BNI group membership


#1

Hi everyone,

I’ve just set up as a VA and a former colleague has mentioned that her sister, who is already a member in a local BNI group, suggests that I ought to consider joining to help secure business.

After reading through the BNI website, there appears to be a long list of rules and restrictions which must be followed (MUST attend meetings every week, annual membership fee, must be full time in chosen profession being represented, only one person from a particular profession in same local group, lot of targets to meet with referrals of other members, etc)

I was wondering if anyone here is a member of their local BNI group, or knows of someone who is, and whether they have found it has provided a significant boost to the number of clients/workloads they receive? Is it worth considering taking a leap of faith by becoming a full time VA, so that I can join and hopefully secure new business? Is it quite a burden with all the rules and commitment, when also trying to run a business?

I’m currently just beginning VA work on a part time basis (to see if I can build it to full time) and would be grateful to hear whether this may be a worthwhile step to consider?

Thanks very much in advance for any advice anyone may have.


#2

My way of thinking with regards to networking, is that it has to be enjoyable as well as potentially profitable, and for that reason I would be instantly put off joining a BNI Group.

It ‘sounds’ far too stuffy and formal ~ for me anyway. But there again as I’ve never been to a BNI meeting it could be quite a good experience.

Have you looked into joining any other networking events local to you. I went to one on Friday evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. It just felt like a group of like minded women going out for a few drinks together: because that’s what it was. Not only was it relaxed and informal I’ve also got the prospect of work coming from it.

The group I’ve joined is for women business owners in the city where I live and consisted of Marketeers, PR Consultants, Lawyers, Interior Designers, a few shop owners, a Physiotherapist and me! I felt like an exhibit at a Trade Fair as most had never met a VA before, so I had a lot of “Oooww, I’ve heard of Virtual Assistants, but have never met one before ~ what exactly do/can you do” and I’ve already received one call asking for my help as they want to expand their business!

I found the group via the City Council website. If you’ve instantly got the ‘jitters’ about BNI then I don’t think it would be a good idea for you. Try having a look for smaller less formal options first.


#3

It’s weird - I know a couple of VAs who absolutely swear by it - they seem to be VAs who offer bookkeeping or website building though rather than just basic admin services. I guess because in order to have the cash to join these groups (it’s about £500/year once you add it all up) you would need to have a fairly hefty business that probably employs staff.

Personally I don’t believe networking is actually that good a way of getting business once you are established… The clients I got from networking inevitably tended to be ones who didn’t pay, ones who wanted something fiddly or really small ad hoc jobs. For the time and money I put into it, I can make a lot more from other marketing activities.

What it is good for is getting out there and meeting other business people. Firstly so you know what sort of businesses are out there and what they are doing. And secondly because you need a few business buddies to have a chat with and put the world to rights - this is the bit of networking which I think is invaluable. My bestest business buddy, Alan the Geek, I met via a networking event.

And I am going to count Lyndsey Gilchrist on here as being met via networking - we got together to form SVA which I guess is a form of networking (she’s now going to come on and deny all knowledge of ever having met me for sheer badness!! LOL!)

You could go as a guest and see how you like it? Or have a look at some other local networking events (a lot of them are free, you just pay for whatever you eat/drink) and see if one of them fit you better?


#4

I agree with what’s been said. I went to one BNI meeting as a guest and was put off by the astronomical cost, the weekly meetings which seem to last 3 hours and the pressure to refer the others in the group.

I couldn’t see how it would work for me because I just don’t meet people I could recommend. I’d also feel uncomfortable about suggesting a builder etc who I hadn’t used myself just because he was in my chapter.

As Caroline says, it does work for some people but I’ve heard a lot of negative feedback. You can always try it, but be aware that you’ll then be invited to attend loads of other meetings…


#5

It’s hugely expensive. When I was still fulltime self employed, I went as a guest to explore joining in an effort to boost business. The costs are horrendous and the commitment to a weekly early morning meeting is not my idea of fun, despite a reasonably close location. If you’re on holiday you can send a sub who must be able to speak about your business.

I was stunned that I would be expected to carry with me a business card holder stuffed with other members’ business cards and have to discuss with any prospects of my own whether they would also be interested in accounting, plumbing etc services.

Needless to say, I didn’t join and waste my money. I was even advised by a member who I know, not to join as he said it was not for me.

The one good rule they have is they only have one of any kind of business in each group so there is no immediate competition there.

But Caroline’s right, you may just get the fiddly time wasters. Better to do your own networking in other ways, more cheaply or free!


#6

I was in the BNI for my first year and I have made a great bunch of business connections, HOWEVER… it will only work for you if you can provide referrals each week for your buisness colleagues.

