Why BNI Sucks

Usually I can ferret out bullshit pretty well.  Somehow I let myself get suckered into joining my local BNI chapter.  Business Networking International is a business networking organization founded by Ivan Misner a well dressed hair hat with all of the usual con-artist plumage.

The goal of the organization is to bring a group of people representing different professions together once a week to pass sales leads to each other.  BNI is a worldwide organization with chapters covering most of the civilized world.  Generally any city of a moderate size will have many BNI chapters.  Each chapter usually has 10 to 30 members which meet once a week as a group. The theory is that the other people in your chapter will act as your virtual sales team.  So joining BNI is like adding 20 to 30 sales people to your sales staff so the marketing says.  This is of course utter and complete bullshit.  Like so many other sales and marketing heavy organizations the reality rarely lives up to the hype.

Each BNI chapter will be made up of members who represent different professions.  A chapter might have an accountant, a lawyer, an advertising professional, a florist, etc.  Each chapter is allowed to have only one person representing a each profession.  And no one person can belong to more than one chapter at a time.

Each BNI chapter meets once a week.  Weekly attendance is manditory and membership will be revoked if you miss more than a few meetings during any one year.  Show up late to a meeting and you will get dinged as well.

The BNI meetings are 90 minutes long and all about structure.  Every move for 90 minutes is run with military accuracy.  There are a lot of little details I’ll stick to the important stuff;

15 minutes of open networking:  Before the organized program begins members will spend 15 minutes milling about talking with each other.  Sounds great right?  Well it isn’t.  You have 15 minutes and 30 members so it leads to the rapid fire exchange of vapid pleasantries and not much else.  Like speed dating, except with ugly people early in the morning.  Generally I’ll spend the entire time trying to avoid the 4 or 5 people that get on my nerves and hope someone will have brought donuts.

Ruthless promotion of BNI propaganda:  This is a great time to look at boobs or if you have an internet enabled cell phone look at boobs on the Internet.

Sales Manager Minute: Each member will stand up and give his sales pitch to everyone else in the room.  “I’m Mike Hunt and I represent the supplemental insurance slot in the group.  My perfect referral would be a dumbass that is so scared of the world that he doesn’t want to come out from under his bed and thinks that he needs to buy insurance for his insurance.”

Upon first blush this seems like such a great system.  It certainly sells well in their marketing literature; “joining BNI is like adding 30 sales people to your staff.”  The sad reality is that the only thing that anyone is thinking during the sales manager minute is;

Before: What will I say during my sales manager minute?

After: Boy am I glad I’m done with my sales manager minute.

They aren’t listening to you and even if they were after 30 one minute mini presentations no one in the room retained any information anyway.  Further if you have any technical detail or nuance that you need to convey how could you do that in one minute?  Even if someone was paying attention to you which they aren’t.

Member 10 minute presentation:  Each week a different member presents his business to the group during a short sales presention with a question and answer session at the end.  This will be the longest and most horrific ten minutes of your life.  10 solid minutes of intimate details of exterminating, year end tax filing or mortgage underwriting in exquisite detail. By minute 8 you’ll want to push a rusted screwdriver though your eardrum just to make the pain fucking stop.

The I have (a fictional) referral for you time:  The “I have” time is when members will pass a business referral, share some senseless BNI anecdote to their otherwise banial unfulfilled life, introduce their visitor (sucker) or on occasion blurt out “I love BNI” like a mildly retarded tourettes sufferer.  Really the referrals are the meat everything else is just to distract away from the fact that you didn’t bring a referral.  The majority of BNI referrals break down in the following categories;

Fictional Outside Referral; Member knows some guy they met that in theory could use your service but when you contact him isn’t interested or can’t afford your service.

Fictional Inside Referral; Another member claims to want to purchase your service but really doesn’t. But it gets them off the hook for another week because they made their “quota.”

Wants Free Shit Referral; Another member gives you a referral so that you can give them free stuff because you want to hook another BNI brother up.  It doesn’t matter what you do or what you sell your fellow BNI members will try to get it from you for free. 

The “I have” time is the single worst flaw in the BNI program.  Here is why; there is informal pressure to show up at the meeting with something every week.  The pressure to produce leads to members creating fictional referrals or passing garbage referrals.  Because unlike in a commissioned sales job where you are judged on the quality of your sales.  At BNI you are judged on the quantity of your leads not the quality.  It’s just a terrible system that seems to be specifically designed to insure poor results.
One-on-One Meetings (BNI Homework): These are one hour meetings between two members in a more personal setting billed as a way for you to get a deeper understanding of each other’s businesses.  Sounds great on paper.  In reality these meetings are often used by your fellow members as an opportunity to sell you their wares.  What could be better than a qualified buyer held captive for an hour while they try to sell you; supplimental insurance, nutritional products, payroll services, financial planning, employee health coverage, etc.  If they aren’t trying to sell you something they are trying to pump us for free advice, free services, free anything they can get.  These meetings are a complete waste of time 97% of the time.  So I say fuck it man.  I set these meetings up in bars and drink em pretty.  Or drink until I don’t really give a damn that they are wasting an hour of my life. 

BNI Results: In seven months of BNI we have received 28 referrals.  Of those 28 referrals we closed 3 customers.  One didn’t pay their bill.  One complained because they thought their bill was too high.  And one was a decent small job.  Doing the math we generated $1300 in sales minus the $540 we paid our BNI chapter comes to $760 in revenue generated for approx 80 hours of time invested in BNI or $9.50/hr.  When you count that my hourly bill rate is many times more than $9.50/hr we’ve actually lost a significant amount of money by belonging to BNI.

There are a handful of people in our BNI chapter that come out the better for their participation.  Generally they sell stuff that is so generic everyone is a possible customer; banking, cable TV service, the mortgage guy passes good leads to the financial planner.  But for the large majority (us included) it’s a giant waste of time, a disruption in our workday and a waste of money.

If you visit a BNI chapter don’t submit to the relentless pressure to join the group and fill out an application on the spot.  Take it home and think it over.  If you’re like 80% of the members in my group you’ll end up giving more than you gain.

273 Responses to “Why BNI Sucks”

  1. chris said:

    Your a small mined prick who simply did not understand BNI. I have been in BNI for a long time and made a lot money from it,and made a lot of other members money from my own efforts. It just shows you don’t understand it and this is why you failed badly at BNI. The only saga is you. Grow up and wake up to the real world you sad twat….

  2. Art Wright said:

    “The only saga is you.” WTF does that mean? I recently moved to Northern Virginia, joined the COC, and the BNI requests to join came out of the woodwork, like roaches at night. Apparently, none of the photographers in town are stupid enough to join BNI, as EVERY group needed a photographer… Oh, and Chris, with grammar skills like these “Your a small mined prick…” I doubt you make any money at anything…

  3. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Art,

    Chris is a small minded twit who drank the BNI cult koolaid.

    If my BNI group represents reality very very few people are making money from BNI except for it’s founder.

    I don’t think that networking is a flawed concept, far from it. I think the BNI implementation of networking is idiotic and exists mostly for self promotion.

    What is your experience with the Chamber of Commerce? Worthwhile?

  4. FormerBNIChapterPresident said:

    I was surfing around, found your blog and thought the response from Chris rather amusing. I figured I might add to your negative opinion about BNI.

    I’m a former president of a BNI chapter that went through it’s full life cycle in about three years. I was one of BNI’s biggest supporters until I came to realize how money driven BNI, Inc. was. Things got worse when I questioned and then proved that BNI’s system was flawed. I was quickly treated as the anti-christ despite what I had thought were strong personal relationships with many of the very top people at BNI’s corporate headquarters.

    BNI wants all their members to be trained monkeys. They want their trained monkeys to believe BNI’s system is the best in the world. They don’t want trained monkeys to believe they can do the same thing but better and cheaper than BNI.

    A BNI membership in a chapter of around 20 members costs more than joining two local chambers of commerce in my area with a combined membership of over 1,500. My Rotary membership, which costs about the same as my BNI membership, generates more business referrals than BNI ever did despite me being BNI chapter president for two years. A Facebook account costs nothing and you can hook up with millions of people who could do business directly with you or give you a business referral.

    On the other hand, with a BNI membership you will receive:
    - A CD full of the best of Ivan Misner’s helpful advice, which he created years ago and has never updated since then.
    - A business card holder with BNI prominently stamped on the front of it.
    - An agreement stipulating that your membership can be terminated without refund if you so much as sneeze in the wrong direction.
    - A bill for over $400 just for joining.
    - The opportunity to meet weekly with 20-30 people who blew $400 on BNI too.

    What a deal!

  5. Grumpy Nerd said:

    One of my life tenants is; never trust and older man that spends too much time on his hair. Ivan Misner is well quaffed hair hat. The man oozes a con-artist vibe. As soon as I saw his photo on the cover of the BNI propaganda materials I knew I had made a mistake.

    Thank you for sharing your experience I’m sorry you wasted 3 years of your life in that organization.

    If this doesn’t put how ineffective the BNI concept into perspective nothing will; We generated more revenue between 12:00am and 8:00am EST last night from Internet advertising (while I was sleeping) than in 8 months of BNI.

  6. Sobchak said:

    Grumpy N.:

    Can I say you are my new virtual/personal hero? I tried to explain to my wife the frustrations I have experienced in my BNI “honeymoon” (two months and about to end prematurely). I couldn’t. She was sure I was exaggerating.

    And then I showed her this. And she now does not question what I say.

    You’re lucky your meetings last 90 minutes. Mine go 105 minimum. I am convinced that the so-called entrepreneurs prolong the agony because they have no legitimate work to get to.

    The meetings are painful in the same way I imagine a spinal tap feels. I drink bad coffee and take multiple bathroom breaks just to divert my attention.

    I was unable to attend 3 meetings in a 6-week period - all due to legitimate, actual paying client meetings that were unavoidable. Good excuse, right?

    Nope! BNI could give a flying hair-helmet about actual work - it’s all about the networking, yo. After receiving three frantic phone calls on a Thursday night by some member of the leadership team, I was put on de facto probation.

    Now, the so-called “leadership team” is meeting to discuss my absences. I am subject to discharge unless I can find a replacement to come in my stead.

    In my 2 to 3 months at BNI, I have received no referrals and I can count the total number of referrals others have received by removing my shoes. Half of the referrals sound hypothetical and vague, like they were made up on the go.

    So, G. Nerd: What do I do? Should I get fired or just quit?

    Walter

  7. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Walter,

    Fuck BNI. You go out in a blaze of glory. Do not let those fuckers get rid of you. You go right up to the president of your chapter and tell him that BNI is a bullshit cult and is completely ineffective. I quit. Done. You walk away a better and richer man who can redirect your valuable time toward more productive sales channels.

    BNI is a brilliant way to prey on suckers. Props to that con-artist Ivan Misner for putting together such a brilliant con.

    Here is the rub in his con-job. Unlike bullshit religions where everyone in the know is dead the success of BNI can be quantified with simple math.

    This simple exercise will tell you if your BNI chapter is working;

    Divide your chapter’s total gross sales by the number of members in your chapter. Get your average sales per member.

    Divide the average sales per member by 50 weeks.

    Divide the average sales per week by the average amount of time the average member wastes on unproductive BNI activities. Say four hours.

    What you will come out with will be a pathetic number somewhere in the range of between $5 and $10 per hour.

  8. Pat Ferris said:

    I was a former BNI Vice President and treasurer. I can’t speak for how everybody feels, but I will tell you what happened at my chapter.

    We had a treasurer that stole so much money the chapter almost went under until the area director suggested that we all put up an additional $100.00. Everybody ignored the fact that the past treasurer quit the chapter “IN GOOD STANDING” soon after it was discovered some shady things were happening. Have you ever seen a check book with white out and scribble in it on every line? The dope didn’t even have the sense to use a pencil.

    I knew that I would never get back what I gave in the chapter, but I remained in the group because I figured what the hell, it was paid for and some people were pretty cool.

    My business started to take off (no thanks to BNI) after we hired two full time sales people. I was to busy to attend, plus relocated far away. Everybody knows that BNI does not accept that as an answer, but it is what it is. I told the chapter I would no longer be attending meetings and they requested that I put it in writing for the “dropped in good standing” status. I didn’t get around to it until the next month and when I sent it I was then told “In order to drop you in good standing you need to pay this last month dues” I never responded because they didnt want to hear what I had to say anyway. Tvhat takes balls. I paid an extra $100.00 dollars to keep the chapter afloat and never asked to be reimbursed for the $40.00 dollars in postage I spent for the visitor day. So they dropped me and now I can never return, without the almighty ok from Chick.

    People can be very unreasonable and foolish. I was a great member who gave “VERY GOOD REFERRALS” no bogus bullshit. Even though I always received referrals that were bullshit. They way you could tell that is because my company provides emergency services which means I should never receive a referral at the meeting for the first time.

    Its a good group to belong to if you are looking to meet business professionals. Hopefully if you join you don’t end up with a bunch of brainwashed idiots that can’t think or make decisions on their own. If you join a chapter you should ask that the chapter funds be reported at every meeting and a paper hand out to show what money is being spent on because it is your money.

  9. Amy said:

    I’m so glad I found this tonight - I thought I was the only one not in love with BNI. After visiting a start up chapter and listening to weeks and weeks of the BNI trainer (who also sales Mary Kay and is way to perky), they pushed and pushed for me to pay and join. I said no, they didn’t even have enough members to really be a chapter accroding to BNI rules. Then I visited another chapter and it seemed fun and more professional, so I joined and that was a really big mistake.

    I missed 3 neetings in a short period and received a stiff warning via email with multiple chapter members copied on the note. We meet early in the morning and there are never any subs for anyone and many long time members miss week after week. Do you think they receive the same warning ? No.

    When I called a “friend” I had met in BNI to discuss - she gave me the cold shoulder.

    If I don’t show tomorrow, I will be fired! Should I show up or not?

    By the way, one of those absenses was due to my yound child being in the hospital and the others were work related.

  10. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Amy… there are a lot more people that dislike BNI than like it. Look at the average chapter turnover. From what I’ve seen in any given year a chapter has more members quit than it has. The key is that they keep on finding new suckers to sign up.

    I’ve been to the local chamber of commerce meetings, BNI meetings and other like organizations. I’m convinced that forced networking doesn’t work. Why? Because the organizations that promote the networking don’t have your best interests in mind. BNI doesn’t give a rats ass if you succeed or not. In fact if you don’t succeed they blame it on you not following their “plan.” The plan in which you spend ever increasing amounts of money on their training and materials.

    Don’t let them fire you. You walk in their and tell them whats up and dump them.

  11. AP said:

    I am not a BNI supporter, nor have I ever been affiliated with the group. I do think that referrals are just a portion of your business as in maybe 25% or less depending on your business model. You cannot expect the BNI group to generate all of your business leads. Based on previous members comments, SEO or PPC made have been a more effective marketing technique since people were actually looking for them.

    In any case, I’ve been researching and thinking about whether or BNI makes sense for me. After reading articles online and speaking with several members, I think their system is antiquated. It made sense in the 80s, even in the 90s, but with the advent of the internet and free social networking sites, it doesn’t make sense anymore.

    Plus, the time commitment is extreme from what I hear and the punitive system is within itself one reason why some people are passed low quality leads. In any case, the blog was within itself was extreme as to bring home a point. The first commentator didn’t understand that from what I gather. Simple put: in plain English, BNI is not for everyone or anyone anymore.

  12. Amy said:

    I got invited to a BNI meeting as the guest of someone, so I felt flattered and decided to give it a try. I’m a pretty open-minded person, but I was disgusted by the meeting! It was terrible, and I was embarassed for everyone there. The meeting is so “calculated”; every minute is planned, there is forced laughing and clapping, and basically I was hoping I would shit my pants, just to have a good excuse to get the hell out of there. Although I’m sure lots of members are there for innocent reasons, there is something quite sinister beneath the surface, and I was wondering when the baby would be presented for the daily sacrifice. I was also looking around to see if anyone had the mark of the beast on the back of their necks, lol. This may sound dramatic, but the meeting was bullshit, and not only that, downright scary. And it’s SO early in the morning!! I had to be there at 6:45. It’s like they try to get you when you’re tired, or something. If you’re invited, DON’T GO, unless you’re writing some sort of article on cults or unless you’re looking for a good laugh or scare. BEWARE!!

  13. p fortin said:

    Hey nerd,

    me again. Different thread. Hey, got some more insight on BNI. I will tee up the story with a litle context: I am currently a member of a chapter. In defense of my fellow chapter members, most of us actually come out on the winning side of the dollars and cents equation. That being said, I have been trying to get a clear definition of just what the relationship is between BNI and the individual chapter members. Ok, here is what is what: I was told by a BNI corporate that “there is no legal binding between BNI and its members.” To the lay person (me) that means we are customers that have purchased a product/good/or service from a for-profit business.

    What does this mean? It means any contract that BNI tries to get you to sign after the fact will then change that relationship. The change in relationship is squarely to benefit and protect BNI, not the member. (Big suprise). I also learned that BNI is very deft at handling these types of issues because in the twenty plus years of being in business, they have been able to develop and put into place a very calculated and rehearsed corporate protocol to deal with individuals that start to probe to deeply into the inner workings of BNI.

    This is evidenced by the foodchain that has been developed and what kinds of folks are in that foodchain is the real meat. When a member questions the relationship that exists between BNI and themselves, That question is not allowed to be definitively answered by your area director or apparently by the franchise executive director (franchise owner) either. the question is funnelled to corporate HQ and a lawyer then tries to talk you down over the phone. Nothing in writing. That is the cardinal rule.

    The lawyer or representative of BNI corporate never will answer your question because that would constitute a “meeting of the minds” and legally, that is just a way of saying two or more parties have gotten together to clearly define their relationship to each other and then any legal framwork can be built on that relationship. The trick here is, BNI will never define the relationship, because if they do, then they can be held to the appropriate standards of conduct and be held liable for any breach of it.

    I just thought this may help prompt other current or future members to question the legal relationship between BNI and its “members”. Actually, we are not even members in the true sense of the word. If we were truly defined as members, then BNI would have to admit and carry on as a club. And that is like a big no-no with BNI. BNI does everything it can to convince people it is not a club. Man, what a cryptic and convaluted organization. Lots of people in it, only a relative few making gobs and gobs of money…. BNI, AIG… BNI, AIG…. maybe it is just three letter acronyms that bring out the worst in people.

  14. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Amy,

    Thank you for the comment. Regards BNI… you’re smarter than me. I got suckered in for a few months before it became apparent that the whole deal was stacked to a make a few people money at the expense of the many.

    I went to lunch with a client who we’ve worked with for many months. He was introducing us to another guy that he has worked with for a while. (That is REAL networking BTW) here was his take on BNI;

    “It’s taken me my whole life to build my network and I’m protective of it. There is no way that I’m going to turn that network over to a bunch of people that I don’t know. I’m very selective whom I bring in.”

    There it is… you can’t buy respect you have to earn it. This is my claim to the nonsensical nature of BNI and other groups like it. The group that you want to belong to is informal and you’re going to have to figure a way to earn your way into it. The group that you really want to be a part of doesn’t recruit and isn’t accessable with no felonies and $400.

    Real business is done by parties that like, trust and respect each other. It’s not done by standing up for 45 to 60 seconds and saying something pithy and catchy.

    And lastly… if you own your own business why did you go that route rather than just get a job? Money… maybe? You had an idea… possibly. But more than likely you wanted freedom to work in the environment that you wanted to work in surrounded by the kinds of people that you wanted to work with. It’s that individualism that probably drove most business owners into starting and running their own business. BNI seeks to marginalize the individual by making everyone act, speak and be the same. Why would anyone who swims upstream by nature and doesn’t fit into the norms want to be part of an organization that seeks to stifle that important core personality trait?

  15. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Mr. Fortin. Thank you for that very detailed writeup on BNI.

  16. J said:

    This was an awesome article, and a lot of good, insightful comments as well. I just came back from a BNI open house as a guest, and I have to say that it sounded good at first. People started to talk about themselves for the minute, and the members all used these rhyming catchphrases to end their presentations, like “It doesn’t matter if you’re big as a barn or small as a mouse, I bring healthcare right to your house”. I felt it was really cheesy and phony, like an infomercial.

    Then they said that if anyone wanted to join as a member, they had to stand up and announce their intention to join in front of everyone before the meeting was over. I immediately smelled something fishy. I don’t handle high-pressure tactics like this well, especially when they made no mention of the attendance policy or membership fees; things that should be thought over and planned. These details are too important not to bring up. I work full-time, and this chapter meets 90 minutes during business lunch times, which meant it would require that I take time off work. I imagine that other people would have the same problem, unless they owned their own business.

    Now that I’ve done more research, I discovered their strict attendance policy and high membership fees. Maybe I could smell the bullshit because my regular job is marketing, so catchy phrases and sales talk don’t work on me. Now I feel sorry for those people who stood up and joined.

    Real business is done by parties that like, trust and respect each other. It’s not done by standing up for 45 to 60 seconds and saying something pithy and catchy.

    This is a great point. I do photography work for the person who invited me as a guest (I was brought in as a photographer as I try to get my side-business off the ground), and I’ve provided free services for him in the past, that was a lot of good and hard work. I was sort of offended when I thought that he would just stop using me because there was an “official BNI photographer” in his chapter.

  17. FormerBNIChapterPresident said:

    Wow Grumpy! It looks like you got yourself a small cult following since my last post. I want to give you some updated information on BNI in my area.

    BNI had three local chapters, but is now down to one and that one is barely surviving. They blame the recession, despite the fact that BNI promotes being in BNI would help business owners survive a recession.

    Two of my friends (and former BNI colleagues) had their membership terminated due to the strict attendance policy. One has been fighting cancer and missed several meetings due to her chemo appointments. Apparently, that wasn’t a good enough excuse. It didn’t matter because that chapter closed a few months later due to lack of members. They tried to restart the chapter, but it failed miserably.

    Facebook, LinkedIn and other social internet sites have hundreds of thousands of members and cost nothing to join. You would be an idiot to fork out over $400 to BNI and become a lemming. I hope more people who are thinking about joining BNI find your blog and think before they blow their hard earned money.

  18. Mike Current BNI Member said:

    Hello,

    I want to make some points on BNI and my experience I have to agree with some of your points and disagree with others. I am a local business owner that sell Web Design services. Before I decided to join my BNI chapter I visited 15 chapters. I found most of the junk that you mentioned above. However after spending 6 months on the BNI website I saw a new chapter was starting near me during the noon hour. I messed very well with most of the members in the group and although we follow the standards of the meeting we are more laid back.

    I find during the non hour BNI takes up most of your day. Therefore I find our members have their 60 second pitch pre-written and we take notes on what each person talks about. The attendance policy is from corporate BNI and we can’t change that. However we have never had to terminate a member yet. We have been a active chapter for over 1 years and we only had 1 member not renew. Each seat in our chapter has earned around $26,000 in closed business in the last year. This is also true for myself.

    I referrals I have received have been of high quality and I have passed high quality referrals. Now I know just from my visits this could be the exception not the rule.

    When I invite my clients and colleges to BNi I tell them. “This may not be the BNi for you. BNI may not be for you. But please do your leg-work and find one that makes the most sense for you.” Just like any investment you need to find the right provider for your needs.

    Any way my two sense.

  19. THE BlindIngObviousKeepsOnWinning said:

    I just though i’d share my experience on this blog having been invited to and attended a BNI open day just this morning.

    7am both me and my friend walk through the carpark not quite knowing what we have let ourselves in for. We are greeting by a very smiley man in his mid forties. He shakes our hand and we continue up to the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs we are greeted by another man,. we shake his hand and say hello. Finally upstairs we are greeted by 3 more people. One collecting business cards the other collection our £10 fee and another hand writing our name badges.

    As i look around the room i notice 2 distinct groups. Them and Us. “Them” (the bni members) stood there chatting happily, making some quite joke about their child and how business is excellent. US (the newbies) on the other hand were slightly lost and bemused by the amount of people there. Wow, this could be a good meeting i thought.

    As i fought my way through the crowd to get a coffee and a dry bacon sandwich, i caught the sight of someone who looked decent to talk to. After a few minus of nattering we did they usual of swapping business cards and moved onto the next group of people. All of a sudden and without warning all the BNI members sat down. As if a switch had been flicked and they all obeyed. ooohh eerrr. i guess i’ll sit down.

    What came next was nothing less than……well i’ll explain.

    The chairman of the chapter stood up and started telling us how BNI members have made contacts that got them 7 million pound contracts and how business referrals accounts for 70% of one guys business and how another guy has made himself a millionaire from joining.
    Impressive i thought. I wonder how getting in contact with the Finance director of an airline can help my IT company supporting the town i live in. hmmmmm…….

    So after 20 minutes or so, i was getting a little tired by now and the speakers voice was starting to drone, we all got up and had 1 minute to exchange business cards with as many people as possible. WOW, making contacts and maybe getting some good leads. Excellent!!!! or so i thought…

    As i sat down counting my newly found contacts, another speaker appeared and proceeded to tell us about the BNI and how joining it is great. urm.. hasn’t the first guy just done this?

    45 minutes in and we all get the chance to stand up and tell the group who we are and what we do. After the 8th or 9th person i’d forgotten who the first person was, by the time my turn came (about 50th) i almost forgot what i was going to say. By the end i couldn’t remember anyone and also had neck ache from turning round to look at people.

    Ok, now we can get on with some networking..excellent. urm…no. First the 2 chapter leaders got up to say thank you for coming and why joining the BNI was excellent. Again, haven’t we already hear this?

    1 hour 20 mins in and still i sit there with my friend. The membership forms come out. “If anyone is a guest here please raise your hand so we can hand you a form” the speaker says…urm…ok so now can we speak to some of the people here that we came to network with….WRONG!!!!!

    the speaker now explains how to fill the form in…urm forgive me for being a a little slow, but i think i understand what the question “are you a member of any other networking group” means, and it is really any of your business if i am?

    1hour 45 mins in. Finally he finishes and we can do some networking. except at this point i didnt want to, all i wanted to to get out of there ASAP!

    As i looked around the group im sure i saw the hosts shake each others legs and hastily hide bag that contained what may be an ornamental smock and hat with a moose’s head on it. (i may have made that bit up)

    What we had witnessed, and paid good money to go too was a 2 hour long hard sell. No one there wanted to do business with you unless you were one of “THEM” and to become on of “THEM” you had to dedicated many hours each month into suckering other people to join. And pay them nearly £1000 a year for the privilege

    Suffice to say the Cult of BNI has not suckered me in.

  20. The Koolaid is Tasty said:

    Grumpy-
    Let me start by saying that article was one of the best reads I have had in Months. Very well written, and very entertaining. You have a new Blog follower.

    I was a member for almost a year and I loved it. My work colleague was a member for 3 months and just quit today. My takeaway….BNI is only as good as the people in your group. I genuinely liked the people in my chapter and I closed some good business from the referrals I got. When my chapter broke up, I have kept in touch with the people and would continue to send them business. It worked for me because the people in my chapter were cool.

    My colleague had a terrible experience. His chapter members were self-serving and his Leadership team was condescending and arrogant. His take was why get up at 5am to be treated like a jerk. If I was in his group, I think I would have had the same viewpoint.

    As for the individual gripes and my opinions/experiences:

    - I am fine with the structure…if people don’t “have” to show up at 7, they won’t so I don’t have a problem with the mandatory attendance.

    - I am fine with the 60 second ads…by the end of my year, I could do the 60 second ad for anyone in my group. Consequently, I could genuinely be a good advocate/evangelist of their services. The repetition worked.

    - I enjoyed my one-on-ones because we spent 10 minutes on business and the rest of the time drinking beers and getting to know each other. If I were to let someone try to “sell me” their wares during my 1-on-1, that’s my fault for allowing it.

    The bottom line for me is the BNI formula is going to bring out the best or the worst in people. I can easily see how a bad group is going to pass bogus leads and generally be a big waste of time. Conversely a cool group of people and a leadership team that encourages participation without condescending to its members can definitely profit from being a part of BNI. BNI is only as good as the people in your group and the few people running your individual chapter. I won’t argue that there may be a lot of lame chapters out there, but my experience was a good one.

  21. p fortin said:

    Hey Nerd,

    Sounds like there are a lot of the same symptoms in a lot of different chapters. I alluded to my current chapter being fairly successful. I think I can see some reasons why. First and foremost, all the folks in our chapter see BNI simply as a marketing and networking tool. Kind of like saying “a means to an end.”

    In my observations of chapters that seem to struggle and folks that have shitty experiences visiting chapters for the first time, I can see some key problems. It seems to me that those chapters are focused on simply building up their numbers and membership instead of making money. Our chapter has battled this in the past and it can be annoying. once a chapter or the leadership in a chapter shift the focus from making money by passing referrals to just growing the chapters’ ranks, the value of the group goes into the toilet and folks get fed up real fast.

    Instead of BNI being a means to an end, it becomes the end in itself. Great for the BNI franchise owners, but piss-poor for all the members that have shelled out hundreds of dollars to hopefully increase their business. Also, i have noticed that the description of some of the meeting agendas and formats are way off the reservation! Every meeting in any part of the world are supposed to be the same. Kinda like going into a Mcdonald’s. Doesn’t matter if it is Peoria, Illinois or Dussledorf, Germany… Same shit, different currency.

    Just some observations. I still maintain that BNI is the Walmart of networking organizations and I think it would be fun to see a huge shake-up in the structure and methodology of it. Damn the man and curse it for actually working sometimes!!! Don’t worry, I secretly add heroin to every batch of koolaid we serve at all our meetings. Keeps things interesting.

  22. Former director said:

    I’m a sucker! I think I have LOSER plastered to my forehead. I’m still a current member, who will not renew this coming September. 7 years wasted. Maybe I’m a little slow. Just think this article and the comments are mostly based on the meeting itself. Imagine the bullshit and propaganda that is provided at at a director level!

  23. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Hello Former Director. I think it’s ironic that BNI doesn’t allow people that do multi-level marketing but it would appear that BNI is in fact organized as a multi-level-marketing scheme.

    I’d love some insight into BNI’s inner workings at the director level. Please share.

