This article was submitted by Debby Peters who is a 25 year Member of BNI
A little over 25 years ago I was at a Christmas party and a woman I was chatting with said, “You should join BNI, I’ll have Kevin call you.” I immediately forgot the conversation until I received the call from Kevin! I really didn’t want to go to the meeting, but figured I would go once and then I could say that it wasn’t for me. Boy was I wrong. From my first exposure that Thursday morning, I knew I had to go back. It was the middle of December and while I was too busy to return the next week, I promised that I would be there the first Thursday in January of 1995. And except for just a couple times when I woke up sick, I have been there or had a sub stand in for me every Thursday for the last 25 years!
BNI was so different during my first years as a member. What’s funny was that the chapter I joined had 12 members and we all know now that a chapter of that size was probably in jeopardy. But I had no idea and thought it was just wonderful. There was no training in those days, not even Membership Success Program (MSP) so we fumbled along doing the best we could. I received my first referral on my first visit from BNI member Lori Cannon who was selling monuments at the time. To this day I consider her one of my closest friends, she is my financial advisor and we are both in the same BNI chapter, although different from the original.
About year five of my membership, I started to doubt whether it was worth my time – it just didn’t seem to be working. I almost quit. But when I analyzed the situation, there wasn’t anything better to turn to. About then was when some of the BNI training began that helped me to know how to customize my “ask” each week so that I didn’t just stand and repeat the same words from the week before. Referrals that I received or gave were still mostly inside referrals, those between members. I had a long way to go, but I just didn’t realize it yet!
I can recall that at some point our Executive Director, John Meyer, asked me how BNI was going for me and I said, “Great!” Of course, he then asked the telling question, “How much revenue are you gaining?” I remember thinking that it was pretty nervy of him to ask that. I didn’t want him to know how much of a failure I was at this BNI thing.
The best education I received was when John asked me to take on the training hat for our region. I taught all MSPs and also developed and delivered six advanced topics that were more in depth. In order to be able to do this well, I had to live what I was teaching. I learned to develop my referral requests in advance so that I actually did the research to figure out what I needed to ask for. Because I taught members how to have productive one-to-one meetings, I had to make sure I demonstrated that behavior. By osmosis I became more and more skilled at this BNI concept that Ivan Misner had so nicely developed.
During the years, I have taken on most leadership positions, whether it was one of the “top three” or a less visible responsibility. For a couple years, I hosted a monthly meeting-after-the-meeting to teach my fellow members how to develop referrals for each other. Again, everything I did taught me how to be even better; better at getting to know people, better at figuring out how to help and in many instances, better at being a friend.
For me, BNI isn’t something I do on Thursday mornings. It is my lifestyle. Ivan Misner has cemented into my brain the value of Giver’s Gain. I am forever indebted and grateful to John Meyer for giving me the opportunity to give (and gain) as a trainer in our region. That opportunity helped to grow as a BNI Member, a leader, and a person.
I am so thankful that Kevin Carmony picked up the phone to invite me to that December meeting. I am sure that he was trying to grow the chapter, but instead he grew my life. Now when I am asked what my revenue from BNI is, I can easily deliver that figure. Many years it is the profit for my business. As I wrote earlier, where else can I find marketing that is so useful and cost effective? The answer is easy: nowhere!
Connext Nation, Founder
Connext Nation is a training company that helps business people to put procedures in place to gain more referrals, through our Referral Pursuit class. It is taught in Toledo, Cleveland, OH and Ann Arbor, MI. Additionally we can offer keynote services. Debby has a book, Tell Me Exactly What to Say, available on Amazon that addresses 33 networking conversations that might happen out there in the business world.