problem. Another side effect is that we never invite certain professions because we know that one of our members does that on the side! This decision means $10,000s (if not $100,000s) of dollars in referrals that are never given because we didn’t invite in that expert to our chapter! When considering the impact of talking about your 2nd source of income, remember that in the long run it is much more damaging to your fellow members! Imagine loosing valuable members because we “make exceptions”. The true intention of this policy is to create a level playing field for all. This means that, when the policy is followed correctly, we understand that are only talking the professional classification we were accepted for, and we hold to that in all things BNI (Weekly Meetings, Weekly/Feature Presentations, 1-2-1s, BNI Trainings/Mixers/Banquets).
The Power of your Local Chamber of Commerce (January 2017)
Years ago when I was a BNI member, I attended a Vermont BNI event. While there, someone remarked to all of us attendees “you can be a member of BNI, or you can be a member of the chamber, but you can’t be a member of both.” At the time, in my 20’s and new to the business world, that statement did not ring true to me. I remember thinking “but memberships in BNI and the chamber don’t compete – they compliment.” Now here I am, running BNI Vermont, and my beliefs still hold just as true. I have been a member of the Vermont state Chamber of Commerce and my local Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce for as long as I’ve been in BNI (that’s nearly 10 years in total), and the opportunities provided between the two have been a wonderful compliment! Our BNI membership allows us to use a reliable system to create habits which result in trackable income to our businesses. The training, relationships and steadfast-ness of BNI means we can count on continued growth and opportunities! Our chambers host great trade shows, provide opportunities to get involved and educated about our legislature, give us discounts on insurance and products, and provide opportunities to network outside of BNI! As the Executive for BNI Vermont I look forward to creating more active collaboration between BNI and your local chamber in the years to come. And if you are not yet a member of your chamber of commerce, might I recommend such an action? Chambers of Commerce are strong pillars to our communities and our businesses, and they need our support to maintain their strength!
BNI and Politics (December 2016)
A year ago I was catching up with a Vermont BNI member when another member from her chapter walked by. The member I was speaking with me turned and whispered to me, “Did you know she’s a Trump/Hillary (doesn’t matter) supporter!?!” I was shocked! And not because the other member supported a specific candidate, but because this member would say something with such venom! Let’s get to the point – there is no place for politics in BNI. We are a Relationship Marketing organization. We build one another up through long-term, positive, supportive relationships. And regardless of your individual passion in the political arena, the political choice of for your fellow BNI members is a moot point. The important points when referring someone is not who they are voting for, but is based on their professionalism, their passion for their industry, and your trust in their professional reliability (the Referral Confidence Curve). Also, this political year has tended towards the ‘you versus me’ and ‘I will judge you’ perspectives, which is the antithesis of Givers Gain® and everything BNI stands for. So allow me to share with you how I reacted in the above situation. I didn’t gossip, I didn’t tell this BNI member my political views, and I didn’t decide that the other member was less of a person. Instead, I asked “Do you trust her and what she does as a professional?” And I’m proud to say that this member’s response was “Yes, of course.” To which I replied, “Then her political views don’t matter.” Avoid judging others – and please do not discuss politics at any time during your BNI experience. In your meetings, in One-to-Ones, at BNI mixers – we are not a safe place to discuss politics.
Crafting the Perfect Visitor Invite (November 2016)
The guy Mike invited last week just spent $5,000 on my business!
Someone brought a visitor last week that just introduced me to my next BIG client!