  24. Devon Foster said:

    My experience with BNI was about 50/50. I did get business from it partly because I was an “easy referral” (as it was explained to me-my business is Venetian Plaster and decorative painting). My objection to the organization was the constant pressure from our area director to sign new members. The kick was that this particular director said he was getting calls from people interested in joining a BNI chapter, yet he’d never send them to existing chapters-he always waited until he had enough people interested and then he’d start a new chapter. It was explained to me that there was more financial incentive for him to do things that way then fortify existing chapters. This made the whole thing seem a little insincere. I felt for the money there should have been a little more customer service.

    When the number of members in our chapter were deemed insufficient by BNI corporate, our area director put us on a program which was (according to BNI) designed to bring us back up to snuff in 6 weeks (or thereabouts, I forgot the actual number). The arrangement was that the area director was going to implement a rigorous training program, one which he would administer personally during a series of weekly meetings which were to be “closed”-that is to say no visitors would be allowed during this period. Well, he showed up to one of them and essentially cast us adrift afterwards only to show his face one more time several weeks later to tell us that our chapter was going to be dissolved. When asked directly about this by one of our members he said “I choose to work only with those chapters who want to succeed”. What?!? It made me wonder what I was paying for.

    My advice to anyone thinking about joining one of these chapters is investigate, investigate, investigate. Go to a few of the meetings before you shell out the money. There will be a lot of “this is the greatest thing ever!!” talk going on for your sake (because most of them will just be interested in getting you to fork over a check) so take it all with a grain of salt. Grab every business card you can and call everyone to get their opinion on their chapter. Many of them will BS you but one or two will give you the straight skinny. If your business is complimentary to the business of existing members (for example my business was complimentary to the Architect and Interior Designer who were already members of this chapter and vice-versa) then it may be a good idea to add BNI to your marketing arsenal. Yeah, “givers gain” as their motto goes but look out for number 1.

  25. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Here is what I don’t understand… if you want to start a networking group why do you need BNI?

    Just start a networking group. The same people with the same contacts and the same drive that build up a group for BNI could just as easily build their own group.

    BNI doesn’t empower you to do anything you can’t do for yourself. In fact in many ways I think they detract from good networking.

    In my experience good quality business is done by people that know, like and trust each other. While I was at BNI I say every little good quality B2B business being done. Many other people that were doing B2B sales felt exactly the same way. Most business that was passed was low level retail or very low end B2B.

    Last I’ve built my network of trusted associates over the last 20 years of my life. That has a lot of value. There is no way I’m going to risk turning that network over to a group of people so they can attempt to sell them MLM, work from home, Avon, Moni Vie, lawn care service, etc.

    What would that do to my reputation with my trusted associates? To sell them out to all manner of shysters and subjecting them to high pressure BNI sales tactics.

  26. JoeyRetroRockets said:

    The end for me started coming when the technology people in my group recommended we all increase our “web presence” by joining Facebook, Twitter, etc. Dutifully doing so amused my 11 year old daughter as she has wanted a Facebook account for some time and I had been stalling her. I figured it would be a good way to check it out before I gave my OK.

    I became “Facebook Friends” with the other members in my “cell” including our Director. Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with Facebook - it provide people with very large egos a platform to publish every little meaningless thing about themselves including what they are doing every second of every day. In short - 11 year old girls.

    While I could saw early on that our Director had maturity issues, I WAS SHOCKED. This woman (girl) posted at least 30 times a day. Every bar she went to, how much she had to drink, whether she was getting it on that night. Complete with photos. (My, My…those photos…) There is no way this woman could have been doing any work at all for BNI or her business. It was one drunken sortie after another. I said nothing about it and I am ashamed to say that the high point of my day became settling down each evening with my family to view the exploits of this train-wreck of a reality show - ALL WHILE SHE PROMOTED BNI IN HER POSTS.

    Suddenly all but a few of the other “young punks” in the group were dropped as her “friends”so someone had to have brought it to BNI’s attention. What a great way to promote BNI.

    Anyway - I am in the process of leaving BNI (3 people have left within the past month)and if I find the time I will pop back and tell about A.) My quest to find a new chapter before deciding to finally dump these thieves and B.) How all the “training classes” are just the same stories again and again and again.

  27. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Joey Retro. See this is exactly why you shouldn’t mix your friends and personal life with your work life. There are a lot of things that all of us do in our personal life that is completely inappropriate in the workplace. Perfect example; write an angry alcohol fueled rant blog about everything that pisses you off in life.

    That is something that needs to be separated from your work life. I’m glad you brought up Facebook. I have an entire rant about the stupidity of Facebook and an even angrier rant about Twitter. The average literary content on Twitter makes facebook look like the deans list at Harvard.

    I’m glad you quit that non-sense. Networking is probably the single most important skill you’ll need in your professional life. BNI has reduced what is an acquired art to a Billy Mays infomercial. BNI is to networking what krystal burgers are to cuisine.

  28. N.T. said:

    I’ve been a member of BNI for just under a year, and I’m bothered aesthetically by the cultlike aspects, although I recognize that a rigid structure is necessary for the group to function — in fact, since the groups are “self-running,” the only thing BNI actually sells is the structure (I do not count the CD, pin, etc.).

    In my case, as I have a business for which finding referrals is easy, I quickly earned back the annual membership fee, although if you calculate in the time investment, membership may not be profitable. BNI is definitely more profitable depending on a member’s profession.

    However, some of us have noticed that even for the easy-to-recommend professions, almost all sales closed are for services directly purchased by other members of the group, rather than outside referrals. This goes against the concept of BNI, in which we are a sales team for the group, rather than selling TO the group. And I fear that some of these internal sales are a result of the pressure to achieve recommendations: people would rather shell out the money for another member’s service than face the embarrassment of showing up without recommendations. If this is true, it makes membership considerably more expensive.

  29. Carol said:

    I’ve been reading all the posts with a great deal of interest as I have been becoming increasly suspicious of the motives of BNI. I have been a member for less than a year but quite frankly really enjoy the people in our group–which is why I’m still in. I have had a sick feeling for awhile now that it is a MLM/Ponzi scheme and like Amy, feel there is something almost sinister beneath the surface. This was confirmed, for me, during the “recruitment” push and the way the so-called “non-producers” were pointed out condescendingly to all other members– this endeavor made me literally ill. And BTW, I worked my ass off during this but couldn’t find any suckers, so it is what it is. Had I known I would have to recruit people, I NEVER would have joined. I am all for inviting some professionals who “make sense” for the group to see if they’d like to connect/join, but I AM NOT for mass/cold calling strangers for the sake of getting them into a room for a hard sell from the Director. I broght in much closed business to other members and have received several “bad clients” myself. And let me ask, so, the rules are so strict that they can kick you out AND not refund your $$?? Is this not borderline ilegal? What do the Exec Dir and Dir get exactly? I do know that some people love BNI and are dying to get in (though not anyone I contacted). On the plus side, if your group is dynamic and you’re flying solo and need supportive people behind you, then it may be for you. I, personally, have a love/hate relationship with BNI; I put in the time, $$, and energy for the people in my group; however, I am not sure how much longer I will do it, and most certainly will be gone before the next recruitment push.

  30. pfortin said:

    Like I have said in past posts… The trajectory and goals of BNI, the franchise and BNI, the chapter are completely divergent. They are at odds with each other. BNI teaches you to get to know your fellow members over time so you can trust them and feel comfortable passing them a referral. After all, it is your reputation on the line. However, BNI the franchise wants you to AUTOMATICALY trust them and give them referrals (new recruits) without you asking any questions. -And trust me, they get mighty uncomfortable when you start asking too many probing questions!

    Bottom line is: if it works for you and your wallet, hold your nose, and swallow the koolaid. If you cannot get past the “Jonestown after-tase” then take the next flight back to the country. Its kinda like drinking half a bottle of Absinthe in a sitting: tastes like shit, but the effects can be fun. yeehaaww!

  31. Carol said:

    All, thanks for the hilarious and informative posts; just returned from my BNI meeting and hearing yet more “instructions/demands/”we are doing this FOR YOU!” propaganda. I have made so much money from BNI that I don’t have two nickels to rub together, let alone pay for the next “dues”. To be sure, there are some really genuine people there who are extraordinarily supportive of you and your business, and for that, I am grateful. However, I still feel that BNI is the most well-oiled MLM scheme I have ever seen. Each time I try to look for more “good” — I feel, see, and hear more bad. I have gone from suspicious to livid to disgusted. I thank you for your website in which I have been able to vent my frustrations, and really appreciate the great laughs as I feel increasingly down about being involved with this organization. Soon, I will cut my losses…

  32. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Carol,

    Please do yourself a favor, quit now. Quit in a blaze of glory. Quit and tell as many members of that organization the truth why you are quitting.

    I did. I’m quitting because as a sales channel this is a waste of time. I spend 80% of my sales time / effort with BNI and receive less than 1% of my revenue from BNI related activities. BNI is wasting valuable that could be better spent on more effective sales channels.

    Tell them straight and leave. Thank the handful of people in your group that are worth a damn and bail.

  33. Carol said:

    Grumpy Nerd, you are so right. In our most recent meeting, the Director said, “now we have to concentrate on RETENTION of current members”. Hm…why? Because most signed on for only one year and that time is almost up, and they know that they are going to lose a lot more people. Early on, I was very frank in asking the Officers if BNI was a MLM/Ponzi, etc., and they, in all sincerity said, “no”. I don’t think they were lying; I think they genuinely believed it was not because there were no OVERT signs of an MLM. (Perhaps they’re too young to remember the ’80s when MLMs were rampant.) I can only credit BNI with my meeting some of the most awsome people (who I will continually refer to anyway)…for which it cost me over $1,000. Well, stupid is as stupid does. Thanks again for the great, and frank, feedback that confirmed my initial suspicions. You are doing a great service.

  34. JackDonlan said:

    Thanks for your blog! I am a real estate lawyer who has been in my local chapter for 3 years, joining as soon as I opened my own shingle. Initally, it was good for me. The real estate (same one the while time) sent me a bunch of referals. Now she works with sellers and sends me nothing. Mortgage person does not send me s–t even though I know she is slammed. Meeting is so long and too strucutred. I am going to swtich to a local networking group that needs an attorney that is only $50 per 6 months and meets twice a month.

  35. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Hey Jack, thanks for reading. I’m really shocked at the level of discontent that exists in the world over BNI. But I guess I shouldn’t be. Most of the people I met with in one on one meetings who let their guard down freely admitted that BNI wasn’t worth their time.

    One of the things that sticks in my craw regarding BNI is their religious blame overtone. Like the church I attended as a youth BNI puts itself above criticism. That the BNI model is perfection in networking and it works in all case except those where the BNI member don’t perform. In Ivan Misner’s words “Don’t blame your network.”

    I remain convinced that real networking is done informally between people that like each other. Once you gain the trust of someone you do business with and once they like you they will introduce you to their other associates. Thats how it’s done.

    This concept of structured forced networking that BNI mandates is absurd. I believe it’s designed to show well to visitors and thus sell more BNI memberships. Here is why; a BNI visitor will see all of those referrals being passed and think “wow I’ll close business almost every meeting.” In reality 99% of those referrals are fiction. They are made up, they are requests for free services, low quality customers, or leads that are so poor quality they probably aren’t worth even a single phone call.

    There are probably a handful of people that BNI works well for. In my opinion it’s a complete waste of time if you are trying to do series B2B sales.

  36. JackDonlan said:

    Good follow up comments to mine, Grumpy Nerd. YOu are right that many of the referrals are worthless or bogus. The one exception was when the real estate agent was sending me closings with ratified contratcs. Unless a referral is a “5″ outta 5 on their “hot” scale like described above, they are bogus. So many people would “corner” me in the 15 minute networking to get FLA, Free Legal Advice which I always despised. You are also right about the religious overtones. You are made to think Ivan Misner is like the Catholic Pope and is speaking with infallibility of the Holy Spirit when he says anything. Think people, I am finally starting to. I just have to plan my exit.

  37. Ayla said:

    I wish I had found this blog before joining the \cult\. I have only been a member a short time (8 weeks) and every week I sit in disbelief at the brain-washing mentality. I am cynical and sarcastic by nature. When I stood up and told my chapter that I read Givers Gain and found it very insightful into the whole BNI story-I saw my mentor sitting across the room grinning from ear to ear. Although it sounded like I was complimenting BNI, my intent was \wow this is everyone’s weekly brainwashing\. I find myself dreading every weekly meeting and even though I have already made the money invested in return, it is complete waste of my time.

  38. Bob said:

    I thought I would just share my opinion as well.

    Never been a member of the BNI and never will!

    I recently was the “lucky” recipient of an invite from one of my clients to a BNI open day. I didn’t really want to go but felt it might be an interesting morning so went along anyway.

    As soon as we sat down and the whole BNI is wonderful sales pitch came out, I just felt like this was a cult recruiting for human sacrifices.

    It didn’t help that the guy giving the main speech was Uri Gellerish in appearance and stature. The use of the word “chapter” to descibe the group conjured an image of religious cults and hells angels.

    I looked at the price for a years membership and wondered how I would break even, let alone make a profit from the poor quality referrals I would surely receive.

    There were two competitors from my industry at the meeting as prospective members and the leadership tried to play us off against each other to gain a signup from one of us.

    But the funniest thing for me was when the guy controlling the meeting got people to start filling out the membership forms and everyone apart from me just picked up a pen and started as if they were actually going to join. I could not believe that these people had actually bought into it and had become sheep in such a short space of time.

    At that point I made my excuses and left.

    My personal recommendation……..complete waste of time

  39. one time bni visitor said:

    I can’t tell you how hard I laughed when I read through the comments on this site….my spouse is a bni member and I decided I would visit one morning. Yup, a lot of ugly people in the early morning is way too much to take. But all kidding aside…what can one learn about someone in the 60 second commercials? Nothing other than what they do. Would YOU refer one of your valued business or personal contacts to someone you didn’t know anything about? Are they reliable, honest, what are their ethics…no one cares…as long as referrals are passed. My spouse in the last 2 weeks referred four members to valued business associates. Now HE looks like the ass…geez, what the heck did you refer these idiots for? Let’s see a dentist who diagnosed the wrong tooth, an ad designer who just blew off a client, and then designed something that a two year old could do, an electrician who blew off a client as well, and a piano teacher who showed up at her lessons hours late and loopy. YUP, real proud I could refer these losers to you. What a joke.

  40. Mary Ellen said:

    I just “withdrew” from BNI because in 12 weeks I was the only one in my group who didn’t receive any referrals. Each week I would create a new 60-second commercial and present it with enthusiasm in the hopes that I would get referrals, but each week I was further disappointed. The lawyer, real estate agent and several home improvement business owners (plumber, electrician, floor guy, etc.) all referred to each other, and these referrals were passed back and forth each week. I felt as though I was at a dinner and the food was being passed in front of me, but I wasn’t getting any myself. When I sent the President of my group an e-mail to express my concerns and ask her for suggestions on how I might turn the situation around, she didn’t respond to me directly, but had the District Manager call me. He doesn’t know me, but condescendingly told me I needed to be more positive and persistent. He then went on and on about how much business he had gotten through BNI. I’m angry with myself for paying the high membership fee. At the time I thought it would pay off. I would caution anyone who is thinking about joining NOT TO DO IT! I’m trying to research whether there’s any way legally to get my money back. If anyone has figured out how to do it, please let us all know!

  41. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Hey Mary Ellen,

    Don’t feel too bad about watching those referrals go by. If my experience was any indication 99% of those referrals were bullshit anyway.

    The referrals I got fell into one of several categories;

    1. Fictional Bullshit - the referral was simply fabricated.
    2. A client that doesn’t pay their bills.
    3. A client job so small that it isn’t even worth the time to return the phone call.
    4. A “self referral” this is where the BNI member refers himself to you so that you can do something for them for free.
    5. Someone that can’t afford your services.

    It’s isn’t a matter of your bad attitude it’s a matter that the BNI program is fatally flawed. It’s designed to bring in new members at the expense of the existing members.

    If BNI was so worthwhile there wouldn’t be so much turn over. People would stick with it.

  42. Mary Ellen said:

    Thanks for the feedback, Grumpy. Like any dysfunctional group, the BNI mucky-mucks made me feel as though there was something wrong with ME!

  43. Fear of Parking Fine Saved Me From BNI said:

    Hey Grumpy Nerd. Classic writing and great points. As someone that runs and reads blogs a lot I found the lack of the usual crass or moronic comments (aside from my fellow wood toothed un-schooled Brit compatriot) very telling. The fact that people are pretty even keeled about their BNI experience speaks volumes to the veracity of it what you and they say are saying.

    As a one man operator who generates a lot of leads online I thought it might be interesting to follow up a client’s invite to one of these shindigs. Once there I soon cottoned on to the weirdness of it all - having had a relative marry into the JWs it was all too familiar. (That reference alone will bring you all kinds of sinister new traffic!)

    Being naturally cynical and sarcastic like one of the previous commenters my next thought was to self-censorship as in “they may be a bunch of freaks in very bad suits and worse shoes but give them a chance now you’re here”.

    The guy that invited me was a bit nervous and edgy (of course he was he knew what was in store for me) and super apologetic for “any pressure you might get to join afterwards”.

    Well, I work in a business where I tell people what they don’t want to hear all day long and so could care less, but thought maybe it’s a good place to get some more local referrals and stop being so cynical about the kind of people I come across in my field every day of the week. Problem is that a keen radar gets well honed over the years and you know if only you trusted that first impression….but hey.

    Now apart from this keen BS radar, I also have the vice of punctuality to the point where I am always stupid early to be on time. I should have realised something was up when I arrived at 6.30 (for 6.45) and hung out in the venue lobby for ten mins or so wondering where the first arrivals where. The hubbub down the hall should have been the giveaway. I ventured along and stuck my head around the door and there was like 20 people there already. When I mentioned to my client that I was usually early, four or five people immediately butted in to say how they’d been there since 6am and one guy said he was ashamed that he’d only arrived at 6.38 and was the last one there. I laughed but no one else did.

    The previous commenter mentioned the sudden rush for the breakfast table. My God, it was like something out of Logan’s Run where they get to 30 years old and chips in their palms switch on and lead them to a certain death.

    I assumed (haha) that I would be seated next to the guy who invited me, but no, I was ushered to one of a sprinkling of seats set amongst a couple of fierce looking guys low on charm or humour, one of whom had spent too long pampering himself in the bathroom despite the ungodly hour and another who really should have spent *some* time cleaning himself before turning up.

    Then the really odd bit struck me. There were it seems three other ‘visitors’ (from Planet Earth that is) and around 35 ‘members’. Yet almost all of the script that the meeting chairman was reading out was directed at the benefits of joining. I thought ‘these other guys must get really bored of hearing this script every bloody week at the crack of dawn’. I looked around and saw many dead and trancelike faces, most of them chomping away at caterers packs of Kelloggs or drinking powdered orange juice.

    Then the came the ‘Amens’.

    That really freaked me out, I almost jumped out of my seat.

    OK well no one actually said ‘amen’ but they shouted ‘Yes!’ in unison or clapped or shouted ‘Good Morning’ by zombie rote in the quasi religious manner that meant they may as well have shouted ‘amen’ or ‘hallelujah brother!’ (However, this is England so although they follow the rules they mumble in unison like errant schoolboys from a Dickens novel)

    Then came those strange pitches by nervous mumblers reading printed out speeches like reluctant best men at a wedding. Again I thought ‘ how can these people listen to that same shit every bloody week, and at sparrow’s fart’, as the dear old cockneys used to call the crack of dawn.

    Hold on, that guy’s pitch rhymed. Or did I imagine it? No. The next one did too. Sort of. Then then next guy had a catchphrase - and everyone mumbled the punchline together whilst spitting Rice Krispies.

    Others meanwhile scoffed a disgusting breakfast of overcooked crap on a plate clearly not listening (why would they? they already knew this people and hear this crap every week). My wife had already laughed at me this morning and said ‘give me £10 and I’ll make you breakfast’, before going back to sleep like any other sane person who wasn’t at a BNI meeting).

    Then came more and more speeches all of them about benefits to members, one of the head honchos seemed to invite himself to talk for 15 mins about his ‘brilliant’ new business idea (which was, erm, referrals from other members disguised as an affiliate program).

    Finally at the end it seemed there would be time for a chat with the two or three people present who probably could provide useful referrals but no, us visitors were not allowed to participate in that. Instead we were appointed shepherds to herd us away towards a quiet area where they would ‘explain how to fill in the application form’. Oh my God. By now I’d been in this place hours and not networked with anyone except Messrs Perfume & Pong next to me.

    Really this was supposed to be the sales pitch, the hard sell, but my mob were not hot on that. The Brits are far too apologetic when they try to mug you but don’t really believe in what they are doing.

    ‘I’m, ah, um, really, um, sorry, but I simply have to um ah point out the erm um rules of members, otherwise I’ll be in um trouble, old chap’.

    Actually that implies that like Grumpy’s vision of us English, they all spoke nicely with good diction. Really it was speech impediments and ‘estuarian’ english to the fore, where every sentence from a total stranger about a subject you have no idea about (them) begins with an oxymoronic ‘Obviously’ - as in ‘Obviously, I’ve only got the one kidney…’

    Anyway that aside, what saved me from this Rosemary’s Baby congregation? Was it my built in radar for wanksh*t?.

    Well ,partly, but the truth is that these people had kept me for so long that I suddenly realised my parking permit had expired 5 mins ago and I did not want to get a ticket just to be polite to these characters. Despite the fact that they all knew the car park rules and said things like ‘oh yes, better go, the wardens are hot around here’ I knew they knew that I’d found them out and was leaving them forever.

    As I sat in my car and switched on the ignition (no parking fine ticket ‘obviously’) I looked around at the normal people just starting their day, the sun was shining everything was warm and cozy and suddenly I was back where I belong - on Planet Earth.

    It had all been a terrible dream.

    Wait, a minute - who’s that calling me?

    Hello? BNI cult leader? Yes, sorry I left so abruptly, I erm ah um… Yes of course take my credit card details

    ..Not.

  44. JackDonlan said:

    Enjoyed the comments since I last logged in. Not surprised to know that BNI sux just as bad on the other side of the pond. I left BNI and joined a small local networking group. It only meets twice a month and the membership fee is just $50 for 6 months and the meeting is 1 hour. It is very similar to the BNI meeting, but it does not do about a half-hour of the pontificaitng that you do at a BNI meeting.

  45. JackDonlan said:
  46. Ayla said:

    I had to give my 10 minute presentation at our chapter this past week. I was talking to one of the other chapter members who let’s say is in the bakery business. I had referred one of my staff and I was letting them know how happy my staff-member was with their services. No thank you was returned or sign of gratitude and I thought to myself, wow that’s rude. This person then proceeded to tell me they tried to call me yesterday to see if I wanted to give one of their products as a door prize that day. I said oh, I never got the message. Then they proceeded to tell me they called THE WRONG BUSINESS. WTF??? You want referrals from me and you don’t even know where I work after I’ve stood up every week for the last 3 months and stated my name and business. What a greedy piece of crap whose business practices leave little to be desired.. It’s the last straw-I am gone.

  47. Al said:

    Hi there. Just got invited to a London BMI open morning and found this thread via Google after going through about 10 pages of various chapters. The whole thing doesnt feel right, just getting a random phone call and an invite (by MAIL only, they dont appear to trust the internet).

    Having read all this i am actually pretty tempted to go along and just see WTF all these people are on purely for entertainment value. There might even be an article in it (i freelance).

  48. Mary Ellen said:

    Al,

    I’d be interested in hearing your take on the whole thing if you do attend that BNI meeting.

  49. JackDonlan said:

    Hi Ayla: I understand your frustration. I am a lawyer and i only practice in 4 areas, mostly real estate closing. I want closings from the realtor and the mortgage person. They have not sent me crap recently which is why I am leaving. But of course, the other memebers want FLA (Free legal advice) about shit that I dont know about. Like child custody and criminal. Have you been listening to my infomercial? Obviously not.

  50. JackDonlan said:

    Al: It is funny you say what you did. I had gotten these strange letters before. wE had a visitor’s-recruitment day every few months. We had to send letters to 5 people or else. WTF? No one is going to respond to a stupid chain letter. Anyway, have fun and be ready to be recurited.

  51. almostgotme said:

    Oh boy….I’m glad I found this blog. I’ve been to two visitors day meetings at my local chapter. The first was about 12 months ago and due to travel committments and an uneasy feeling, I didn’t follow through with membership. The second was this morning when I was asked to attend by one of my clients. Considering we have a sizeable contract currently in negotiation I thought it would be prudent to attend and not risk offending them just as we are about to close the deal.

    A number of things struck me as odd. 1) there were only two members still in the chapter from a year ago and they were now in the “leadership” team. 2) The sheer number of internal leads that were passed. I saw virtually no referrals from outside the group…..doesn’t this go against the whole point of BNI?

    The other questuion I have is how much of the $1000 signup fee goes to the director? From what I can tell the director/s have very little financial outlay as the chapter members always have their hand in their pocket to pay expenses.

    They even had the cheek to hit me up for a $5 meeting fee. Great!! I paid $5 to sit at a table with two other people wgho were too interested in organising their business card folder to pay any attention to the new chap at the table.

    BNI has customers not members. Unlike a golf or service club, members of BNI have no equity in the organisation. They have no say in the rules or structure…..they just purchase a script with no opportunity for creativity or independant thought.

    No wonder Ivan is always smiling!!

  52. JackDonlan said:

    Well done almostgotme! YOu only wasted 3 hours of your life instead part of 3 years. And $5 instead of over $1000, not to mention all the lunches.

  53. almostgotme said:

    Now the calls have started trying to get me to sign up!!

  54. JackDonlan said:

    almostgotme, Are they trying to call you pressuring you to join?

  55. JackDonlan said:
  56. JackDonlan said:
  57. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Jack that second article was good! I had no idea just how many people felt taken advantage up by BNI until I posted this article.

  58. JackDonlan said:

    GrumpyNerd: Thanks for your blog as a place to vent! Thanks to your blog, we are able to spread the word about this evil organization.

  59. Lynn Slater said:

    Nice points, I will be using them as my next educational moment in our BNI chapter.

    I have at times seen all that was reported, and I have also seen it all happen very differently — all in the same chapter at different times.

    I don’t give much of a darn about the big BNI organization, but I do care about our chapter and the business we bring each other. Our chapter is what WE make it be.

    One surprize I have had is how much of this can actually be helped by an active education coordinator and by an active membership committee that truly reviews how folks are doing each month. Small nudges made at the right time can keep the bad trends away, but this may not be happening effectively in many chapters.

    The big BNI organization (well, just oru area director) did step in at one point and give us a good slap in the face and kick in the pants. The catch was that we really needed these pushes and I am thankful to the area director for the wake-up calls — they made our group much more effective.

    So why would I be using your points? Because they have alot of validity and I want to review where we stand this week with respect to them. Simply pointing them out will do much to cut down on their frequency. (I think we are OK overall but there are some places where frank comments are needed.) I’m sorry that your chapter had so many all at once.

    So dear readers, what to take away? What Grumpy Nerd reports can and does happen, but it does not have to happen and it does not always happen. It depends on the chapter.

    Here is one stat I love and it is available in almost every VP report in every meeting: Take the $ amount of thank yous and divide by referals given. That is a reality check. Our chapter, BTW, is averaging about $825 per white slip (good), and about 1.5 per member per month (needs improvement).

    If you are in a chapter where these bad trends are happening, then step in and halt them. The chapter is what YOU make it be and you do not need to be a senior officer to cause changes. Think of it as protecting your investment. It is your chapter, make it work.

  60. Mary Ellen said:

    Lynn,
    It’s impossible to “make it work” when the realtor, attorney, appraiser, mortgage lender and home improvement people are sitting there fat and happy, passing leads back and forth. When I told the President of the Chapter that I was disillusioned because I hadn’t gotten any leads in 12 weeks, she had nothing to say. (By the way, she manages a home products store that supplies products to the home improvement people).

  61. JackDonlan said:
  62. JackDonlan said:
  63. JackDonlan said:

    Fascinating! On the last article, I posted, I got a comment from Misner (or Misner’s people) himself! I must have hit a nerve.

  64. Katie said:

    Hahaha, you said everything I had in mind, thank you! I work with/for BNI and it only has been a few months since I got to know this organization but this is a total brainwashing cult. Very fortunately I don’t need to participate in the 60 seconds introduction of myself or “I have picked the names of random people out of White Pages for myself to announce I have referrals for others.” It didn’t take me a week to realize this is insane.

    Someone associated with BNI asked me last week, “What if you owned a business and it is not going well and don’t have money to spend but want to join BNI - would you borrow money and still join?” I said right away, “I would not.” Then he said, “Why, not making enough money means you’re doing something wrong. If you didn’t decide to join, you can never leap from the same old situation.” Right, we need something to break out. BUT why would it have to be BNI that I should join?!

    Maybe because I have spend the last few years wandering about, I don’t know, but sitting on a table being skeptical about the whole concept of BNI, the torture of having listen to old men eating breakfast with their mouth open and slurping, already wanting to escape from the reality, plus mid-aged men commenting about how pretty they find me and saying bad jokes - and giving fake smiles ending up straining my facial muscles…FTW. And all the trainings they give make you think that BNI’s concepts are the best in the world and if you fail to believe, you’re a total loser. Great education. Everybody has to act the same way in this system. No outlaw.

    Oh man, I feel so good after writing the novel above now!!!

  65. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Let it all out Katie. Thats what this blog is for venting your ample rage.

    Great rant.

  66. Mr G said:

    Great stuff, I was bombed out for missing six meetings in a 4 month period, thank the lord for that. BNI is a complete waste of money. My Chapter in the UK comprised the usual small smll town butcher, baker, candlestick maker. I received no referals for my meeting room and office space brokerage and was criticised for not passing on referrals (when I had none to give). I’m well out of it. If you want more punishment sign up to Ivan Misners Twitter account - Jeez, an endless stream of cod psychology and prattle. BNI is a complete and utter waste of time and money

  67. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Mr G!

    Welcome to reality. Glad it didn’t take you as long as me to get there.

    We got tons of referrals in BNI. Exactly one of them was worth a shit and let me tell you how that got fucked up.

    I like to reward people for passing sales leads to us. It’s a great thank you and a good way to do business. So I struck a deal with the member who passed the lead that he would bill the client for the work we were going to do. We talked about a commission in the 10% range.

