Each week at BNI4Success, we’ll talk about referral networking networks. We’ll discuss networking tips, strategies and action steps that are designed to help entrepreneurs and businesses work together to create quality referral business and explore new opportunities.
Welcome to this month’s BNI Decoded. It’s been a fabulous first week of September for us so far. Before we get into to our topic today, which is “Does Size Matter?” I want to talk a little bit about the format of BNI Decoded.
It is kind of a conversational thing. Whichever Director is staring in this, which today it’s me, I’m Cys Bronner, I’m the Executive Director for BNI Greater Los Angeles Regions. Whichever Director we have will talk to us a little bit about a topic and then we kind of get the room going on it. This session is designed to be 30 minutes to 45 minutes. We have a hard stop at 45.
We tend to get a little excited and go over, and today I really want to commit to having it be a shorter run because that’s part of running a successful meeting, isn’t it? Starting and stopping on time.
Out here in LA on this fabulous Thursday, I had an opportunity to present this same topic with one of my favorite chapters and I have to admit I came back and I then Google the same topic afterwards and I found out that in BNI New Zealand – which is more than four steps away from LA, right? – we had another Director who was working with the chapter, Nikki Gunning, and she had almost the same things to say. It was so incredible to see this.
So, you know, we are different in our personalities and our professions, but business issues and what we’re tackling are kind of the same worldwide, aren’t they?
And you know, she had a chapter that was very strong at the end of last year. And you know, this chapter I was working with was very, very strong too. And the conversation that that we had really brings home how size matters.
We started our new year with this chapter going our first chapter back in person – all of our chapters here in Los Angeles have been slow to restart and some of them are just becoming hybrid. Some of them are still online and this is the only one that’s fully in person and we lost in a huge swoop 19 members. But what really struck me about these people today is these are these members that are left are a very excellent dedicated Corp. They’re not just dedicated in the fact of, “oh, I love BNI, and I love my people and I want to have breakfast with them”, but they’re dedicated in their respect of having a meeting of excellence, and to me – and I think you might agree – that’s pretty darn important, right?
So, in talking to these people and working with them, it becomes really inspirational. You know, when you have everybody who wants to be there, and everyone participating wants a fun and professional meeting it really kind of reinvigorates you, when the visitors come, you know the conversion rate begins to be high, even though there’s small group, right? And I love it.
And so, I want you, everybody who’s listening to this on the podcast, or who’s ever here today wants you to take this into consideration when I ask you If size matters?
I think our first step really is to dream big. Because results go with goals, don’t they?
Way back in the beginning of my time in BNI, I as a member, shall I share that with you?
I joined BNI in 1997. You know what? I don’t even have kids that are. Well, I do have kids that were around, actually. 1997 was some time ago and we had a chapter that was also kind of ebbing and flowing in its numbers and it went from 26, it went down to 17, it went back up and there was a conversation of where we could end early. We could cut here, we could because we’re smaller now or we could take more time here and we can kind of mess around with things and I think “that’s not acting like a big chapter” You know, being that fish in the ocean of it is.
If you if you act like what you want to become, I think you’re going to become it and. There’s advantages to being a small business. You’re flexible, you’re versatile, you can get things done. But that goal is to always grow and become a larger operation in your business. Well, the same kind of with BNI. The bigger your chapter, the better results. You know if if there’s more energy, there’s more referrals, there’s more business. And so even if your chapter isn’t so big it can be an advantage to act like a big chapter.
If you know Dawne; and thank you for being here – actually, why don’t you give yourself a whole name introduction and area of BNI that you’re from?
Dawne: I am in BNI Central Virginia, which is below DC. So just about everything below DC and central Virginia belongs to me.
Cys: That’s wonderful. Erin Eddings, our Director of Chapter Placement and Operations. It’s actually on a plane right now. He just left DC, returning back, so he’s flying over your area right now. So, Erin wave to Dawne. Right, Dawne, wave! Absolutely Fabulous timing.
Something to ask you if a chapter’s not so big advantage that you can see.
