BNI, short for Business Network International, is the largest business networking organization in the world, with more than 5,000 chapters. It was founded in 1985, and BNI Canada was established in 1995.
BNI offers its members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts, and most importantly, business referrals. Last year alone, BNI members passed along 5.6 million referrals.
The central philosophy of BNI is summed up in two words: Givers gain. This means that by giving business to others, you will get business in return. Members are expected to attend weekly meetings, to learn about the services offered by other chapter members, and then to actively seek business opportunities for them. BNI allows only one person per professional classification or specialty to join a chapter.
Q: Can anyone join a chapter?
A: We only take one person per professional specialty. So if you are a residential real estate person and we already have one, we can refer you to another chapter, or allow you to open another chapter. Of course, if you are a commercial real estate person, you could be eligible to join this chapter.
Q: How do you know new members are reputable?
A: The application asks for references and we have a membership committee that checks them. It’s word of mouth, so before they even come to a meeting they have to have spoken to someone or been invited by someone in the group. Everyone has to have a sponsor, or one is assigned to them, and they interview them.
Q: What if a member gets a referral and does poor work?
A: We have an ethics committee and it is imperative that anyone who gives a lead and finds out it was not satisfactorily handled must report that to the membership committee, who will investigate.
Q: What occupations benefit the most from networking?
A: It is not the occupation, it is the individual. The occupation can be anything. If you’re focused and you have a dream and you’re willing to make a sacrifice, you are the person we want in the group.
Q: Are members supposed to bring visitors?
A: You’re encouraged to bring visitors for those occupations that are open, after the visitor has been prescreened, and if they’re a viable candidate. It’s pretty much a closed meeting except for potential members.
Q: Do ethical rules for certain professions prohibit participation in BNI?
A: BNI understands the importance of the ethical concerns governing certain professions and acknowledges that rules can differ by location. As such, BNI therefore requires its members to uphold the rules of its profession so as not to violate the professional’s ethical obligations. In the event that BNI’s general rules could potentially violate a professional’s ethical code, BNI’s rules are superseded by the dictates of the professional’s ethics’ code. Significantly, a primary objective of BNI is to educate its membership in ways to market and grow business. It is BNI’s intent to ensure that this is permitted.
Q: If I specialize in a field within my profession, am I expected to be an expert in all aspects of my profession?
A: BNI understands that many professions are broad and that people often specialize within their profession. BNI does not expect, nor does it encourage, any professional to participate in an area in which the professional does not have expertise. On the contrary, BNI prohibits professionals from acting outside of the scope of their abilities.
Q: My profession does not let me directly solicit business. Is BNI still right for me?
A: BNI’s primary objective is to assist its members in ways to improve their business and to educate them concerning how they can effectively network. Business people get business when their expertise is known and others reach a comfort level with them. BNI provides a forum that allows members to meet other business peers who need to know effective and efficient business people.
The BNI Danforth chapter meets at 7 a.m. every Wednesday throughout the year, except for statutory holidays, at The Fox and the Fiddle at 535 Danforth Ave.
You can find detailed information, including directions, by clicking here.