    Great it was all worked out. We submitted our proposal to the BNI chapter member who was in turn going to submit it to his client. Problem is that he didn’t add 10% to the proposal he added 100% to the proposal. Which of course put our cost way out of the market. Long story short since we were now double market price we didn’t get the job.

    I have to estimate that maybe 2%-3% of the referrals flying around our chapter were legit. The rest were utter and complete fiction to make the member quota.

    Congrats on your departure. Now it’s time for you to do some REAL networking.

  68. JackDonlan said:
  69. Scarred for Life said:

    BNI was the worst experience of my life as an SBO.

  70. Mr T said:

    As a regional manager in a large city my former employer would pay for any networking group as long as it made sense. I went to a BNI new chapter opening and was introduced to “no need to name military guy” with whom I thought I had known from somewhere.

    After 2 hours of BS self promoting I figured out I knew Military Guy from an elite unit in the military. I figured man this guy is a legend in the military and doubted he would remember me as we had only met once or twice.

    I walked up to MG to introduce myself and told him I remembered him from our unit. His comments are ones that I will never forget as long as I live. He looked at me dead in the eye and said “Hey that’s great. So are you completing the application or not?” I said “Yeah sure” and immediately threw them in the trash and walked out. In all my years I have never been disrespected by another military member until that day.

    I knew then and there that they only gave a crap about money and nothing else. “Help me grow my business.” What a total bunch of BS. Every single RSM in the company joined and came to the same conclusion: they take all of our personal referrals for a few months and then weed you out. They know you are going to give them your Mom, Dad, Uncle, Neighbor and then they won’t need you any longer.

    Save the money and do something useful with your time!

  71. JackDonlan said:

    Amen, Mr. T. It is an evil group.

  72. Solaq said:

    Gotta be honest, I’m sorry some of you guys have had bad experiences - but I think that you’ve been in chapters that have not been following the protocol properly. Our chapter of 50+ members is an amazing business experience, everyone benefits greatly - from the woodworker to the real estate agent to the income tax accountant. A BNI group that really lives by the “givers gain” philosophy and doesn’t try to cut corners, cannot help but succeed.

  73. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Solaq,

    I must differ with you. Our BNI chapter followed the BNI program to the letter and we had miserable results. As I’ve said before even though the chapter average sales were horrible there were a handful of winners in the chapter. The problem is that winners to losers in our chapter (my estimate) were 20 to 1. So for every 1 person that did a good business in BNI 19 others wasted their time.

    Thats not a great result and it’s certainly not the sales pitch that member prospects are given. Quite the opposite. The pitch and show to new members was that a lot of business was transacted via referrals during the meeting. How would they know that most of those referrals passed were pure fiction.

    Finally if BNI was as fantastic as you say why are there 70+ anti BNI posts on this blog post alone? Why would this blog get so much anti-BNI traffic? Because while there are a small percentage of BNI winners by and large it would seem that the majority of people that sign up for BNI waste their time and their money.

  74. JackDonlan said:

    Here is the next article, Thank you for reading, especially you, Grumpy Nerd.

    http://bizcovering.com/opportunities/after-leaving-bni-i-am-doing-real-networking/

  75. DatabaseDeveloperGlasgow said:

    I went twice to BNI and decided not to join. I felt the only ones to benefit were the folk selling stuff that ever business uses. Printer paper, ink etc. etc.

    Also I was unhappy with the simple formula one member of each profession. This does not give a true breakdown of businesses in your area

    say 15% builders : 10% engineers: 5% printers

    I also felt that in a time like now in a recession, to spend 3 hours a week (and pay through the nose for it) was just not cost effective for me, a sole trader selling my own time as a database developer. I am a bit short of the hours I want but its only 7 0r 8 hours a week short.

    If your looking for business try the chamber of commerce in your area, or some sort of non cult network organisation

  76. JackDonlan said:

    Non-cult, well put Glasgow! That is exactly what BNI is.
    You definitely need to be in your chamber. I am. I am in 2 groups, PNC and a local group. BNI was preventing me from getting out to change my business from closings to foreclosure defense. I am getting with the people I need to be successful. It will take months for me to transition my business, but I will make it work without wasting 4 hours a week in BNI related things. you were smart to save your time and money.

  77. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Jack, are you running any ads on the Internet? We’ve had good luck running Google Adwords ads in our local region.

  78. JackDonlan said:

    Hey Grumpy: No, I haven’t. What you are doing sounds like a good idea. How much does that cost? Are you making good money with this blog? I am getting pennies, literally, writing what I have. I am patient, confident that my writing on anti-BNI and other topics will pay off eventually. I post my articles through triond.com Your site is No. 3 on my list of sources of article reads. Thanks again!

  79. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Hey Jack.

    I’m making exactly zero from this blog. I don’t run any ads on it. It’s more of a public service and outlet for my pent up annoyances with humanity.

    I’m fairly certain to make significant money with a blog you have to treat it as your full time job and sometimes be pushing a product or service.

    I have a pal that did $500-$1000 a month with a tech related blog and Amazon affiliate links. He did quite a bit of work for that money. It certainly wasn’t free.

    What I was talking about is using Google advertising for your legal practice. The cost depends on the market you’re in. Size of the city you practice in. How sophisticated your competitors are etc. You could probably get started for $200-$300 per month. Try it for a month to see if it works for your business. If it does great. If it doesn’t you’re only out $200. You also have to have a running website for your business and an easy way for people to get in contact with you from the website. Usually a contact form + phone number.

  80. JackDonlan said:

    Hey Grumpy: I got a webiste for the business. I am getting into foreclosure defense since the real estate closings have dried up for the most part. I don’t make much money writing the articles, but I plan to have it be a “side income” eventually. I am looking into the best way for SEO for the site, but I think I may do that for the foreclosure defense instead of the law firm. LOL, I got two spicy comments on my last article. I deal with them. Have a good one

  81. colorado raider said:

    BNI is complete and utter bs. i went to a meeting this week as a guest and what i saw was a group of fired up mary k sales people and just about every other “professional” in attendance were all the local weakest link business people. you know the ones that appear to be working hard but are selling something different every few months and never accomplish much. It appears its more of a support group for business’s that underperform. it was apparent it makes those people feel they are part of something when in fact they are on the outside of the “real” business community. I would actually be stepping back by joining the group. All the members were very nice but they almost seem like cult members and act like there is some secret success deal by “locking out” your competitors. there were a couple people in the same line of work as me and quite frankly they are not competitors but if they are I hope they all join this group! Knowing they are all locked in there for 90 minutes each week giving each other hi fives and wasting there time is comforting to me. also the one year total of referrals was so bad (below 2) i dont see the point. i think this is a great business that makes the “founder” tons of money.

  82. JackDonlan said:

    Colorado Raider: I think you nailed every important point in your post. I saw BNI as the equivalent of a double A baseball team. Those that are in there are on their way up or are going to stay mediocre. Yes, it is great for Mr. Misner. Yes, it does seem like a cult where anything said anti-BNI or anti-Misner was blasphemy and “bitching” Good for you to be out of BNI.

  83. Mr Taylor said:

    After attending a number of networking events in the past few weeks, I have received two phone calls, a letter and a personal approach extolling the virtues of BNI membership.

    However, having also attended a meeting of a religious cult (yes, a real one) in my late teens, I began to notice uncomfortable similarities between the approach of the BNI evangelists, and the “love bombing” that I was subjected to by members of the religious cult after I decided not to attend any more of their meetings.

    This evening, after the second phone call regarding BNI in 24 hours (from two different local chapters who both have a vacancy for - surprise - a photographer) I Googled the phrase “Is the BNI a cult?”

    The first result was this blog. My conclusion? If it isn’t, it might as well be.

    Armed with the information above, I certainly won’t be joining, but I might go to a meeting and play dumb, just for kicks. If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on.

  84. JackDonlan said:

    LOL, Mr. Taylor, I found this blog after googling BNI sucks. Grumpynerd has done a great public service with this website.

  85. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Jack. Thanks for the comments as always. I feel for anyone that gets suckered into BNI that isn’t part of the very tiny minority that actually makes money in it.

    I wish I had more time to dedicate to ranting on this blog! But since I’ve left BNI and been using real networking and online advertising I’ve been very busy with work.

  86. Matt said:

    Yeah, I was involved in BNI for 5 years. It really helped me to discover ways to build my business in the first year or so. After that, it was all downhill. You would be amazed at some of the conflicts of interest a chapter will have even with the one person from a profession rule. Chapter member’s family members may do what you do; you think you’ll get the referral? If you get some narcissistic people in there you’re screwed.

  87. Suraj said:

    WOW! I was not looking for this and no idea how I got to reading such unhappiness and rantings of dissatisfied fellow humans. Why is it always someone else’s fault?
    I have been involved with BNI for seven years and have averaged $50,000 a year the last four(travel business). It is a small PART of my overall marketing and the weekly 90 minutes is well worth the time and effort. It is not a panacea for bad salesmanship or lack of direction, business sense and target marketing. I have also made some good friends and business contacts that I can call upon for advice or discuss ideas. Some of us actually meet and figure out how we can help each other out. We do cross-marketing. We invite each other to speak at other organizations so we can expand our clientele. We pass out each other’s gift certificate to our clients when we can. Yes, your membership is what you make of it just like your own business. If chamber meetings work for you, wonderful! I find them to be an old boys club who are interested in drinks and the snacks at the mixers.
    No, I did not drink the kool-aid. I, and my chapter members, simply concentrate on the benefits that a BNI meeting provides. All these negative comments(70+ from 100,000+ plus members) really made excited for my 7 am meeting tomorrow morning! Incidentally, we always have an orientation meeting with visitors and explain the ‘requirements’ of BNI membership so there are no misunderstandings later on. The more intelligent visitors even ask the attendance and referral question before we get to them! And if start to see that our chapter is doing thing that you all seem to have inexplicably experienced, we will leave without hestitation. I think the problem lies with your chapters, directors, leadership teams and shame on all of you not to try and fix the problems. I volunteered for the leadership team after I saw things happening that I did not like. But I was taught to do something about a problem and not just complain about it.
    Ladies and Gentlemen, maybe you need to visit my Reno chapter and see how you can be a part of the solution instead of the problems. Remember what Gandhi said -”be a part of the change you want to see.”

  88. JackDonlan said:

    Hey Grumpy, as you can see, I have been busy with foreclosure defense. So I have not had time to write a new BNI rant. Matt, your situation sounded like mine. A good idea out of the gates, but not anymore. Good luck with your business.

  89. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Suraj,

    If you really read the post and looked past the sarcasm you’d see that I did in fact admit that there were 1 or 2 chapter members that did quite well in our chapter. However that was at the expense of the other 30+ members who were earning very little.

    I see the flaw not in our personal execution or the execution of the local chapters but rather with the architecture of BNI. It is designed to show well to visitors insuring a high percentage of them fork over a membership fee. This while hiding the reality; piles of fake referrals, members trying to hard sell you on their services, and tons of turnover thus insuring a nice flow of cash up the pyramid.

    All this so you can “network” with the bottom of the business food chain.

    If you are in one of the few “professions” that can actually make money in this type of environment and you can stomach the bullshit by all means join up. But if you run a real business and want to grow that business there are many other options that will be more effective and waste less of your valuable time.

  90. No longer in BNI said:

    I think the BNI business model is brilliant. I admire Ivan Misner for coming up with it.

    You get some one to pay to join a group.
    Their role is to find more people to join the group.
    They can also volunteer their time to help run the group.
    If they quit, it does not matter because Ivan has made his dollar along with the the regional owner (in my case Dawn Lyons)

    I want to start a business like that - everyone pays, they recruit new clients for me (thinking it is to their benefit) and they do my work for free.

    BNI likes to pull \invisible rules\ out their back pocket when ever it pleases them. \You can’t do that, it is not BNI policy\ they say. Ask for the policies - they don’t exist

    Yes - some people besides Ivan and Dawn make a lot of money. The realtor, the contractor, a few of the folks with services everyone needs. Most people get very little

    My chapter was a million $ chapter. That should mean each of the 40 of us got $25k. I missed most of my $25k.

    1) a few people in the group got huge chunks
    2) a lot of the money is either on paper (it never existed) or was in trade

    I did learn a lot fro BNI and it helped my business. I am glad to be out.

    Of course, I never drank the kool-aid.

    I never joined the cult.

  91. Bruce said:

    I don’t think BNI intends for you to learn anything about someones business in 60 seconds and not much in the 10 minute presentation as far as that goes. What I fell for was that we were to get to know each other better with our \meetings outside the meetings\. I spent a lot, and I mean a lot of time setting up meetings and meeting people for coffee, to try and dig deeper to get to know the various members better and send them referrals. I also spent way too much time meeting with my \power group\ members and all they ever wanted to talk about was how to recruit new members and how the larger your group is, the more referrals you will get. I honestly believe the people thought that. At least on the surface. But as many on here have pointed out, upon further examination, many of them would admit they had worked their fannies off for not much return. The whole mess is forced, unnatural and downright uncomfortable for most people.
    One of the most insidious things about this whole dynamic is that people indeed feel trapped and ashamed because they have been duped into spending a rather large sum of money, so they continue with the charade until they can at least feel like they have gone the extra mile. I would guess this is about 1 year. Personally, I couldn’t stomach it for nearly that long lasting only 4 months. One of the biggest wastes of time and money I have ever experienced.
    Another thing that irritates me are people at other networking events coming up to me and trying to get me to come to their awesome BNI chapter. Theirs is always different and the best. What utter crap. I try to get as far away as I can and still be in the same room with these Koolaide drinkers.

  92. Jörgen Sundberg said:

    I went to a BNI meet last week for the first time. I reckon just like the Grumpy Nerd that it is useful when you are selling a commodity everybody needs at some point, such as plumbing. So not for me sadly!

  93. almostgotme said:

    Our “friend” who helpes us getting our own business started and is a president of a chapter is his town is pressuring us to attend a meeting of a chapter in our region. Like he says “the first 2 meetings are free”. And if we go, he insist on going with us. Does he get a bonus for bringing new members to a chapter or what? This really upsets me and my husband to find out that he tries te set us up for a cult?!? We are really doubting his “friendship” for being sincere or a farce. I have been reading this blog since yesterdag till late at night and we put out a mail to him stating that we don’t have the financial means to the BNI membership. Since we’ve met this man a few months ago i allready got a strange vibe about this BNI he always likes to talk to us about. The first times i googled it on internet all i could find was BNI’s own website with the same raving stories that our “friend” is feeding us with for months. It’s a shame because we really liked this man. He genually seemed to take an intrest in what we were doing. He promissed us to sponsor our website for free. He later got back on that because the webdesigner he said was going to help us built our website couldn’t do it for free anymore because of the financial crisis that has affected her business. I feel so stupid and naïve to have almost bought this crap. This so called “web designer” is just one of his chapter members and we are just one of his leads. It’s all about the money!! We hurt a real friend for taking away his work on our website for a litte bit of money and a lott of his time for someone who was setting us up from the git go. Thanks grumphy nerd!! We would have been in deeper trouble if i did not read all this on your blog. You are doing important work. It’s still a mess we have to get out of but we got out just in time. Before i wrote this post i even considered the possibility that he might be an innocent victim of this brain washing cult. But now, i believe he knew precisely what he was doing every minute he was doing it.

  94. Paul said:

    I am fascinated to see the hate and mistrust for the BNI concept. I understand some of the comments and feel as though other comments are out of line. I have been a member of BNI for 2.5 years and have done quite well. I am in the mortgage business so I guess that makes me one of the lucky ones. I must admit that I have taken advantage of the BNI structure by holding the President and VP slot so I could extend my membership without having to pay. Gotta work the system. I do not really care for our area director. He visited one of my meetings and stood over my shoulder waiting for me to miss a step. With that said, I do think the concept is good if the members adhere to it. Our realtor has not recd a referral in a long time but at the same time she has joined our group but still uses none of our services. My question - why join? Just my opinion. I do enjoy the different views though.

  95. sherilyn said:

    I have found that many BNI members are cut from the same mold. If they are not at a BNI meeting, they are often networking at the Rotary or Chamber of Commerce events. If these people spent as much time working as they did socializing aka networking, maybe they’d actually make some money.

  96. pjrfortin said:

    Morning, Nerd,

    Some great posts here since I last checked in. After being in my chapter for six years, I have come to realize it is just like you say: If it works for you, it works for you. If it don’t, then get the flock out o’ dodge. I have also learned not to invite anyone that is looking for a silver bullet to becoming a gozillionaire. I actually don’t use any other marketing for my business and, good, bad, or ugly, it seems to work for me.

    I think one of the tricks is to recognize BNI as a pyramid dressed in legitimate clothes. I too think the business model is fairly brilliant: Dub yourself an expert on something, convince folks they “need” your expertise, then get those folks to pay for what they already do on their own anyway. Brilliant! Certainly not original or deep, but brilliant nonetheless.

    I can hear it now: Well are you pro BNI, or are you anti BNI? Simply put: I am pro me and my business. I stand up in our meetings constantly giving a “mentor’s moment” or “educational moment” and tell everyone that BNI is simply a marketing tool. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a tool that can be leveraged in marketing your product, good, or service. I also learned very early on, NOT to sell to the other members in the group. Doesn’t end well. I also follow up that message with “BNI is a means to an end… BNI is not the end in and of itself.” I usually have to trot that message out and hit the rest of the chapter over the heads with it once “Membership-drive hysteria” sets in; typically the Fall and the Spring. I remind people that BNI is only an “end” to Cardinal Meisner and the franchise owners. BNI is THEIR cash cow to tend to; not ours. Our focus should be on our own businesses bottom lines, not BNI’s. Needless to say, I am not on any BNI directors’ or franchise owners’ Christmas card list.

    Make BNI serve you and your business, Pull the eject handles if your BNI chapter is only focused on “growing the ranks”. Great Blog! Look forward to more!

  97. Al said:

    I see five or six folks defending BNI using their own success as a measuring point. What I want to know is, do all the other members in your chapter also enjoy similar kind of success? Is that success evenly distributed among your members, or does your referral $$ represents majority of the total referral $$ that is often touted to potential new members.

    I like how Grumpy did an income statement-like calculation (with your own hourly rate) to measure success rate. Everyone involved in BNI should really include your time and hourly rate as a consideration when measuring your BNI activities investment, otherwise you are just cheating yourself.

  98. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Hey Al,

    At the end of the day math will usually save you. If we’re dealing with a business activity you have to always judge the cost vs the revenue. How else can you judge success in a sales/advertising/marketing effort.

    I spent x and I received y. Was it worth it? If you don’t evaluate the effectiveness of your sales efforts how can you tell what works and what doesn’t?

    When you are talking about your time you always have to factor in the opportunity cost. While I was at BNI I could have been; billing a client, getting real sales done, running a more effect ad campaign…

    Here is what shocked me; during the time we were involved with BNI Google advertising netted us 300 times more revenue than BNI. 300times. 30,000% more income from Google ads than BNI.

    Google cost more than BNI in $$$ but far less in terms of time.

    With that said BNI worked for 2-3 people in the chapter at the expense of the other 35-40.

  99. pjrfortin said:

    Hey nerd,

    You are absolutely right about the math either working for you or not. There are folks that come into the group where the math does not end up working out in their favor. The usually leave. The ones that have used your formula and the math is on their side, usually end up staying. I don’t personally buy into the whole BNI culture thing. I don’t drink the koolaide. I roll my eyes at the cheerleaders and have not read a thing that Meisner’s ghost writer has put down on paper… But, in the end, after using your formula to evaluate the math as it relates to me, the numbers work. Like you said, “In the end, math usually saves you.”

  100. John said:

    I was approached by a fellow chamber of commerce member to join BNI. I have to say that the idea of ‘locking’ out the competition just didn’t seem right to me. I am a new business owner and very badly need to make some money but in spite of this, I still believe in capitalism. People should choose a business because of what it offer to them, not because it’s ‘the only game in town’. To lock someone out because your think they are competition is wrong. What if the products you offer are inferior to the competition? Shjould someone just blindly support that person becuase they paid $430 to join the group? I want to earn business because I offer my clients the best product for the best price. Not because I’m the only ‘approved’ person in that catagory.
    Besides the fact that Misner looks like a ‘televangelist’, BNI’s conduct does not seem to me to be about ‘doing what is right’, but rather ‘doing what is best for themselves’.
    I’m going to save the money and invest in more Chamber of Commerce groups where I can earn respect and business based on who I am. not what group I belong to.

  101. Joe said:

    I have been a BNI member for seven months and will be attending my last meeting tomorrow, in which I will be telling them what I think for the second time, with the addition of a few more home truths and possibly a two word phrase ending with ‘off’, depending on what mood I am in at such an ungodly hour, which after BNI’s performance yesterday will not be a pleasant and polite one.

    My business was practically ‘fresh out the box’ when I joined and in the time I had spent before joining had managed to get a few good clients which have given me repeat business. I was invited to attend a meeting and even though the alarm bells rang when the chanting and propaganda started, I still ended up joining, something I deeply regret. Since then, I have found BNI taking up more of my time and gaining me no new business, to the point where my business stopped growing and started nose-diving.

    When I pointed out some of the flaws in BNI, some of the brainwashed members began to look at me as though I had handed them a dead baby and blamed the sudden lack of referrals I received as being my fault for destroying any trust members had in me (presumably because I had a mind of my own).

    Yesterday I had a phone call from our chapter director demanding that I accounted for every minute of my working week and my reasons for being in business. I was also told that no one had any confidence in me and that no one would pass me any referrals, which to be honest I am glad about, since I won’t need to waste any more time phoning people that don’t want to do business anyway.

    In the seven months I have spent as a member of BNI, I have realised that the chanting and the Manson Family recruitment drives are not designed to make you money but to get you to bring in more victims (visitors, sorry). I have also reallised just how similar to Communist Russia the BNI structure really is and was surprised that the BNI equivalent of the KGB hadn’t taken me in the night!

    The other thing I noticed about BNI was the fact that there is not a lot of networking done in a networking organisation!

    I have enjoyed reading people’s opinions of BNI and am very glad to now know that I’m not the only one who has come to their senses. And so, after tomorrow, I will be looking for a real networking group and will be free from the gulag!

  102. JackDonlan said:

    Good luck to you Joe. You will do better now that you are out of BNI. Funny, I had a cool-aid guy in the group months after I left show up at my South Carolina office to get me to do a will for her New Jersey mother-in-law who was visiting. WTF? I am not licensed in New Jersey. He then goes to say “Come back; things are different.” Q” Is the mortgage person still there? A: Yes
    Then we have nothing to talk about, go away

  103. JackDonlan said:

    John, that is about right calling Misner a televangelist. I think all types of this networking groups are pointless. I am going to stay in my Kiwanis and I am going to get with an attorney networking group since I do what few people will do, foreclosure defense.

  104. CurrentMember said:

    I have been reading through these posts for about 45 minutes, and find THEM to be a complete waste of time. When it comes right down to it, you get out of BNI what you put into it, just like any other group. What BNI offers is structure and consistency so that members can educate and be educated.

    My chapter was a chapter that was having difficulty a few years ago. We were dropping members and morale was down. A group of members came together and decided to move back to the basics of BNI and to work the program is it was intended. Members began giving effective one minute presentations (which we prepared before the meeting so that we could pay attention to the other members during the meeting), having good 1-1 meetings (which focused on business and how to find business for one another), and adhering to the “recommended” policies of BNI.

    And guess what - a $40k chapter became a $400k chapter in the course of 1 1/2 years. We finished our last six-month period with over $430k in closed business generated by the referrals passed in our meeting.

    And the success continues. Since we are continuing to follow the BNI program as intended, and since we are all positive about it, our results continue to be solid. We report at least $15k in closed business each week, have passed over 120 good referrals since April 1, and we continue to grow as a chapter.

    Yes, you can network with the chamber (I am on the board of our chamber) and kiwanis, rotary, and other organizations. And you should. But what BNI offers is the structure that, when followed, generates results that can be tracked. I can look back over the past year and tell you how much business came from BNI. The numbers are great, and I would be a fool to leave.

    So, it is unfortunate that so many of you have had such bad experiences in your time as BNI members. I wish you had the opportunity to be a member of a chapter like mine. Of course, mine was like yours 1 1/2 years ago until the members MADE A DECISION to make the chapter worthwhile.

    So instead of quitting, step up and lead your chapter to success. And instead of complaining because you cant work the BNI system, connect with someone who has been successful and learn how to make it work for you.

    Have a great day. I am going to go write my sales manager minute for tomorrow. By the way, I asked for a specific business referral last week and guess what - I got a call monday from a member and am meeting with this potential client on Friday to do business. It works!

  105. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Hey CurrentMember. It wouldn’t be a cult if it didn’t have brainwashed members. I’m sorry that you’re a sucker. But the world needs suckers.

    I don’t know about everyone else here that left BNI. I didn’t quit networking. I quit BULLSHIT networking and started doing REAL networking.

    Real networking is when you do business with people that you like and trust. A real network is built over time by way of your good reputation. A real network doesn’t charge a quarterly fee. A real network doesn’t have a referral quota. Nope. When you actually build a real business network no one expects anything out of you except your integrity and honesty. If it takes one week, one month or one year between referrals thats what it takes.

    If you grow out of your business infancy that perspective will help you understand how ineffective and self serving the BNI business model is.

    I wish you luck and I hope that someday you come to a higher level of enlightenment.

  106. Steve said:

    This is an interesting compilation of “stories” regarding personal experiences with BNI. After the first 15 minutes of reading the posts, it becomes quite clear that none of the posters understand what networking is all about.

    First of all, networking does take time and it is usually helpful to actual meet the person that you may be referring or who may be referring you. Social Media is nice but if you think you’re a sucker for being in a BNI Chapter getting bad referrals from people you’ve met then how do you think a referral from someone you’ve never met will turn out?

    Second, we have people complaining and whining about BNI rules and the morning meetings etc… Personally, I would pay you to leave the chapter just so I didn’t have to listen to you whining. Complaining is such a big turnoff and bad if you are seeking referrals. It would appear that most people on this post have spent more time writing this post than they have ever done in actually meeting people and getting to know them. I think their business suffers not because of BNI but rather due to their inability to get along with people.

    Money? You really want to complain about the dues? The money is a pittance and people who go into a venture with the attitude of “I’ll give it a try for a few months” do not – DO NOT – understand the basic concept of networking. Give first, no matter if you’re in a group or not; give of yourself and seek no reward save for the knowledge and satisfaction of knowing who’ve helped someone else. Selfishness is not a marketing strategy!

    BNI is not for everyone and they most certainly have their faults. However, every meeting needs an agenda to efficiently manage the time and cover the basics. Maybe BNI should update their meeting format but I would not want to be in a meeting with most of the posters on this blog without an agenda. Can you imagine 90 minutes of whining and complaining? How’s that working for you?

    Finally, the payoff. I find it amusing when someone says “I only got one customer for $1,200 and on an hourly basis it is only worth $9.00.” Do you think this might be a repeat customer? Might this customer bring in one or two other customers who may do the same? Narrow-minded thinking and absolutely no concept of customer retention or word-of-mouth marketing.

    Best of luck to all of you and please consider a switch in your marketing from complaining to one of showing appreciation.

  107. Satisfied BNI Member said:

    I agree whole heartily with current member. You get out of BNI what you put in. In my experience, some new members come in, expect other chapter members to carry the load, put little to no effort into it, and surprise, surprise are disappointed with results they get. Is it lost on them that other members see that they are trying to milk the chapter rather than contribute to it?

    They are poorly run chapters out there where people do put an effort into and our disappointed with the results. These people should try to transfer over to another chapter and see what results come from there.
    BNI has served me very well in referrals, education, and good business contacts. No I am not brain-washed nor am I in my business infancy. I have been fed my share of Koolaid over the years, but this glass is still tasting fine.

    I am sorry you had a bad experience with BNI, maybe it was poorly run chapter or maybe you are not right person to excel in BNI. Either way you are entitled to your opinion and I wish you well in your current / future endeavours.

  108. About to leave BNI said:

    Interesting Blog! I too wish I had read this before joining. I went to a BNI meeting but was concerned about the attendance rules as I work away about 6/8 weeks a year as I am new to the area & don’t know anyone for subs. I asked someone I knew (who was a BNI member) for advice. She put me in touch with a Regional Director who said “no problems we’re pretty relaxed, join our group.” I went along, they all seemed pretty friendly, lots of referrals were passed, I got one from the Chapter Director which was potentially worth a large amount of money. I went to his offices, had a meeting, quoted for the business and said to him “if you get a lower quote let me know & I’ll see if I can match it.” I joined the chapter, was asked to do a job by one of the members, assumed I was being paid (which is what usually happens when I do a job), didn’t get paid. I did a couple of free jobs for the charity in the chapter (which I was happy to do as I enjoy doing work for charities). I gave the Chapter Director a referral (to my partner, potentially worth 150k a year) he didn’t phone him for about 6 weeks, then phoned him, made an appointment, went to see him and talked about me & BNI the whole time. He din’t once mention the referral.
    I worked away for several weeks on & off in the summer (which I had mentioned to the Regional Director before joining). I got a stroppy letter from the Chapter Director saying that he felt I was disenchanted with BNI and I had to make the effort etc. I replied explaining my position and then actually I was more disenchanted with him than BNI. He said that he had given the work I had quoted for to someone cheaper (fair enough but I had said to him if you get a cheaper quote let me know) and that he hadn’t realised that there was a possibility of work from my partner - hello - it was written on the referral slip, why else did he think he was going to see him.
    I have missed the last 2 weeks, one I got a sub for (from a subs list provided) but other members objected to him, and last week I was working abroad and couldn’t find a sub. I have gone along this morning, everything was fine but then in the post today is a letter saying they are opening up my classification. Now to be honest I’m not really bothered as my sentiments about BNI are pretty much the same as everyone else’s. I don’t feel I put as much effort into it as I could have done but every referral I’ve had has been a non referral, they never call me or if I call them they don’t actually need me. I’m a photographer and get most of my work through referrals from people I’ve worked for rather than people who see me looking peaky once a week at 6.30 a.m! Most of the referrals being passed seem to be between the plumber/joiner/electrician/letting agent.
    The letter I’ve got says refer to the policies of BNI if I have any questions but I can’t find exactly what it means. Does it mean my m’ship’s been cancelled or that they are looking for another photographer & when they find one they will sack me then?
    I am happy to jump before being pushed but have my first paying job from BNI a week on Friday & would like to spin it out until then!

