BNI – Overview

BNI - Business Networking International

BNI is a very popular global networking organization that a small business owner will either have heard of or experienced within the first 5 years of business. BNI thrives and requires support of its members continually promote and growth their individual BNI chapters.

BNI networking

BNI Overview

Should you join?


BNI is a very time consuming networking function. This networking organization is not for the faint at heart. If you're looking to just show up and walk away with leads BNI is not for you. If you have a profession that requires relationship building such as real-estate agent and don't want to put in the work BNI is not for you.
For BNI to do well it really performs best on those who're capable, willing, and able to perform all aspects of BNI. What is interesting is that those aspects are required with all facets of your business. If you're not able to perform any of those requirements you will not do well in business.

Here's an example, BNI is a weekly function that requires in-person participation. If you state that you're not able to commit to a single meeting than you're the same person who can't commit to a job. Like any networking function BNI requires involvement for it to work. If you were successful with obtaining 5 leads a week from a BNI meeting would you still say you don't have time for the meeting? Not likely.

If you're still not convinced this is true here's another example: you have a needy client and their one of your top 5 clients. They're important. Things are shaking and they would like you to visit once a week to check-in with progress and status. Would you tell them you don't have time?

It's your attitude that determines whether or not BNI or any networking function sees results. You have to commit, put in the work, and just because other people don't and get leads does not mean you will to.

Too Busy. There are going to be situations where you are in-fact too busy and you're not able to commit to a weekly meeting. This is common for business owners who're consultants and have to visit clients out of state for weeks at a time. You can have as many subs as you want to temporarily fill your spot while you're out but finding a dedicated resources to fill that requirement is just not an option for many. If this sounds like you BNI may not be a good fit. If BNI finds a way for members to connect remotely this could significantly impact chapters.

Moreover, if you can make it work make it work. Especially those who are traveling to perform their profession. If you can perform your profession remotely than you can visit other BNI chapters.

This is the single biggest value that BNI offers that's totally underutilized. BNI is a global organization that allows you to visit with people all over the world. These people are hungry for one-to-one (meetings) and want to get their points. All you have to do is reach-out.

What are the benefits of BNI?


BNI is just like any other networking group or function; you get out what you put in. Many reasons why BNI doesn't seemingly work has to do with basic networking practices not BNI itself.

People in BNI will NOT give you referrals if you do not invest into relationships. These people are small-business owners looking to grow their business and likely don't know how to network anymore than you do. They too just show up and expect leads. You will need to be proactive and take the lead. You will be teaching more than you'll be learning if you've made it as far as reading this instructional.

Referrals in BNI require relationships. These individuals are serious about BNI. Whether they're just starting out or have been there for 20 years they're serious. They are NOT interested giving you referrals unless are a member. It does not matter what anyone else tells you. Your chances for obtaining referrals not as a member is little to none.

Members are rewarded with points and membership by participating in BNI. One of the many point metrics is to provide referrals. Members received no credit for referrals to your business if you are not a member.

It may sound silly but this does actually work to encourage members to exchange referrals with other BNI members. In order of priority, do they know anyone at BNI, no, do they know anyone at the next referral group, etc.

Give and you shall receive. If you're not receiving referrals or from a specific member try giving referrals. Providing referrals is a great way to show you care about someone other than yourself and that you're serious about success.


BNI provides lots of education around business networking. They do often tailor this education specifically to the game of BNI but much of it is applicable to general networking. During each meeting BNI member(s) are assigned the task of providing what is called an Educational Moment. This is an opportunity for an assigned member to provide something that's educational. These are tips, tricks, or instructions that the individual member feels they want to share. If you're a professional who's looking to earn and practice credibility this would be a good position for you.

CEU - Continuing Education Units

BNI really supports continuing of education and encouraging its members to learn. There is a direct correlation between continual training and members' success.

CEU Night - Not every location but many are offering what's now called CEU Night or CEU Training Event. These events are free to members and visitors and individual members review a specific topic and share feedback. These CEU opportunities offer up to 3 CEU Credits. Topics are not always BNI related. The biggest value here is listening to others share their experience and education. Two heads are better than one 30 heads are better than two. Up to 30 members are all brainstorming how to improve as a business owner or business on a single topic. Events are well organized and productive.

Webinar - BNI offers webinars and other online training opportunities. These webinars are often and there's no shortage of webinars. Webinars are similar to CEU Nights in that they offer members an opportunity to review training.

Problem with Webinars is that there can be 50+ members attending these and sharing of experience is almost non-existent. The only experience shared here are people who are often doing all the talking or the instructors themselves. Getting a word in or hearing new perspectives is not likely. It's not bad if you're just looking to sit and see some training.

Access to People

No matter what networking functions you choose to join BNI is the largest. Many networking functions will telling you "we've got over 100 members", yeah, at your single location. A single BNI chapter may be 30 members but they're close to 10,000 chapters. As a member you have access to all of them.
If you do not visit other chapters you are cutting yourself and your other members short. BNI is not about the weekly meeting. It's about what you do outside the meeting. Many believe that BNI is the only networking event that's needed. It is not true. Visit other chapters. Are you going on vacation? No matter where you go there's a great chance a BNI chapter will be there. Even if you business can't be done remote. You can still learn something from visiting other Chapters.

What are the costs of BNI?

BNI is a business just like anything else it requires capital to organize and maintain. BNI charges its members anywhere between $500-$1400 to become a member. Prices varies as you have term options, and their prices are subject to increase.

$600 a year is $50 a month. If you're not successful with obtaining a single lead using BNI a month you probably should not do BNI. If you feel $50 a month is too much you're not ready for BNI.

Each chapter has its own operating costs. There's a Secretary/Treasure member who manages the funds of their chapter. This individual membership dues range anywhere between $30-$100 a month. This is in addition to the BNI membership dues. If you have Visitors who're indicating $150 a month is too much you don't want them joining your chapter anyway. They'll likely flake within the first 12 months. They don't have a mature business. The people they're surround by likely feel $150 a month would be too much. This based on experience but it is not a rule. Anyone can have opportunity but be wary of these individuals.

Are the limitations to BNI?

Each chapter limits what members they have by profession. You can't have two members with the same profession. However, each chapter is permitted to make an exception. For example, personal lines of insurance, one wants clients north of chapter and the second what clients south of the chapter. Easy compromise that allowed two members with the same profession to join. This exception is up to the chapter itself and they're not required to accommodate if they're not interested enough in you business or an existing member is not interested in sharing or sees your profession as a true conflict. See their Leadership members and ask.

Because each chapter limits which professions can be members within a single chapter you can now see why their chapters are small. You only need about 15 members to create a new chapter and there are about 10 core professions that really thrive in BNI. Real-estate agent, Insurance agent, etc. That band of professions is usually what start chapters.

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