Colleagues without the company

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In 2008, Katoli Editorial Services had a salesforce of one – that would be me, by the way. This year there are 15 people out there looking for leads for my business.

No, I haven’t blown the recruitment and marketing budgets in one fell swoop.

All it’s costing me is a year’s subscription to BNI – the largest business networking organisation in the world.

My salesforce are my 15 fellow members of the BNI Saltway chapter in Droitwich, UK. They’ve learned about my business at our weekly breakfast meetings. And now, when they’re with their own network of clients and contacts, they’re looking out for people who may be in need of my copywriting services.

In turn, I’m looking for opportunities for them with my contacts.

The BNI philosophy is Givers Gain – if I do something for you, you’re likely to want to help me in return.

BNI was founded in Arcadia, California in 1985 by Dr Ivan Misner. He realised that most of his new business came via word of mouth referrals from existing clients and friends. He created BNI to provide a formal way to pass those referrals.

The format soon spread worldwide. In the UK and Ireland alone, there are now more than 600 BNI chapters. In 2008, these chapters gave over 560,000 referrals, leading to business worth £190million.

What am I getting out of it?

One of my most valuable clients came from a referral by a BNI colleague. But BNI is about more than just monetary value for me.

BNI gives me a network of similar-minded business people to bounce ideas off and to share the ups and downs of business life. It’s like having lots of colleagues, without the big company.

Being part of BNI is a commitment. I am expected to make a contribution, such as a referral, or to bring a visitor, every week. I also have to get up at an ungodly hour every Tuesday morning for the meeting. But the energy, warmth and enthusiasm in the room makes the BNI meeting one of the highlights of my business week.

See the list of global BNI websites to arrange a visit to your local chapter. If you're in the Droitwich area contact me to arrange a visit to BNI Saltway.