It is a referral network, so there is an expectation that you will give work leads to your team members. It works well for the trades as they often all work together, and can give referrals easily.

if you are at home all day and not mixing with people to recommend your colleagues to, you might find you don’t do as well.

You also have to attend every week, or get someone to attend in your place, to an early breakfast meeting (this wasn’t a problem for me).

Its expensive but can work for you if you know lots of people!


#7

The more I hear, the more grateful I am for not joining my local BNI group. It may well work for some, but I know it wouldn’t be the right fit for me as an individual who likes a far more relaxed approach to networking.

I long a go left the suited, standing in front of a group giving presentations malarkey behind and that was when I was paid to do it, not the other way around.

I still occasionally attend my small (free) networking cocktail evenings, when time permits, with no obligation or slapped wrist if I fail to attend and that still feels like the best fit for me.

Due to my attendance at this group I am now managing the Social Media Accounts of a larger networking organisation in East Devon, this came about not because they had attended the same event as me, but because someone who did, knew the Secretary of the larger organisation and mentioned me to them.

Networking is, or should be all about ripples ~ The person who knows of a person who can help. Not how deep the pockets are of the small business. Well, that’s my opinion anyway :slight_smile:


#8

The thing which really puts me off is that I see the amount of time people put into making the BNI group work rather than making their own business work… If I spent that much time and money on other marketing avenues, it would bring in far more money for me.


#9

I joined BNI about 4 months ago and have already made twice the annual cost back and the referrals keep coming. So much so that I had to bring forward my business expansion plans.

I’m personally loving it and am not having any problems finding referrals each week - this helps when your clients need the services of the BNI group members!

It’s not for everyone though. I’d certainly recommend that you visit as a guest a few times before deciding to join. There’s no harm in going to check it out. I actually bagged a client from the group on my first visit so you never know what may happen!


#10

I think th important thing I learnt was BNI works better if you are established, and already have income coming in… I think if you are starting up, it could take 6-12mths for people to start giving you a livable income.

It does strengthen your presentation skills, and they are quiet a sociable lot, some but some groups are more hungry than others. One of my BNI buddies was kicked out with no reason given, he wasn’t a happy bunny…


#11

I had tons of interest expressed in my services when I attended as a guest but despite my following these up, nothing came of them. That, along with the recommendation of a member I knew well, was what decided me about not joining.


#12

That is because, Jackie, they work within BNI, most will look within BNI for a Va, not outside. So if you joined, you would get the work, but as a visitor, you can see the interest (or not) in your services, but they tend to stick to their own if they can.


#13

Hi, I went to a couple of BNI networking events last week, I am still on the fence so to speak. I was invited as a guest on both occasions, there was a different feel to them both, the one is an established group, very Americanised in the way it is conducted.

Having said that, I met some interesting people there.

The other BNI is a new chapter, and was a softer sell.

Of course both promise to excel the business, I am on the fence, it is quite expensive and a weekly commitment. I am not sure if I will be able to bring too many referrals, especially working from home. I did think whilst I was at both meetings, that it is really aimed at trades and those businesses who have a presence in a town or village.

I did notice, too, that there is no guarantee of staying in the chapter or being able to renew.

The cost is £110 plus VAT one off fee, £475 plus VAT membership plus the cost of breakfast each week. So you are really looking to spend around £1200 all told.


#14

For £500 a year, they let you stay! And will most probably try to push you into recruiting people you don’t know so that you can pass referrals… We had a client who wanted us to send out letters cold every week on her behalf to get people along and fulfill her quota.

£1,200 a year can do a HECK of a lot of marketing to more relevant people - as you say, it’s aimed at bricks and mortar companies who most likely have staff in there, so they aren’t an ideal market for you.

£1,200 is £100 a month on SEO…Or a ton of postcards… or an exhibition stand… or in some places it can rent you a desk in a building full of small businesses.


#15

Thanks Caroline, I was thinking that, funnily enough one of my friends who is an Estate Agent, said he has not done BNI because they are too pushy and didn’t like the style of it. He did say there are other business networks which are not like that, and he does get 60% of his business from doing networking events.

As you say, I could rent a desk for that money and have presence in a town somewhere.

I think the more I have thought about it, the more it does not suit me or the business for that matter.

I have been invited to a PIN (Property Investors Network) I will go, I may pick up some work there and I have been invited to the local Business Networking Group, which meets once a month.

I will also see what Women’s Business Networking Groups there are too,


#16

There are lots of groups out there, find a couple you are happy with and go regularly. That way you will build up relationships, and as we all know, folk like to work with people they like, or who they things in common with. If they like your ethos, so much the better :slight_smile:

One of my former BNI colleagues contacted me last night to help her with her business whilst she is on honeymoon, it is nice when that happens!


#17

Thanks Debs, I will look out for some others.