My BNI® Story


Your Voice: A Path to the IBOA

By: BNI Staff
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    My BNI® Story

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    BNI Staff

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Submitted by Heather Gladden - President, BNI International Board of Advisors (IBOA)

After my husband lost his job and we faced financial and personal struggles, BNI was the answer we didn’t know we needed. My 15+ years in BNI have provided me with professional development opportunities and important interpersonal relationships that have influenced my life and my career. One of the most impactful experiences of my time in BNI have been the years I’ve served as a member in the International Board of Advisors (IBOA). Here’s my story, and how I became the first President of the IBOA and what we’re doing today as a member-based advisory group in the organization.

I was introduced to BNI in a non-conventional way. At the end of a professional training session I attended, a guy stood up and mentioned he was part of a group of professionals that refer each other business and asked if it was ok to read through the professions in his group to see if anyone needed those products or services. If so, he would be happy to make an introduction.

He pulled out his BNI Card Holder and as he read through the professions, several people took advantage of his offer. My husband and I had started Michigan Broadband Systems, Inc., a Business IT Company, 5 years prior and all I could think was, ‘how do I get our cards in his book?’ I asked what BNI was and he invited us to the next meeting. Applying for membership was a no-brainer. I thought, ‘We have kept our heads above water for the last 5 years by referral with our circle of influence, what would our business look like we had a team of people looking to refer us on purpose?” After 15 years, I can tell you it has been well worth the investment!!

Both my husband and I are members in two different chapters and I have served as a Director Consultant here in Michigan for almost 8 years, where I support up to 8 chapters at a time and conduct trainings across the region. For the past 3 years I have been a member of the International Board of Advisors (IBOA) and have recently been honored by being elected to the new role of President.

Here are a couple items that I put in my 5 year vision statement for BNI to the IBOA members as part of the election process:

  • I want to see BNI dominate the networking industry, continuing to be the premier business referral organization.
  • Things change over time and while we need to keep important traditions and philosophies, every successful business has to adapt – and adapt in a way that is tested and makes sense. BNI members will truly see that their membership is a part of their business versus a meeting they have to go to. They will engage more and ultimately be more successful bringing their chapter up as well.

The IBOA has a rich history; being the first and only advisory group comprised of BNI members working with Dr. Ivan Misner, Graham Weihmiller and BNI’s Global Support Team. As you may have heard, the IBOA helped to create the Code of Ethics as well as the Policies and Guidelines we follow as Members today. To learn more about the IBOA, you can find information in the book Givers Gain®: The BNI Story and the BNI University course “Understanding the Code of Ethics”. We continue to be the voting body on member policies, having robust discussions and evaluating research we are presented with on topics we are asked to look at.

I am working hard to develop this position and enjoy serving in this capacity! Understanding that we work under strict confidentiality, I will be bringing you news and updates, as I can, on things we are working on and discussing. For instance, recently, we have been looking at and discussing the Substitute Policy and Guidelines. To talk with an IBOA Member in your area and for information about the IBOA in general, talk to your Executive or National Director.