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Saturday 22nd June 2024

I Got BNI Wrong… and That’s Why I’m Joining Them

Mon 9th Nov 2020
By Todd

I never thought I’d say this. This month – November 2020 – I went to two BNI meetings, and I can’t decide which one I like the most. But not because they were both awful and it’s a toss-up as to which was worse. No, I really liked them both.

I’m looking to join BNI as part of our ongoing growth in the business and I’m shopping ‘digitally’ at BNI. By putting myself into local meetings as a visitor I’m experiencing BNI online with a view to joining the online chapter now, and then in person when we get back to some sort of proper life in 2021.

But a few years ago, this was far from what I was thinking…

Just 18 months ago I wouldn’t have contemplated the thought of trying BNI and I certainly wouldn’t have got up at 6am to join a Zoom with them.

But I got it wrong…


Spag - I Got BNI Wrong… and That’s Why I’m Joining Them

I Got BNI Wrong… and That’s Why I’m Joining Them

BNI: Boring, Networking, Innit!?

I chose the other team. I went all in with another network and they were – by design – the opposite of BNI. They were positioned as fun and social and that certainly matched my personality. It still does.

You really should choose a network that suits your personality and – to go even further – you should really choose a group (or Chapter as they’re known in BNI) within that networking organisation that suits you.

No two groups are the same. Oh, I must give a shout out to both Bethany at the Midlands Business Network and Chris at Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce for hosting some fabulous events over the years!

I thought BNI was boring because I was told it was. But it’s worse than that – I thought BNI was boring because I went to a BNI meeting years ago and it was boring.

Are all BNI meetings boring? No. I just happened to visit two chapters that weren’t right for me and they backed up the messages my peers in my network at the time gave me. Or maybe I wasn’t taking business seriously enough at the time.

BNI isn’t boring; some chapters were… Or at least they weren’t right for me at the time and my biased brain confirmed to me, “See? They’re right, BNI is boring!”.


It’s OK to be wrong… it’s just not OK to be rigid in your thinking

Look, we all change our mind over the years. I’m a big believer of growing and learning and taking on new challenges… now.

Years ago, I wasn’t able to make changes and I shunned personal development. I’m now quick to correct people who say I seem to take change with ease and adapt well. I was a massive creature of habit and when I chose something, I stuck with it.

2020 certainly taught me that that way of living is over. You adapt or your business dies. You embrace the new normal or forever weep at photos from 2019 and before.

I was wrong about BNI (and other networks) and I’m big enough and ugly enough to say that, right here, on my blog.


BNI is fun… in the right chapters

It’s early days for me and this is far from a BNI review. It’s more like a customer experience diary entry. I’m not in yet. Hey, they might not want me after this.

But it is a realisation that you can be told something for long enough and that becomes true… in your head.

You can be told BNI is boring, Twitter is crap now, SEO doesn’t work, and Apple is better than Microsoft, and you’ll believe it.

But you really should question things a little more. You really should look up from the book of your beliefs and entertain the other ideas passing by you.

Whose beliefs are they anyway? Yours? Or someone else’s ideology drummed into you – like when your parents told you not to talk to strangers? As it turns out that’s a terrible internal rule for networking by the way – thanks Mum and Dad!

Question things. Don’t use Facebook Ads because I do. Don’t go networking if you hate it. Don’t spend £5K on a website because a company similar to you did. Question it and ask yourself, “Does it suit me, and will I be happy doing it?”


Spaghetti Agency - Digital Marketing workshop in Leamington

I’m no salesperson but…

We’re working with Tom Mallens from Sandler Training at the moment. I recommend checking him out. We’re working on the Sandler Training method and one thing really struck me from it – and I’m paraphrasing here – but essentially, it’s:

“It’s OK if you or the prospect doesn’t want to continue at any point.”

If you don’t want to work with someone, don’t. And if your prospect doesn’t want to work with you, don’t try and force it. It’ll rarely end well anyway.

It’s better to commit to something you’re going to add value to and get value from. It’s better to have great clients and great networking meetings that fill your heart with joy, than not.

Why would you do anything else when you have a choice? And you do have a choice.

Choose the network that suits you, not the one you’ve been told suits you.


BNI Online networking

Me, Myself, and BNI?

Will I go all in? Sure. Will I only do BNI? No. I’ve learnt that lesson.

You need to spread your net wide, but in the right waters. I will still do our own online networking and I’ll still go to those fab Chamber and FSB events. It’s OK to flirt with other networks.

