Networking Tips


Chapter Cross-Pollination: Grow Your Network, Enrich Your Chapter

By: BNI Staff
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    Networking Tips

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    BNI Staff

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Submitted by Rod Cain, BNI Vermont Ambassador

Horticulture provides abundant metaphors for life and business: fertile soil, planting seeds, watering and fertilizing, weeding and tending, even preparing for the grand harvest.  So much of a garden’s lifespan correlates to the cycles we experience every day in business and within our BNI chapters.  However, some of us become so intent with our own plot of earth, we forget the lesson of the bees and insects—the magic of cross-pollination.  When we visit other chapters, there is real potential to see our ‘garden’ (our chapter) from a completely different perspective.

Imagine if you will, each chapter in your region is a garden and each member a plant.  Every garden is unique. Some have the same species of plants but perhaps different varieties, each having particular characteristics.  Almost every BNI chapter has one member whose profession is unique within the entire region.  Some gardens might be large, and others small yet prolific.  There are formal, organized chapters, while others are casual and friendly.  One might also see the Leadership Team as the temporary gardeners for each chapter, entrusted to decide when and how to fertilize, what needs transplanting or pruning, and when additional water is required.

When we visit other chapters, we glimpse into their garden.  This exposure to a new culture allows us to witness firsthand different sets of skills, techniques, and ideas, and how they are applied to the same issues we might face in our own chapter.  With more ideas come better solutions. Challenges can evolve into growth opportunities.   Implementing changes learned from other chapters is the hybridization that organically occurs when we visit outside our ‘safe zone’ and are open to seeing things with new perspective.

Ask any beekeeper, and she will tell you that honey is the objective of every worker bee’s trip around the field.  It also stands to reason as you build relationships with members of other chapters, you expand your network and more referrals follow.  In the last quarter of this year, 28% of the BNI revenue to my business came from out of chapter.  My goal is to make it one third. Grow your network and the honey will follow!

Every chapter, like every business, is a work in progress.  There is ebb and flow and the change of seasons.  There are periods of abundant sun and moments of rain.  When we pause long enough to know our neighbors and ponder their work – learn, teach and adapt with each other – we are truly creating a culture that thrives for all who choose to call it home, while promoting a welcoming place for our new friends who are just passing through.