Dawne: Well, we recently did a diamond growth program for a chapter that had gotten down to 14 members. And every time we would talk to them before we did this, they’d say recipe with the people we have. We get along well. You know, business is good except they were kind of an aging chapter and that a lot of the members were in their late 50s and 60s and so a couple of them developed health issues and a couple decided to retire. And now they were down at this 14 and they said you need to help us. We’re not making any money. Now understand, we’ve been trying to do this with them for several years. They weren’t interested in talking about it. When we showed them the statistics from the chapters that were double their size, and the amount of money they were making was triple or quadruple the amount of money this chapter was making, they were ready to commit to doing something for growth.
So last month they sent me an e-mail and they said “We are so excited. We’ve increased our Thank You For Closed Business over $100,000 this month alone. We don’t know why we fought you on this and oh, we’re ready to do another Visitors Day as soon as leadership change is over because we want to grow this chapter, but we want to grow it strategically”, and I thought, for years I’ve been trying to get you guys to pay attention and you just didn’t want to hear it. And we showed them all the numbers before, but it took them losing people.
We know in BNI that there is an attrition of about 30%. Every year. People move, they change jobs. During COVID, I had five members pass away just from COVID. Life happens.
In any organization, whether it’s BNI, JC’s, Kiwanis, Rotary, people change, they leave. And so, if you’re not constantly refreshing the members in your chapter. The other thing is, is when you’re not adding new members, you do get stale and then you start accepting less than people’s best,
Cys: Right? And that begins to creep in just like we have on the slide. You know, it stops some sloppy habits that are creeping in, which kind of creates the antithesis of growth. I remember cause it’s funny that you said they were happy with the size years ago.
I was at an international conference and I had a one to one with another director and I was talking about my frustration with this chapter because I did a presentation at the chapter and it was all about growth and the numbers and which you could achieve and blah blah blah blah blah, right? And I to me, I thought it was one of my top delivered presentations because of the way the room act they were very. Budding and yeah, yeah, yeah. And then when the meeting was over, it got very quiet, and one member walked towards me. It was almost pushed to go walk towards me, right and came up and said, sis, I really want to thank you for your presentation. But.
You know how you feel when you hear that, but right. It’s like, oh, what’s coming? And so, I shared with this director, I was talking to you at conference. I said, he said to me the most amazing thing, “you know, we’re very, very happy with our size and they’ve elected me to talk to you because we would appreciate you not asking us to go larger than 20”
So, as I’m telling this story, the person I was speaking to, and I’m not going to share his name, all of a sudden got furious. He couldn’t listen any longer. He said I would be so mad. Right. Do you, do they understand what they’ve done for each person’s business there they made a decision to cap the earnings? Of the Members who are currently there and the future members. And they’ve all made an agreement to dwindle down in size. Fort exact reason you brought up, Dawne. Statistically, I know, and I don’t know if people are listening and they know that, but statistically a chapter of 20. Will annually lose, Excuse me, six members per annum for reasons other than I hate me and I, all the reasons you brought up. I’ve gotten older. They’ve retired. In the case of one of my members right now, he’s at that age and he needs to be a major caregiver for his father. God bless, who’s in his 90s, and that’s, that’s what he’s looking at. You know, we have people who move away. It’s hard to be a member of your chapter if you’re moving to another state or country. Makes it difficult right?
Dawne: The community is bad (laughs)
Cys: and we are returning to in person, so that makes it even harder. So all of these things are things to take into consideration and as I was listening to this man and how upset he was getting brother people, it occurred to me that if we. Promise you. And be and I that if you follow everything we teach, you’re going to be successful. If I allowed this and I allowed the group to say no, it’s OK, we’re done. I’m not teaching them to be successful. And then when then we’re stealing their application money as a group, when we say come in and apply, but we’re not really going to do more than what we’re already doing.
Dawne: I tried to explain that to them that when they accept a member, they accepted them under the premise of this is what BNI is in the system and if they give them less than the system, they lie to them when they accepted them.
