There are many folks who are strong believers in BNI and how it has helped them grow their businesses. For me, BNI never helped. I attended and even joined a BNI group, went for a year and saw no value. I know that this is not the common experience, but if it is your experience, don’t fret.
I was a young entrepreneur and the “old boys club” (“good” left out of the phrase intentionally) didn’t have room for a new player in town. The old power network in my local area were people who had been in business for 20-30 years, there were no new applications. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone.
As I attended local business events I met many others who had started or were starting businesses. We loosely bound together and became the “good new people club” (men and women were all welcome in our group). We helped each other, we got together regularly and we supported each other in order to unseat the old centers of power.
As amazing as the power of social was, for us, that power was amplified by our personal connections with one another. We each leveraged LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to help build each other up on social channels as well as in person channels. We all had our eyes open for opportunities for one another and were invested in each other’s success.
We were our own BNI. I came across someone who needed a CPA, presto, I knew an amazing CPA. My CPA came across someone who needed a website, presto, he knew an amazing website guy… me. We all grew together and we shared in each others’ success. We met for drinks and enjoyed helping one another through their challenges.
This. Can. Work.
Let me warn you about the potential pitfalls of an ad-hoc networking group because it’s not all sunshine and butterflies.
Ensure that anyone you are networking with is of the quality that you would put your own name behind. If you’re going to recommend someone, make sure that you know the quality of his or her work. Also, don’t get stuck. If you’re networking with the same group of people all of the time, you’re never meeting new people (thus never getting new business). Ensure that you continue your other networking activities in addition to your ad-hoc group to keep income stability.
If you’re able to avoid those two pitfalls and build up an ad-hoc networking group, for me, it was far more valuable than BNI, more transparent and I made some lifelong friends in the process.
Nick Inglis is the Founder/CEO of LeftGen Information Management Group (InformedIM, SolveIM, ClearIM & AgentIM), an expert on enterprise software, and is the author of the AIIM SharePoint Governance Toolkit. Nick has worked with companies as diverse as Ernst & Young, Shell and Canon. Nick is a keynote speaker on the topics of SharePoint, Information Management and Collaborative Technologies.