It costs nearly £575 to join. You have to pay £8 a week to attend their weekly meetings. Every meeting starts at 7am.
Welcome to life with BNI International, Chorley Phoenix branch.
BNI is the Business Network International, ‘the largest business networking organization (sic) in the world’.
Briefly put, this is how it works: Local groups are called chapters. Chapters are made up of people from local businesses with no profession represented more than once. At each weekly meeting members, through their own business contacts, try to bring in business to other members, known as a referral.
You can tell from the spelling of organisation that BNI originates from the US of A. These referrals dictate chapter succeed or fail. Each meeting runs through a tightly-scripted itinerary and success levels are measured statistically.
But does it work? Well, in England (according to BNI’s own stats) there are over 640 chapters in the UK.
In 2008 that equated to over 560,654 referrals and led to business worth £190m. I’ll have a bit of that.
Though skeptical as I was at first, the facts do present a strong case. There would not be that many groups – I detest the phrase chapter – in Britain if it was a white elephant organisation.
The literature and website is disturbingly Americanized (it makes me sic) but the ethos – where your one-man-band business suddenly becomes a 15-strong marketing team – is actually an inspired idea.
It’s easy to knock America and its business model but you can’t deny its success. Having forked out £575, denying success is the last thing I need.