My first experience of BNI was attending a meeting with no prior knowledge of the organisation, I had never even heard of BNI. Like many others I approached the meeting with some trepidation and definite scepticism. Fast forward 14 years, my journey has given me the fortune to work with experts in Referral marketing from around the world, I am currently the Executive Director for BNI in Lancashire, Greater Manchester East and Kirklees and Calderdale supporting over 700 businesses. I have been the Assistant National Director for BNI UK and Ireland, have been honoured to speak internationally on Referrals and networking, I am still part of the BNI UK and Ireland Director training team that supports all new Directors coming into BNI as well as working with a team of people to launch the Referral Institute in the North West of England. What is absolutely incredible, and extremely humbling, is that the members in the three areas that I and my amazing team support, Lancashire, Greater Manchester East and Kirklees and Calderdale have, since 1st of January 2008, thanked each other for business in excess of £116 million!
Why do I care so much about what I do?…Well I come from a working class family, my father was a bus driver and my mother worked in the catering department within a hospital, they grafted harder than I can ever imagine to put food on the table, clothes on our back and ensured there was always a roof over our head. But if I have one regret it is this. My dad was working so hard, to do what he had to do to take care of us that I never got to spend enough time with him. He didn’t have weekends off, he worked nights and shifts, he didn’t have a CHOICE, he did what he had to do!
I believe as business professionals we do have a ‘choice’. I believe that as business professionals we CAN have an exceptional business and an incredible life, choosing one doesn’t mean sacrificing the other. I am not suggesting that what we do in BNI is the entire answer but I do know is that ‘business by recommendation’ ‘word of mouth’ ‘referrals’ or whatever you like to call it can significantly impact people’s businesses and positively affect the lives of the people that they support and care about.
In the last year our members across the 3 regions have generated £20 million worth of business and this is because we don’t just recruit members but we train them how to get referrals through effective networking. We don’t expect you to just ‘get it’, we provide you with support and training. Networking truly is a skill and most of us are conditioned to hate networking because what we were always told by our parents… “DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS” Everyone has the ability to be a great networker if they are shown and supported in the skills required.
My vision is that by 2020 we will support over 1600 ambitious businesses within our area of BNI. Those members will be part of highly successful groups each generating over £2m per annum in business for their members. BNI isn’t right for everyone but before you make your decision on whether it is right for you, come and visit.