It doesn’t take much to convince you that visitors are important to a BNI meeting! Did you know that 70% of our Weekly Agenda is geared towards visitors? But for the 42% of us who haven’t brought a visitor in the last 6 months, it’s not that we aren’t excited to bring visitors… it’s that inviting is difficult! To be a Jedi-Inviter we must practice that important skill called empathy, which allows us view a situation from someone else’s perspective. Before inviting, it’s important to consider your potential visitor’s perspective. Yes, this takes flexibility and practice on your part, but it is worth the effort! Imagine inviting someone who is incredibly busy. Do they have time to come to one meeting? YES they do, when they see what’s in it for them. Try inviting the perpetually busy person to a business group whose connections will help alleviate their over-inundated schedule! For someone whose business has plenty of clients, try inviting them to a group that will help them identify systems to run their business more efficiently. Is your potential visitor new to business? Why not invite them to a group where they will learn about a diverse array of businesses! The key to being a Jedi-Inviter is not to sell BNI. Instead, figure out what your potential visitor needs, then share your BNI experiences to address those needs. Invite them for an introduction to a specific member, for a perspective on Employee Benefits (your Featured Presenter), or for more clients. And, especially, talk less, listen more and be genuine!
Cross-Chapter Competition versus
Cross-Chapter Collaboration and Pollination (October 2016)
For some of us, BNI Vermont is an open playground for our business because we are so unique that we are the only specialist in our field in the entire membership state-wide. But for the vast majority of us, it is quite the opposite – several if not ALL of the community BNI chapters have someone in the chapter who represents our industry. This realization has led many of us to veer away from communicating with other BNI Chapters. We have been brain-washed to believe that competition means that there is zero opportunity for either person, but my experience in BNI has taught me that this is 100% wrong! Just the other day I was talking with a Life Insurance agent who recently had an epiphany about their seat in conjunction with Financial Advisors throughout BNI Vermont, and what a blessing it was that this person had A) woken up and realized what a great opportunity there was and B) felt bad that they hadn’t realized this sooner. This realization is there for all of you, and here’s what it takes to find that opportunity! FIRST: Have multiple 121s with the professionals in your chapter in the same industry as you. In those 121s, build a trusting, personal relationship, and once that is established, seek ways to understand one another’s businesses that you can find the ways in which you compliment one another (yes, they do exist). SECOND: Visit other BNI chapters and make your first action upon arrival (after signing in, of course) to introduce yourself to the person in the chapter with whom you overlap. Make it a goal to get to know them, build that trusting relationship, and if you are both in agreement (and you’re not stepping on the feet of other members in the chapter) arrange 121s with them to find those select areas that you compliment one another. These opportunities will only fail if 1 of the 2 of you in this situation are still brain-washed that you need to ‘protect’ yourself from other people in your industry. Plus, cross chapter visits will widen your opportunities to give referrals! Lastly for those folks who are still struggling with the negative image of “competition”, give them time. Enough time in BNI will teach them that they are much safer than they originally thought before they had this amazing, GIVING environment that we call BNI!
BNI is your business (September 2016)
A few months ago a BNI member said to me “BNI only works for the members who treat their meetings, 1-2-1s and actions in BNI as part of their business, and not separate from it” (to paraphrase). Interestingly, just this week, an unrelated member from a different chapter asked me if the actions of their members were a reflection of the way they did business. Of course, curious, I asked ‘why’? They promptly informed me that there are members in their chapter who show up late to the meetings, who cancel 1-2-1s at the last minute, and who dress as if they don’t care. This member was trying to figure out if it was worth giving these members any referrals. My response carried two perspectives, which I wish to share with you today. ANSWER: Yes and No – As a generality, the way a member goes about their BNI actions is a reflection of the way they treat their business. However, there is another perspective to take in this generality, and that is this: The members who do not view BNI as part of their business, are sometimes guilty of treating BNI with a throw-away mentality. Some of our members struggle with balancing their time and commitments, and when forced to make a decision between a client and their BNI commitment (i.e that 1-2-1 you had scheduled), they view their meeting with you as secondary, and therefore less important than the client. This means they may not put much thought into the impact that their attire has, or they show up late to the weekly BNI meeting (which they would never do to a client!) or they even no-show to your 1-2-1! These business people need help seeing the light – BNI is their business. This organization is not a separate entity – it is literally a branch of their company, and they need help realizing that their actions within BNI directly reflect the way you perceive their business. (We encourage you to forward this article to any member you feel may benefit from this perspective!)