A tad extreme maybe… but sometimes I feel similarly.
Many of us do feel the pressure of performing within our BNI Chapter and this can weigh on our minds. We know what we have to do, and it seems simple and easy:
- Bring a visitor
- Bring a referral
- Get to know the people in your chapter (one-to-one)
- Remembering to record the money you make through your BNI Chapter (close of business)
- Bring a successful outlook to your group (being positive)
…but being a contributing member in a BNI chapter can feel like a struggle for some.
I have often fallen into the “struggle” category and can be racked with dread the evening before my BNI meeting as I have none of the above to give to my fellow BNI members. I have on 1 or 2 occasions decided not to attend my weekly BNI Meeting because I had nothing to contribute; no ‘referral’, no ‘one-to-one’ meeting, no ‘close of business’ and no visitor. The guilt I felt in not being a contributor within my BNI group can be a heavy burden because I truly wanted to give.
Giving makes us feel good about ourselves, and we know that when we do a deed that someone else appreciates and expresses thanks and gratitude; it makes us feel great and proud about ourselves and boosts our self-esteem and worth.
There are great people in my chapter and I dearly enjoy their presence and want to give to them because they are kind and caring, (real) people. The thought of having nothing to give them can be tough. I’m sure you feel like that about people in your chapter at times too.
It got to a point where I could almost no longer believe I could contribute to the members of my chapter in a positive way. I was barely giving referrals, almost never bringing a visitor, and one-to-one meetings became less frequent. I was ready to throw in the towel. I was convinced that the chapter would be better without me in it.
A big step for me was approaching my leadership team to express my concerns and to say I was considering leaving the chapter; it was a cry for help. Fortunately for me the members on my Leadership Team are thoroughly good people who straight away asked if there was anything they could help me with and wanted to know my thoughts on our BNI Chapter.
I expressed concerns about my lack of contribution and my thoughts and experiences in BNI. The Leadership team all expressed ways that I do contribute to the chapter, which was refreshing as I had not thought of some of the things they said, and that having me as a member was a benefit to the group.
It may come as a shock to read this but I am currently the Education Co-ordinator in my BNI Chapter. Every week I stand and talk about networking, BNI and all things around this. The hypocrisy is nearly beyond measure, and further entrenched my guilt.
As this ‘cry for help’ meeting with my Leadership team unfolded, the VP (Vice President) kindly reminded me of my contributions to BNI. She reminded me that BNI is not entirely about the basic BNI principles bullet-pointed above. But rather, about fostering good relationships with other people. She reminded me of a great story I read on the BNI website about a person who was in a similar position.
That person was also thinking of leaving their chapter. She was given a piece of paper that had a question on it,
“How were you before you joined BNI and how are you today?”
She went on to list some things like:
- I speak clearly and confidently about my business
- I have a deeper level of understanding of my business
- I am better connected to local business owners
- I have strong friendships and relationships through BNI. etc.
The goal of the question was to stir up other aspects of your BNI membership that you may have overlooked, or simply not thought about. So other than financial gain, what have you obtained through your attendance at your BNI Chapter meeting?
I thought about this and came to the conclusion that I enjoyed being around other local business owners very much. The weekly contact generates a sense of being connected to my business via connecting with other local businesses. It also jump-starts the reminder that I have to give to receive. Expecting heat from a fire if you first don’t stock it with wood is insanity. The personal relationship benefits are also eye-opening to measure. I had grown into a better person because of BNI’s structure.
If you’re feeling the “BNI Struggle”, how can you get out of the rut and improve your BNI experience?
If the referral isn’t there this week then phone a fellow member and book some time to ask them about their business. They will enjoy talking about themselves and their business and think you’re great for listening. Go to their place of business or make it a nice lunch or an enjoyable cuppa coffee. You will have just completed a ‘one-to-one’ by doing this, and one-to-one meetings are the simplest, and one of the most powerful ways to contribute to your chapter. What you can potentially both gain from a one-to-one meeting is immeasurable. DO IT NOW.
While writing this has been a sort of cathartic experience for me, hopefully some (or all) of you will have an epiphany moment which will help you with your BNI Experience.