It’s ok to support red and blue!

I’ll be joining soon and by the time you read this I may have decided, so maybe I’ll pop a link to my chapter below. But the simple takeaway from this blog from one serial networker to another is this:

“People buy people.” 

This isn’t news.

It’s the first lesson I learnt on Twitter back in 2010 and it’s the business mantra that I carry with me now. Find people you want to be around and stick with them. Find a chapter, a Facebook Group, or a marketing agency in Warwickshire that you feel will get you results.

Seriously… I went to BNI (twice) and I liked it!

We love online networking on Remo – check it out here.

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12 comments on this article

  • David Lee at 8:43am on November 10th 2020

    Good for you Todd.

    I’m no longer a member but BNI was BRILLIANT for me at the time – I’m sure it will be great for you too, especially if you bring the same energy you did to the other groups

    Sandler Training is great too – good luck.


    1. Todd at 10:26am on November 11th 2020

      es, Sandler is excellent. I’m really enjoying it!

  • John Edward at 9:13am on November 10th 2020

    Thinking how involved you were with 4Networking I think this was a brilliantly written blog.

    1. Todd at 10:26am on November 11th 2020

      Ha. Thanks mate. I tried not to mention them. How did I do?

  • Ernie Boxall at 9:45am on November 10th 2020

    Great article. I originally joined BNI in 2002 when I began my business and although my two free visits were welcoming and interesting I couldn’t commit to turning up every week. And the joining fee was out of reach.

    In 2014, I was in a position to join the Kenilworth Chapter and spent two years with them until life got in the way (again). I still do work with two connections I made there and have more than covered the membership paid then.

    As is often the case networking events are only as good as the leadership and at the time the head of the area was not working with the Chapters.
    I prefer 4N but am grateful to BNI for the start.

    1. Todd at 10:25am on November 11th 2020

      interesting. Thanks Ernie.

  • Adam Townley at 10:03am on November 10th 2020

    So true Todd.

    I’ve only ever been to one BNI meeting – as a sub for my then Accountant 7 years ago.

    It was bad. Just like your initial experience perhaps. It didn’t help that I was Group Leader for the ‘other group’ at that point and this was being held in the same room. The upbeat fun we’d had the week before was replaced with rules and regs. I was told off for trying to take a business card from the box they passed round!

    BNI has struggled down here – I doubt there is a group particularly local to me now – so I don’t have the dilemma of whether to join or not. But I do get invited quite regularly to the ‘one seat per industry’ groups that have sprung up since its demise.

    The issue for me is that restriction – how do you know you’re networking with the best professional? It strikes me the group usually just want to fill the seat and they don’t really care what the credentials of that person are.

    All the best with it though. It will be interesting to see how you fare.

    1. Todd at 10:25am on November 11th 2020

      Thanks Adam. Yeah, it really must depend on where you are, too. We’re fortunate here in that we have a strong networking scene and that drives up the quality of the meetings as the people in them are well versed in those areas. All about people…

  • Dave Bradburn at 10:30am on November 10th 2020

    It’s a little amusing to read this at a point I’ve just stepped away from BNI after 8 years as a member. For a long time I attended BNI as well as 4N (I stepped away from the latter near enough 2 years ago now). Both worked well for me and I’ll sing the praises of both where appropriate – both have been part of the journey to where I am now. But it’s appropriate to take a fresh look from time to time and not just stick with something because it’s been the right thing to do in the past – you move on and develop, your business evolves, other circumstances around you change and your needs and requirements shift with that. For the time being at least, neither are what I need.

    Networking is just about people. It’s daft to think that one group will all be great whilst another will all be dull. Where people meet other people there’ll always be a social side because friendships will always develop when you’re regularly meeting each other. And if everyone is appropaching it with the right attitude there’ll always be business to be found too. Sure, there’ll always be some people you like more than others – that’s only natural – but it’s the same in whatever group you can name. Wherever you go there’ll be some fantastic people and some, erm, “less fantastic” ones too! The important thing is that you go and decide for yourself rather than taking the word of someone else as gospel truth.

    1. Todd at 10:23am on November 11th 2020

      100% And I do remember you being on blue and indeed red when we networked! I’m very much of the opinion now that you choose what suits and not listen to ‘all’ the advice you’re given in said situation!

  • Richard Hubble at 14:13pm on November 17th 2020

    Hi Graham! Good to see this. 🙂 Which one have you plumped for mate? Intrepid?

    1. Todd at 10:25am on November 19th 2020

      So very close… not yet decided.

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