  109. AnotherSatisfiedMember said:

    I’m sorry to hear that so many people out there have had bad experiences with BNI. When I was approached to join, I did the basic searches of “BNI sucks” and “BNI scam”. For everything I read, none of it sounded like the chapter I visited.

    We had no meeting fees for visitors. In the 90 minute meeting, joining was brought up exactly twice (once at the beginning, and once at the end). There were no hard sells — members recommended I take an application and consider joining. I was interviewed before I was accepted, and my references called.

    Since joining, I have made back my investment plus some. As a professional in an easily-referred field (IT), I have actually gotten internal referrals for computer work for members of the chapter, but most of the business I’ve received has come from people that I’ve specifically asked to meet. Our members don’t actively sell to each other, but it does happen from time to time.

    Not everyone that applies gets approved, and not everyone that joins gets to renew at the end of the year. Sounds like some of you just ran into some bad groups. Meanwhile, I’ll be thankful that my group is one of the good ones.

  110. Casey said:

    Sounds like you missed the point at BNI.
    I’ll admit it: I’m a long time member, and have found BNI very helpful, in many ways.
    Your comments up front are probably the reason:
    Sales Manager Minute:
    Before: What will I say during my sales manager minute?

    After: Boy am I glad I’m done with my sales manager minute.

    If you show up to a sales call unprepared, don’t expect to make a sale. If you show up to run a sales meeting unprepared, don’t expect to get any help from your sales force.
    BNI and anything else you do will only pay back dividends on what you put into it. I’d be willing to bet that you’ve had similar bad experiences at other things you’ve tried. Attitude isn’t everything, but it’s a lot.
    When opportunity knocks, you’ve got to grab it. That’s how I help my clients increase sales, and how I make sure that BNI works for me.

  111. Biz Angel said:

    Hi,

    BNI is just another money spinner for the Owner.
    BNI India sucks really bad. They just want you for your money… Thereafter get ready for tons of fake ‘referrals’.

    I have reason to believe that a portion of the fees gets routed to some of the ‘members’ in the chapter.

    Cheers !

    Watch Out..

  112. pjrfortin said:

    A farmer toils in his fields all season, but the crops are dismal and the farmer is at his wits end. He goes to the Priest and asks for help from above. The Priest gives instructions to pray for the lords help. The farmer prays and prays. He prays before each meal and before bed.

    A month later, after his crop is dead and he is fighting off bankers from taking his home and farm, he goes back to the Priest and says the prayers didn’t work. The Priest looks at him and says “You must not have prayed hard enough, my Son.”

    This is BNI in a nutshell. If BNI doesn’t deliver or is not working, it is always turned back onto the individual for not working hard enough at it. I have yet to hear any koolaid drinker even remotely hint at the possibility that BNI might not be as perfected as Shaman Meisner would have his disciples believe.

    So remember, if BNI is not working for you, it is solely your own fault. The BNI marketing system is not to blame… How could it be? -It has the hand of Meisner on it. Turns out, you probably were just not praying hard enough.

  113. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Casey,

    Let me start out by publicly saying; you are a douche-bag.

    With that out of the way please allow me to retort; OK Einstein I’m sure being a sales-droid the concepts of cash flow and math would be above your pay grade. Here is the deal in the most simplistic terms I can manage.

    It wasn’t just my sales which didn’t justify the expense of time soaked up by BNI. It was the majority of our chapter. If you’d read a little closer (I do understand that most salespeople have the attention span of a gnat so you are partially excused for not making it to the big words) but in later posts I took our entire chapter’s sales numbers and did some analysis: each member in our chapter averaged a total of $1900 a year in income after expenses stacked against an average of 200 hours (10 fucking percent of your work year…) spent on BNI related activities. Which means we netted a chapter average of $9.50 for every hour of BNI time spent.

    Thats an average chapter in an average city.

    To wrap up; very few people can make decent money in BNI but that money will be made at the expense of the majority in the chapter who fruitlessly waste their time going though the canned bullshit program set up by our dear leader.

  114. EyesWideOpen said:

    How I wish I had found this blog before being suckered into joining.

    I was invited to attend a meeting by a business associate and as the recession was hitting hard and I needed to find new business, I though, “why not give it a go.”

    All of the people at the meeting seemed very friendly and prospects looked good. I attended a second meeting as a guest and decided to join. It is only once you are ‘in’ BNI that you begin to realise just how controlling and contrived the whole thing really is.

    My honeymoon period lasted for about 3 months, during which time I easily made my membership/meeting fees back and more. It is only after a few months that you begin to see the whole charade for what it is. Hollow or low value referrals from members trying to avoid the embarrassment of not meeting their quota each week and lots of time spent chasing after bullshit.

    The tradespeople and legal/money people in the chapter did very well. The rest however were chasing scraps and there were a number of members who I wondered why they bothered turning up every week. Although I did get work and did cover my membership costs, I dread to think how much time I wasted on fulfilling BNI dictat and following up poor quality referrals.

    The supposed ‘exclusivity’ aspect of BNI is also something of a facade. In any chapter, there are probably several people who offer over-lapping services, but just aren’t allowed to mention it in meetings. For example, the builder will probably also install bathrooms and kitchens, the IFA will also offer mortgages etc.

    The meetings are geared towards convincing visitor’s to join and after attending a ‘training event’, I realised that my associate had just regurgitated the BNI mantra to me - and I’d swallowed it! The training events exist to groom you into getting more referrals and getting more visitors to meetings - not to train you in practices that may help your business. It is all about what you can offer BNI and how you can get it for them.

    It was once my chapter entered into a recruitment drive, leading to a visitor’s day that my disillusion with BNI was completed. I regularly joined the weekly conference calls with BNI central organisers and was shocked by much of the manipulative advice that was passed.

    Everyone in the chapter was expected to contribute 40 names, who were all sent letters, then followed up with phone calls. And it is you that makes the calls (all the time being told to carefully not mention BNI, early mornings, membership fees etc). Not only was I embarrassed to have to take part in this, but actually resented giving my valuable time to an organisation that sees you as a member of an unpaid telesales team rather than a valued client.

    Visitor’s day arrived and the meeting was chaired by the regional director. A man who is the epitome of slick success and openly brags about his beautiful house and cars (remember folks, it is your membership fees that fund his lifestyle). During his speech, he claimed that our chapter was one of the top, most successful chapters in the region - which I knew to be a blatant lie. The referrals passed during the visitor’s event are the best referrals from previous weeks meetings that have been ’saved’especially to impress the visitors. One of my guests began to make noises like he was going to join and every atom of me wanted to stand up and shout. “don’t do it”!

    A few weeks later I left BNI as I was unwilling to waste any more time on chasing up nothing referrals and listening to bullshit so early in the day. Once you leave BNI you become persona non gratis to a degree and those ‘valuable and trusted contacts’ that you have worked hard to build just dissolve as they pass their low value referrals to the next guy to take your seat. It is the directors of BNI that make the real money and it is in their interests for membership turn over to be high, as it keeps those new member fees rolling in.

    In the interests of balance, my BNI experience wasn’t all bad, as I met some good people, many of who I am still in contact with (a number of them have also now left the chapter) and it did help me to overcome my fear of public speaking to a degree.

    I’m glad that I went through the experience, if only because I am now able to warn others against the BNI propaganda machine. BNI is very much carrot and stick. However, you come to realise that the carrot is false but the stick is very real!

  115. JackDonlan said:

    I have not posted in a while.
    1. Had a guy who is still in the Chapter who joined right before I left come to the office. (I am a lawyer) he wanted me to do his mother’s will when she lived in a different state. Hey dumbas, I am not licensed in your mother’s state.
    2. The accountant in my BNI chpater is a client. She has opened her own shop. She asked about the networking group I am in. I said dues are just 50 a month and it is 2 hours a month and not 1 hour a week. Yea, no franchise-kickback fee to Misner.

    The people who made BNI work for them, great. Their success is in spite of the BNI system.

  116. TA said:

    I am sooo glad I found your site!!! I am still in a cloud of daze after my BNI group non-renewed me. For one full year I only missed one of the “koolaid meetings” and the one I missed I actually had a client of mine do my “ask”. In my line of work, I did not get many referrals. Those that were not just a bunch of BS, actually became clients. I generated a nice income from the accounts. I sure as hell gave 1000% more than I recv’d which is fine, ok, no prob., Givers Gain and all. My problem is that after shaking their hands and looking at their smiling faces, the “few” who control the group simply decided to bring someone in to take my place. It has been a week and I still have no explanation for why, no letter like they said I would rec’v, and I have racked my brain thinking of what I could have done to these specific folk’s to warrant this. I think the concept of BNI is good, not great to say the least, and there are def. reports of people doing well, HOWEVER, my advice to ANYONE that is thinking of investing 72 hours plus another 100 plus (for 1 on 1’s) hours, PLUS another $430 in just joining fees (for one year)… well, you better think long and hard about what you are getting yourself into if you, like me, tend to be a little too honest with folks (meaning, yes, I told the few what I thought of their business tactics) because, you might find yourself NOT making a profit at the end of your 1 year, plus now having 30 people who don’t really know you or your ethics that now prob. think you did something very bad to be non-renewed. Just a simple WARNING before you sip on their “magic juice”.

  117. ScrewedByBNI said:

    WOW! Here I thought I was alone in my displeasure with BNI but there’s a whole ‘network’ of people out there that feel the same. Thank you all for your honesty!
    I too was sucked in by the friendly, welcoming members when I first went to a meeting. I liked them and they liked me so much that within 3 weeks of joining I became the Social Director for the group. By the time I finished my first 6 months, I was the Secretary/Treasurer and remained in that position for 3 straight terms. No one else would step up and take the position. Now I know why.
    The only reason I stayed in the position was because my membership was complimentary as long as I sat on the executive team. Big deal. I still forked out $25 a meeting for lunch. (you do the math)
    Staying was my biggest mistake. In my 3 years with BNI, I didn’t get 1 single piece of business. I was told to be patient and build ‘relationships’ with other members and it would all come to me. Blah, blah, blah. Referrals were fluff, everyone wanted a favour and even BNI head office sucked me into doing work for them for no money. Not only that, but I put my professional reputation on the line for this group and I greatly regret it.
    They should practice what they preach and carefully read their ‘Code of Ethics’. They’ll screw you everytime!
    Good luck to all those that came before me and here’s hoping that anyone considering BNI in their future should read this great blog and learn from our mistakes.

  118. just quit said:

    I just quit BNI. I really liked most of the members, But I think that each chapter should be able to choose where they meet. Our contract just expired with the hotel where we have been meeting for the past year. We wanted to move to another facility it would save us more than $10,000.00/ year. The regional manager wouldn’t let us change because it was in a church social hall. We couldn’t even take a vote as members. I have a real problem with the micro managing control issues.

  119. Hans said:

    I quit BNI also after an agonizing 3 months. It is just one big circle jerk where all the members stroke each other!

  120. Vic said:

    Here’s an Australian angle for you.

    A situation arose where I couldn’t attend the usual weekly meeting due to business demands. I received a phone call from the Director encouraging me to attend, so I asked the question “what support does BNI afford a member when there is a conflict of interest between conducting their business and attending BNI?” I didn’t get a straight answer. Instead I was told how important it was that all members attend as visitors were coming.
    This summed it up for me, because when it comes down to it, the Directors are only interested in themselves.
    Oh and when they talk about everyone being your sales team. They actually mean the all the members are BNI’s sales team. All education is focused upon how YOU can find new visitors for THEM. It dawned on me at another networking event when I found myself talking to another attendee about BNI more than about my own business. Don’t worry I quickly stepped back from the precipice.
    Parasites.

  121. Dave said:

    I’ve recently launched an online advertising website called corkboardads.com…the website’s belief is supporting local entrepreneurs and networking a local business. We also opened up an area called World corkboards. Which is intended to bring ‘World’ business here in Ontario Canada and at the same time, network our local entrepreneurs worldwide. My partner went to a BNI meeting last night. He LOVED every minute of it. After speaking with him on the phone (about an hour ago) he wishes me to attend a 7am meeting tomorrow, to hear about it myself…he is willing to pay the joining fee. After visiting the BNI site, and looking online for blogs and feedbacks (like these posts), I’m sure this is not the way to go. I was once part of a financial service company, whom like BNI, got you to pay the initiation fee, spread roses and sweet promises up front, but then choked you with meetings out of town and purchasing marketing material and MANDATORY seminars!!! And hardly ever did I make any money…they wanted your focus more on generating recruits than your own business. Well BNI sounds the same. I think I’ll be talking with my partner and declining BNI. My gut tells me that this is VERY similar to the financial service company I left. I do not need more headaches like before nor do I wish to dedicate time and money PROMOTING BNI rather than my own business. I believe that marketing and networking your business can be self attainable. You should not have to PAY a fee to someone in order to get business…for my online advertising business corkboardads.com, I’ve simply been talking to local businesses and sending out eamils here and there…and I’ve generated business for my site. It will only grow bigger and better the more I continue to do the same…and Not revert back to mandatory meetings and paying for materials…information in which if you rally look for you can find answers online.

    That’s my 2 cents!

    If any of you reading has a business, visit my site and post…heck just for reading I’ll give you a complimentary 3 month posting!! Let me know you read my post here.

  122. HG said:

    Nerd!

    THIS is what brought me to your site! Love the write-up about BNI, because it couldn’t possibly be more accurate! In fact, I was literally stunned by the detail and accuracy.

    I guess there isn’t anything that I am here going to say that hasn’t already been said by the droves of other folks here who share consensus. BNI is a joke. There might be some few rare cases/chapters where it works (read: exception/fluke!), and there may be a few industries that it works for (*exactly* as people have said here: the guys who seemed to get the most out of it were the mortgage banker, the insurance salesman, and the financial advisors in the group) but all-in-all it’s a creepy, borderline-brainwashing organization.

    If anyone is considering going, or has the chance to go, GO! Do it! Put yourself in the right *distanced and rational* frame of mind and go, just see just how freaky it is, just for the hell of it! Just think of the cost of going to the meeting as if it were admission to the theater… or the ZOO?

    Note: I never joined, but got invited, and then I filled in for my ex-boss 3 times as a sub when they were on vacation so they wouldn’t get kicked out. $40 ($10 x 4) down the drain, and my jerk ex-boss never did pay me back. Figures. Rotten, tainted, corrupt apples on the BNI tree.

  123. pjrfortin said:

    Here is a question I posed to some of my cohorts in BNI: “What is it you purchased when you paid your membership fee?” Another angle on the same question: “What is it that BNI sold you when you paid your fees?” Hmm…
    BNI is a marketing system -plain and simple. Your BNI franchise owners leased, rented, or purchased the rights to re-sell the BNI marketing system in a given geographic area. Once the business transaction is completed between you and BNI, thats as far as BNI’s obligations go. However, they place all sorts of obligations on their customers… I mean members.
    This is why BNI is so hot on sticking to the scripted agenda and talking points. If a “chapter” gets to far off the reservation by changing agenda items, requirements, and policies, suddenly, BNI does not own it any more. If BNI does not “own” it, then they have no authority to tell you what to do or how to do it.
    I have it right from the top in Redland, CA. A dim bulb named Leroy Gaines in the home office put it simply: “There is no legal binding between BNI and its customers.” That is a direct quote.
    BNI admits that once the business transaction is over and you have paid your money, there is no more legally recognized relationship between anyone. So, are you really a “member” of anything? That would be like saying you are a “member” of walmart because you bought a pair of underware there once.
    BNI has a perceived place of authority over its customers. Where does this perception come from? The customers who truly believe they are members of anything!
    Where BNI usually wins is “mob law.” If the herd abdicates power and authority to the BNI franchise owners and their surrogates, then that perception becomes reality. It takes a group of intellectually astute, critical thinkers to fully see through the dog and pony show and that is when the BNI elders become nervous and start to “clamp down.”
    It can be a challenge trying to keep the zealots from taking over the message war as it pertains to BNI, but it is fun to deflate the popmous koolaide drinkers when they suffer bouts of self-importance.

    But the ticket -Take the ride, baby!!

  124. pjrfortin said:

    but the ticket?… jeesh. Buy the ticket!

  125. Mak said:

    We’ve got a great chapter, going on two years now, with 42 members. I’m in the financial advice business, and I’ve only got two referrals, but they both became clients. A client relationship for me is worth $10,000 a year, so even only one good referral would make it worthwhile.

    I’m fascinated by the negativity here, mostly because I’m not a negative person in real life. I figure if I go out, do my best, be prepared, look for the win-win, and make sure I say thank you, I’ll be fine. And I am.

    Every group has its detractors. BNI is no different.

    I agree with the posters that say you get out of it what you put into it. I’ve certainly gotten out a LOT more than I’ve put into it.

  126. bni insomniac said:

    so here i sit at almost 4am dreading our BNI meeting this morning… our chapter is only 22 people and shrinking… regional director will be in this morning… by the sounds of things here, maybe he should be out recruiting today instead of asking us to do his work for him… sarcasm… are college students required to recruit for the school? geez what a bunch of shit!

    i am not too crazy about bni but i am only a few weeks in and will not quit (or possibly change chapters) until i know for sure…

    i do have one question tho. can anyone prove (or disprove) to me that 22 people in a chapter is as good as 44 people in a chapter? cause my gut says 44 would be better, but what i believe i am reading from all these posts is that i shouldn’t worry about that and just let bni directors, etc. worry about it? someone please elaborate as it will help me with my decision in the next few weeks. thanks so much!

  127. golden said:

    I am so happy that I stumbled onto this blog! Just what I needed to get over being “fired” by my BNI group.

    I was given the choice between being asked to leave or quitting my BNI group. Guess which I chose?

    The problem started with a member who felt I was in conflict with his category. He harassed me, bullied me and tried to make me comply to his wishes throughout the last year. He kept thinking that I was taking work away from him. Which I wasn’t. I complained to BNI leadership to no avail. When he bullied me the last time I got mad and told him I was tired of his bullshit. He reported me for what I said, and now I am out.

    I felt pretty bad. I felt unfairly treated. I thought all my BNI “friends” had betrayed me. After reading this blog I feel so much better. I guess they weren’t my friends after all.

    The other thing I found out was that 4 people have been non-renewed in the last few months. It’s weird because it’s like the secret police. The person is just gone. No one says anything more about them. On to filling the open category.

  128. Leonard J. Almquist said:

    HOW TO DO YOUR CIVIC DUTY AND CREAT PROBLEMS FOR BNI

    Do your civic duty! Help your state balance its budget! Make BNI Enterprises Inc. pays its share of taxes and collects sales tax for your state!

    Go to the store on the BNI web site. Start to place an order and see if they are going to charge you sales tax (you don’t actually have to buy the crap!). If they aren’t, there is a very strong possibility that you state’s department of taxation would be interested in know that.

    Write to your state’s department of taxation.

    If the franchisees have websites that direct consumers to the national web site to buy merchandise point that out in your letter.

    If the directors seem to market these items, point that out in your letter.

    Point out that the franchisee collects dues and that it appears that in some way part of the dues go to the national in California in the form of franchise fees.

    It will be fun to go to the web site in about a year and see how many states BNI now collects sales tax for. We will never know, but the states may assess them for the tax they should have collected in prior years.

    I already did this for NY, so it isn’t necessary unless you want to make sure they follow up.

  129. Cláudio Tereso said:

    Hi good people,

    BNI just arrived to my town (Leiria, Portugal) and as soon as I read the news about it I could smell BS.

    I’ve read this article and ALL the comments and it gave me a good understanding how thinks work in the front, but not what’s going on behind the scene.

    I want to write an article about them, but I need more inside info. So, could anyone give some help with the following:

    1. Structure : What are the hierarchic levels and addressabilities.
    2. Money : is this or not a MLM scheme? How is the money of new members divided?
    3. Documentation : It would be GOLD if someone could share copies of the inside manuals for the directors/gurus/priests/whatever….

    Thank you all for any help.

  130. BNI Sucker #234-25a said:

    I’m about 10 months in to my stint with BNI and although I don’t have as polar of a view on the organization as some of the previous examples, I do feel it was a waste of time and I lost money in the deal.

    In the course of 10 months I paid my nearly $500 to join. Plus $10/mo to a slush fund for our chapter. Then average $10 per week in lunch when we meet. Then we’re strongly urged to have one 1-on-1 each week….another $10. If you run the numbers, I have spent over $1,300 and over 130hrs on my BNI involvement. Read that last sentence again, that’s a pretty substantial investment & commitment. Think of all the other options you could invest $1,300 and over a hundred hours of your life to benefit your career.

    During that time I have received about a dozen leads. They ranged anywhere from completely bogus to absolutely ridiculous. I’ve been given out-of-order phone numbers, wrong numbers, right numbers but talked to people who knew nothing about me and weren’t expecting a call (might as well just start cold-calling if you ask me) and I think I’m finally done with it all.

    I did receive a couple of leads that turned in to small transactions but given the amount of time & money I spent at BNI, those referrals were a drop in the bucket in comparison.

    Another flaw that I think is inherent with BNI in general is meeting over breakfast, or worse, lunch. My chapter meets at lunch so there are two courses of food (soup/salad & lunch) being delivered while people are trying to give their speeches. While each person is giving their 60 second speech, I watch everyone whisper to each other commenting on what someone else ordered for lunch, “hey pass the salt” or feverishly text their friends. It’s so unprofessional and lacks any level of courtesy whatsoever. It’s embarrassing to be honest. There’s a reason they don’t let student eat full meals during class in school/college: you don’t pay any attention to what’s being taught when you’re shoving food in to your pie hole! I have a ridiculously simple-to-understand profession and yet I’ve been awed countless times by people in my chapter who do not know what I do.

    ****HERE’S MY ADVICE*****
    BNI may work for some professions (my opinion is that there are very, very few of these). Furthermore, success rates will vary widely from chapter to chapter. However, if you are considering BNI & you think you may benefit from it, go to SEVERAL chapters as a visitor. During your visit you will be asked for your input. When you are asked, stand up and ask them to randomly draw 5 previous referrals and have the person who received the referral to give a follow-up on that referral. Each BNI Treasurer is in charge of keeping track of previous referrals so they should have them at every meeting. If they drag their feet on this, that should be a red flag. If they say they didn’t bring the referrals, that should be another red flag. This isn’t a guarantee of how successful a particular chapter is, but it might give you some form of accurate measurement other than “givers gain!”

    Our chapter occasionally does referral follow-ups and it’s honestly kind of hard to keep from laughing when person after person after person stands up and says, “Uuuuhhh, well, I called Bo Gusreferral and left a few voice mails but never heard anything back from her.” Or, “Uuuuuuh, that referral is still a work-in-progress but we’re expecting good results from it.” Yet, everyone passes out a ton of referrals. You’d think there would be a few people closing some deals.

    I haven’t experienced the pressure to give out referrals and after reading this blog I am surprised I haven’t. I have only given 3 referrals. However, two of them turned in to corporate accounts that yielded a very nice profit for the BNI member so I probably scooted under the radar for the time being.

    The thing that bothers me most about my experience at BNI is that prior to BNI I was very confident about my profession, my business and my skills. However, after 10 months of listening to so many people act so utterly desperate, pathetic and needy I, too, started to question my abilities and skills. WTF?! I know I’m good at what I do, I have a ton of happy customers that not only return year after year for our services, but they refer their friends and family to us as well. And that, my friends, is how referrals REALLY work.

    The good thing is that my business has continued to grow and prosper despite of me wasting so much time at BNI. Hmmmmm, I wonder where I’d be right now if I hadn’t been spinning my wheels at BNI?!

    The bottom line is: BNI will probably not be profitable for you or your business in the long run….but BNI will always be profitable for BNI. Guaranteed.

  131. Solaq (still satisfied) said:

    Hey guys, hope everything’s working out ok for you all. Still in over a year later after my original comment and our chapter is still going strong. I’ve seen people most people do well and some people not, but everyone has come away with something valuable. As a part of your marketing plan, if it’s a fit, great. If not, no problem. If it fits now but not later, or later but not now, that’s ok too. I’ve got employees in 3 chapters. Like just about anything, it’s not for everyone all the time, but it’s been great for most people I know. Stay positive out there!

  132. JPForrest said:

    I am just about to quit my BNI Chapter - I have been in it for a few months but have finally run out of B.S repellent

    The best laugh I got was a guy passing the mechanic in our group a “referral” for … wait for it …… a bulb for his car headlight ! But that’s fine as long as you bring plenty of new members. I felt sorry for the guy as he would have been the only member not to hand out a referral for that week. The other referrals by the way were simply each member spending their own money trying not to look like the odd one out !!
    Crazy waste of effort, time and money.

  133. pjrfortin said:

    When mindless bobbleheads pass referrals like the one about a lightbulb for their car, they give bobbleheads a bad name. Someone wiser than me once said “we are all prostitutes.” But, man… whoring yourself out for a lightbulb? Really? Is that really that clowns “A” game?

    If you want to engage BNI directly on any topics in this blog or others, here is the name and number to the cat I have talked to at BNI HQ :

    Leroy Gaines

    BNI Support Services Manager

    909-608-7575 ext 125

    leroy@bni.com

    Start a grass roots campaign! Corporations love nothing more than angry mobs that bypass all the layers of BS and beauracracy and go straight to the suits at the top.

    Nothing wrong with making BNI explain itself in response to some vigorous critiques!

    Buy the ticket, take the ride!

  134. Clem Horn said:

    Man, am I glad I found this page.

    I received an email from someone somewhere somehow that invited me to the BNI meeting. When I arrived at the builing I saw that it had a sign on the door saying: ” freemasons” dont know what that means but hey ho, this then cause be to look deeper. That is how I found this webpage.

    I don’t want to be appart of BNI after reading all of the above. I recently started my company the provides a service to manufacturers regarding engineering design and already I didin’t feel like I fit in at BNI but I thought I’d be convinced if I found a reason to join.

    Thanks to you grumpy nerd, for your input here. I would not have otherwise known what I am actually letting myself in for once I commit to BNI…

    Bless you mate :-)

  135. JPForrest said:

    What confirms that I made the right descision to leave my chapter was that not 1 member ( even those that I passed referrals to over the last few months) bothered to have the decency to even wish me all the best via phone or even email !!
    As far as they are concerned you are scum once you leave -
    I am so glad I’m out - DO NOT JOIN BNI . . . . .

  136. GrumpyToo said:

    I joined a BNI group about 15 months ago. In October I was asked to be the Secretary/ Treasurer. I was unable to attend the LT until December. I was verbally told that I did not have to pay dues the year I am ST. I just received an e-mail letting me know that I have been DROPPED since I did not pay on 1/1. Although I have been doing ST since Oct, they could not renew me without the dues being paid because there was less than 30 days dues in my account when I came up for renewal. They said I have to pay and then they will apply the dues to my 10/1 through 9/30/2012 dues. (With the assumption that I could stand another year in this group.)

    Hmm……. Out of 15 members, only 3 show up on time. I always get there 10 minutes early and I live fairly far away. The people who live in town have to leave their houses after the meeting start time to be 10 minutes late….. They don’t hold people accountable for absences etc, etc, but I am supposed to pay the dues AND continue with the ST position? There is even a member who is nasty to me. It finally hit me that she is jealous that they asked me to be ST. (I hate it.) - Anyway, how ironic that I was showing up with roster in hand and fulfilling the duties of the ST these past two weeks and BNI does not consider me a member any longer. - I have decided it is all for the best. I’m no longer a member so I won’t show up next week. I will send the President a check for the bank balance. Good Luck BNI.

  137. A Thinking Man said:

    I read this forum, and more then 90% of people here don’t like BNI. My business is currently in BNI and I was so/so on BNI until a recent incident. My membership is coming up and when it is due I don’t think I will renew it. I will give you specifics of the ridiculousness of BNI and my experience at a future time once I’m out. I’m sorry for being vague right now. What I will say is if your thinking about joining BNI, then don’t do it (in my humble opinion). If you’re thinking about leaving then you’re likely making the right choice if you don’t want to waste your time and be disappointed. I did the math and we make $14.54 an hour from BNI. Don’t waste your time and money to deal with high school like social clubs, clicks, and politics for a low hourly wage for your business. I will show you a BNI rule that had I read it BEFORE membership, I would of NEVER joined.

    13. In case of problems with a member, Membership Committees may, at their sole discretion, put a member on probation relating to the member’s business practices or commitment to the chapter.

    I would NEVER give anyone other then me “sole discretion” on anything relating to my business for $14.54 an hr. Sole discretion is so vague and a big grey area, meaning no rules, no rights, in my humble opinion. This is a deal breaker to me, and I fault myself for not catching it BEFORE I got involved with BNI. I look forward to letting you all know the shady keep all members semi happy in a disagreement (so we keep all the members money in renewals and dues) instead of look at the facts attitude of BNI. I know in court this would have been an easy case, but BNI has to attempt to fault everyone which ironically only pisses off both parties.

    I’m not upset with my BNI chapter, however I know corporate BS when I see it, and I’m part of it which to me is unacceptable for my standards. I will give you the story to add to this blog once I’m out of BNI since I want to leave in good standing because I never want to burn bridges and don’t see that to be productive way out of anything I’ve ever joined in life.

    I don’t care if I do business with people in BNI or not, however I do believe we have GOOD people in our chapter. I just think the BNI system is a broken one. I started my own business to get out of corporate politics, and broken corporate systems. Now after joining BNI, I’m now in worst BS politics then that was at corporations I worked for, and I’m paying for it in time and money. BNI isn’t kicking me out or putting me on probation with their “sole discretion” however I was seeing if my logic against BNI is felt elsewhere and this forum made this known loud and clear. Good forum Grumpy, and you have very legitimate points and issues about the BNI system.

  138. JPForrest said:

    The argument from BNI is that members do make money so the original investement is worth it.

    As I have said before members are simply spending their own money to show that they have referrals each week. So put 20 people in a room and force them to pass a referral and of course each member will pick up a bit of business - however pointless the referral is or however pitiful the amount is, BNI class this a winning argument for joining BNI

    However - you have been warned !

