Growing Your Business


Going International with BNI: Experience the BNI Global Power Team

By: BNI Staff
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    Growing Your Business

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    BNI Staff

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Have you ever tried to leverage the I of BNI? Is your business globally connected? Have you considered traveling to another country to meet other BNI members and conduct cross-border business?

The members of BNI’s first international chapter – BNI Global Power Team (GPT) – are here to tell you there’s an easy, fun and productive way to connect with BNI members worldwide. For more than 8 years, they've held online, international chapter meetings, connecting BNI members from all over the globe.

GPT was launched in 2010 by BNI members R. Mark Field (USA) and Michael Schwendemann (Germany). Mark and Claus D. Hagenhoff (GPT member since 2015 and now GPT President) recently spoke about the creation of GPT: 

Claus: Mark, what was your motivation to create the Global Power Team?

Mark:  The idea for a “global power team” arose in Winter 2009. Having joined BNI in 2008, I was reflecting on my experience in doing business internationally, and the scarcity of referrals that I had received from lawyers to whom I had referred business over the years. Assuming that their referral patterns were similar to mine in frequency and geographic dispersion, I reasoned that my relationships were growing stale before they had a need to refer clients to U.S. counsel. I also figured that they likely lacked sufficient information regarding the skills that I could bring to bear in comparison to international business attorneys in larger cities. This led me to wonder whether the BNI system would work internationally. Ultimately, I decided to find out. 

Claus: And how did you find interested people abroad before GPT was launched?

Mark:  I identified the first prospective member through the SuccessNet publication. That individual was Michael Schwendemann, a German contractor who handled international construction projects.  I emailed Michael and he was interested in the idea, so he assigned his English-speaking assistant to work with me. Armed with Michael’s support I refined my concept, discussed it with the BNI Global Support Team and was introduced to BNI members in Europe who might be able to help develop the group. After a little networking, I established a working group and held an initial meeting with 8 participants on May 10, 2010. It was very important to me to establish a team that could function independent of my leadership. It didn’t take us long to decide that the BNI chapter structure was well suited for this purpose and for providing structure to our meetings that worked well in a videoconference setting.

Claus: Can you briefly describe the first members and how you took the lead?

Mark: By June 2010 we had our initial slate of officers.  They were Mark Field – President; Samantha Rathling – Vice President; Alison Boardman – Education Coordinator; and Edward Prentice – Secretary.  We officially launched our power team and opened up the membership in August 2010 with 6 members [Mark Field (USA); Alison Boardman (Ireland); Ashraf Rahman (Dubai); Christiane Binder / Michael Schwendemann (Germany); Edward Prentice (UK); and Samantha Rathling (UK)].  We were greatly assisted in our task by distance learning expert Phillip Sparks (friend of Ashraf Rahman) who lent us the use of his videoconferencing subscription. 

Moshe Minin from Israel was one of our first recruits, joining sometime in August or September of 2010.  Aside from myself, two of our current members were early adopters of the BNI Global Power Team concept.  Ramu Vedaraman first visited in December 2010 and Mikhal Heffer in May 2011.  Martin Overbeck found us in 2012.  All went on to serve as president of our team and in various other capacities. They are among the many to help shape the GPT over the years.

Claus: Thank you very much, Mark. We are so happy to have you still on the team.

Another early member of the GPT is Mikhal Heffer, BNI member from Israel, CEO of Lichi Translations.

Claus: Mikhal, tell us about your experience with the BNI Global Power Team:

Mikhal: I have been a member since May 2011. What I love about BNI is the ability to connect with BNI members from all over the world and get referrals to companies I would not be able to reach otherwise. Whenever I travel, I try to meet as many of the GPT members as I can, so over the years I got to meet quite a few from Italy, UK, France, Germany, India, etc.

One of my biggest GPT success stories is through Andrea Ferrero and his guest, BNI Executive Director Dario Castagna. While in Milan, Dario invited me to be an international guest speaker at the launch of the Saluzzo BNI Chapter. In that meeting I was approached by Antonio Brunetti, a local lawyer, a descendant of a Jewish family, who had a dream: to bring a delegation of BNI members to Israel.

If you would like to read about his dream and the great event we arranged: An Italian morning in Jaffa port

Claus: Thank you for sharing, Mikhal

As you can see, the BNI Global Power Team, which meets online every other Monday (biweekly, at 1 pm GMT) is really working and creating results! At present there are 28 members from 9 countries, exchanging referrals, conducting One-to-Ones and establishing trust and confidence and good relations among each other.  As a highlight in 2018, there is now an initiative to have an in-person GPT meeting with current and former members from all over the globe. This GPT meeting will take place in Tel Aviv from Oct 3-5, and already 15 people have registered. As BNI Global works to enable cross-country referrals later this year, our chapter and international use of BNI will continue to flourish and help even more BNI members continue to grow their businesses together.

You can visit us next time on August 13 or after that on August 27. For registration, please send your request to Claus and Jutta (visitor host)