It’s been a year since I joined a BNI chapter. Some people have heard of it, others have not. Some have preconceived ideas without ever having visited a meeting and others who have visited felt it wasn’t right for them. As I pass the first year membership mark, I wanted to share with you why I am a proud BNI member and long may that continue!
Networking…it comes naturally to some and others find themselves breaking out in hot sweats just at the thought. I’ve always loved networking. For me, it’s about learning about other businesses and expanding my knowledge. As a solicitor, my clients raise many questions with me that do not fall within my area of expertise. Networking allows me to help my clients and contacts beyond the realm of employment law.
When I first contemplated BNI membership, I must confess, I was sceptical. I’d visited a couple of meetings historically and wasn’t sure where my business fit within the BNI system. One year on, I couldn’t imagine my professional life without it.
In the short space of a year (because we all know how quickly time flies), I have been overwhelmed. I joined a chapter full of amazing people. I am honoured to call our members my friends. Each week, I walk into a room and by 6.15am…yes…that early…the room is alive with electricity. Since day one I was, and continued to be, astonished by the enthusiasm in the room. Who knew networking could be so much fun? I genuinely look forward to my weekly meetings and leave each week feeling I have accomplished so much before 9am. My weekly meeting day is, by far, my most productive day of the week!
Each week I get to meet with people who know me, who have built trust in me and will happily refer my services on to their clients, colleagues, friends and family. As a small, niche firm, I have a huge sales team who are looking out for business opportunities for me. And not just a lead, a genuine opportunity to do business with people who are looking for my services. In the last 12 months, 80 – 90% of the referrals I have been passed have converted in to work. Yes it’s not always easy converting a referral, but that is down to me and not the members in my chapter. As an SME, who wouldn’t want a large sales team (who you don’t have to pay!) to help grow their business?
For me, it all started with giving. BNI’s philosophy is ‘givers gain’ and that resonates with me in every aspect of my life. Networking has always been about being able to give more to my clients; being able to help in any way I can. I have brought visitors to the group who, from attending once, have not only extended their own network but they have also obtained business from members who had a need for their services.
Only last week at a conference, I was able to connect two of my contacts (unrelated to BNI) who are already in discussions about how they can work together. I left the conference with a huge sense of achievement that my year in BNI has developed my networking skills beyond anything I ever expected. That connection wasn’t about me or my business; it was purely about helping others.
All I will add is that if you’ve never experienced a BNI meeting, visit one. Forget what you’ve heard or been told, go and see for yourself. It’s a networking experience like no other and I wouldn’t be without it.
Mandy Walton, Associate Solicitor