By: John Jacob – Member of Business Wealth Builders City BNI, South Burlington, Vermont
Article originally featured in the September 2020 Givers Gain® Monthly, a BNI Vermont e-Newsletter
I recently celebrated my three-year anniversary with BNI and I can say that I am most passionate about the one-to-one process! Not only is it the most important tool in expanding our businesses, but it helps us grow both personally and professionally. After 36 years in the corporate world with GE and IBM, diving into a second career in small business was exciting and challenging, but wow! I had a lot to learn! I could have retired but given the longevity in my family (seven relatives made it between 95 and 105), I figured I could work another 20 years and still enjoy a 20-year retirement.
I knew that during this new phase of my life, I wanted to work with small businesses. Small business is the engine that fuels the economy. When you work in a corporation, there are a lot of talented people who do their job well for the good of the company. Many enjoy their jobs, but that’s what it becomes – a job. What I find fascinating during the one-to-one meetings is the passion displayed by our local business owners and entrepreneurs. Many have turned their hobby or passion into a successful business and continue to love waking up and ‘going to work’. As a new entrepreneur myself, I enjoy watching the excitement of hearing how they started their business and the challenges they overcame. In a corporation you rarely get to see the connectivity of the dozens of businesses required to bring a product or process to market. Corporations have dedicated sales teams selling to big contracts and are supported by dozens of specialized teams. Except for a customer service team, few individuals in a company have contact with customers. I am fascinated by the interlocking relationships of many businesses.
Finding and keeping customers is tough and there are no better teachers than our peer members. I’ve lost track of the number of solutions to problems I’ve found during my 150+ one-to-ones. I’m not just referring to finding a printer or chiropractor, but day-to-day issues that arise. There’s not much that hasn’t already been experienced by someone. The more one-to-ones, the more possible solutions you will find.
One-to-ones are the best way to spawn referrals. It’s a rare one-to-one that doesn’t lead to a referral — either for the member I’m speaking with or to someone that member can use. If you see someone drinking coffee, you can mention, “Hey, have you tried SawDog or Brave?”. Or if they are looking for a gift for an anniversary, you can mention, “Checkout Lavender Lady”. There are so many examples.
But my favorite part of the one-to-one process is the GAINs sheet where personal information provided leads to fun discoveries of shared interests which leads to deeper personal relationships. On my GAINs sheet I have mentioned places I’ve visited, my bucket list item of visiting the Grand Slam of tennis, my Civil War book collection and (for those over 50) my vinyl collection. All of which have led to friendships and additions to my bookshelf and record library!
So schedule your one-to-ones! You’ll discover something new about yourself, build meaningful relationships and better develop your business.