    DO NOT JOIN BNI –

  139. Curmudgeon Nerd said:

    Grumpy, your attack on BNI is pretty much right on as far as the corporateness of it goes. I’ve been in a couple of BNI groups during the past few years (and I’m in one now) and agree the BNI bureaucracy exists to further itself first — and if it brings it’s members along on it’s coattails then that is great, too.

    But BNI is more than that — it’s an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, BNI promotes network marketing which is a proven referral generator and money maker for many professional categories. I’m an I.T. consultant and I’ve received a lot of business from my fellow BNI members. My BNI group has been an important source of business for me. The (steep) membership fee has been paid for many times over. The (mostly) good people in my local chapter is what makes it all worthwhile for me. If your profession is the kind that benefits from network marketing (not all do) then BNI offers a useful service. To that extent, I think some of your statements are unfair.

    BUT, on the other hand, you are completely right about BNI being a money-grabbing quasi-MLM organization. Our 90 minute meeting is about 2/3rds BNI-centric marketing bullshit. The various committee reports, the “educational moment” (where we genuflect to Meisner’s alter), the thinly-veiled testimonials that everyone MUST give toward the end of the meeting, the endless contests to recruit new members because of the turn-over due to the high annual fees, the list goes on — is all designed to drill into the noggin that BNI is your savior.

    So for me, it’s seriously a polarized love-hate relationship. I love my chapter and all the business we pass. But I fucking hate the BNI corporate crap that comes with it. The mindless rules and inane bureaucracy are tiring.

    I would LOVE to convert our group to non-BNI status and drop the cost to $100 bucks a year — money that would actually stay in the group and serve local marketing interests instead of feathering the pocket book of our regional director.

  140. Ed Stone said:

    Very interesting thread — I’m sure what you folks are complaining about can be said about any chapter of a large organization.

    My experience has been a lot different. I have been in the same BNI chapter about 15 years, and there has never been a year when I didn’t make more money from referrals than I spent in dues. Aside from that, I have made and maintained many friends who I value. Sure, the BNI structure is rigid, but it is their game and they get to make the rules. Overall, the BNI “propaganda” is the result of real research and the application of known networking techniques.

    I can’t speak to what kind of chapters you guys visited or joined, but my chapter is a positive and supporting place with genuinely good people.

    I have to wonder what expectations some of you brought to the organization and what kind of people some of you are to do business with.

  141. Soon to be former member said:

    Let me start out that everything I am about to say is my OPINION only!

    I have been a member of my BNI chapter for three years and have been VP since October. In one way, becoming VP was bad because it exposed me to “corporate”, but in another way, it let me see the light. I was a moderately successful member, nothing crazy for income, but it was still worth it and I liked my group. However, my becoming VP coincided with major attrition from the group, and the slow realization that the BNI ‘fad’ had passed. None of my non-BNI professional colleagues wanted anything to do with it, and of course corporate was up our ass constantly, making us feel like failures for not adhering to the “system.” In truth our attrition was mostly natural (people moving away, etc.). The problem was no new members wanted in, and rigght around the corner was our scheduled “visitors day” (think mass mailing followed by stereotypical hard sell - it’s been described above) and I knew corporate would f– up this day again (they f–ed up last year’s visitors day).

    So today I submitted my resignation letter to the other officers. I’m pretty proud of it because it puts in a nutshell the problem with this organization. Here it is, redacted of course:

    ——————————–

    Dear [chapter president and secretary treasurer]:

    This is extremely difficult to say/write, but I’m afraid I can’t take BNI anymore.

    I want to stress that it has nothing to do with you or any other member of our chapter. Honestly, the worst thing I did was seek the vice presidency. My uneasiness about BNI corporate simply grew by leaps and bounds as the months have gone on, as I’ve been exposed more to that side of things.

    To grow our chapter, we have to adhere 100% to “corporate” — not say a bad word, follow their rules 100%, etc. The problem is, I don’t trust them one bit. They don’t give a damn about us, and there’s too many at the top that are out of touch. Last year’s Visitors’ Day was the most poorly run “motivational” session I’ve ever witnessed. What’s not to say that we bust our asses for 2 months and they do the same thing this time? These people are stuck on old, outdated sales techniques that don’t work anymore.

    Yes, I know, time to bring up [name of wildly successful chapter]. Well, there are a few millionaires selling Amway, too. Every multilevel marketing system has the occasional success story. And then there’s the rest, grasping for that brass ring that’s forever out of reach.

    My allegiance is to the other members of my chapter, not corporate. If my first and foremost job over the next two months is to crack down on violators of “60 days to success” and send out 40 letters (and make sure everybody else does the same) then I’m not helping my fellow members — I’m feeding BNI [corporate office]. I cannot in good conscience send out 40 invitations to this group, to trusted contacts, on my letterhead. Can’t do it. So what kind of VP am I if I can’t lead by example?

    I would like suggestions from both of you how I should handle my announcement to the members. Rest assured, I WILL NOT go on a diatribe about corporate. What I want to do is thank all of the members and assure them that my departure has absolutely 100% nothing to do with any member seated around that table — that’s the truth. After all, I will continue to refer business to most of the members (and that, of course, includes the two of you).

    And finally, please don’t view this as me giving up on you. I’m merely giving up on a grossly outdated and unfair system. No need to stay on the ship until it sinks. I said to somebody a few weeks back that I predict [franchise owner] will be selling insurance 10 years from now. Granted, she’s probably made enough money to never have to work again, but I think you get my point.

    I intend to follow up by phone or in person with each of you. This isn’t intended to be an email dump and disappear, but I wanted to state as clearly and directly as possible why I feel this way.

    Regards, [me]

  142. Networkgeoff said:

    Oh Boy you guys are so right -
    I have left my chapter after all the Bull shit They keep telling us how much money we have generated for each other but take away the crap and useless referrals (spending your own money on stationary / business cards etc) and the chapter total would be crap

    Anyone who is thinking of joining BNI -Don’t.
    And those in BNI with even the slightest doubt about it’s worth - LEAVE NOW while you can still think for yourself !

  143. scoobydoo said:

    Grumpy,

    Love the post. I too was wooed into the world of BNI. I was invited to join the local group from a CPA friend because they were looking for a banker. I was warned by someone else who was really into BNI that it could take up to 9 months to receive any kind of referral from the group because even though I was a member it didn’t automatically guarantee I was going to get business. I had to get to know the people in the group first via the one to ones. So I joined, spent the time to get to know the professional organizer, the nutritional supplement salesman, the interior designer, the handyman, etc. All business-to-consumer type businesses who really can’t help me. But still, I made the effort. What I came to realize is that much of BNI is filled with “Hobby Professions”. People who figure out they have some kind of skill and can make a living doing it so they hang up a shingle and join the local chapter. I was a bit suspect of the fact that there were so many people able to spend 90 minutes of a work day during lunch who owned their own businesses. But I charged forward. After about a year I finally got a couple referrals within the group. Tiny accounts that proved to be more work than anything else. Constant requests to waive overdraft fees because, you know, we’re in the group together, and if I didn’t do it I may not get any other shitty referrals from them in the future. Also a couple mortgages from people who were rejected by the mortgage broker of the group, and hoped that since we were a community bank we would ignore the fact that they were deadbeats. But, it’s part of my job to network and be out in the community, and since the bank paid my dues, I stuck with it because not everyone sucked. The real problem came to pass when I joined the leadership team.

    About 8 months prior to the new president taking over he had called me and asked to be on the membership committee. What I initially thought, for some unknown reason I still can’t explain, was that maybe I could help build the group up and in turn increase my opportunities for referrals. This has got to be the most thankless job ever. It results in nothing more than wasting even more time and doesn’t help with referrals whatsoever. During our first meeting as the newly appointed membership team the group decided that we needed to announce to the group at each meeting who was coming up for membership renewal and read off their statistics (referrals given, received, thank you bucks, absences, reach arounds, etc). It was fun to learn that people who had been in the group for years basically barely ever came to meetings, and when they did they had nothing to contribute except to get up and bitch they weren’t getting enough business from the group. Then there was the payroll guy on the team. Some intense whacko who decided that because certain people weren’t giving him referrals that he felt should be hooking him up, he wanted to start carving up the seats and making them much more specific. Hold on, if they aren’t giving you referrals, like you think they should be, and they certainly do have business they could pass on, maybe it isn’t them? I tried to explain that to him but he looked at me like I was an idiot, so I dropped it. It was at that moment that I finally realized that this whole thing is complete sham, and that at the end of the day, I didn’t care one bit about anyone in the group or their success. I just didn’t care. I immediately sent an email to the president of the group and dropped off the membership team. I still go to the meetings because it’s part of my job, but my attitude is far different than it used to be. No longer do I feel any pressure to give anyone anything, and if I get something, great, it will probably turn into nothing, and if I do get something, I refer it to people I like, not who’s in my group, unless they’re one in the same, which is rare.

    Some highlights from my group, the ether apparently wore off not too long ago for a bunch of people. We had upward of 35 members a year ago, now 21, and the more one to one’s I do with the only people I like in the group, and believe me it’s not many, the more I realize they hate the same people I do, and don’t ever send them crap. My absolute favorite was a guy that recently joined the group who called me about a potential commercial loan. Since I didn’t know him yet I decided to stalk him online. The first five hundred links were articles on him explaining his felony conviction for extortion and that he was awaiting sentencing facing possibly 20 years in prison. The best part was when I pointed it out to a friend of mine in the group and he told me that the membership committee knew that when they approved him. I guess we really needed the dues.

  144. Christine said:

    Wow! I more or less read all of your emails after quitting BNI today for good. I only lasted a bit more than six months, but that was enough to see. I wish I had read your posts earlier. Took me a while to see through this corporate scam. Can’t believe how many people fall for it, probably because we so much want to believe and being in business for yourself can be a lonely job.

  145. BNI Member for teh second and last time said:

    This was emailed to the leadership team which I am a part of.

    March 17th 2011

    Leadership Teams & Members

    Effective today at 10:45 a.m. the BNI Wisconsin Web site (internal content) will be closed down as we transition to the new web system called BNI Connect. The web site will be down from March 17th thru March 28th, however you will still be able to access the front page and register for trainings at http://www.bniwis.com. Leadership Teams and Visitor Hosts are asked to keep your records on paper and you will be able to add your PALMS reports starting on the 29th of March. I appreciate your patience as we transition. When the new sit is up and running you will be invited back in by email and you will be asked to enter a new user name and pass code. The new system will have some great new features and will also link you to over 135,000 BNI Members in every populated continent in the world! Webinars will be available in April and May to help assist you with all the features on the new site.. stay tuned for more info on the webinar dates. As always if you have questions please feel free to contact us in the regional office.

    To your on-going Success!

    All sites need updating but the way they go about it is totally BNI. Teh work that we do as leadership team will be closed down, which means more work and time away from our jobs at the end of a term. But WAIT THERE IS MORE, you can still get training, which oh by the way you have to pay for, more money for BNI.

    This was the last straw, I hate throwing good money away, and I belive that BNI does work for some, but if the chapter is nto following the guidelines set in place, no one makes money, and one person cant change the mind of a group, that part time itself will take care of. My group is more of a social, fraternaty/sorority gathering then a business group, open networking is about where did you or where are you going on vacation and who is drinking with who, not what can I do to help your business, which is what BNI guidlines are.

    In short, does BNI work, yes, if the policies are followed, but in truth, business owners beat to a different drummer and most think they know better, and quickly after training forget all about the guidlines. I have been to 2 different chapters and one thie remains constant, its the inconsitancies.

  146. BNISucks said:

    Just launched a new website called http://www.bnisucks.com - inspired by this litany of comments and my own experience with BNI :-) More comments welcome…

  147. HVAC GUY said:

    I have to agree. I spent two years in BNI and it simply didn’t cash out. Break down the hours you are spending compared to the time invested and it’s a loser I am telling you. Of course tell BNI leadership that and they will tell you it’s “your fault”. Your 10 minute wasn’t good enough. Your not having enough MOM’s ( meetings outside of meetings ). Your not giving enough referrals. It’s all BS like most marketing ploys. Poor results and absolutely no guaranteed or taking respondsibility when it fails to produce.

  148. ron may jr said:

    listen,i get the part where you dont like it,and its obvious that u dont get it.some people want everything handed to them,like u.The one thing that u wont relate to the masses is that u are better since u joined but now you fail to have things given to u on a silver platter,your wining like a bitch.send me an email to where i can send a clean-ex.Im ayoung owner of a concrete business and not only has my business grown but.i would never have made it through the winter months.I suggest that not everyone is suited for BNI,so with that said it takes money to make money,and truly you will only get out of life what you put into it.in two years ive never given the finacial planner a thing but the other day i gave a referel that put him in charge of assets of 3.5millon so now what captain nerd ?youve been exposed as the lazy, selfish,self absorbed person who expects something just cause u payed a “little” money,what happens when ur sports team doesnt win?please write back so u can debunk some more mysteries.what a deush-bag,im glad theres only a few of yall.hopeing u find a group that makes a narsacis like urself feel special.Definately sincere Ron T May jr

  149. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Dear Ron,

    It’s my opinion that you are an asshole. More specifically you are an illiterate asshole. (Based on your demonstrated lack of writing skills) You’re exactly the kind of person I don’t want to waste my time talking to. You run a very small, blue collar service business. This is exactly the kind of people that waste my time and piss me off. I don’t want to associate with people like you because it’s a complete waste of my time. You can’t understand the services that I offer. If you did understand the services I offered you couldn’t afford them anyway. And people like you are exactly what BNI attracts.

    The customer that I target is running a significant sized business with a sophisticated sense of marketing and most importantly many many thousands of dollars per month to spend on those services.

    Here is what guys like you say to me; “hey ahhh I wanna do some advertising what do you think ya could get me for $200?” Here is what I can get you; turn around and I’ll give you a swift kick in the ass.

    So thank you for proving my point. You’ve done me a great service. Finally it’s spelled narcissist you fucking idiot.

  150. JackDonlan said:

    Hey Grumpy:
    I have been too busy to post for a while. Glad to know you are still up here.
    Fully enjoying my networking group that I joined 2 years ago after I dumped BNI. Not only do I get quality referrals and only spend 2 hours a month there, I have quality people to help me and my clients with stuff. givers do gain at my local networking.
    Also pleased to report my old BNI chapter schismed off from BNI. Better late than never.

  151. BNI is crap said:

    My husband has had the ultimate revenge on BNI after wasting so much time, effort and money on it. Soon after he left the area, his nasty, poisonous ex-wife joined. We recently heard that the chapter no longer exists due to the members arguing with each other.

    How I laughed when I found out!

  152. Another Sucker said:

    This almost feels like going to an AA meeting but than for ex-cult members :-)
    I’ve spent 3 years in a BNI chapter as well and it’s funny how things start to piss you off after a while. One of the things that really annoyed me is that whenever our local BNI director was so kind to pay us a visit the whole freaking chapter would almost bow and kneel for him. They were all groomed and well behaved in the most perfect matter, it just gave me chills down my spine. This “Director” has a job because us idiots all pay our fees, so practically he works for us, not the other way around.
    He would spend his 60 seconds as a “Priest in a cult” saying how you should see BNI as how the world works and how you have to live according to the rules and only if you stick to the rules of the book you will succeed. brrrrrrrrrrr, sounds a little bit too much like church for me and I’ve got the same idea about Church as I have about BNI.

    I also totally agree with you on the pressure that they put on you for coming with referrals. This only causes people to give you a referral that is just a waste of your time. I’ve done many quotes for my fellow BNI members or their referrals and quite often I didn’t hear back from them or they said I was a lot more expensive than their current supplier or they just wanted to stick with their supplier as they’ve always looked after them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think networking is a very, if not the most, important part of doing business but as someone mentioned in this blog you network through people who trust you and who you’ve got some history with. Quite often it’s your clients who’ve you’ve been looking after for, for quite some time, who refer you to someone they know. The people in your chapter hardly ever become your client so they don’t have the experience with you that your customers do have, which makes it harder for them to refer you.

    I’ve done my dash, I’ve spent 3 years with the same group and on paper we’ve made a profit if you look at the figures only. If you start looking at the time I’ve spent during, and outside the meetings, we didn’t make that much profit at all. Then again the bastards do warn you as they say that “Givers gain”. The problem is that we are the givers and they are the “Gainers” (Is that good English?!)

    I just got the feeling I was fishing in the wrong pond and it’s time to start networking a lot more through my existing clients and their network and have fun while doing so.

  153. Jonathan Davis said:

    Interesting blog…

    As many have said your experience is only as good as much you put into it.

    As if with anything in business do you walk into businesses and say “Hi we have never met before, you don’t trust me, but lets do business anyway!”

    This sadly most people’s approach to business, they truly do not build a relationship so they only get the inside referrals because they do not truly know their other members or how their other members can refer them business.

    Whoever said there is no way I would turn over my network of clients and associates to people I didn’t know, well why would you?

    As cliche as it sounds and it to use one of the cool-aide terms that BNI uses is the trust curve. It takes at least half a year or even a year for people regardless of your profession whether you are an easy referral such as a florist or a hard referral source like myself which is supplemental insurance.

    The core of BNI and to building your business is the 1-1s, if you have not done at least 10 1-1s if not more with each member which takes time again, I would not expect solid outside referrals

    The first 15 minutes is pretty crucial if it is done right, again it is about building relationships if you don’t want to associate with the people in your chapter, then how do you expect to get business from them or refer them?

    Attendance is strict and I definitely disagree with it being very much BNI’s way or the highway especially with some of the cases described. Unfortunately, I do see the reason why they do not want a person who is in those situations because they could fill a person who is able to attend which is very cold and really hurts the group because again it takes time to build up those relationships again.

    While I am agruing with some of the points made already I will say that some of the concepts that BNI uses are very outdated, with the referral sections and should be more focused on helping each other’s businesses.

    More or less, the poster that said it takes time yes it does, but so does cold calling, BNI is not for everyone.

  154. Jonathan Davis said:

    I forgot to mention that I completely agree with another poster in that chapters can be great business asset but as far as the corporate stuff is concerned, I definitely agree.

    I would not go as far as to say it is a MLM but it is definitely an outdated system and the meeting itself is flawed. 2/3 of it is devoted to promoting BNI even though I agree that structure is needed. I joined BNI because solely of the members that we were in the chapter, if my members were not all people that I would feel comfortable talking to or referring business then there is no way I would be part of BNI.

    So definitely if you think that your BNI members are not ethical business professionals please leave immediately.

  155. Faciadacul said:

    My experience with BNI is like yours another sucker.

    More members is good. We know that. BNI tell us constantly. The chapter doesn’t get any of the membership fee so why not make it free. We would certainly be able to get the numbers up.

    OK, so you will not be able to use the fantastically useful tool for your business, the “BNI Connect” website. I am sure that will give you sleepless nights.

    Also, you will not get the training provided by BNI. Hold on, BNI doesn’t provide training included in your membership anyway. You still have to pay. There are courses available online for nothing from similar organisations and you will not have to sit next to magnet sellers, crystal healers, wand wavers and other deluded MLMers for a crappy breakfast and have some Herbalife/Amway trained twats tell you to hold a pencil so that your arms don’t flap about during your 60 seconds. So it’s not all bad.

    These possible losses of services may not put you off but don’t forget BNI bring you this: www dot askivanmisner dot com
    Now type “Why aren’t new members given a copy of your best selling book, Networking Like a Pro?” in the box and fill in the name and email boxes.

    Did you just say to yourself “I have to be part of this and will give these consummate professionals another years money”? No, I didn’t think so.

    You do not need to be ravaged with the problems of supreme intelligence to realise that it is all about BNI’s money, not yours. I don’t care as long as Wednesday mornings continue to be the fun they are and I can contribute to our collective prosperity. I am sure they will not let me renew next year in any event.

    I regularly get a telling off from the Franchise Income Protection Police as criticism is a massive no no.

  156. BNI in Western Canada said:

    After a recent conflict within my BNI Chapter and an effort to resolve the conflict the regional manager summed it like this. I view BNI as a franchise. I own this franchaise and can run it anyway I want. The national director summed it up like this, it doesn’t matter if a decision is right or wrong it can’t be changed.

    It seems there are one set of rules for fee paying members (the BNI Code of Ethics) and no rules for the paid BNI staff (i.e. the directors). Directors apparently are beyond following their own BNI Code of Ethics.

    If you are thinking about joining a BNI Chapter I highly recommend interviewing the head office decision makers (i.e. the area, regional and national director and if possible the franchise owner) because when push comes to shove and Chapter politics occurs (and it will) the depth and quality of leadership at these levels will show the true merits of the organization. Unfortunately in my experience BNI was a disappointment.

  157. GregBNI said:

    What a bunch of sour puss members in this blog. You get out of it what you put into it. It is likely most here are self entitled that have the expectation that you will be flooded with business.

    The attitude from most here is likely why you failed utilizing the process.

    You fail to point out any positive tools that can help a new business work on building a network, but you have to give inorder to receive….

    Sorry you found it worthless, but my guess is you as your name implies…. Grumpy is the kind of business or person i would avoid and never provide a referral or have any interest in promoting your business.

    Why don’t you and the other six dwarfs start your own networking group.

  158. stevek said:

    Hi new to the site, very interesting blogs about how people see BNI and the Mantra that is BNI.

    I am extremely cynical by nature, but here is my experience of BNI.

    I became self employed 3 years ago, I had worked for a big corporate in London. I couldn’t ‘take’ any existing clients so had to set up from new.

    I joined a BNI chapter and saw it for what it is, a place where you can START to build a network. You deal with the people you like and get to trust and you don’t deal with those you don’t, just like any other network connection. You wouldn’t give business to your next door neighbour if you didn’t trust them so why do it at a networking event.

    I don’t see BNI as being the only way to network but as a part of a marketing process.

    I agree with the points about being ‘cult’ like and forcing people into joining but I feel that everyone has a choice and BNI is definately not for everyone.

    My advice, you cannot possibly get a feel for a chapter in one meeting and you certainly couldn’t make any judgement calls on who you would liek to do business with from an initial 90 minute visitors day.

    But do not be brainwashed, stand up for yourself, and deal with people you want to deal with.

    For me in my marketing and networking process BNI has a place but is certainly not the only.

  159. JackDonlan said:
  160. JackDonlan said:

    Misner left a comment on it. Cool.

  161. Edward said:

    My experience with the BNI has been a nightmare and I wasn’t even a member.

    My lawyer drank the BNI cool-aid very early on and invited me to a meeting. Felt like a cult from the beginning but hey, curiosity never killed anyone so I started to talk to people while at the meeting.

    My lawyer introduced me to a bookkeeper. Another cool-aid drinker who started working on my books. Her working on my books lead to her introducing me to another BNI member, the ever diligent accountant. Then I was introduced to an SEO Cult member and a Digital Printer cult member.

    So within a span of less than 3 months I was surrounded by BNI members that I was paying to do jobs. No referrals ever came my way except for a couple. Of those none of them lead to anything substantial.

    So lets fast forward a couple of years. I am being audited by Revenue Canada. I nearly lost my business thanks to the brilliant business advice of a lawyer (which I found out isn’t really kosher under the law) and I am the one that was labeled difficult.

    So is the BNI a cult. Probably not in the traditional sense but it is for weak minded people who like to pretend that they are important.

    So today I speak openly about never working with people who are in a BNI and if you have friends who are in a BNI chapter, knock some sense into them.

  162. billy bob said:

    Dear Grumpy Nerd, you are one funny guy! I was looking for some info on the net to do a 5 minute education spot on Friday and found your comment. I laughed my ass off, you made my week. Some of what you say is true, some is as bullshitty as your invalid complaints. I think what happened in your situation sucks but I think it may be more a matter or function of your group composition. There is a method to the bni madness aside from being a money generator for the owners. My group has 42 members and everyone gets business, we are two years old, people left feeling probably a little like you but for the most part, it’s a cohesive group and folks do care about each other and make an effort to refer business. The ‘dances’ sound corny, i never sensed anyone was trying to sell me and i (mortgage guy) don’t want to sell them. I actually prefer not financing people in the group because the expectation level (just like a family) is in the stratosphere. However, all this stuff aside, you sound like you have a low tolerance for the ‘bull’, a good virtue to have (not liking bs). also sound like you would make a good president of your own group. You would see to it that things get done. Happy Holidays!

  163. Paul Mace said:

    Oh my lord! what a bunch of negative, small minded, wingers!
    You have to understand that BNI works because it has a structure and set agenda. Most networking groups are a quick chat with cold tea/coffee usually stuck talking to the same person. I’ve been a member for 3yrs and did not receive a single referral until my 5th month, but did I quit and start winging about how hard done by I was and duped by BNI. No I got on with it embraced it and have to date earned over £110,000 from my participation. For goodness sake guys, GET POSITIVE!!! it will only work if you want it to work. I’ll pay this yrs dues with GREAT PLEASURE. Anyway I’ll let you carry on with your winging. Remember “winners make it happen, losers let it happen”. I rest my case.

  164. BNI sucker said:

    I wish I would have found this before I joined 3 months ago. I was/am and no longer want to be part of a start up chapter. I sent my formal request for a refund and was just wondering how difficult it was to get your money back? This group is not chartered and I was told before that point it is simple to get a refund.

    My Director sends over this very long .pdf and says all I have to do is sign and return the last page. By signing this I “unconditionally agree to the following”…unbelievable. All this legal mumbo jumbo to get a refund from a voluntary group. Somehow this does not seem legal.

    Your thoughts?

  165. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Paul,

    I didn’t realize how many dumb asses lived in the UK until I wrote this blog article. For every one of you wooden toothed idiots that posts some positive bullshit on here my opinion of you goes down a notch.

    ‘Merica Rules.

    - Grumpy Nerd

  166. Sherri Mercurio said:

    This is so friggen funny! I love it. I was part of a terrible group. Little did I know, they were going to get shut down right before I came in becuase they sucked. I gave refferals left and right and no one else did. After about 5 months they finally shut us down. What a complete waste of $500!!!!! I never drank the juice and thought it was a total cult. I love the whole “oh your on the membership committee and you need to take a class for $30″. Yea ok jackass.

  167. Paul Mace said:

    Grumpy Nerd,

    We may be dumb asses, but hey, at least we don’t worship a mouse!

    By the way how is Mickey?

    Hope you have a bad day! cause I couldn’t possibly say good could I.

  168. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Paul,

    You poor ignorant bastard. We don’t worship the mouse we syndicate the mouse and then sell it overseas to you idiots in exchange for your ever declining currency. Who in the fuck in 2012 still has a queen? Absurd.

    BTW: You’re welcome for the inbound links to your little spam advertising website.

    -GN

  169. Paul Mace said:

    You are a soooooo predictable , envious of our small little island which gave you your country.

    maybe we should communicate in another life when you have developed some culture and some real understanding of economics. Mind you it’s nothing more than I expected coming from a citizen of a country that was largely responsible for fucking the financial system up.
    Don’t hate me, the liklihood is, iv actually helped you by writing this. In the time it’s taken you to read this (my estimate is 10years) you would have lost 90lb’s! that’s the size of steak you ate last week!
    now please, get back to your king size cheesburger with extra large chips and stop wasting my f—–g time.

    Who the fuck swears a hollywood actor as president, now that’s absurd! Maybe the next president will be Charlie Sheen

    GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!!!!!

  170. Jim Smith said:

    From what I understand of BNI the concept is wrong. Members are supposed to refer other members, regardless. So you are expected to refer, say a plumber, because the plumber is in the BNI group. You are supposed to refer this plumber even if you have not personally utilized the plumber.

    Is that right? You have to give referrals to members of your group, even if you haven’t utilized the skills of the other member? I couldn’t do that.

    Plus the only BNI member I know lies on social network pages.

  171. David JAmes said:

    Just returned from a meeting as a visitor, I suspected it was a type of MLM when invited, but went along for the ride, and a £15 breakfast, probably worth £15 to learn that I was right. I have seen these type of things before and its all hyped up slogan giving cliches… which I hate.

    I was contacted within 3 hours of meeting by email, to meet up with a member (not the one who invited me) to have coffee because they think that after consideration they might be able to help my business, Hmmm not sure about that, I am in construction and without telling what they do, you could not be further away, maybe I’ll go now that I am “armed” with more information and see how they think they can help me.

    I’m all for networking etc, but I am not going to hand over to someone who I don’t know information.

  172. BNI Doubter said:

    Hey Grumps,

    I LOVE your take on BNI. It was coffee-coming-out-of-the nose funny and spot on. Thanks for saving me a ton of money — nearly $650 for the first year of membership in my neck of the woods, with room fees.

    Nice group of people, almost joined (submitted an app), then I got a panicked call from a member asking for a dance card. When I said that if I got accepted my “dance card” was full for an entire month, he got ticked off. This was a real wake-up call. There is such pressure to either give referrals or get a one-to-one with someone that it strips the genuineness right out of it. Heaven forbid someone has to stand up and say they’ve done nothing for the week. I would have gotten a lot of business because of what I do, but there is no way in hell I’m going to use the services of someone I don’t know.

    It works for the people who buy into it. I could see that. But it’s a sales cult borne of some kind of weird, nonbiological nepotism. I’ve visited a number of chapters.

    Before I made my final decision I googled the topic and landed here. Thank you!!!

    I put a stop payment on my membership dues and looked for a more sincere form of networking elsewhere — and found it. $35/year. Meet at lunch once/week. Get to know and trust each other naturally …. not in a forced manner.

    Thanks again.

  173. Tall Paul said:

    Throughout history the most successful organisations, from empires to multinational companies, have always been systemised. Most, but not all, of the members of BNI that I have met are SME owners and the BNI system gives them a platform which, if followed, allows them to develop business relationships through qualified referrals between the members to themselves, their friends and larger business network. BNI is not about leads it is about passing qualified referrals. That is not to say leads are not passed but I have found that this is only normally the case when the system is not being followed. The are plenty or other networking organisations out there but I find it amusing to discover that they all seem to loosely follow the BNI system. Furthermore, they are all normally here today gone tomorrow. To those contributors who have slagged off BNi it is obvious that you have either joined a poorly managed chapter or you have failed to follow the system properly. Open networking is not about perving at women (those who do are morons) and being a member is not about selling to other members. It is about developing your credibility amongst those members so they will feel comfortable referring you to their biggest clients. If a member tries to sell you a product or service during a 121 then they just don’t get it but instead of bitching about things like these, guess what, there are systems in place to deal with them. BNI is not for everyone so if you don’t know how to act professionally around other business people, are not educated enough to follow a system and are unwilling to spend the time getting to know people well enough for them to feel comfortable to refer you to their biggest clients then you would be best advised not to join.

