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Number of locations
|9,500+ chapters in over 70 countries worldwide|
Business Network International (BNI) is an American franchised networking organization, founded by Ivan Misner in 1985. Currently BNI has over 270,000+ members in 9,500+ chapters in over 74 countries worldwide. Members meet weekly to discuss business and support each others businesses by sharing referrals. It claims to be the world's leading 'referral organization'.
In 2019, the organization says its members generated referrals resulting in over $16.7 billion (USD) in closed business worldwide.
In Sept 2018, this figure was $14 billion worth of referrals passed between members, with over 242,000 members worldwide in 8,653 chapters across 70 countries and 10.4 million referrals passed between them. It is one of the biggest networking organizations of its kind in the world.
In 2016, this figure was $11.2 billion business passed between members and their referrals (worldwide) and in 2017, $13.6 billion worth of business was passed. BNI was founded in 1985 by Ivan Misner.
Local BNI chapters arrange weekly meetings for people from various industries, in order to encourage the building of relationships and the passing of referrals. Members mostly consist of small business owners but medium and large organisations are also represented. Anyone can apply for membership providing they are willing to attend the weekly meeting, are operating a full-time business and as most Executive Directors would agree, are in a position to grow and scale their business.
According to local chapter rules, only one profession/specialty may be represented in each chapter. For example, while multiple attorneys may belong to a chapter, each must be of a different specialty (ie. criminal defense, business litigation, contract law, marital & family law), so as not to create undue competition for referrals. If a business wants to have multiple representatives, they are free to do so, provided each representative from the business belongs to a different chapter, and they pay separate dues for each representative.
Many meetings take place in hotel conference rooms, restaurants, and other locations that allow groups to meet. They also take place during breakfast or lunch hours, and while not mandatory per se, chapter leadership often requires members to pay a separate quarterly fee to cover the costs of using the venue, which frequently includes meals, refreshments, electricity, tables, and AV equipment for presentations.
In general, chapter meetings follow the same basic structure. Once the meeting is called to order by the Chapter President, initial announcements are presented by leadership, an educational piece is usually presented on how to improve networking and referral skills. Members from bigger groups are given 30 seconds whereas members from smaller groups are given 60 seconds to present a weekly commercial for their business, in which they request referrals or otherwise discuss what sort of business they are looking for. Guests and prospective members are then encouraged to tell the chapter about their business and what they do to provide value to the chapter.
Frequently, chapters will either vote on the best commercial given that week, or permit the previous week's winner to make the selection. Then one member each week gives a 10 minute presentation, which is a more in-depth version of the commercials, going into detail as to what services their business performs or what products they offer, their education, training & experience, and specific referrals they are looking for to help grow their business. During the commercials and presentations, a binder filled with the business cards of current members is passed around, permitting current members to take cards and pass them to potential clients, and for guests & visitors to take as well. Only inducted members are permitted to place cards in the binder. BNI also provides training to its members.
Once the presentation is completed, each member is then given a chance to pass out referrals, testimonials to other members of the chapter, and "Thank You For Closed Business", in which a previously passed referral is concluded and has generated revenue for their business. These can be done either online via the BNI Connect app, the BNI website, or in person at the meeting. These are recorded to keep track of how many referrals are passed, and how much business the chapter has generated for its members throughout the year.
Visitors that wish to join are permitted to attend up to two meetings, after which they are required to submit a membership application if they wish to attend further meetings. Once they become a member, they are permitted up to three absences in a rolling six-month period. If a member obtains 4 or more absences during that time period, they are removed from the group, and the profession/category becomes open for new members to fill.
Members are permitted to send a substitute to the meeting if they know ahead of time they will be unable to attend, which does not count against their absences. In addition, if a member falls ill and cannot attend for medical reasons, they are given a medical absence, which also does not count towards their overall absences. Membership is renewed annually, on the anniversary month of when a member joined, and dues are to be paid when they submit their renewal application.
There are different Chapter Director Consultants in each area that assist new startup chapters.
In 2020, during the Covid-19, BNI launched a new brand "BNI Online", facilitating the business networking using new technology, with a new revamped online agenda. Meetings are arranged online via Zoom.
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- Taylor, Ivana (2014-12-11). "6 Reasons NOT to Join a BNI Group". Business 2 Community. Retrieved 2019-10-13.