They say that in business, it’s who you know not what you know. Well, while that’s not always entirely true, good networking really is a very valuable aspect of successful business. Tony chairs the local chapter of Business Networking International (BNI) and finds that there are huge advantages to be had by being a member, both for business and personal development.
BNI has been around for 21 years, and Tony has been involved for just over two. In total it has over 84,000 members across its 4,200 active chapters, and claims to be the most successful business referral network in the world.
The basic premise is that membership is open to any local business, but only one business in each sector can join. Once through the application and approval process, members attend weekly networking meetings, with a firm emphasis on referrals. Successful applicants must demonstrate real commitment to the group, by attending meetings each week, and by actively participating in referrals and group initiatives.
“There’s a great deal of accountability,” says Tony. “We all know the referrals we give – or get – will be followed up, so we make sure we do a good job! That means the likelihood of getting work from such a quality referral is incredibly high.” And that’s borne out by the impressive turnover – with 12,000 members in the UK and Ireland alone, nearly 647,000 referrals worth over £419 million are passed on every year. Much of that is thanks to the structured way referrals are followed up, so everyone has an incentive to be totally on point with every referral. Thank you gestures are common and encouraged (there’s even a thank you box, the contents of which are read out each week), and there’s a genuine feeling of mutual benefit for every member.
“It has restored my faith that people really do need, want and value good service,” Tony says. And on top of the referrals, there is plenty of professional and personal development too, from public speaking and organising meetings and events to finding out more about other industries.
It’s a great resource for Victoire; we no longer struggle to find trusted tradespeople for maintenance, and we have a ready pool of contacts in just about every industry who we know and can trust. It’s not for everyone, we know, and it’s not free (there’s a joining fee and monthly subscription to cover meeting costs and infrastructure) but for us it’s a hugely worthwhile investment that more than pays for itself.
We pride ourselves at Victoire on knowing our stuff when it comes to print, but it’s definitely been a valuable experience getting to know a lot more people from other local businesses too. If you’re interested in finding out more about the BNI, please do get in touch with us, or you can find out more on the BNI Pathfinder website.