  174. Paul said:

    Hi, i came across this blog while researching BNI.

    Thanks for all the feedback over the last 4 years.

    I am now more informed.

    One thing though Grumpy, if you believe BNI is a waste of time, why are you wasting your time writing about it?

    You have spent 4 years venting your disapproval of it.

    I would say fuck BNI and go fuck some hot chicks.

  175. BNI-BLOODY NOTORIOUS INSTITUTION said:

    Hello darlings,
    I visited as guest member… And found all the artificiality around,,, in my opinion.. One good morning is enough for all…saves time… There were 25 “schematic” good mornings@ the intro table and almost same number at the pre meeting “——”
    I asked the guy who is suppose was the chairman of the meeting…
    Let me ask u one question… He said sure….
    Everything every scheme fAils,,, y has BNI failed for “someone”..
    He said,
    For people who did not follow the regulations …

    then i asked…
    if i refer to someone, then perhaps i shoud know his or her credibality in the spehere of business.. if i refer my good client to a non sense fellow…then,,i loose my “goodwill” too…

    moral :
    BNI members are sales men for BNI
    The founder made a business which will fetch him cash till he lives and even for a second generation
    April 1st is fools day…..for a BNI man, every tuesday (day of weekly meeting) is April 1st unless he reads this blog…
    1%-2% of people in any business make it “BIG”.. so if that person is there in ur team… then he knows how to use all 24 people and make his business work..lolz…
    apparently……this blog rocks..never read anything like this before…BNI is a big time fraud….. its just motivating people to fool their friends.. and yes.. once in a while success story happens in all places….
    Mr.Grumpy Nerd …… U have to write a book on the BNI by the contents of this blog and sell it to BNI aspirants and make some good bucks….. u Have indeed helped a lot of people save their ,,money time….!

    God Bless !

  176. Josh said:

    I keep seeing all these people bashing BNI, and I can understand your complaints. I would be frustrated if I went to a meeting once a week and didn’t get anything out of it. Unfortunately, some people are confusing good chapters (just like there are good chambers and good rotary’s) and bad chapters just like in those other organizations I mentioned.

    I have been to nearby chamber events and hated it and ones far away and decided it would be worth the extra travel time to meet with friendly people. As with anything, you must do your research. I always tell people who are considering joining to go to a few chapters before making a decision. See where your personality fits.

    It just so happens that our chapter is growing and doing a lot of business, and most of the members are profitable.

    The philosophy is “Givers Gain.” This is simple concept that I think we all could benefit from. The more you help other people, the more you will get in return. I also think this means the more open and honest you are in your business relationships, the better your business will become. I think we can all agree that doing business with friends and people you are committed to is a whole lot easier than doing business with total strangers. That is really what BNI can be all about if you are open to it.

    The question is to all who complain about the structure and meetings. Are you saying that order and structure in a meeting is a bad thing? How many times did you get together with other members to find out more about who they really are? Did you pay attention enough to the sales manager minutes to learn a little bit about everyone else?

    You cannot argue with BNI’s success. They are everywhere and people are getting value out of it. Do you think that BNI is flawed and people in general all over the world are that stupid or do you think that maybe you didn’t take the time to understand the philosophy? Did you try to sell to the room or through the room? I’m sure I won’t get answers to my questions, but I think you get my point.

  177. wbk said:

    I am a BNI member Jim, and I asked that same question. The answer was: “You are not bound to referring anyone in your group,If you are not sure they are good at what they do” .. You are not ethically nor legally nor nothing - bound to do that.

  178. Kate said:

    1. Check out many chapters. Not all chapters are created equal. Find one that fits you. Ask for a copy of the PALMS report showing all the members and their stats for the entire year. This way you can see if your connections are worth connecting with. A new system is coming into play called “Stop Light” It’s a new rating system for the chapter itself and individuals. Everyone on the internet will see. Very transparent.
    2. Make sure that you are fully informed of the BNI policies. The members in the chapter let you down if they don’t interview you and inform you of what is expected. This will make it really clear if you can’t make it on time, or abide to the structured attendance policies. Which really are professional standards and are easy to meet.
    This will help you determine also if this is something you will respect or not.
    3. If your Anti-Corporate don’t even apply.
    4. If you feel it’s justified to miss meetings because you came in late from a trip with your kids and didn’t get much sleep…Don’t apply.
    5. If you can’t do your homework and develop a sub list for yourself…. Don’t apply. Stop whining.
    6. If you go on vacation and you knew about it six months in advance and couldn’t get a sub…. don’t apply and Stop whining.
    7. If you are they type of person who takes being told your late and you can’t give your 60 sec presentation so personally and try to make everyone else in the chapter feel sorry for you, for 4 months… Don’t apply and because your such a wet blanket you brought moral down. Just leave … oh I forgot your incredibly selfish and ignorant. Wait you twist things around and throw it back on the VP. Your an asshole. Leave you don’t fit in. Oh I already said that and for some reason you keep showing up and digging your heals in.
    8. If you feel you can show up late and should not be marked late… Don’t apply.
    9. If you feel that you give so many referrals and you can do and say what ever you feel like…. Please leave the group now and don’t apply.
    10. If you shout out during an announcement by the VP or President regarding your dislike for a new policy…. Please leave the group, you aren’t a professional.
    11. If you are the President and you don’t take a stand on following the policies, you basically have thrown the VP and MC under the bus. It’s such a disservice for those in the group who paid and wanted the BNI experience.
    Playing both sides is cruel. And it will close a chapter down. And you did it all because you selfishly didn’t want to look unfavorable and loose referrals from a peticular member who was a bully. Leave the Group NOW> Oh wait the chapter closed… Thank you.
    12 . If your a member who Disrespectful and has bad character … you were kicked out , now go away and do business how you like to do it. With out class.
    13. Back to people who make Emotional decisions… Not business decisions You weaken the MC.. don’t apply, don’t ever be on MC
    14. If you haven’t grown up and revert to a highschool aged person in the group…. Go away, don’t apply.
    15. Following policies is not the end of the world. The structure is not horrible. It does work.
    16. If your Lazy… don’t apply.
    17. If your a BULLY don’t apply. A big thank you to you too for helping close our chapter. So Narcissistic. I’m just glad Corporate made it easy for me to get rid of you. Now your gone and your track record will keep you out of any BNI anywhere.
    18. It’s not about being pretentious. You can do a lot of business together. You can have a good time. It can have great chemistry. Just see if the chemistry is right for you. No one forces you to be there.
    19. If your a cheater don’t apply. Who needs that character flaw. It’s like cancer.
    20. I was a VP and I would rather have less people and have a unified strong group than a lot of members and not as unified. It can seem odd to many with certain rules and guidelines but it does work. But it’s not for everyone. There are many good groups in my area. Many great success stories. I loved giving referrals to other members. It was a great way to get started in Business in my area.

  179. Kate said:

    In Response to WBK comment, If you won’t give a referral to someone based on what you said it’s your duty as a member to really get to know that person well enough to see if they “they are good at what they do” if they aren’t then you write a letter to Membership committee of a bad experience regarding their not so good work and then if that is the case they are cut out of the group eventually. You as a good member are a disservice to the group if you ignore the situation and actually become part of the problem. Then the over all standards are lowered and you have mediocre people.

    I was in the group and yes people come into it and already have pre established connections. It takes a while to establish trust. For me I was willing to give up those connections for the purpose of supporting everyone.

  180. Peter B Butler said:

    BNI has been worth $78,650 to me in 3 years. The real cost I estimate at ~ $12,000 a year at a rate of $60 per hour so a good and realistic ROI.

    Plus it’s given me confidence to get on feet and talk to a group of people. Plus I’ve developed some good relationships.

    I’m a happy camper. You article could apply to some people who just don’t ‘get it’ and put the effort in. No give, no gain

  181. Ken said:

    Grumpy said: “This simple exercise will tell you if your BNI chapter is working;

    Divide your chapter’s total gross sales by the number of members in your chapter. Get your average sales per member.

    Divide the average sales per member by 50 weeks.

    Divide the average sales per week by the average amount of time the average member wastes on unproductive BNI activities. Say four hours.

    What you will come out with will be a pathetic number somewhere in the range of between $5 and $10 per hour.”

    I did this and I came up with $195.06 per hour for our group over the last 6 months. You clearly belonged to a sucky group and are overgeneralizing, because mine is making everyone in our group A LOT of money. (And, I couldn’t care less about the BNI kool-aid, etc. To me, it’s a tool and that’s all. If it stops working, I’m gone.)

  182. Harry paratestes said:

    Considering that this was originally written in 2008 and its now 2012 says a great deal. BNI in my opinion is for the unwashed illiterate unsocial masses who are desperate for a dollar and uttersocially incapable of introducing themself to another human being nad asking for that business. I was never much interested @ 500 to join and $20/ WK for breakfast total annual investment $1540 - gas and pepto bismal not included, I recently joined a company that swore that BNI was the holy fucking grail of sales ( i have been in sales for solid decade, have won numerous awards, been the top seller etc) the owner of the company is such a culty that he was willing to pay for my membership, after attending numerous events ay different chapters i realized that only the worst, most pathetic, illiterate, incompetant, shit pilers belong to BNI. These are the lowest rung of the commerce ladder, those who are barely hanging on to their business and desperately hoping that someone in their chapter will bring them a big fish because their business skills are so poor they cant go find new fish on their own. After wasting my time with the employer and BNI for 6 weeks I left the position none the worse for wear. best of all i can now openly shit on the culties and my former associate.

  183. steve said:

    I just got off the phone with a rep from a local chapter in Sydney Australia. Thought I’d do a spot of background checking and fell upon this site. Thank you for putting it up.
    I’ll be joining the local chamger of commerce in stead.

  184. Britlad said:

    Hi Grumpy,

    A thankful Brit here - just been to to a Visitor Meeting and thought you might like to know that this Brit considers himself a lucky boy.

    I went in totally cold - never attended any Networking Meetings - didn’t know what to expect.

    It was weird from the off. Couldn’t put a finger on what was wrong - it just felt ‘nasty’. I pride myself I have an inner-bs-alarm and believe me, It was ringing within 10 minutes of being there.

    Anyhow, sat through it, came home and simply typed into Google: Does BNI work?. Wow.

    Thank you so much for this blog. Email just sent to the ‘leader’ kindly declining the offer to join. Expecting a phone call within the hour, when I shall gladly direct him to this site.

    Good job my friend.

    A thankful and lucky Brit.

    :)

  185. LOCAL CHAP said:

    I was asked to join BNI, the couple of early meetings went well, and the lad who asked me to join was a so called friend, has you state the general running of the meeting went to the general rule, blah blah but for me when it come the the business box, that’s when i hit the BNI in the bollocks.
    We had 19 members in our group BENTLEY IN PRESTON, UK
    we had 6 referrals a week if we where lucky. I was doing my up most to contribute and 1 specific week came with a 50k job, gave it to a Builder and he never even rang the client. I hit the roof and complained to the leadership team, and to my shock didn’t want to know, i refused to give in and want to speak to the area director and again no answer, yet again i wanted to speak to district CEO and again no answers.
    That’s when the fun begun, i made my feeling know to the leadership team and the builder who let me down, and a number of members where happy for me to take the stand and also i brought to light the fact that ‘our weekly business past’ was in the £40 thousand pound a week bracket. “how was this i asked” we only give 6 referrals a week and only 2 cards went in the box for the thanks, the answer was that “we have been given work from other chapters and you don’t put a card in when that happens ” ok i said how does that work, you are telling me that all referrals are proof of passed business and thank you cards confirm the work has been won and done, documented and recorded, but when a chapter passes work, no names are mentioned but recorded sums.
    Now in my view this is false accounting and bullshit figures to improve the group’s status and mug more potential joining clients.
    We joined the group to pass each other business and support each others trade (exclusive oportunity), why the fook is another chapter giving work away to us and not passing it within there own group?
    The question really rattled them, i demanded answers, unfortunately i was left out of the group and no one contacted me for at least 3 weeks, i then put in a request to transfer and within a week later its was accepted without the answers to the questions and a credit for a new chapter.
    Now power of the web and all that social MEDIA give me a forum to join, which brought me to repeat what i’m telling you, but this time i was explaining the issues to the main CEO of Lancashire and Pennines BNI, its on Linkedin on the BNI what’s the best referral you have had. I simply told my tale and got a bit of shit for it slagging off the rock of business, but i went on and asked them all “who do you thank on the card when the work comes from another chapter” i even asked the CEO. Not one of them answered me, but i got a call from the CEO who didn’t want to comment online and he explained to me that other chapters work its not recorded,has there is to much paperworks, Bollocks i told him all other referrals and cards are kept, every member is on the Bni sites, it can be put online in today’s technology.
    Then i went to say how the hell can 6 weekly referrals of a £1k turn in to £40k the following week, He added well i will tell you that 75% of work given to BNI are from NON MEMBERS, its a fact that the books at certain chapters or majority are being cooked and cooked, so when you go along to the Exclusive Meeting which changes the way of business, ask these questions.
    1 How many thanks for the business cards are in the box, and what is the weekly passed amount
    2 Ask to see the cards, add up the amounts and check all names are members on them
    3 If work has come outside the group from a Non Member why is it with the exclusive group?
    Look at the total STATS for the BNI and simply think that 75% of the passed work has come from NON MEMBERS so why the fook should i be joining, networking is free, you just have to meet people who want your work without a fee of £650.00 without the anal bullshit and false accounting.
    I was told by the CEO of Lancashire and Pennines that a refund will not be given but my credit will get me another group/chapter, i gladly accepted and he was getting a chapter to call me, I am still waiting, nobody wants to know me i wonder why. I would only say be positive and ask loads of questions, these are mainly franchise and more are bent than others, i have a friend who gets a lot from it but i’m not to sure on what he does to get it, don’t be pressured in the height of a recession to part with your money, it’s simply a case of WHO YOU KNOW.

    regards
    Local chap

  186. Serge said:

    I think BNI works for some vertical markets and not for others. The generic ones, real estate, mortgages, insurance, yes the more specific ones IT for instance where I reside as a rapidly discouraged IT chapter member, nothing. So in reality, givers give takers take. And you are so right on the false leads, in five months 1 legit small lead one false, feel like reporting the false one to the highers up and having it revoked. Oh, and some members being so interested in you when you are a prospective member, and ignoring you after you join, not good.

  187. J said:

    My boss and I really enjoyed your post. My boss belongs to a BNI group and I have had to sub for him a few times when he had to go on showing appointments (he’s a broker). It’s hilarious that when you’re given a lead and you follow up with it, if it happens to be the day of your BNI meeting you’re dinged for it. I say if you’re in a money-making activity who am I to stop you?

    The biggest issue our BNI group has/had is overt racism. When I subbed for him two Asian business people had just submitted their application. To “congratulate” them one of the members blurted out something along the lines of, “They’ll bring Oriental enthusiasm.” I still kick myself for not saying anything, but nobody said anything, not even the president. I refuse to sub for my boss now and I’ve convinced him to drop BNI like a hot rock.

    My boss thought about joining another BNI group but after speaking to members in at least 3 other BNI groups they all have the same issue - forced BS leads. So instead I worked with him to start our own local networking group that doesn’t force exclusivity, my boss and I front all the costs so it’s free to everyone (we just ask our members/visitors to buy a little something from the restaurant to show their appreciation) that gives 90 minutes of open networking time, and doesn’t put any participant on the spot for referrals. In fact, we actually encourage our members to join/visit other local networking groups (I couldn’t believe how many there were when we found them). One networking group collects dues but then directly donates the dues to a charity (the charity rotates every couple months).

    BNI may work for some people, but feeling obligated to provide leads to people you wouldn’t have even been friends with in high school (because let’s face it, the adults are just big kids) is a broke concept and the cliquish behavior is so tiresome. If you want to build your community, I say start your own small networking group!

    Thanks again for a post that made me literally laugh out loud.

  188. Ken said:

    My return on BNI? $335/hour over 10 years. One referral , from a plumber who knows nothing about what I do but knows what I am looking for, lead to a programming contract that paid $300,000 over a 4 year period.

    BNI has been very good to me over the years, especially as I learned more about building relationships and worried less about getting leads. However, I did have to make a change to another chapter once because the chapter I was in included some people who preferred to play drama games than get business done.

    Many think that any networking group, not just BNI, is about generating leads. Networking is about building relationships, and some people just aren’t well suited for building relationships or need to find the right venue for it. Some are good at building relationships anywhere. The rest of us do well in BNI because it provides a structure for relationship building.

    There’s never an obligation to “provide leads” as some claim. Since these are groups run by humans, they will have human issues, including human dramas. Some groups have more drama and less professionalism than others. I’ve seen many groups over the years. 80% of them are good to terrific, and about 20% really struggle for various reasons. If you are in one of those 20%, either change things, or look for another chapter. There will be one out there.

  189. Shaun said:

    Wow! you people are all really crazy. I literally have no words. If your an idiot and it doesn’t work then don’t join. networking isn’t for everyone and either is owning your own business. I own a business and every single employee belongs to different chapters. Why? obviously because it works. We spends around 2 thousand dollars a year for membership but make over a 100k. I sure did drink that kool-aid I tell ya what.

  190. Ken Hoffman said:

    Thank you so much pastchapterBNIpresident for posting. After reading the first post I was skeptical because it was so sarcastic. But your post was so clear and objective to shed light on this. You saved me hundreds of dollars. Thank you.

  191. UK Business Ecommerce Forum said:

    This made for an interesting read. We have had an enquiry on http://ukecommerce.com/ecommerceforum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=90&sid=747f0b47f1ff74761fffcb09e07dbc02 by someone who wants to know more about business networking and the subject has turned so far to BNI.

    Feel free to join the forum and post your opinions on BNI vs Other business networking, and while you are there you can post your business details and a link to your website in the general business area of the forum.

  192. HowlingWolf said:

    I want to thank everyone who shed light on BNI and for saving us from the cult of the BNI. We are a new business and received a letter inviting us to attend a meeting. We were all for it until we read these reviews. Everything that was mentioned in the reviews was what we experienced through the emails and correspondence before we even got the chance to attend a meeting. Thank you to everyone who also provided ideas on how to grow a business without BNI! Thank you!

  193. hammondjr said:

    Joining your local COC provides much more of an opportunity than your local BNI.Especially if your local COC has a “Tier” investment program, but even if not they can work well. I wasn’t looking for other entrepreneurs like myself and thats what I got at BNIs. I needed local established businesses to do business with. I have also heard the horror stories of COC’s but from my experience within the past few months it has been well worth the cost. My local chamber is doing cash mobs (FREE) that support small local businesses, large manufacturing seminars($20), leads group functions (FREE) that actually generate sales.

  194. Total Student Support said:

    THANK YOU thank you angry nerd. A colleague has been asking me for several weeks to come as a visitor or “substitute” for her. She is a lovely person and I respect her, but I am sure she needs someone to sit in to cover this insane absence bullshit. I am NOT a morning person so I know I wouldn’t have joined anyway, although I am too nice of a person and may have filled out one of those crappy forms and probably would have been stalked for weeks so that I could waste $400 and MUCH MORE in wasted time. As I have been less than eager to take her up on the offer, she let me know that there was ‘another professional in my same industry that she would be offering a spot to if I was not able to get on it.’ Again, I think this new colleague is a good woman, she offers a great service, and she has introduced me to some quality people in other arenas. She is probably just trying to avoid wasting her own $400 because she would get kicked out for actually having to do business instead of sit there for 90 minutes at 6:45am in the morning. That in itself is torture for me, as I am entrepreneur for a reason. THANK YOU FOR SAVING ME FROM EVEN ONE MEETING IN THIS CULT!

  195. sexyaccountant said:

    I paid the £650+ membership fees to a join a new chapter of BNI a few months back.

    Frankly I have been bullied to cold call people to get them to come. We were all then threatened to be put on “probation” if we failed to bring 4 guests in 8 weeks.

    I don’t know many people in the region in business - most of my contacts are London based - that’s bloody why I joined BNI, to build up my contact base.

    I quit the damned thing and feel much happier for it. No more worrying about being told off for not brining a visitor, no more 5am alarms, no more being false to a group of people who are, by and large, bizarre and quite evidently are members of the freemasons too.

    Losing the £650+ is worth it and I will go out of my way to tell people how pushy and cult like BNI are.

    FUCK BNI - there are other organisations out there that are much cheaper and much better.

  196. sexyaccountant said:

    Oh, also, I am not surprised that BNI members come on here and can post nothing other than “you’re an idiot” - that’s exactly the sort of thing I would expect.

    No, you’re just a brainwashed bully. BNI can have benefits, no doubt, and it can produce a return. It still doesn’t make it an attractive proposition.

  197. Jackie said:

    Great post, and very true.

    I am a former BNI member myself. When I became self-employed, everyone told me I “had” to do BNI. Even though I am not the type of person who does what others say I “have to do”, I wanted to start somewhere, immerse myself and learn. I even served as VP and President of my chapter (total bullshit positions that are a ton of busy work with zero return on your time. I was asked to be an “assistant director” but when I realized it was just doing more work for the organization for free, I politely declined. Once I walked away from BNI after 3 years, the flaws became apparent to me.

    BNI Meetings are like that movie Groundhog Day, it’s the same damn thing every week. Some people like that “consistency”, but it bored me to tears hearing the same 30 elevator pitches every week, the really bad 10 minute sales presentations and the go-around at the end where we “passed” referrals and testimonials.

    I was the type of member, if I had a legitimate referral for someone, I gave one to them. But I was not about to take time out of my busy day to “generate” referrals just for the sake of generating them.

    In the end, I found BNI felt too much like church, and I don’t go to anyone’s church. I felt like we were just in business to make BNI money.

    I tried another networking group afterward, but I find that the time you have to spend on chapter events and “recruitment” is just not worth it at all in the end. I know a lot of people, especially since I’ve been around 7 years now in this town, and I get stuff done by making friends and building relationships.

    I’m done with “leads groups”. BNIs model is so obsolete in my opinion.

  198. Valgal112 said:

    I loved reading your article and viewing how others see BNI. I have had quite a different experience. I can honestly say that BNI has truly helped my business. I am an insurance agent who also does the marketing for our agency. I truly don’t have time to be out there networking on a regular basis. BNI gives me the opportunity to meet with people consistently every week. People that like me and my business. And, I get both great and not so great referrals. (A side note, my husband has been an agent for 23 years, our friends and family are already customers-I needed a referral source for myself directly that would not just go to our agency-BNI fills that role for me)

    Maybe our group is different. We started in the chiropractor’s basement and worked out way up to 18 members. Then we launched as a chapter with each of us undergoing extensive BNI training. Our first week we took on 28 members. That was back in 2009. We are now up to almost 50 members. It really is a great group. I rarely get a “lead” and therefore I don’t pass leads either. Only business that has real potential. While I don’t agree with everything BNI does and wonder what why our dues have to be what they are, it seems to really be working in our area. There are several chapters around us that are just as successful. And, the formula of “Givers Gain” really applies. The people that leave our Chapter either have changed jobs or schedules have changed. We have not had anyone leave that I am aware of because they thought it didn’t work for their business. Yes, I drank the Kool-aid, and take ownership of our group. I have been Sec/Treasurer, President, interim VP and on the Membership Committee. Currently, I do the Education Minute each week. I wouldn’t spend that kind of time if it did not work.

    While I can see every one of your points, I thought I would point out to you that BNI can still be a relevant way to obtain business. People don’t want to talk to Insurance Agents that cold call them. Direct marketing would go to our agency directly, not just to me. Same with Social Media. And, while our Chamber of Commerce is fantastic, each event I attend it seems that I am mixing with two or more agents. I should also stress that while our group has contractors and business people, everyone is more than professional. I can trust and refer business to almost everyone. Each of our seats is worth more than $10,000.00 So it is worth it to me to show up each week. It makes it even better that I like the people I see.

  199. Sudarshan Kumar said:

    Wow - I’m glad I read this 4-year thread! Thanks Grumpy for your entertaining account (and everybody else who responded) and for the heads-up. Just got invited to a BNI meeting and now I know what (not) to do. Gotta go, ‘coz I said yes.

  200. Xxldave said:

    Grumpy, thanks for such a great article and for maintaining this blog for 4+ years! I drank the koolaid one last time this week and emailed my resignation to our chapter president. In my case to justify the time spent on BNI I would need to clear at minimum $1000 month from the chapter. Over a one year term the most I ever made from chapter refferrals was about $400 in one month. Never got any legitimate outside refferrals either. I was asked to be on the leadership team for the next term which would require more time. I get more business outside the group via Google or just word of mouth. I did make a lot of friends though in the group but we’ll see how that goes now that I’m out.

  201. Rod said:

    I own my business and work on my business as much as possible as well as in my business. In our Bni Group its widely spread around that Bni is Givers Gain. So I try to give at least 1 referral a week whether it be level 1 or level 2. I usually receive 1 to 4 referrals each week. If I can’t give a referral I give a wrap to someone. Bni has been good for my business with closed business around $50,000 a year. Our Chapter had over 7 Million Dollars in closed business last year.There has been some big closed business go through our Chapter making a big chapter for closed business. We have a great Chapter with about 30 members at the moment. I’ve had the positions of Visitor Host, Education Officer, Treasurer and am currently on the Membership Committee. I’ve never missed a meeting in 4 years and have used a substitute about 6 times in that time. I’d say to anyone looking at Bni in today’s economic climate give it a go. All you have to do is turn up on time, give a referral, and do a 1 to 1 and if you do that you will be rewarded for effort. If you don’t turn regularly and don’t give referrals and don’t do 1 to 1’s you will fail with Bni. Its all up to you to practice “Givers Gain”.

  202. Brad said:

    Nerd,

    Your article was well written and entertaining, however that’s about all the value it holds. I can see how someone who didn’t work the BNI system would walk away from their chapter with a bitter taste in their mouth. I have been a BNI member now for about 8 years and have seen my business flourish as well as many of my chapter members, because we put the time and effort into it. The reason BNI works is because of the structure. I’ve seen several members of BNI become jaded like yourself thinking that they could put together a weekly meeting that would be cheaper, shorter, and more rewarding than BNI. These groups typically die out in three to six months because there is no structure and no need to try and help the group. With no responsibility or accountability how would you measure your members or your meetings? I will agree with you on the recruitment portion of BNI. No one likes having to cold call or invite people to a meeting, but it is absolutely essential if you want to grow your chapter. Not everyone that visits or joins is going to be a home run member, hell a lot of chapters will make mistakes accepting new members and let someone like yourself join. I think the biggest misconception of BNI is that the groups are starved for anyone to join. While this is occasionally, and perhaps more often, the case the good groups carefully select members and try to weed out people that won’t make good members. I admit I didn’t read all of the follow up posts, but I did read a lot and they all seem to have the same type of “excuse” pattern. I am not a koolaid drinker and I can admit that mistakes have and will be made, but the majority of the posts consist of people who couldn’t live up to meeting and member expectations. There are viable reasons for missing a meeting, but you really have to search long and hard for the 4th time you miss in a six month period. If you’re scheduling business during your meeting then it is your own fault. A BNI meeting is like any other scheduled meeting with a prospective client and should be treated as such. Truth be told I don’t know why I bothered responding to your blog other than I think BNI deserves an advocate amongst this gathering of cynical passed members.

  203. David said:

    I was VP for one year and President another and was a member of Dynamic Referrals for a total of four years. Having drank the kool aid I worked very hard to increase membership from 12 when I joined to over 30 by the time I left. My first note was how absent the State organization is and yet how dictatorial they really are when it comes to each individual chapter. i found that in reality the only reason anyone attends a BNI meeting is to receive referrals…. the giving part usually defaults to Arbonne or the cookie guy just so members think you are a participating member… and if your car does happen to need repair all the better as I can at least turn in a referral to get a price quote. We decided to remodel our kitchen and I ended up using a more expensive chapter remodeling company figuring that I have a four year relationship with him and would get better service given his bid was higher. What a total damn nightmare. Refusing to work an entire week as my house was totally torn up. He figured the relationship gave him a right to schedule me in whenever he had the time and man power to return. Talk about turning the entire process on its ear. Needless to say I fired him and replaced him with a contractor from another BNI chapter. This clown could not even read the plans from the cabinet company and installed a whole bank incorrectly. He had to spend another day tearing out what he did the day before and then replacing them in correct position. Of course he wanted more money for the exercise so I fired him as well. Being on the membership committee I had to review renewal applications for the first contractor and, of course, recommended that his membership not be renewed in an effort to keep the quality control of the group professional and worthy of referral status. The state organization, after not consistently providing a Director for three years, got involved and put me in my place. You see, if they don’t renew a member, they don’t get that member’s annual dues which lowers the amount of money that state franchise with BNI retains. So because quality control is not paramount within this organization I resigned and will never return. My advice to prospects is to move on and find another way to market your company. Many of the people who have written before me have it right - you invest a lot of time and money for very little return. In my experience the only successful members economically are the professions whose ticket is very large and whose close period is extended… Realtors are a good example and you will find that they usually start these chapters - you see they are masters at getting referrals and BNI fits better into their strategies. Best of luck to all - just stay away from BNI.

  204. k said:

    Hello there G Thanks a lot for growing this amazing post.

    I am on the verge of leaving BNI after only 1 month.

    I ignored the many obvious cracks simply because of my urgency to see new business kick-started with a new model.

    But I figure I was made so many false promises and never told of mandatory member commitments like given targets to bring visitors etc etc. I see a clear deception to get me in as a member and also the nepotism within the system is so suffocating. If I walk out highlighting these reasons, can I get back my membership money successfully?
    Thanks

  205. Kookie said:

    Hello there Grumpynerd Thanks a lot for growing this amazing post.

    I am on the verge of leaving BNI after only 1 month.

    I ignored the many obvious cracks simply because of my urgency to see new business kick-started with a new model.

    But I figure I was made so many false promises and never told of mandatory member commitments like given targets to bring visitors etc etc. I see a clear deception to get me in as a member and also the nepotism within the system is so suffocating. If I walk out highlighting these reasons, can I get back my membership money successfully?

