BNI Business network


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Hi Guys i have been asked to join a local BNI (business network) group there is a position available for a printer the last one retired, they are very keen for me to join, i have been as a visitor twice and i have to say the Jury is out at the moment. I was just wondering if anyone else has had experience with a BNI chapter and if it is something worth considering.
cheers Phil
A BNI chapter. I just had visions of something like the Stonemasons!

No idea who or what they do, but good luck if you go for it.
My brother, who runs an IT services company, is very involved in a couple of BNI groups, and he gets quite a bit of business from them (I think the majority of his current business came through these networks, actually). However, if you're not a morning person, they may not be for you!
I was a member - as a printer - for 6 or 7 years. It really does depend on the group. Mine was great for the people - lovely bunch, still friends with most of them. From a print point of view though they weren't big spenders and didn't get me 'referrals' into any decent-sized companies. When you consider that it will cost you £1000 per annum and the time every week, and you are expected to get referrals for others it is quite a big decision. Can you talk to the other printer? Did he retire from print or just from the group? Is the group 'cliquey'? (I went to one BNI group as a visitor and no-one bothered to talk to me but it seems to be a very successful group). When I left our turnover from the last year's membership was about £12K - but we were a B3 and digital printer and also would buy print for people and I felt it should have been more!
BNI (I believe) work in a closed circuit kind of way and to be the 'printer' in the group means that the other members will refer any 'printer'-type work you way.
In return, you keep your eyes and ears open for any work that you can refer back to the skills of your group/chamber/sect(!)

They do meet early usually for breakfast so that it doesn't impact on your working day. I believe they are quite strict about lateness/attendance and have a '3 strikes and out' policy. (There is a slim chance I've mixed this up with another networking group.)
No - you are right! It is very regimented and early, 6.30 am start every week, 3 strikes and out, etc. I know that people in my group used other printers though...
tut tut... ;)
This does raise an interesting point, that sometimes the people in your chamber might not be the best at what they do and so there is something odd about having to pass work onto them...rather than going with the best one can afford/most suitable for the job etc.
I just asked my brother about it (he's Birmingham based, so if you're in Stourbridge you may be looking at one of his groups), and he said:

'No funny handshakes, I promise you, but it is well organised and structured - which some people like and some don't. Printers do very well out of my BNIs though.'

Take what you like from that. He is one of those horribly organised (sigh) morning people (bigger sigh), and in an industry that relies on networking.
Same as others. It's VERY early, and quite pricey for membership. It's also very pressured and you really only get business from the people in the group. And yes, you're meant to pass any business you hear about their way. And they might not be the best accountant or whatever that you know. Which means you're forced to recommend people to your clients that you don't necessarily rate. And the people in there are generally one man bands. Which isn't the kind of client I'm really aiming at nowadays.
I've never really understood why BNI charge money for you to network (and up front!). Been to sessions as a guest - seemed desperate; lots of suppliers, zero buyers - but 'people know people' and 'we have lots of leads ready to hand you when you join'. Networking should be a lot of fun doing what you enjoy. What are your hobbies / interests outside design & print? Sport / professional / academic / cultural? - I bet you'll be the only, or one of very few from your profession.

This isn't hype - this is what works and has worked for us (amongst other things) - all the team do it and it doesn't feel like work.
A good point Minuteman. I've always thought meeting with 5 or 6 friends for a pint is often a good way to spread the word - just make sure you have some business cards. If they're good mates they'll recommend you as/when they hear of something and it's surprising the number of potential contacts there are from such a small circle.
It's just a shame that all of my friends are designers too!
So true Paul. I have results like this weekly from people I've met socially. Surprising who knows who (without spending £1K and attending a meeting at 0700hrs).
Ahhh the BNI, I never joined but I have been to two seperate chapters as a guest.

And both chapters were worlds apart from eachother - the first that I visited was very relaxed (minimal pressure to join) with a "here is an empty form, you're aware of what we offer and you know where we are if you wish to proceed" type of approach.

The second chapter that I visited was nothing but outright pressure and if you dared to say "Let me go and sleep on it" you would be "while looped" and reminded of how "the group could really use your skills and you will instantly have 27 business partners watching YOUR back!" - When I asked to "take the empty form away with me to think over it" I was met with "Oh no, I cannot let you do that I'm afraid, are you sure you don't want to just fill it out right now?" ....."Not really".

It's not all been bad though, as I have made some useful contacts just from my two visits. Oh and of course, I'm seriously not a morning person!
Not only that, when I think of how I am obliged to refer work to the rest of the group - I would seriously fall behind here (I don't get many people pestering me for a plumber/cigarette lighter repairman!)

By no means am I putting down the concept, I'm sure it has proven to work for many - but for the cost (and weekly running costs which you are expected to contribute - i.e. £10/£20 for venue hire etc.) and considering the fact that your attendance is monitored like a school child (not to mention having to sit around a group of people scoffing revolting greasy fry ups every Wednesday morning) is something that I couldn't bare to stomach, let alone keep up with!
I have been a member of BNI for 3 years now, and yes it cost £1k per year, but in the group of 30 members I monitor how much I get from it closely. Last year the group generated me £16k, with £4k profit. So for me it works.

It certainly doesnt work for everyone, but I would say if the group has 25-30 members and has a free space for a printer, its worth considering.
Apologies - I've been away at an academic conference (my other life!) - could you break-down the £1K for us?

I can't remember the exact details but something like £500 for joining and yearly fees plus £10-20 per week for the breakfast and venue. There are usually a few other meetings that you're 'expected' to go to and these are usually about £10.

I was a member for 2 years but apart from my many criticisms, don't feel it was worth it for me. I just wasn't able to put in the considerable effort to find work for the plumbers and diet experts.
Interesting. I was surprised at the £1K - wondered if all costs had been included - e.g. petrol, parking, attendees time, preparation, etc. Suddenly the ROI plummets!

I've always promoted businesses and services that I've seen in action - not because they're in the same business group. I'd be most uncomfortable promoting a business to someone who trusts me (knwoing the motive was because of a business group membership).

In the case of virtual forums (e.g. GDF!) we can see the work of others and review open comments. But I guess business groups give that kick start if you can't achieve greater ROI elsewhere (a bit like Adwords).

Just my thoughts.
Hi phil, we are a printing company:, who were part of a local BNI in Durham last year. They too had the last printer leave but the chapter was quite a distance away so I transfered to the Newcastle one, who, again had their previous printer leave. We have now left and my conclusion is that before you join they are the best thing since sliced bread, however when you join, they all have good intentions but all we picked up were small value orders (business cards and the like) and considering the time you have to allocate vs the annual fee - it wasnt worth it. Also, beware of the pressure tactics once they have your money - make sure you contribute or theyll 'have a quiet word'. Would bother mate.