From the Founder


Is Your Chapter On Fire, On Hold, or In a Hole?

By: Ivan Misner, Ph.D
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    From the Founder

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    Ivan Misner, Ph.D

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Featuring guest co-author Elisabeth Misner

You walk into some chapters and they are on fire!  They are energized, goal-oriented, thriving, and most importantly they are reporting high dollar values with their Thank You for Closed Business (TYFCB).  While others are basically on hold, just going through the motions, doing the minimum, and getting average results.  Then, there are others that just seem to be “in a hole,” always struggling with attendance, not holding members accountable, not excited, and having difficulty maintaining strong membership.

Stop for a moment and think to yourself – where is your group relating to these three phases.  Be honest – where do you think your group stands?

If you think your group is on fire – then let me congratulate you.  That was my vision for what a great BNI Experience should be about.   If your group is on hold – trust me when I say that it doesn’t take a lot to move from this phase to on fire.  I’ve seen many groups do that in a short time.  If your group is in a hole – don’t despair.  You can be an incredible group.  Believe me, I have seen it.  The exciting thing is – it is actually possible to leap frog over the middle right to an on fire group fairly quickly with the right Leadership Team and a full commitment from your members.

All groups go through cycles or phases.  It happens.  It’s ok.  The key – is to recognize the cycles and know when it’s time to up your game.  Why accept mediocrity, when excellence is an option? Excellence is an option and I see it every day in BNI chapters around the world.

Let’s look closer at the three phases:

On Fire Groups: These chapters are not willing to settle for mediocrity! They are the biggest, the best, and the most productive chapters for members to be in. Their Leadership Teams are committed to the BNI policies, guidelines and the system. Their members attend virtually all the trainings offered by local region, often over and over. You will find many members with several ribbons attached to their badges denoting the many roles they have held in the chapter: Visitor Host, Education Coordinator, MSP Graduate, and so on. These members often quote BNI Podcast episode numbers to me when I meet them!

Most of the members in these groups have fully completed their BNI Connect profiles, including member testimonials, badges and CEUs from the many trainings they have attended. They are actively passing referrals online and reporting them to the chapter at each weekly meeting. It is common to hear many stories from these chapters about extremely lucrative connections. They always report far higher TYFCB than their counterparts in the same region.

The excitement level at their chapter meetings is simply electric!  Chapters in this phase exude high energy and a very positive attitude.  The chapters are likely to try most or all of the ideas offered by their Director. They effectively utilize one-to-one’s, worksheets like the GAINS Exchange, or the Chapter Reality Check, and they have almost full attendance at Member Success Program training.  They use Meeting Stimulants developed by BNI and their Education Coordinators regularly review BNI SuccessNet articles or the BNI Podcast episodes each week.

In addition, they tend to operate in a very friendly environment, have a great culture of support and positivity, have more members than the average, generate a lot of referrals, and enforce accountability in the group. They are there to do business, but they also understand the importance of adhering to a structure. Most importantly, they don’t let either business or structure get in the way of having fun and developing close relationships.

On Hold: In this phase chapters have become somewhat complacent. They may have been in the on fire phase at one time and lost some of the spark that made them successful, or they may be a smaller chapter that has begun to give up on growth and has accepted the status quo.

A chapter that is going through this phase tends to believe that things are okay as they are and don’t have any pressing desire to work on enhancing their meetings or developing the quality or quantity of members. They may feel like the amount of business they are doing is okay, even if it is not that great. They may take some suggestions offered by their Directors, but they are just as likely to dismiss other suggestions, because they think they don’t apply to them or they feel they know best. They tend to follow many (but not all) of the policies and the basic structure of the meetings, but they have lost the enthusiasm and spirit that makes for a great group.

In a Hole: Chapters in this phase tend to have numerous problems. Attitudes, referrals, and attendance are all lower than the groups in the other phases I’ve discussed. Unfortunately, most of the membership is focused on the problems and not on positive solutions. I have found that when chapters focus on problems and not the solutions, they become an expert on the problems. This is where these chapters live as a group.

They tend not to follow the agenda, structure, and/or policies. In addition, they tend to view their local Director as an outsider, rather than a resource to coach and support them to make the BNI process work. They tend to make many exceptions for the actions of their members and generally seek the path of least resistance relating to the way they apply policies and procedures. It’s hard for them to grow and succeed until they have a reset of the mindset. That process begins by recognizing the phase they are in and working with their Director to get back on track.

Almost all chapters go through the phases or cycles listed above; however, the really successful chapters tend to spend more time in the on fire phase than either of the other two phases. Once again, consider where your chapter is in these cycles. A good tool to use is the “Rate Your Chapter” worksheet. If you determine that you are in the on hold or in a hole phase, contact your Director to get some suggestions on how you can help the group achieve excellence.

BNI has thousands of groups in dozens of countries.  With that many groups, we have landed on the right combination of passion, structure, accountability, and culture to make groups work. Don’t reinvent the wheel! The process works very well for the chapters that effectively use the tools and assistance that BNI provides.

As important as passion is to success, I believe that passion alone does not produce results, passion and commitment produce results!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about these cycles.  Have you experienced them?  How did you move up the ladder?  Sharing your experiences can help other members achieve success.