    Thanks

  206. Thanks Grumpy said:

    Hey Grumpy, Thanks so much for your posting! I was recently invited to a BNI meeting by a business associate. The way it was presented to me over the phone sounded too good to be true!! Absolutely!! I said….. Thinking wow what a great opportunity, especially because work is so slow these days. Well I started to think about it, and decided to do a little digging on what exactly this BNI is. I stumbled on your blog and started reading. Your post was entertaining and very well written BTW… After reading all of these comments, i decided NOT to even go…. SO thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!

  207. Ivan Misner said:

    Ivan Misner said: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Dear Grumpy

    Clearly you (and others who have posted on this page) had a bad experience in BNI. I am sorry for that. I take pride in the fact that many business people around the world have benefitted from our program.

    I started BNI in 1985 to help people generate more business through referrals. I believed that referrals where the strongest way to build a business. I also understood that people weren’t taught how to network in school and there was a general lack of understanding in how to generate a referral-based business.

    It was my goal to create a structured program that provided an environment for people to generate those referrals. BNI does that. There have been multiple independent studies including a doctoral study (not including mine) and other independent studies that have documented the fact that in any given year we pass millions of referrals and generate billions of dollars in business for our MEMBERS. Clearly, that was not your experience. It may be possible that the numbers you stated in your original post were accurate for your group - I don’t know. I can tell you that the average number is far higher. In either case, that wasn’t your experience and I wish that were not the case. I would like for every person in BNI to have a good experience.

    For the record, BNI regions are locally owned and operated as a franchise (it is not an MLM) and we must meet all federal requirements for a franchise.

    We’ve been around for over 28 years. We have 6,200 groups in 50 countries. It’s working in many ways for a lot of people.

    I get it that you didn’t have a good experience. I get it that your blog is about rants on issues you are “grumpy” about. But, calling me a con-man. That’s more than grumpy.

    Your knowledge of me as a person and businessman comes from your bad experience in my organization. I invite you to reach out to me personally. You have my email address as part of this post. Contact me. If you are in Southern California - meet me. Come visit BNI HQ. You will see many employees working hard to help people all around the world build their business through a structured referral program. More importantly, talk to me. You may not change your opinion of how BNI can work for businesses. But I would be genuinely surprised if you didn’t change your opinion of my intentions.

    I truly believe that one person may not be able to make a world of difference but they can make a difference in the world. I am trying to make a difference for business people around the world by helping to provide them with the system, structure, and training to build their business through referrals.

    I love my business. I love what my business does for many people. I welcome a dialog with you about this further.

    Ivan Misner
    Founder
    BNI

  208. Jabo said:

    Your not an idiot, but you have no idea why you failed or that BNI failed you. I have absolutely no fear or thoughts about what to say during my 60 seconds and talking for 10 minutes is simple and I could do that anytime. Your problems seems to stem from your fear of public speaking and it’s overwhelming effects on you.

  209. And all this for just $1.25 a day... said:

    I’m about to quit. Here’s why. I give many good referrals. No problem there. In the last 3 months, I’ve not had one back. Hmmmm…

    On being told I was the leading networker I had the temerity to pont out that actually I appreciated the comment, but I hadn’t received much business back. That started a storm of cold shoulders and consternation.

    Here’s my take. A few people, usually the mortgage broker, realtor and insurance broker will get the bulk of leads. They also often make the highest commission. Ten leads closed to a realtor could easily net $100,000. However, to most small business, ten leads closed might not clear $1000.

    So the whole measuring referrals thing is entirely skewed. The push for membership, and ever getting more members is not matched by any attempt to service or look after existing members.

    Also, why does a realtor pay the same membership as, say a personal trainer? The personal trainer has no hope of gaining the same return.

    In the end the system seems to reward a few, usually in the four posts of mortgage broker, realtor, accountant and insurance agent, and not do much for anyone else.

    Ironically most referrals are generated by the people who make least out of it. I’ve seen at numerous meetings the people with small profit margins bring most referrals, because they meet most people. After being in the system a year, they walk. And that actually suits BNI, because fresh blood brings new refferals, before they too are tapped out and decide to walk.

    I’m done… I’ve learned a bit and made a couple of friends, but I’m not wasting any more time or money on it. This is the 21st century - LinkedIn works better!

  210. Elissa said:

    Hey I have no problem with people not liking BNI. It does not work for everyone. I have been a member for 8 years and most of our chapter are 5 plus year members. It can take up to a year for it really click. Don’t quit.
    I don’t like the unnecessary roughness however. I have a couple of questions for those people who decide not to even try after reading this thread.
    Seriously? You are going to let some negative people stop you? What if they are wrong and you just missed a chance to make some money.
    And my follow up to that is- why do you believe the negative posts and none of the positive ones?

  211. ChelseaGirl said:

    I did not know BNI was a franchise! I thought it was just a networking group. That does color it somewhat, as with any franchise the primary purpose is to make money. I’m in the U.S.; I know people who are in BNI and most of them say they like it, but based on my personality it’s probably not for me. I am glad I read this because now I know what the structure is like.

  212. Jessalyn said:

    I hate to be a positive commenter on a rant-blog, but I feel I have to put my positive BNI experience out there. You seem to have had a seriously bad experience. I’ve been a member for a year now, and have made back more than double my membership costs as a result. I’ve also improved not only my networking skills but my presentation, preparation, and speaking on the spot skills.
    I enjoy the structure offered, because it cuts down on the “vapid pleasantries”. I’ve also made some life-long friends who won’t “sell me” their product unless I ask (which I do, because to help sell something, you have to know what you’re selling!). The one-to-one meetings are going out for coffee with friends (even if you barely know them).
    I will concede the point that selling the chapter to visitors requires some not-so-subtle brainwashing, but other than that, I enjoy my early-morning meetings! Obviously, this didn’t work for you, but it does work for many people if you put the effort in.

  213. Gerta said:

    The way I see it the fundamental flaw in the BNI business model is the mere fact that some people, be it the franchise owner, directors, or BNI corporate, are compensated only when members join or are renewed. Members, however, are only interested in closed business. If one does not close any business and opts to not renew then the chapter will fill the seat with another person in that category. That new person is at least one year away from having a few real relationships and receiving real business, but BNI, its directors and franchise owners still made their money. Why don’t the BNI directors, franchise owners and BNI corporate practice what they preach: Givers Gain? I propose that until a chapter is closing enough business (determined by the local market) that the directors and franchise owners give back to the members the portion of the membership fees they are paid / compensated. I know there are chapters that close an unbelievable amount of business ($2 million+ per year) and that there are members who have quit because they did not close $25,000+ new business from BNI referrals.

    BNI works, sometimes. Nothing works all the time. However, with BNI it fails more times that it succeeds. So, can we get BNI corporate, franchise owners and directors to agree to forgo their profit until a chapter achieves a certain level of profitability for its members? After all, Givers Gain.

  214. Julie Smith said:

    I, too, have left BNI after 8 months, because of attrocious support from the Australian and local Manager. ( I also figured out i was working for BNI for $1.25 an hour)I would like to personally contact Ivan Misner (are you really that bad at spelling?) and personally tell him what’s going on over here. All previous attempts have been blocked.

    Also the exhorbitant rates we pay here - and you Americans are complaining about $400 - try $1200 like we have to pay.

  215. Marc Silverman said:

    I am a lowly web designer, I have been in BNI 5 years. I bought a condo in Manhattan exactly one year ago, purely because my business grew through the friendship and devotion of my BNI colleagues to one another and myself.

    You are not invited for a visit.

    –Marc

  216. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Dear Marc,

    I’ve reviewed your portfolio and I am officially crowning you the worst web developer in the world. It’s as if you and your web designs were just teleported here from 1994.

    Further I don’t know what $1.00 per month web hosting service you’re using but it’s slow. So slow that I thought you had no website at all. It’s only after I came back a minute later to close the tab did I see your shitbox of a website.

    The lesson here; in addition to being annoying assholes BNI members have no artistic taste.

    You and people like you are exactly why I quit BNI.

    - Grumpy

  217. Justin said:

    I can see by your remarks that you are very close minded so it doesn’t come as a surprise that it didn’t work out for you.
    I’ve been a BNI member for a year and a half and have increased my sales through BNI considerably. And the longer you are in the more the members know about you, trust you and are willing to pass you quality referrals.
    There are exceptions as not all BNI groups are stellar and maybe you just got into a bad one.
    We try to keep the mood light while sticking to the guidelines.

    Now I’m a siding contractor so my ticket sales are pretty large. So I don’t expect a load of referrals to come pouring in for me every week. But the ones that do come have been nearly sold by the time I even showed up.

    This is not a get rich quick scheme, it is another form of advertising that gets you in front of other business people in the community.

    I’m currently working on the two largest jobs (by far) in the history of our 36 year old company thanks to referrals passed to me by BNI members.

    Is it for everyone? No. Can you make money at it? Yes. but you have to put in the time just like anything else.

  218. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Justin,

    Let me start by saying that I don’t think you’re too bright. I’ve said again and again and again that I think BNI can work for certain market segment which includes services that all of us can use; computer repair, cable tv, banking services, painting, your business siding…

    We’re selling high level marketing services to corporations. That means our sale is to the owner, ceo, marketing director level person inside of a larger company. There are exactly zero large company execs attending BNI meetings. It’s all low level entry level businesses and sales reps from retail level product and service companies. It has little to do with my attitude and everything to do with the entry level demographic of business people that attend BNI events.

    Get your head out of your ass.

    -GN

  219. phil mcavity said:

    Having taken the time to read through loads of the posts, I have to say that it certainly seems that there are more cons than pro’s. I joined a UK Chapter earlier this year, didn’t quite appreciate the commitment involved but found out very quickly that you’re either in the “clique” or you’re not. Take the traffic light system, talk about naming and shaming, I have rarely seen such a draconian way of trying to motivate people, to me if people are under-performing there is usually a good reason, and it should be dealt with in a way that doesn’t make people feel that they’re letting the side down. When you are identified as a non achiever you will be given the opportunity to rectify your sins by being put under the spotlight and monitored relentlessly, at which point whatever you do will not be good enough and the writing’s pretty much on the wall, there will always be another little BNI “rule” that you’ve failed to comply with and can be pilloried for. What I find distasteful is the fact that the “membership committee” meet in secret to discuss you, I’m a grown up and expect to be shown some respect but the reality is some members of this clandestine committee feel it’s ok to pass derogatory comments about you in private, without having the balls to say it to your face, I have a serious issue with a particular committee member who is arrogant, rude, self obsessed, and one of the most unpleasant people I’ve had the misfortune to meet, but this moron seems to get away with whatever he likes. I am still on the “naughty step” in my group and it’s quite clear they want me out although I believe that this is because one of the committee knows someone who he wants to bring in for my category. I’m ex military so have no problem with structure and discipline, where BNI differs is that in the military you can rely on your colleagues to cover your back, what I’ve found with certain members of my group is that the only reason they’re looking at your back is to determine where they can stick the knife in. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really decent people in my group, and I would be happy to refer them to my contacts and I do whenever possible, but as to the value of membership, you really do have to consider if the time spent in promoting BNI generates sufficient return to justify being involved in my case it’s a definite no. My experience has been that the referrals I’ve received have been written on the day because in my category it’s easy to write a referral for me, so you’ve met the “contribution” criteria for that week, 98% of the referrals I’ve received have amounted to nothing, the BNI take on this is that the reason people don’t give you genuine referrals is that you haven’t been specific enough !!! in my group there are 25 members, the service I offer can be used by all members, their families, and their families families so the potential you would think is massive, the reality, I receive one referral every other week if I’m lucky, and as yet, none of these have turned into a paying job. I’m in the last few months of membership, have absolutely no intention of renewing, I’ll continue to pass referrals to the good guys in the Chapter, but I’ll make sure I’m a thorn in the side of the membership committee member who has been making things impossible for me. One observation, before you join, take a look at the members cars in the car park, this will give you a good indication of the level of wealth in the Chapter, and remember, your current situation is a direct reflection of your peer group, how many top level business leaders, or highly successful entrepreneurs do you meet at BNI meetings my guess would be very few. Make your own mind up about BNI, there are always people it works for but if the majority of members were being honest, I would suggest that taking into account the time spent at meetings, training courses and the like, your ROI would be negative, just my opinion, others no doubt have had more positive results.

  220. Birdybird said:

    Hello! I’m trying to decide whether to join BNI. I am a mental health counselor and wonder if someone in my profession can get many referrals through BNI. Any thoughts? Thanks.

  221. Crazy Persian from Sydney said:

    This blog and it’s commentary is hilarious! There are some good BNI Chapters out there, but I can relate to some of the points during my stint in the BNI before the chapter collapsed.

    Bit extreme, not sure if BNI Australia is that bad, but very funny! Thank you Grumpy Nerd - you have made my day ;)

  222. Jon said:

    I’ve done well with BNI but our chapter is on the decline. While the concept of BNI/Network Marketing can work for some businesses its best not to drink the Kool Aid and keep a open mind. One of the problems I see is the dues leave the chapter and I don’t think you get much direct return. I’d rather see a lower annual dues payment and keep the money in the chapter using it to promote the chapter and highlight a member each week in the local paper or other local media.

    There is are 3 local groups that run similar to BNI and have the lower cost and meet bi-weekly. I’m going to check out one of their meetings.

    I’ve been in business for 24 years and done most of it by word or mouth. This type of marketing works for me. Its about building the network or people I know and that know me and doing good work. BNI isn’t going to work for everyone for sure and its not the only way to do this type of marketing. I was in business 20 years before becoming a BNI member and hopefully I’ll be in business another 20 years.

  223. MJ said:

    You assessment is generous. I was coerced into attending a BNI meeting at the urging of a friend who admitted that he needed to fulfill his visitor quota. I’ve been successfully running my own business for 20 years and this was the most excruciating two hours of my entire career.

    I can’t find a way to say this politely, so I won’t. The members came across as mostly losers who lack the intelligence, skill or awareness to network and market in a logical, targeted way.

    No way in hell am I going to choose a doctor or an accountant or a house painter just because they bought the slot for their profession in my local BNI chapter. I need to try out their services or know people who can and will OBJECTIVELY review the service. And absolutely no way in hell am I going to recommend someone from my local BNI Chapter just because they’re in BNI. I have higher standards than that.

    As it happened I was familiar with the work of a few people in my local BNI chapter and, to a one, they represent the shoddiest end of the quality spectrum: a housepainter who I actually had to fire from his previous job (in a different field), a dentist who appeared drunk, and a couple of people who roused themselves from hospital beds (literally!) just so they didn’t miss the required BNI meeting and risk getting kicked out and losing all their pre-paid dues.

    Beyond that, the entire Group Think mentality of BNI left me nauseous. The meeting was scripted down to the second with everyone around the table repeating the same banal statements.

    Not just a waste of time and money but highly creepy.

    Oh, and my friend who coerced me into attending? He has not generated a single viable client through BNI in over a year.

  224. Christine Sutherland said:

    Fantastic article and fantastic comments about how pathetically awful BNI actually is.

    I put all my own networking stuff on the net completely free because I gave up on networking groups. They are mostly a complete waste of time and you’re better off managing your own networking.

    Nearly a month ago I found a fresh new organisation who is doing it right and I decided to become a fan and promote the hell out of it, partially because I believe in what they’re doing and partially out of revenge on BNI.

    All I have to say to people is “Have you had any experience of BNI?” and that’s it, we’ve bonded in mutual hatred of BNI and there’s another new member for my friend.

    BNI is the “Amway” of the business world. Completely reviled because it is so slimy. There is nothing attractive about a bunch of suits pitching at each other for 90 minutes, in between swapping fake referrals.

    Business networking meetings should not be about handing over referrals. They should be about learning about each other’s businesses (eg precisely understanding the business, the preferred customer types, possible objections, and wordtracks when referring), brainstorming business issues, and bonding as a group.

    Then throughout the month the members should be meeting one on one to consolidate this, as well as continuing to build their own networks.

    The networking group can exponentially leverage itself if it follows this strategy.

    But the minute there is pressure to refer, just as Grumpy Nerd said, you will get rubbish referrals and waste people’s time on wild goose chases.

  225. Michael said:

    I am sorry that so many of you have had very poor experiences with BNI.

    My chapter is fairly new, around 8 months old. I like meeting for lunch with the people that have become my friends. It’s a highlight for my week.

    Once I get a referral, I go to work helping them get what they need. The relatively few referrals I have received from BNI, have referred others themselves, and those people referred too. Because of BNI I have increased my yearly income by over $9600. That’s slightly over $100 for every hour of BNI activity that I would have spent having lunch anyway.

    I think too many of you are looking to have something handed to you and don’t yet know how to handle an opportunity.

    My work with BNI has been like getting an 8% increase in my wallet, and each month is getting higher due to my converting referrals to people that refer, and repeat business.

    Something may be missing in procedures of some of your businesses.

    Look critically at yourself and the effort and procedures you developed when you joined BNI. If you didn’t make effective changes to take advantage of this type of marketing, you did waste your money.

    I wish the best for you all.

  226. phil mcavity said:

    Michael,

    You have obviously joined a very active Chapter, and it’s refreshing to see that the the BNI brainwashing is working. Far from expecting to be handed things, and in spite of your ill informed assumption, I do put the effort in and having been in business for some years I recognize what is or is not working, and change as necessary, for me BNI has not worked, and as a result I did not renew my membership, even after having been told by the membership secretary at the point my membership was due for renewal that it normally takes at least a year to understand the system and be trusted by the group members and the second year is when things really do pay off….!! hmmm, thankfully I was staring at a point on the wall as he was talking and so wasn’t enchanted by his fantastic offer of yet more wasted time and money.
    Also your figures don’t quite stack up, you say your yearly income has increased by $9600 but prior to that you said your Chapter’s only been going 8 months..?? if you put a value of $100 per hour on your BNI activity does that mean you have three one hour lunch meetings a week, or do you include your Chapter meeting in with this? that being the case your ROI is certainly much less, but hey, as I’ve said before BNI works for some people, it didn’t work for me, good luck to you if this method is giving you the results you need, I’d rather spend my business generation dollars on something that produces a far greater return.

  227. 444 said:

    I read the original blog, and I get the sense that Grumpy is telling the truth. I was considering BNI, but having spent time in leads groups in the past, I would say that Grumpy’s assessment seems about right, and I was even more convinced after reading the defensive replies. I’ll put my marketing efforts elsewhere.

    Thanks so much for saving me valuable time, money, and energy!!! You have to be careful these days.

  228. 444 said:

    There is a difference between wanting something handed to you and recognizing when something is a phenomenal waste of time. Better to make smarter decisions from the get go and/ or learn when to cut losses if something just isn’t working. I also appreciate the head-up from you all.

    Perhaps it is BNI that needs to re-think its operations in order to be effective to a larger population that has access to more creative and cost-effective marketing tools.

  229. A. J. Marr said:

    If you want to kill the Octopus, you don’t cut off its tentacles, you just put a harpoon in its brain. The problem with BNI is the problem of the popular literature on business networking (just check out the dreck on business networking on Amazon to see what I mean), which is full of silly bromides about giving, affirmations, selflessness, and lofty inspiration. Hardly stuff to run a lemonade stand on, let alone a business network. Having suffered through BNI as well as other not so great models of business networking, from the Chamber of Commerce to the Rotary, here is my own take on it, which hopefully improves upon Misner’s own brain-less propaganda books on networks. In my opinion, to escape a bad business network you only need to know how to create a good one, by yourself, and at zero cost. If enough people knew how to create their own business networks, BNI would whither away on its own. My stab at it is linked below. And by the way, it is free.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/119487008/B2-The-Old-Art-and-New-Science-of-the-Business-Network

    (and below is my opinion of BNI from my little opus)

    …..BNI certainly seems to meet our criteria for a successful business network. Within each chapter are individuals who have complementary professional interests, meetings are regular and cannot be skipped, and a token economy is in place to record who gave what referral to whom and to provide social pressure for members to provide referrals. Finally, the chapters are managed by a committee of individuals who handle everything from membership to training to finances. What it does uniquely have is a profit motive, but this comes at a price. This price is the unexpected cost of mixing individuals with complementary professional interests with those that have different professional interests. In other words, this pecuniary interest drives the economic success of BNI, but it comes at the cost of reducing sharply its value as a business network. It does this by neglecting the fact that professional interests and professional sales are often complex things that cannot be communicated in the large venue of twenty or so bobbling heads that comprise a BNI chapter meeting. If you have a product or service that requires more than two minutes (the BNI allotment per meeting) to get across, your group partners will not be able to properly explain your offerings to their clients, with the result that good referrals are never made, and poor referrals are more frequent.

    The BNI program as set up works fine if all members have professions that are clearly and simply defined, but falls apart if individual members offer products and services that are not readily understood by the membership. The proof comes from the very members that BNI attracts. One of the distinguishing characteristics of BNI is that its membership derives from sales professions that market products and services that are easy to understand by virtue of our experience with them as individual consumers, or the so-called business to consumer model. As consumers we understand complicated things like insurance, car repair, dentistry, and real estate sales because we have to know about them, and it is thus easy to refer such services and easy to inquire from a client about their present needs for them. However, business-to-business sales models represent products and services that are not subject to our individual experience as consumers, and salespeople in this model require a consultative approach to qualify clients and to make the sale. The result is that salespeople who sell products to other businesses are not well served by BNI since BNI meetings are not structured to facilitate a deep understanding of b-to-b products and the often-detailed qualifying questions necessary to secure a potential referral. B to b selling in other words does not cohere with the BNI way of referring, when the two minute description of what you do in a BNI meeting is transformed into a member’s ten second qualifying question to a potential referral who implicitly knows what you are talking about.

    Even BNI has discovered how it’s model does not apply to this mode of selling, as its b to b clone, called ‘Corporate Connections’ has foundered in public acceptance, and its numbers but are tiny (11 chapters compared to the 7,000 chapters worldwide) fraction of chapters in of its b to c cousin.

    In sum, as a for profit business network, BNI brings knowledge and structure to networking, and even though member motivations are attributed to personal character or the ‘givers gain’ motto, BNI clearly adheres for the most part to the necessary structure of an effective barter economy for information. However, because BNI is a for profit organization, it also has the perverse incentive of growing the group beyond members who have complementary professional interests because a bigger group is simply more profitable, and if it adds members who can contribute only tangentially and drives out b to b salespeople, so be it. The problem is, BNI has not been frank with potential members that it is not as effective as a b to b networking group. This has been a recipe for criticism from former BNI members, who only from hard experience recognize the organization’s limitations, and understandably recognize that they have been purposely oversold. Finally, as we will note in the next chapter, the BNI model can be easily replicated without the need to charge hundreds of dollars in fees and other expenses. The BNI secret it seems is no secret at all.
    Given its benefits and limitations, does joining BNI bring value? It depends ultimately on the type of business you are engaging, but it also depends upon your level of understanding of how networks work as information economies. As we will see, this understanding demonstrates that BNI is not the wave of the networking future.

  230. Lexi said:

    I have been a BNI member for 7 months now, and I am now seriously contemplating an exit strategy.

    I bought into the BNI hype. I was so impressed by how BNI chapters were earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in referrals.

    When a professional vacancy became available in my area, I decided to visit the chapter. An existing member who happens to be a home inspector cursed out loud and no one seemed bothered by it. I thought it was hugely unprofessional. As I would later see, he loves to speak his mind even if it is unprofessional or bothers others. It’s almost as if he thrives on negative attention.

    Despite not liking that one individual I figured it would be a good investment. In good faith and optimism, I joined the chapter and so far:

    The atmosphere is tense at times, because of the undercurrrent of dislike, animosity, and suppresed thoughts. The source of the tension is personality conflicts stemming from two failing chapters that were merged together. I joined the club 4-5 months after the chapters were brought together, so I had no idea the depth and breadth of deep seated tension I was entering. The members are pissed off and keeping scores. There are all kinds of cliques. This one talks to this one. This one doesn’t talk to that one.

    Then it’s not aired out either so it stays bottled up and unaddressed. The members don’t have the courage to tell leaders or other members just how they feel.

    Leaders: Unprepared, Rough, Non-Committed, Not Role Models. Simple Example: My chapter president has been a member of BNI for 7 years. You would think he knows the structure of the meeting like the palm of his hand. Every Tuesday he reads from a script and still manages to stumble through it and forget which people to call upon.

    One on Ones: Like Pulling Teeth

    Referrals: Few and Far in Between

    VP of Education: negative and repetitive

    Bully culture: Those who make mistakes are publicly humiliated for their mistakes.

    Regional chapter consultant is man in his 70s, who thinks women are incapable of sound decisions without speaking to men. Sexist is an understatement.

    While I want to maintain that level of optimism I had at the beginning to dread Tuesday morning, as I have to see those unaddressed issues reoccur over and over.

  231. Neil F Liversidge said:

    I was a member 2002 - 2011. For the first four years it was good, the next two years were okay and the last years were awful. From a business perspective the idea is now so much imitated as to make it difficult for chapters here in the UK to get a critical mass. All the comments about bullshit referrals by members filling their quota are true. I wasn’t the biggest referral giver but I did only give genuine quality referrals that usually turned into business for the recipients. Some people I could not refer to because they were, quite frankly, charlatans. I could not accept the BNI requirement that I trust somebody just because they bought their way into membership. When I joined there was a certain amount of quality control over memberships. That diminished to zero over the period so I binned it.

  232. Cameron said:

    Hi,

    I have been a member of BNI for about 3 years. I am in Australia and have visited other chapters and have never seen any of the hard sell that has been described in the posts here.

    I do believe that dodgy referrals have gone through our chapter. But we average $36,000 in closed business per member for our 15 members.

    The trick is having the right leadership. All of the things complained of in the posts do happen. We throw people out for rubbish referrals (its done by offering them “training” ;)) We know what everyone in our chapter does because of the repetition of the sales pitches each week.

    We take the view that since we are showing up early and we are paying for the privilege of getting raped by the organisation, we have to get good people in and kill off the deadwood. So if people don’t perform, they do get cut and they probably decide BNI is not for them (and feel bitter, no doubt). But why would I, or anyone, bother to show up at that time of day unless there’s a payoff?

    Someone wrote that they won’t turn their network over to strangers, and nor should you. You need to decide when you trust someone and refer from that point onward. We are not tough on new members in that respect. We expect them to want to get to know us and we want to get to know them.

    One of the difficulties in running a chapter is that a lot of people don’t like conflict, so dumping people who don’t perform that you might get on well with is difficult. Especially if they are at “friend” status or even “client” status. That leads to chapters with crap members who give crap referrals. I think one of the reasons it is so regimented is that BNI has made an attempt to create a system so that all the right things happen to run a chapter properly - including culling the deadwood, but it really takes the right type of people to run it.

    We have a (my) business coach as president and he is kind of ruthless when it comes to running our BNI chapter like a business (for us, not for BNI). It does work.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the system, except that its not fool proof. Someone once said that whether or not something is fool mostly depends upon the talent of the fool.

    That is not a fair statement to make about people in BNI Chapters. They are not fools, but I think it is harder to run a chapter well than it looks, and if you take a badly run chapter and try to fix it (which we did in ours) then you upset a lot of people who wanted a breakfast club. BNI is not supposed to be a club - its supposed to make its members a lot of money and clubs don’t do that. You lose people and have to start again when that happens.

    The main benefit to me is that I can use my BNI as my personal kingdom. I can introduce the people who are my referers and my associates and there is huge benefit from meeting those people every week. You can and do make close relationships because there is structured time spent with those people every week and that leads to great opportunities which go beyond passing a referral across the table. I’ve got an accountant about to send my marketing material with a special offer to 2,500 of his clients, and I’ll be reciprocating - that came from the relationship developed at BNI.

    You can meet those people and make the same relationships by joining other organisations. I for one like the fact that BNI is publically about making money. Rotary is not, and neither are chambers of commerce. The latter two are usually drinking clubs where you front up and hope you’ll get some business. That doesn’t suit me.

    Having said all that, I’m actually not BNI’s greatest advocate. I am contemplating pulling the pin as I have sort of had a guts full of dragging myself into a meeting every week in the small hours - its murder in winter. But it works if you run your chapter properly.

  233. Cameron said:

    @ A J Marr. That last post of yours is excellent. You clearly have an understanding of business networks that is over an above most, including myself. I commented at a meeting that our chapter has an issue with getting beyond retail level sales. I said that we needed to find a way of making our chapter into one of those rare birds where the closed business exceeds a few million because we have substantial businesses referring to each other. Your post nails what I was trying to get at at that meeting. I saw the problem but could not see how it was entrenched. You’ve answered that. Thanks for the link.
    Cam

  234. Cameron said:

    “Ken said:

    Grumpy said: “This simple exercise will tell you if your BNI chapter is working;

    Divide your chapter’s total gross sales by the number of members in your chapter. Get your average sales per member.

    Divide the average sales per member by 50 weeks.

    Divide the average sales per week by the average amount of time the average member wastes on unproductive BNI activities. Say four hours.

    What you will come out with will be a pathetic number somewhere in the range of between $5 and $10 per hour.”

    I did this and I came up with $195.06 per hour for our group over the last 6 months. You clearly belonged to a sucky group and are overgeneralizing, because mine is making everyone in our group A LOT of money. (And, I couldn’t care less about the BNI kool-aid, etc. To me, it’s a tool and that’s all. If it stops working, I’m gone.)”

    I did this exercise and got $366! Maybe I should hang in there and cop the early starts.

  235. Cameron said:

    444 said:

    I read the original blog, and I get the sense that Grumpy is telling the truth. I was considering BNI, but having spent time in leads groups in the past, I would say that Grumpy’s assessment seems about right, and I was even more convinced after reading the defensive replies. I’ll put my marketing efforts elsewhere.

    Thanks so much for saving me valuable time, money, and energy!!! You have to be careful these days.

    Just out of interest, did you ever think that defensive replies might come from people who have done as well out of BNI as Grumpy did poorly?

    Why do defensive replies mean BNI is valueless while vitriolic criticism must all be true, hmm? Maybe the criticism lined up with what you had decided already?