Dawne: and they look at me like. We didn’t lie to them. Yeah, you did. You chose not to do and deliver the product that you said that you were going to deliver if they became a member of your chapter. So before we we move to the next slide, I just want to say, I don’t know were you at the the conference in Poland in 2019?
Dawne: Excuse me, I didn’t quite hear that.
Cys: Were you at our global convention in 2019 in Poland and Warsaw?
Cys: Do you recognize this the Dream Big photo.
Dawne: No, but I love that. Thing and I would love to have that.
Cys: I would like that everywhere I go that this dream big sculpture standing thing is reminding me repeatedly about it.
First off, on a personal level, not BNI level, going to Poland has been a life dream of of mine. My parents are Holocaust survivors and I always wanted to see where they grew up. And where my family was and some of the other less happy things as well. Being a part of being I, which made it possible for me to do that. Was such a big dream.
So, Dave and I are walking up to the venue to the hotel, because we’re in a hotel across the street, right? Not not a bad commute. And we see this sculpture outside and everywhere in the convention was dream big. It was this, this huge reminder of what we can accomplish. And how our our professional goals are being I goals tied in with my own personal goals. And this was an amazing conference.
So, I can’t tell you how dedicated I’ve always been before this, but even more so to these types of things that we have to offer and I think. That our members really, really need to say, well, maybe I can’t go to the global one, maybe I should go to the national one. Did you hear where national conference is this year?
Dawne: The national is going to be in Vegas.
Cys: It’s gonna be in Vegas at Planet Hollywood last week of April for a couple days, last week of April.
Dawne: So, I’m actually going to be in Vegas the last week in February for wedding.
Cys: There you go. So now you have a reason to make it a huge wedding that lasts a month or so. For two even.
So, let’s talk about some tips. I have four tips that I think will help you get your smaller chapter to don’t just act big but to become big.
And the first one about this is run the meetings succinctly and I think you might agree. There’s a lot of things that we want to do in our business, but we want to stay on our target. We want to understand that that 90 minutes is not just a target, but there’s a there’s a sense of having spare time in a smaller chapter. There’s a sense of saying, oh, you know, we can get out of here. Early. Well, I don’t want you to be frightened to finishing early because it does give the members more precious networking time. But I’m going to ask you not to schedule 15 minutes of open networking at the end of the meeting so that you’re removing 15 minutes of the agenda. For that extra networking time, encourage your members to please, always say “you know we have open networking time before and after the meeting”. And that’s a great time for our substitutes. To know that they can speak about their business before and after the meeting. Is this a substitute where they there to represent? They’re to represent the member they’re substituting for. Right. So that’s what gives the value to the member who’s not attending and that helps us stay on track as well.
If our first tip I can give you is to run the meeting succinctly. I’m going to give you another one and I only have four, So you’ll be able to jump in with some as well, right. And that’s not to talk general business during the meeting. Smaller chapters tend to end up discussing the visitors of the growth or a lot of other things. And there’s no general business in the BNI agenda. Oh no. That agenda has some hidden elements in there, and I love to tell people that these hidden elements are like a spotlight that runs through the meeting and shines on different members and what we can do because they don’t really see that but. You’ll see chapters. Who will say, well, I I heard this in a phone call yesterday with a long-time member said, you know, there were visitors there, we shouldn’t be talking about that where they’re visitors there. And I said, well, what do you talk about when there’s different visitors and they said, oh well, we talk about, you know, stuff.
I think the power in BNI and the beauty of it is that we have an agenda that was created for your productivity, for your profitability, for your success. And a good president, a good chapter, will work with that agenda as what it should happen, right? So they’re not talking general business. They’re not talking about politics. They’re not talking about it.
This is, which takes me right into #3. And that’s Don’t lose your professionalism. It’s a business organization. You know if if a member does a 10 minute on their recent overseas trip is one of the things Nikki was talking about in her article, you know a lot of the members are going to love it. But it doesn’t gain them anything.
Dawne: Not one dollar!
