Givers Do Not Gain – The End of the BNI Road
I finally pulled the plug on our 8 month BNI horror show. To sum up; it was a complete waste of time. If you are thinking of joining this group please reconsider unless you sell something very generic that nearly everyone can use (retail banking, retail insurance, cable tv, maybe financial planning) if you sell into the higher cost B2B market forget it. High level corporate decision makers don’t come to BNI meetings.
Since my second week in BNI (Business Networking International) my business partner has been telling me it’s a bullshit cult and that I’m wasting my time with it. My response; you don’t know that lets give it six months and then do the numbers and it isn’t worth the time I’ll bail. For the record she was 100% correct. BNI sucks.
I know most of you are ADHD and won’t make it to the end of this blog post. Lets get to the performance results for our chapter right off;
Here are the rough numbers for our chapter;
$60,000 Total Chapter Sales
30 Number of Members (average)
$2000.00 Per Member Earnings (average)
$ 600.00 BNI Dues Per Year
$1400.00 BNI Earnings After Expenses
192 Member Hours Spent on BNI Activities per year (average)
$ 7.92 Ave member earnings per hour
$7.92 an hour! Sign me right the fuck up. I sit in these god awful meetings week after tortuous week listening to the most nonsensical of bullshit being spewed by members; “BNI gives me multiple orgasms” “I lost 50 pounds since I joined BNI” (That is a lie there are a LOT of fat fucks in these meetings –editor) “After only 3 months of BNI my kids are no longer ugly) Just complete non-sense about how much BNI has helped them with their business, social life, whatever the hell. Then I get these very same people together in for the 1-ON-1 meetings (always at a bar so to have drink close at hand) and ask them about their BNI success and it’s always the same song; “I haven’t closed shit because of BNI. I’m not going to re-up next year.” Then why in the hell are you spouting off in the BNI meeting about how much BNI has helped you?
You go to church and they pump you full of bullshit but you can’t prove or disprove any of it. The faithful (insane -editor) claim there is a god and it’s all real. The rational (sane –editor)claim that believing in bronze age fairy tails is retarded and the burden of proof is on the person claiming the existence of a supernatural benevolent spaceman. Because of the unknowns neither side can prove their case. That’s the beauty of running a religion. You can make all sorts of ridiculous claims and as long as you have enough followers believing you who is to say you are wrong! But BNI for all of its cult overtones at the end of the day is a sales channel which can be quantified with simple math. My math says that it comes up short for most of its members.
Quality of Membership
“I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER”. – Groucho Marx
The business group that you should belong to doesn’t want you as a member. You’ll have to lie, cheat or bribe your way in. That’s because positions in these groups are desirable and profitable. From what I’ve seen BNI (my chapter anyway) would let anyone in that had $400 and no felonies. They go though the motions of checking your references to make it look like you are joining something special but after the initial pageantry they pretty much let anyone in. If BNI were a woman her personal ad would read;
“BBW, (Big Beautiful Woman – code for hard up fat chick –editor) 40, no kids. I like long walks on the beach and all you can eat buffets. I’m looking for a man ready to start an family. Must have operational car and a full set of teeth.
Low fucking standards. Thats the problem. My chapter would literally take anyone. $400, pulse, no recent felonies (was it violent?) you’re in buddy. When you are willing to accept anyone you get everyone you don’t want in the group. Sure there are a few professionals, a few members that own real businesses. But by and large the group was made up of down on their luck sales people, one man work from home deals, startups based on horribly flawed ideas, part time businesses, housewives selling Avon, Mona Via, Avocare, etc and one completely insane woman who as near as I could tell would do any household chore for money but claimed to be a gardener. She showed up to the meetings more than not with potted plants. She’d stand up for her sales manager minute and show her plants. And the membership committee gave me shit for not bringing enough visitors. I’m really going to bring in the CEO of one of these firms we deal with and this bitch is going to stand up looking like she combed her hair with a pillow and pop out a rhododendron? No friggin’ way.
Here is what you won’t see a lot of in most BNI meetings; Corporate decision makers and multi million dollar business owners. Exactly the people we need to survive.
I Have (a fake referral for you) Time
“It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.” - W.C. Fields
The I have time! This is where every member of the BNI group has to stand up and tell the other members in the group what they brought to the table. There are three things that you are allowed to have;
- A Business Referral / Lead for a fellow member – (usually fictional)
- A visitor introduction (join up sucker!)
- A touching story about how BNI touched your otherwise banal life.
From the member’s perspective the referral system couldn’t be worse. BNI has created an incentive system that is guaranteed to generate a large quantity of very low quality sales leads. Members are put on the spot by having to stand in front of the group to tell everyone what they’ve brought. This creates an implied quota. But you aren’t judged on the on the amount of revenue that you generate for your fellow members but on the quantity of leads that you bring in.
So why would you create an incentive system that will generate the highest number of low quality leads possible? Because all that churn shows well to visitors. If stripped away all the crap referrals and members just passed the solid, legit good quality leads there would be maybe one or two referrals per meeting. No one is going to apply for membership if they see reality! 30 people here and one person closed business? Fuck that! I’m out of here! But when the visitor sees 20 to 30 leads passed it looks impressive. They want in on some of that gravy. Of course they have no way of knowing that the amount of actual business transacted was actually minuscule and really most of the BNI referrals generated aren’t even worth the follow up call.
The End of the Line
If you are considering joining this group I would recommend that you reconsider. While BNI was profitable to a very small number of members in our group for the majority it was not. If you sell something at the retail level that virtually everyone needs to buy; banking, insurance, cable tv, you might find some success. If you sell at the very low end of the B2B market you might also find some marginal success. However if you sell into the mid-range B2B market you will probably be wasting your time as very few of those caliber people attend BNI meetings.