  236. phil mcavity said:

    My opinion for what it’s worth is that the whole concept encourages members to “invent” referrals to avoid, as one Director put it “the walk of shame” what a way to motivate people…! what’s not fully explained when joining is just how the Directors benefit financially, this then gives potential members the full picture rather than just what they want you to know. What I did find difficult was inviting people to something that hadn’t worked for me, as far as I’m concerned integrity is everything in business, being told I had to coerce people in by not revealing it’s BNI is downright dishonest, so I didn’t invite people, if I thought it would benefit someone then I would have had no hesitation in recommending membership, of course this then made me a poor performer because I wasn’t getting any visitors, coupled with the fact I wouldn’t dish out meaningless referrals, and didn’t want to attend the same training courses over and over again to gain member points and hit my membership targets, whilst at the same time putting more money in BNI’s coffers…..just my opinion as always…!!

  237. JB said:

    I think that you were either doing something wrong or you made the biggest mistake you can possibly make and that is not doing ample research on the group you joined. I agree completely that there are chapters out there that are a waste of money and even worse your time. (if your time is valuable). However the group that I am a member of in our first four months of this fiscal year have passed over four million dollars in closed business between one another. I am in home exterior remodeling and I can tell you that I closed an additional $300,000 in business last year and had some great referrals given and received.

    It also seems as though your attitude was pretty poor and if your attitude towards your potential clients is as bad as it was throughout your ranting here then I wouldn’t be surprised that your results were poor. Not to mention who wants to listen to you for your 1 and 10 minute presentations when they could see that you are clearly not listening to theirs.

    I believe in this life you get out what you put in no matter how cliche that sounds. If you are working for your fellow members then they will work for you if you find the right chapter. Good luck with your business.

  238. phil mcavity said:

    Thanks for pointing out the error of my ways, it’s always great to hear another BNI success story. My reason for joining BNI was that as a fledgling business I believed it would help me to promote my business and I joined on the recommendation of a friend who was already a member of the chapter (strangely though he didn’t renew his membership..) I personally passed referrals to the value of $105,000 during my time in the Chapter and attempted to contribute as much as I possibly could, given the limited time I had available whilst trying to get a new business off the ground. I do have an attitude I grant you that, and if it’s come across that way in my posts then that’s great, it was meant to, although I would rather call it an opinion but whatever you feel is the correct definition then that’s fine with me. Also for your info I have had very positive comments on my one minute pres, and the 10 minute presentation was lauded by the Chapter Director as one of the best he’s ever heard, making a judgement and accusing someone of having a poor attitude without having all the facts is dangerous, perhaps you should take a long hard look in the mirror. As I’ve said in every post, these are my opinions and BNI may work for others, I’ve stuck to the facts, you have made a personal attack on me without even knowing me and interpreting my comments in your own blinkered way, stick to the facts and read the posts properly, you may then avoid looking like the fool you undoubtedly are.

  239. irene B said:

    I was a member of 3 different Irish chapters for three years and I gave excellent High value referrals to many members of the three chapters I was a member of. In that time I had no referrals of any worth most referrals were cold calls and a waste of time, In my opinion its one big pyramid scheme. This idea of standing up each week waving referrals slips is a joke as the vast majority are worthless.

  240. FormerBNIChapterPresident said:

    BNI came up in a recent conversation and I decided to pay a visit to Grumpy’s site. Wow! Lots more people are upset about BNI and even Dr. Misner chimed in.

    I wanted to comment on a relatively recent post here:

    “JB said: I think that you were either doing something wrong or you made the biggest mistake you can possibly make and that is not doing ample research on the group you joined. I agree completely that there are chapters out there that are a waste of money and even worse your time. (if your time is valuable). However the group that I am a member of in our first four months of this fiscal year have passed over four million dollars in closed business between one another. I am in home exterior remodeling and I can tell you that I closed an additional $300,000 in business last year and had some great referrals given and received.”

    FYI - The chapter I was in was smoking hot too. We broke just about every record that could be broken in our first year alone. However, let’s be honest with the numbers.

    A realtor sells a house and refers the mortgage to the mortgage broker, escrow to the escrow service and interior decorating to you. Do that a few times and your chapter generates millions in referrals. Yet the printer, the web designer, the payroll service and the other business-to-business members will get nothing out of those referrals. So, the $4,000,000 that you were bragging about (and I was too with my chapter) only truly benefits a segment of your chapter.

    Also, you could have made those hot networking connections outside of BNI while saving you thousands of dollars a year and not have to get up at the crack of dawn to go to a mandatory meeting that is ran like a North Korean prison camp.

    You should ask yourself if it’s really BNI that has made you successful or could you have done it without BNI.

  241. Networker said:

    What is interesting about all of this is that most of the negative comments are from those that tried it out and left before one full year. It goes to show that he mindset of the author of the blog and the negative posts is a taker’s mindset. What is in it for me? That is your biggest mistake. Networking is about developing Relationships, becoming a center of influence, and growing your business. This takes time and takes a giving attitude.

    BNI knows this and provides the structure for this to be accomplished. To be perfectly frank, I think BNI should be more expensive to have a higher class of individual joining and a higher level of accountability. Anyone that compares a Chamber of Commerce to BNI has no idea what they are talking about. BNI compares better to AMspirit or LeTip. It is about organization of qualified referrals not leads, accountability and efficiency. If you truely examine the results from all existing close contact networks. BNI is four times larger at least in membership and the average money made is considerably higher.

    I investigated all of this before deciding on what to join. I also remained a member of my Chamber of Commerce, BNI encourages that. I have made a 3000% return on my investment in three years. But 6 months in I was about to leave, I did not get it. My best year has been the third. I realized I had to be more then just a member, I had to train myself in Referral Marketing and give first in all aspects. Once I did this, I figured it out, and I would not leave BNI for anything else. Furthermore, if my Chapter declined in anyway, I would step up and lead it to correct it.

    BNI. created an outline that is incredibly valuable and well worth my investment.

  242. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Hey Networker.

    Thank you for contributing to this fantastic blog. And by “thank you” I mean go fuck yourself.

    The reason that BNI was a failure for our business had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with the class of people that participate in BNI. They seem to be almost exclusively at the bottom end of the entrepreneurial scale. Most of them just above the homeless that collect cans for their aluminum scrap value.

    We need top level corporate decision makers not part time insurance salesmen to sustain our business. Like the rest of the fucking retards that comment on this blog you either didn’t have the attention span to complete the article or you were too stupid to understand it. In either case you’re proving how fucking retarded the membership is and helping me make my point for me.

  243. Rob P. said:

    G.N. -

    An excellent article on BNI. Couldn’t agree with you and most of the posters more.

    Except, of course, that about 6 years ago I actually got into a BNI group that works. We do it by not following the BNI rules, of course, and taking action that makes sense to us. If someone is going to be on vacation for three weeks and can’t find a sub? No problems - you’re not absent those weeks.

    Everybody at BNI hates us, of course, and is constantly trying to make us follow their absurd rules. But what are they going to do - we’re their “best” group. We’ve built up a nice referral group with a core of 12 people who like an trust each other. (This particular group ranges between 20-25 members.) I am a GP, so in a bit different position than you and the referrals I get and give are generally good. It is well worth my while (and $$) to be in this particular group.

    I have tried to “visit” other BNI groups, however. Oh my. Exactly what you and others are saying here. I would never even think of joining them and am not sure how any sane person could.

    Cheers.

  244. QuitBNI said:

    I’m so glad I found this page. I was a visitor for several meetings and then joined based on a trusted referral. There are many flaws and after a year of waking at 5:30 for a 7a meeting, I was completely over it. BNI frowns upon network marketing, because it itself is a network marketing company. We have goals to recruit new members and no one has time to talk about other people’s business. If I have 10 minutes with a potential client, the last thing I’m thinking about giving the cold shoulder crew of BNI any referrals. I liked 10% of the people, the others were fake, jealous, broke, lazy, racist, sexist, and the list goes on. Save your money and use the time to build relationships without wasting hundreds of hours a year and hundreds of dollars in the process. Say NO to BNI.

  245. Second Star Technologies said:

    I really wish I would have read this before I joined. The group I joined had recently lost its CPA (not my profession or category). She had acquired too much business and could no longer attend. The membership, obviously, took credit for this success.

    However, if the membership is too stupid to understand the difference between a Managed Service Provider and an alarm company, that is my fault…that’s weird right?

    I am currently in the process of keeping a promise to the area and state directors until they refund me my money. Please come check out said promise here:

    http://www.secondstartechnologies.com/bni-scam-a-it-consultants-perspective-part-1/

    Let me know if the links or quotes are not kosher and I will remove them.

    Hilarious blog by the way.

    -Brandon

  246. James Chamberlain said:

    BNI seems pretty pointless to me. Everyone in my office who had tried it, has rejected it.

    It seems to me to simply be too restrictive and time consuming to be of any value. I cast my net out to bring in business and I don’t need more hoops to jump through, but less.

    I actually had a guy today who needed, I mean NEEDED my product and service - but then he asked me if I am in his network. Explaining I didn’t know what he was talking about, he then said that if I wasn’t BNI he wouldn’t do business with me.

    Can you imagine a guy whose car is overheating and he is driving on all four rims, but when I offer him a life-line, because I am not part of his “network” he is just going to continue on down the road?

    Anyway - I guess I just don’t have time for all that.

    http://www.facebook.com/james.d.chamberlain

  247. A Morris said:

    I have been a member of BNI for 3 years. Every year when I go through Quickbooks to see where the income came from BNI is a a worthwhile investment of time and money. It adds to my bottom line very nicely.

    True, BNI doesn’t work for everyone and I am sorry for those of you that didn’t find it a good fit.

    The last 12 months our chapter passed more than $900,000 in closed business. Someone besides the founders are making money.

  248. Jerry K said:

    After 12 months at BNI I’m out.

    LIKES:

    1. Improved my public speaking.

    2. Helped me polish my elevator pitch.

    DISLIKES:

    1. My protests about unethical behavior by two members (ie. not paying me for my services) was side-stepped by the BNI committee and I was left nearly $3000 out of pocket. I myself always stuck to the BNI code of behavior in my delivery of services, and I worked hard to pass referrals to others. So I was shocked and disappointed that these two members who breached the code were treated with kid gloves. I am now pursuing court action against one of the debtors.

    2. Category bias. This is just the way BNI is: if you are in a simple high-demand category like insurance, finance or real estate you may do very well out of BNI. If you are not, then beware. There are probably better networking opportunities for you elsewhere.

    3. Too much structure and the insular, slightly creepy cult-like nature of the group killed networking opportunities. The model is dated. It must change or it will die.

    4. Visitor mania! In the year I was there lots of people left so there was an over-emphasis on inviting visitors and getting them to sign up. Benefit to my business: zero. Benefit to the guys upstairs: thousands of bucks.

    Bye BNI.

  249. John No BullChit said:

    BNI is joke Join it and see !! Your a Business Owner you call your own shots. Join BNI and presto now your a Non-Paid Employee of BNI ! Get the Picture ” Its a Scam ” When they told me I might be fired because I had missed three meetings in 6 Months. I told them right in the meeting ” TO GO FUCK THEMSELVES” I run my own business and things come up ! I also took the chapter to small claims court and won. Their Contract is unenforceable the way it is written !

  250. Frenchy said:

    Haha. You make some good points, Grumpy Nerd. But you make some mistakes as well. BNI is a group of people no different from any other group of people. You expect too much if you think they are going to 1) care what you have to say and 2) pass you referrals all day every day. You have to let them get to know you over time and only then will they trust you enough to work with you. Hell, I don’t even try to pass any messages during my 30 sec commercial. You’re right, its pointless. JUst show up and let people feel you out. Only then do they start passing you business. I’ve made a lot of money with BNI and I’m not one of the real estate/contractor cult members every chapter has. I’m a personal trainer. Point is: dont be so angry. Youre getting worked up over nothing. Relaaaaax… Anyway, good blog.

  251. IHateBNI said:

    I fucken love this article about BNI and the many responses. Yes, networking sucks! We ALL hate it, we ALL only care if we are the ones getting the referrals and we ALL hate others selling us shit we don’t want or don’t need. That much being said, I am mainly just posting because this place allows you to use fuck and shit and any other cool word I want. Why would you be a fucken loser and join BNI and their cult like business? Just create your own FREE networking company. I did. It is very successful and has grown from 5 to 40 people in the last year. We have fun and have an agenda that we get together and share ideas and referrals. Sometimes there are lots of referrals and sometimes there are only a few. We also get together once per month but I send out a weekly email to everyone to share ideas and marketing concepts. Fuck it is a great business!

  252. Jim Smith said:

    Business is slow. I do buggy whip repair. Would BNI help me?

  253. James Green said:

    If you want a free tool for referrals and networking, check out http://www.irefapp.com

    It’s made to make referral business faster, better and frictionless. Anybody can refer using mobile apps, or on web.

    Each person can have their own referral network. All transactions are seamlessly synchronized across smart-phones, tablets and web.

    Enjoy and Refer Away!

  254. S Rothschild said:

    Its a Multi-Level Marketing framework. Its all mathematics guys. Take the emotion out of it and break it down into mathematical parts.

    Its a non-sense organization.

    Start your own leads club meeting, charge for the lunches and a little more to pay for an admin to do paperwork and coordination and save all the other rip-off fee’s. BNI should be ashamed of themselves to portray it as anything else but a sales scam.

  255. Second Star Technologies said:

    These numbers are taken directly from BNI’s website.

    3.3 Billion from referrals in 2012 derived from 7.1 million referrals by more than 145,000 members.

    3.3 Billion / 145000 = 22,758.00 per member per year.

    7.1 million referrals / 145000 members is 49 referrals per member per year, or about 1 per week.

    On the low end, lets say that each yearly membership costs 300.00 USD.

    300.00 x 145000 = 43.5 million dollars. That is how much BNI rakes in yearly from just membership fees and does not include Mr. Misner’s books or affiliated sales numbers for other authors he promotes. Oddly, he uses email blasts, article marketing, Blogging, and social networking. I guess that is as good an endorsement as anything.

    Adding to this, according to Salary.com the median CEO salary for a large corporation in California, BNI HQ, is about 750K w/ the top 10% coming in at more than 1.1 million.

    Lets say 1 out of 5 businesses are actually successful in BNI and see a return from BNI referrals to the tune of 100K annually. According to the numbers derived from this experiment, the ratio is actually more like 1 to 7 but it is easier to represent this with round numbers.

    20% of 145000 = 29,000

    If 29,000 businesses make 100K annually that = 2.9 Billion. That leaves 400 Million for the other 80%

    80% of 145000 = 116000.

    400 Million / 116000 = 3448.28 per member per year. That is 287.36 per member per month or 66.31 per meeting.

    According to the above commentary, you will most likely not see this type of return until about your 3rd year. Lets factor in soft costs for meetings and weekly one to one’s.

    BNI Meeting - 1 hr / week. The meetings take longer and, from my experience, I wouldn’t recommend being the last one to show up.

    BNI 1-to-1 - 1 hr / week. More if you have more members or really push to make it work. I used to have several per week and every now and then I would schedule several back to back.

    BNI Meeting - 100.00 / hour = 5,200.00 / year

    BNI 1-to-1 - 100.00 / = 5,200 / year

    There are additional costs. There is the gift that you must purchase for your 10 minute commercial period. This period is dependent upon the number of members. 2 different members speak each week. If you have 30 members, you will speak about once every 3-4 months. Typically the gift is a 20-25 gift card. Every now and then someone gets clever and brings in a promo product to give away. We gave away free year memberships for Malwarebytes Pro, so about 20.00 my cost. We had a smaller group and had to speak once every 6 weeks or so.

    Recruiting for BNI is obligatory. Once a year the group will organize a new member recruitment and you are required, based off of my experience and nothing else, to contact 20 non BNI business owners and try to get them to come in and join the group.

    Sticking strictly with the numbers and the assumption that you must participate for a median of 3 years in order to gain any true success, lets tally everything up.

    Hard Cost
    Membership - 300.00 / year * 3 years = 900.00
    Gift - 3 / year * 3 years = 225.00
    Recruitment sponsorship - 20 people * 20.00 (median cost) * 3 years = 1200.00

    Soft Cost
    Meeting - 5200.00 / year * 3 years = 15,600
    1-to-1 - 5200.00 / year * 3 years = 15,600

    Total Cost

    3 year BNI - 33525.00

    Anticipated “ROI” - between 16,000 and 22,000 yearly after a median time frame of 3 years. We will go high with 22,000.00 after 3 years and consider the prior 2 a complete loss.

    22,000 / 36 months = 611.11 / month. This breaks down to 141.03 per meeting after 3 years. That is your approximate ROI.

  256. Second Star Technologies said:

    Sticking w/ the 43.5 million / year in gross revenue derived from 145,000 members (BNI’s site says “more than”, but it is easier to calculate this way).

    1. years median to see a decent return.

    BNI gross gains w/o growth over 3 years = app. 130.5 million.

    Mr. Misner’s personal salary over the same period, not adjusting for inflation or raises, on the low end - median 750K / Year * 3 years = 2.25 million dollars or 14,423.08 / week

  257. Second Star Technologies said:

    that was supposed to be 3 years median to see a decent return

  258. Second Star Technologies said:

    I apologize, the ROI was calculated w/o factoring in hard or soft cost.

    Calculating the ROI with a median of 3 years in and still considering the first 2 a complete loss;

    33525.00 / 156 Weeks = 214.90 - Cost

    214.90 - 141.03 = 73.87 Loss.

    These are median numbers derived from a basic assessment. Numbers will vary from location to location and chapter to chapter. Everyone in this group is probably in IT to one degree or another so it is safe to conclude that you will probably have a difficult time making money from your BNI membership w/o serious consideration toward long term investment.

    If you are part time, you cannot join. If you are a start up and looking for quick hits, the numbers, though they cannot be considered exact, would suggest that this is not the marketing method for you and BNI’s Area Directors will tell you they are looking for Farmers not Hunters. Essentially, members who are willing to dig down and plant roots as opposed to getting the quick hits highly competitive markets tend to require, are ideal

  259. Not A Crony said:

    I found this cool thread after I started doing a little research on BNI. Maybe I’m smart, or just lucky, but I immediately thought the organization was not only kind of scammy, but bad for the general public. My angle is that I’m a local videographer in a small town in northern California. There are a small number of people doing TV ads (or whatever comes along) as independent contractors, and there aren’t a lot of TV ads to do. There are also people who work directly for the TV stations that do terrible production, but it’s cheap for the client! I found a sweet spot where I can knock out an ad cheaply, but at a higher quality than anyone in my area charging twice the fee. I get a lot of my jobs as, yes, referrals from Suddenlink, the local cable company. They do not do in-house production. I did the main guy there some video favors to sort of kiss up to him, and he started giving me clients occasionally. The clients love my stuff! Then a few times after getting a call from the client, and telling them what I can do, sending links with examples, and quoting a price, they would sometimes say “OK I’ll talk to the other guy Suddenlink told me about and let you know”. It turns out after investigating that the “other guy” is in BNI, and so is the main guy at Suddenlink cable. This “other guy” does really bad work, but a lot of times clients can’t tell the difference. I subscribe to the other guys YouTube page, and I see that he’s getting TV ad jobs from SuddelLink about 6-10 times as much as me. It feels like a conflict of interest!!

    It just seems like BNI promotes mediocrity. This hack joined the club first, and now he gets the jobs not based on merit, but on the fact that he’s in the crony club with the Suddenlink media manager. Now, the Suddenlink guy knows my work is good, and he does throw me stuff, but the hack videographer is swimming in work. It’s just lucky for him that BNI scored the Suddenlink media manager as a member. Conflict of interest?

    I would never join something like BNI anyway, even if the hack wasn’t there taking up the one spot for video. I can’t stand an organization with such manipulative practices. It also seems like a big pyramid scam that benefits the founder. What do all those fees pay for anyway? Donuts and coffee? Oy ve! I just had to vent. BNI indeed SUCKS. I will succeed from MY TALENT, not from a MEDIOCRITY CIRCLE JERK.

    OK I feel better. Take care all, and stay away from BNI.

  260. Not A Crony said:

    Now I just got scared that someone from BNI will see my last post and inform on me! GrumpyNerd, can you change my name to “Not a Crony” and remove my web site?

    Thanks.

  261. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Done my BNI hating brother.

  262. Not a Crony said:

    Thanks brother!

  263. Al Del Vecchio said:

    Well, you are a nerd.
    And you are grumpy.

  264. Double Hosed said:

    BNI is good and bad. The best part is the people you meet and the occasional real referral. The bad is everything else! BNI is a business that cares about BNI only even though they sell you that it’s a bunch of other business people looking out for your business- bullshit.
    I hold the Property Management spot currently. When I joined I was told that “Your payment locks out your competition”. Again- bullshit. As Property Management part of my business is maintenance. 1 month after joining they bring in a maintenance company for the technical “Maintenance” category. A couple months later they inducted the category of “apartments”! Are you kidding me? As Property Management part of my job is renting apartments!! Wtf? I objected and was handed the list of over 1200 categories that they could bring in. I requested meetings with leadership and not one member returned my call or email. I took it up the chain to the regional director who basically said “tough shit”.
    Oh and did I mention that I had to fight to join the group because my company is a real estate company? The real estate agent of the group fought to keep me out. When I was brought in I was then asked to print new business cards that left out the word “Realty” and replaced it with “Property Management”. I told them all to pound sand regarding that. No way would I change my cards to appease the insecure real estate agent.
    With that said, the realtor just left my group so I immediately applied for the category change as I also sell real estate and feel that position in the group would generate more business for my company. We guess what? Instead of looking out for their current member and giving me the spot I was pretty much told “If we do that then we don’t really gain a member and it will be harder for us to fill the property management category than the realtor spot.” Assholes. Now tell me why on earth I would EVER support the business of one of these people on the membership committee after they have now fucked me 3 times in my first year? They are obviously not concerned with the well being of my business so I will return the favor.
    I am currently still a member because I feel that I have benefitted a lot in just getting to know other business owners in my community but as far as benefitting financially I am currently way upside down. My chapter is #1 regionally and has several big community players and other young professionals that will end up being the big players of the future. I find value in that alone so I stay put.
    I AM NOT DRINKING THE BNI KOOLAID! It is a greedy business that only cares about itself. However, I feel there is value enough to justify my membership.

  265. Bill Fletcher said:

    Hey Grumpy, I’ve been in BNI for about 4 years, and it has been responsible for about 80% of my new business. I guess it is all in how you work it. I find it puts me in contact with a steady stream of new business owners. That is all I really need any networking group to do for me.

    I’ve just relocated to a new town. The first thing I did was join the nearest BNI chapter. I have already met a bunch of great contacts that I am certain I would not have met so quickly otherwise.

    I think you are smart though for writing a grumpy article about it. What a great way to get lots of traffic to your blog and raise your Google visibility.

    Cheers,
    Bill Fletcher

  266. Grumpy Nerd said:

    Hi Bill.

    I guess you didn’t read my article all the way though or you missed the part where I said that if you work at the bottom end of the market BNI would probably work for you and it looks like it has.

    The problem with our business relating to BNI is that we work at the upper end of the market. Our customers are large corporations and our clients are the executives within those corporations.

    I interacted with exactly zero executives at BNI meetings. The people at BNI were generally work from home business people, people running part time businesses and sales people that sell those that strata of business. If your target is the corporate market BNI is a wholesale waste of time.

    Finally these articles do drive a lot of traffic to my blog. It’s not smart on my part as this blog generates exactly $0.00 in revenue. And since I say “fuck” and talk about tits and rant like an idiot it can’t be associated with my business.

  267. Michael said:

    Grumpy Nerd,

    Just read the entire blog today. Sent to me by another BNI member in my chapter that I have known for a long time, BTW. Hilarious… like you I am in the IT industry, and have a somewhat different perspective than the average sales hack. We lack the unfettered, boundless optimism of sales and marketing and I don’t believe the BNI line that “everyone” can benefit from it.

    I have seen all the negative things, but I have seen some positive things too. First…. Dues. What is good about dues? Frankly, it keeps the riff-raff out. Sorry, but if you can’t afford dues you probably aren’t much of a business person. If it weren’t for dues there would be 47 people selling Mary Kay and scented candles and timeshares and crap like that and nothing else in the chapter. So I’m OK with dues.

    Leadership…. This is pretty critical. Bad leadership = totally crappy group. With good leadership, there is a chance. But it’s still just that, a chance. People that can effectively run a group of 20-40 business professionals are rare, to be quite frank. Most people in BNI could not run a meeting to save their life. Interview the leadership and recognize it could go to hell in six months if it changes.

    Membership committee…. This is where things will go down the toile pretty quickly if they do a crappy job. Taking every warm body, and letting people get away with violating the rules, and the entire group is completely screwed. Don’t follow up on references and you will end up with a group of con artists and slackers. Even then there will always be a few. We always gave people the benefit of the doubt if someone was ill and called that a medical excuse. The only person we kicked out for attendance had missed at least twice as many meetings as they were allowed to. Our area director actually wants to keep people in the group if he can – perhaps a refreshing change of attitude from some others.

    Makeup of the membership. Here is where the prospective member had better do some homework. If your group is mostly professional sales hacks, and by that I mean have no useful skills whatsoever, but could sell turds-on-a-stick if the commissions were good enough…. RUN!!!! You will never get any sort of decent referrals. If, on the other hand, there are a majority of business owners who have some other skills other than being a professional liar (can you see how I feel about salespeople?), then there is a chance. If the auto mechanic is a gearhead and loves to talk about hot rods, then there is a chance he or she is competent. If your “auto mechanic” is a salesperson who works for commissions, then odds are you probably don’t want to take your car there! If the member is the unwilling spouse of a business owner, that probably isn’t going to be a useful source of referrals. Use a little common sense, get to know folks. It does help a LOT if you know and can trust anyone in the group to get an honest opinion before you join. I told anyone who visited to check out as many chapters as they could and don’t join one if it doesn’t feel right.

    If half of the group is selling one form of insurance or another, then it’s not going to go well, most likely. Same with vitamins, welcome wagon, gym memberships, and any sort of high volume low profit sales which doesn’t involve skills other than being a good liar. They will know a million people, none of whom will trust their judgment and some of their customers may avoid you just by association.

    But if your group has mostly business owners who could actually survive on their wits and by doing useful work for 40 hours a week, then it might be a good group. You will have to build up the relationships with those folks. Usually I found a way to check out their services for myself before referring anyone to them, other than the folks that I already knew and trusted before I joined.

    I have seen the little spats and territory fights and bullshit in our group. Mostly it’s worked well. The time spent learning how to present myself has been priceless, as you sure don’t learn that while getting a computer science degree.

    Can’t say I’m terribly impressed by the visitor’s day, especially the last fiasco we had. We were sort of railroaded into doing it with another chapter, although we did not know that the other chapter was half the size so mostly we were just recruiting for them. Everyone who wanted to join was a conflict with our group so guess where the new members went? The facility was a dump and the “breakfast” was embarrassing.

    Referrals to me have been a lot of little stuff (virus on someone’s computer, program a router after it got fried in an electrical storm, and so on) and about one larger customer a year (someone who needs a server set up, etc.). I’d cringe trying to explain managed services – some folks have a difficult time understanding that web site development (which I don’t do) is entirely different than setting up a server in the office (which I talk about damn near every week). If I had a managed services company and that’s all the referrals I wanted, BNI would be an absolute waste, at least with any BNI group I ever visited.

    Do your homework, put some effort into it, avoid the groups full of sales hacks and rent by schisms and personality conflicts, and it might work for you. You never know.

  268. Jon said:

    Hi Grumpy,

    I loved your article. I belonged to BNI twice. I not only drank the Koolaid the first time, but came back for a second taste. I did receive a couple of decent referrals that did result in income for my company…but the time and commitment to receive them was and is the rub. For me, the question is in regard to time and the commitment needed with-in the chapter. I felt pressure to produce not only new members, but find leads and referrals for my BNI referral “friends”. As a remodeling contractor I was not receiving a referral every week…I understood this, but at a point I woke up and realized it just wasn’t the best fit for me. Nice article.

  269. MadameCEO said:

    Hello Folks,

    Perhaps it is different in where I am in NYC or the groups I know are just unusual, but 2 1/2 years into my BNI adventure, I am still going strong. Just this year alone, I have received over $30K in closed business. And much more to come. I have now started receiving friends of friends who are clients. My clients are doing so well that their friends have recognized the value and have started referring their friends to me.

    I will say that I absolutely love to give, (advice, connections, assistance) even when I don’t have it. Being able to be generous in life is the single most driving reason of my success. I want to have lots of money so I can give more.

    BNI is the first organization I have ever belonged to that actually quantifies my generosity. I have incredible friends that I have met through BNI. I love them. I wouldn’t have a business and success if it weren’t for BNI.

    I not only drank the Kool-Aid, I made a fresh new batch. And I’m very, very happy I did.

  270. Chris said:

    The person who actually wrote this article is probably an underachiever to say the least. I can almost guarantee he was that guy who sat in the back of the classroom in high school, and probably never graduated. Your a narrow minded person my friend. My first year in BNI I walked away with 19k and I am at 15k first quarter of 2013. So I have to ask myself is it worth $1600 of income to be involved? Yep. Yes some of the stuff is hoakie but it works. Small minded people like you are weeded out anyway.

  271. Ron said:

    To Grumpy Nerd and your cult of whiners! Talk about a bunch of people wasting energy on something that just didn’t work for them. Perhaps you joined poor groups; perhaps they consisted of people like you who evidently expected to walk in and get a handout instead of really getting to know your members and give without worrying about gaining. Our group is great. My business was good going in and way better as a result. More like $300 per hour. And is just one of many approaches I have to market myself. Belonging to BNI does not mutually exclude employing other successful business marketing and development strategies. Wasn’t for you? SO WHAT! Try something else! When that doesn’t work for you, you can start a new thread and bash another organization or marketing method, or whatever it was that didn’t work for you! Maybe it’s you who doesn’t work for you!

  272. Clifford Johnson said:

    Just want to add my two cents, been a BNI member for 5 years now. Have done over £200,000 worth of business in that time. Started 3 companies with other members in the chapter, as well as gaining a group of people who i can call my friends. I am sorry that your experience has been so bad, its shame when something so simple should just work but…. It cant all the time and not for everyone.

    I give and receive 4 - 5 referrals each week and only a few have been phantom which normally come from visitors. We do believe our chapter is different from others as we all like each other.

    Maybe we just buck the trend?

  273. scott said:

    dictatorial@hettys.rejects” rel=”nofollow”>.…

    good info!…

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