Cys: No. So so Dawne, what would you suggest to some of your members that is the best thing to do in their presentation?
Dawne: Well, I think one of the problems I see with a lot of members. 10-minute presentations is that they don’t give themselves a decent introduction, and I think that that is one of the most fun parts is to have somebody else introduce you and give you a Halo.
Because if you stand up there and you brag about, you just got this award and you want a trip from your company. It sounds like. All about me. But if somebody else is talking about it, they’re creating this visibility and credibility for you – and it actually sensors time built in the agenda for that introduction.
If you use your 10-minute properly, that introduction can give some needed information that you don’t have to use the 10 minute section for. And gives you more value to that presentation.
Cys: Absolutely. That is golden. And you know what? I just want to add to it to why that’s golden. I mean, there’s so many things you said.
But if you were inviting a client that you’ve lost touch with to hear you speak or somebody that you’re thinking might be interested in being nice and you say, hey. I’m going to be a speaker. Any of these kinds of things that they do exactly what you said. I love the word Halo in there.
That is not that is going to really make you shine in such a way to people that weren’t there last week. They don’t have a BNI history with you and you’ll be in referrals from them as well.
Dawne: I speak professionally. And I have never been to any conference anywhere where somebody got up and introduced the speaker and said, so this is Mary, our speaker today. Mary has four children and two dogs and likes to ski and now she’s going to be the expert today on.
Nobody ever does that. It’s the credentials of that person. Mary has been speaking on business networking for 40 years, some of her contact contracts you might be familiar with Deutsche Telecom, the parent company of T-Mobile, building up that credibility. And our members aren’t using that introduction to build up that credibility. They’re saying, oh, she has four dogs and two kids, or two kids and four dogs and likes to snorkel. That doesn’t tell me why you’re good at what you do, or why I would want to possibly ever consider using you.
Cys: Absolutely. And you know, Mike Macedonio gave me a tip. He said when I hand somebody my bio and they’re going to introduce me before an event. He said. I I use these words: I’m so glad you’re going to introduce me. Can I trust you to read this bio as it’s written?
And he doesn’t say it with a tone of voice that like, can I trust you? You know, he says it in such a way that there’s gratitude. And that person totally says, oh sure, thanks for providing this. Which I think is fabulous too, and so you do want to take out of somebody’s hands that that risk of your professionalism.
Dawne: But your audience is never in the room when you start speaking. They are thinking about the flat tire they had before they came to the meeting, a client that they need to see after the meeting. They’re not mentally in the room with you. The introduction gets them mentally in the room with you so that when you’re speaking, not only has your credibility been established. But they’re ready to listen to you as the expert on your topic.
Cys: Absolutely. You know another mechanism I use when I think that the room doesn’t get how cool this opportunity is for us to be together, is that I’ll raised my voice just a little bit and go “Now write this down”.
You know, I learned that in high school. Wasn’t my teacher wasn’t singling anybody out or anything. He just wanted us to know that this is good stuff. And use a speaker and our members who are learning to be better and better speakers through everything we teach.
I think these little Nuggets are so cool, and I’m so glad you’re here to talk about them. But I do want to be sensitive to everybody’s time, and I know there’s something I want to talk to you about that, you guys. So, let’s handle #4.
My tip #4 And that is, has your group become too friendly?
I think, I think Dr. Ivan Misner said it best. The great thing about a networking organization is that everybody becomes friends. And the worst thing about a networking organization is that everybody becomes friends, right?
Dawne: Don’t like to hold our friends accountable.
Cys: No, I gave an attorney a contract years ago. I mean, this was back when I joined BNI in 1997, right? And it was one of my contracts from my clients and I needed to revise it. As the Internet was changing, my business was changing. I need somebody to look at it. Over a year had gone by and I spoke to her about something else. And she went, “oh, you know, I saw your contract here. I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten about it. And I’ll get to it. But, you know, we’re in a BNI group together.”
