BNI Elite Referral Partners serving breakfast at the Banquet.
If you had known me as a high school or college student, the last place you would picture me is at a networking group where I have to stand up and talk to 60+ people on a weekly basis! I had horrible "stage fright" and dreaded any sort of public speaking, even giving a presentation in class or simply answering a question in front of the class.
Fast forward to 2016 and I now talk to people I hardly know or don't know at all on a daily basis, as a new member of the Faini Designs Jewelry Studio team. I was encouraged to join a networking group, and at the reccomendation of Nic Faini, I chose to check out Business Networking & Referrals International, or BNI for short. Being an international organization, there are local chapters in each area; in Sioux Falls alone, there are 9 BNI chapters. The group is great for new professionals in any industry because only one person per each professional classification is permitted to join each BNI chapter. I chose to join the Elite Referral Partners chapter, which meets each Tuesday at 8AM. At first, it was difficult for me to decide if I wanted to commit to this group because Tuesdays are generally my day off, and I really value my sleeping in time! However, I knew it was a great opportunity and decided to give it a chance.
The philosophy behind BNI is "givers gain", the idea that if you pass business to others, they will pass business to you in return. You may be wondering how I could refer a business to others and feel comfortable that the business will provide a good service. At first, I joined BNI simply to promote myself as a member of Faini Designs, but I've gained a lot of meaningful relationships as well! Each member is encouraged to learn more about each member's business and personal life through individual, "one to one" meetings. We are also encouraged to build our own opinions by doing business with the individuals in our group. At the end of each meeting, there is time for members to give testimonials for the service they received from other group members. A few times per year, each member gives an 8 minute presentation about their business. The presentations often have photos or videos of completed work, or explain their processes in depth. If we haven't personally experienced their business service or heard a testimonial, we can still feel confident giving a referral becuase each BNI member agrees to abide by a code of ethics.
If you're wondering how a typical meeting is structured, it goes a little something like this! The first 10-15 minutes are spent networking with other members. After everyone finds their seats, any visitors are introduced to the group. Next, each member has 30 seconds to stand up and give their "weekly ask", how can the group help you this upcoming week? After each member has given their ask, we typically have two featured speakers that each have 8 minutes to talk about their business. At present, there are almost 60 members in the chapter that I attend.
Since joining the chapter last May, my professional network has grown and I've also been "forced" to speak publicly each week. Overall, its been a great commitment for me! If you're interested in learning more about BNI, please visit the BNI Heartland home page.
--Cecelia, Jewelry Sales Consultant