Women networkingBy Suzen Pettit

Not sure what I was thinking when I agreed to join a BNI (Business Networking International) group in my neighborhood, other than the idea of a networking group based solely on the idea of giving and receiving referrals, with none of the froo- froo attached to it, none of the dancing around….seemed so appealing. If you read my last post about my networking group challenges you’ll get what I’m talking about. So when my “Computer Troubleshooter” Rick Van Akin suggested that if I wanted to grow my business I should come to his BNI meeting just to “check it out” I thought, why not?

Little did I know at the time, or perhaps I just wasn’t listening, that the meetings began at 7 AM. AM? I thought he’d said PM. AM??? AM it was, and when I emailed the president to see just how formally attired I needed to be at 7 AM I was bummed out to hear that yoga pants were really not an option, unless of course I was a yoga instructor. I briefly considered switching careers. So I’d be lying if I said that I was ecstatic about attending my first meeting. Grumbling under my breath, I made it to the first meeting with seconds to spare, leaving my daughter to figure out how to get herself dressed, fed and to the school bus on her own. Third graders can do that in this country, can’t they? Kidding, she’s 11. Kidding again- she’s a teenager. Much more dangerous than a third grader.

That being said, and much to my surprise, I was blown away by the meeting. Seriously. I filled out an application and interviewed for the group, after my second visit. You’re only allowed 2 visits before having to decide, and even then there’s an application process.

Here’s my top 6 reasons why I joined the Super 7 BNI and you should join one too:

1. They mean business. And I mean business. They aren’t kidding about giving and receiving referrals. At the end of each meeting members are expected to go around the tables and with everyone witnessing, either offer a testimonial, a referral or a thank you to at least 1 person in the group. No slouchers allowed. Our eyes are all upon you.

2. You are held accountable- In a good way! Members are expected to make it to most of the weekly meetings- only 3 absences are allowed within a 6 month period without obtaining a substitute. It’s a structured group (although we do manage to have fun…). Commitment is expected of the group, and it pays off. If you are perceived as being serious about giving and receiving business referrals, and about satisfying customers that have been referred to you, business leads follow. Performing quality work is an expectation. After all, you need to look at these people in the eye at 7 AM each and every week. Therefore the weeding is taken care of, and a good group will end up with quality professionals who they can feel confident referring to their network. And parents.

3. The motto, originated by BNI founder Ivan Misner is that “Givers Gain”. Who doesn’t love that? Instead of the typical networking and “salesy” philosophy of “what can you do for me today”, in BNI we switch things up to a much more Buddhist way of thinking, in that if you are always thinking of ways, and of people to “give” business to, eventually it will come around. And 9 out of 10 times it does. Truly. Try doing it in your own life outside of a BNI and you will prove this to yourself. Give selflessly. It’s Karma, baby.

4. We get to hone our presentation skills: At every meeting folks get an opportunity to give a 60 second elevator speech (hate that term) about what a good lead would be for them that day, and at each meeting the members rotate an opportunity to give a “marketing minute” and a 10 minute presentation where they really get to present their “thang”. Why should someone hire this person? You’ll find out at the 10 minute presentation, and you’ll have a chance to really hone your delivery. Great presentation skill building. Who needs Toastmasters?

5. Only one professional of each profession allowed per group. If you’re admitted into the group, you are the sole financial advisor, life insurance agent, realtor, etc., which obviously encourages referrals. It’s easy to form strategic alliances and spheres of influences this way. Again, accountability is key however. We’re all counting on quality work being performed as it reflects back on us.

6. We’re out by 8:30 AM with the day in front of us. The funny thing is, most of us have a lot to talk about after the meeting and don’t want to go. If you’re lucky you’ll get into a great group like ours, who really enjoy one another’s company and use the power of BNI to grow our businesses both on site and off.

I’m really happy this great group of professionals allowed me to grace them with my presence. I’ve never looked back, gladly pay the dues, and in the one short year that I’ve been a member it has helped grow my business exponentially. Who couldn’t use that?

Suzen Pettit
203 733 8578
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