That might be a little bit too friendly. We lost the business relationship. We’re friends. We like each other. She didn’t have to push time on it, but a contract for a business for over a year… I think might be why I never referred anybody else to her. I didn’t have that opportunity. And this is that we can tell story after story about that kind of thing. I don’t really know that we need to do that.
The challenge with our networking in BNI as an organization, is you know, when you become friends. Friends don’t always keep each other accountable. There’s a very, very special kind of friend who’s going to call you on the carpet about something, right?
Dawne: And in BNI, we do that for each other occasionally.
Cys: Yeah, But most of the time the other kind of friends, they’re not going to do that.
And you know that also, this is away from dreaming Big. So on that word big. Let me turn to you, Dawne, and say you’ve got something coming up at the end of the month on September 26th, is that right?
Dawne: I do, and I’m sharing it with my favorite BNI executive directors. Michael Gerber did a workshop last month and we had several hundred people there and it went so well we decided we’re going to do it again.
Michael E Gerber is the author of The E Myth, and a longtime friend of Ivan Misner and probably had something to do with the fact that we are a franchise. Who knows?
Anyway, he is giving a workshop on scaling your business. And we kind of get in a rut sometimes. And just like our BNI chapters get in a rut and don’t remember to scale and grow their businesses as individuals, we get in that rut also. So, Michael’s doing this for us for free. And it’s going to be on the 14th. Now, excuse me, the 26th, I’m looking at the wrong calendar on the 26th and it’s at noon my time, which is 9:00 your time. And what we’re doing is we’re encouraging BNI members to bring anybody that they’ve ever thought about inviting or invited to their chapter that they think could benefit from this. To show them that there’s a lot of value in BNI because you have a lot of connections when you’re in BNI, not just in your chapter or in your region. But around the world and so this is an opportunity for them to share with any of their clients that want to grow their business, the Michael Gerber, for free.
It’s hundreds, thousands of dollars to attend Michael’s workshops and they can go and attend the workshop for free. And he was a blast last time. Absolute blast. And he picked a couple people to actually work with them individually about their business, so there’s that opportunity there too. So, he sat there and answered their questions about their business and how they could move on right there that that consulting there from Michael for free.
Cys: What an amazing opportunity, and I don’t say this to blow our own horn, but just to explain why I’m going to ask you about the address and that is, this podcast is heard in 90 countries, which is a little bit few more than BNI is. So, we have a great deal of people who are listening to this and there will be people in your area, so I want to make sure that in the transcript I have this information correct, so the name of the venue. Is it’s going to be online?
Dawne: If you go to my BNIVA.com website to the calendar? You just click on the 26th & up right there.
Cys: Absolutely, and I will make sure that I repeat that right now. That’s BNIVA.com. Click on the calendar for October 26th. And Dawne, thank you so much for sharing that information.
Dawne: Very welcome, right? And there you’ve gone ahead and more the merrier. I’ve got it set up right now for 500 and can bring it up to 1000 if I need to.
Cys: Scalability! That comes with the clips here in your venue, you know. How scalable is your venue?
Back to to what we’re doing, and you definitely have your finger on the pulse of what it takes to be successful.
Dawne: I love technology, never could have done this before. COVID thing. Things that have changed with Zoom since COVID came about.
Cys: Well, thank you so much for being here today. It was kind of unplanned and a great opportunity to talk to you about this and your participation and bringing your experience. And I look forward to seeing you in May and much sooner than that online.
Dawne: Bye, bye. Thank you for having me.
Thanks for joining us this week on BNIPodcast4Success. Make sure to visit our website, BNI4Success.com or BNIPodcast4Success.com, where you can subscribe to the show at Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Google Podcasts so you’ll never miss a show. Our networking success ask this week is that you tell a friend about BNI4Success.
Questions? Feel free to call Actionsteps4Success Founder and BNI Executive Director Cys Bronner 866-889-3466 or email her at Cys.Bronner@BNI4success.com
Her motto: BNI, making word of mouth marketing work for you
Click for more information or to join a BNI chapter in the Los Angeles area