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Business Network Group Review

Before Christmas I said that in 2015 I would join a business network group in the new year. Here is a review of my experiences so far.

Business Network Group – Why Join?

networking-with-people-webMuch as I enjoy my online activities, I was starting to feel that I perhaps needed to meet some people in the real world, so I have to admit there’s a bit of a social interest as well as a business interest.

Furthermore, I felt it would be easier for me to meet brand new start-up businesses off-line, which may sound counter-intuitive, because surely the Internet is packed with people wanting to start an online business.

Unfortunately many people hunting for businesses on line are sucked in by the false hype of “get rich quick”, which is complete rubbish, so I felt that if i went to a fairly tradition business network group I might be able to meet aspiring entrepreneurs or businesses already trading, but with no / a poor website.

Business Network Group – BNI

One of the best known groups is BNI and no post on business network groups would be complete without mentioning it. They claim to be the World’s Biggest Referral Marketing Organisation, and their website proclaims :

With over 170,000 members worldwide, BNI is the largest business networking organization in the world. Last year alone, BNI generated 6.6 million referrals resulting in $8.6 billion dollars’ worth of business for its members. We offer members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts and most importantly, business referrals. Source: BNI.com

Having recently celebrated their 30th Anniversary BNI are clearly doing plenty right, and in fact several years ago my first exposure to business networking was with BNI, where I was welcomed to a breakfast meeting.

It was a very professional and well organized meeting. However the business I was looking to promote at the time was low margin / one-off, so it would have been difficult to make enough sales to pay for the weekly meetings and annual fees. In fact, working this out, taught me a very valuable lesson and caused me to rethink my business model, so I owe them a debt of gratitude even without joining! (I could have “expanded” my trade – but that position was already taken by someone else in my local chapter.)

Other reasons why BNI wasn’t right for me (at the time) were the need to attend each week, fairly high fees, need to find a replacement if I couldn’t attend a meeting – and, I got the vague impression that passing business to my own contacts outside the BNI chapter wasn’t the thing to do. I could be wrong about that. Any BNI members, please correct me.

Also, let’s be honest, I just don’t “do” mornings. Especially at the time I visited, because I had school age children who needed taking to school!ย  OK, now they’re 30+ I can’t use that as an excuse, but…. I still “don’t do mornings” ๐Ÿ™‚

BNI is a huge organisation and their model clearly suits many thousands of people. If there is a vacancy for your profession in your local BNI you should certainly request a visit – if only to form your own opinion and hand out some business cards.

A Pause With No Networking Group

Life changed for me in 2002 and I had more work than I could handle, so I had no need for a networking group. And things have stayed that way since then.

However, over the last year I have been adding websites and blogging to my original business model of “off-line software”. Also I started to feel the need to un-glue myself from the computer screen for at least a few hours in the month and meet new prospective clients face-to-face, so I decided to look for a new networking group.

I first noticed my next group in StreetLife.com – where “locals” share snippets of local information, such as Church Events, Jumble Sales, items wanted / on offer. More important, members often request recommendations for good tradesmen – which is what I wanted from the group. I got a good electrician, plumber and decorator ๐Ÿ™‚

Then I noticed that the same people usually came up with a recommendation, and when I investigated more closely there were several business networking group members, so I decided to ask for an invitation. And I was on my way!

Business Network Group – For Women

Being a little nervous about going to a network group after so long I decided to choose a lunch group for women only, as I felt it would be a more sympathetic venue for my nerves about standing up and talking for a whole minute (LOL) about my business. I practiced hard, got my pitch down to exactly a minute, dredged up courage from somewhere and went along.

The members at the group were encouraging about my business, admitted that they weren’t keeping their websites / blogs up to date, and expressed interest. On the other side, there were several members whose services I felt I would like to use.

The price of the meal was a little on the hefty side (ยฃ24 for one course), and on top of that the membership was (from memory) ยฃ200 a year. But I decided to take the plunge.

I Was Fired!

Finger-pxImagine my amazement when I rang the leader to send in my membership money, only to be told “It’s easy to set up a blog – you have no business model”. Rather taken aback I managed to stumble out that I planned to offer email marketing and content management as regular monthly services and was then told “Any admin can do that”.

So I was fired! (Apologies to readers who don’t watch “The Apprentice”.)

As this group leader had seen my blog and knew my plans before I paid for the meal, I have to wonder why she took my money for the visit if I was so unsuitable.

I also wonder how (WordPress) website designers can be “suitable” for her other groups, but not for the one I wanted to attend. There was no other website person in the group, which was one of the reasons why I chose it.

I said that I was willing to discuss my business model with her and see how it could be modified to best suit the group but I was told, brusquely, “I don’t have time for that”. So we ended the call.

At first I was upset…. then I got MAD!

20-top-bloggersWell, well, all the people mentioned in Enstine Muki’s recent post about Top Bloggers to Follow In 2015 (oops, including me – blush).

You have no business model LOL.

Nor all those others making far more money and with far bigger followings than even the bloggers mentioned in Enstine’s blog.

What silly-billies we all are, blogging away, when any-one can do it!

So… her loss, and a loss to the group, as I shall take my custom to the new group I have found.

I’m NOT going to name the group where I had such an unpleasant experience, but I will say, to avoid any mix-ups, it was NOT…..

Women In Business Network

My next port of call was “Women in Business Network” – WIBN.co.uk. The format of their meetings is similar to the group above – which I had actually enjoyed, apart from the leader’s attitude.

A very nice lady from my region tried to find me a place in a local group of “Women In Business Network”, but the only groups where there was NO website person, were a little further than I wanted to travel, so sadly I had to declined.

However, Women In Business Network come highly recommended for format and helpfulness.

Business Steps 4 Women

This is another women’s networking group I have been to and enjoyed. We have lunch once a month and the cost is just ยฃ10 to include food (at the time of writing).

The leader of my local Business Steps 4 Women has also suggested that we get together for a chat about how I can best meet other women in the group, as some of them are brand new to business.

So this was a good experience, and I will continue with these monthly meetings.

I also found…..

Link 4 Growth Business Network Groups

Link 4 Growth has a huge number of UK groups. and they offer (mixed male and female) meetings in four formats:

  • Link4Breakfast
  • Link4Coffee (mornings)
  • Link4Drinks (evenings)
  • Link4Lunch

There are actually 24 different events per month that I could go to within a 10 mile radius of my town. All for the princely sum of ยฃ3 per month (obviously you pay for your own meal / coffee etc).

Here’s my Links 4 Growth profile, and I have a blog too, but I’m afraid I haven’t set that up yet!

I’ve been to three meetings so far, felt very welcome and met some interesting people. I already have at least one lead with a rather dated looking website, and another gentleman with no website at all.

After my second meeting, the group leader (Dipa) asked me if I’d like to get together over a coffee for a business strategy meeting, and we spent a really helpful couple of hours looking at my plans. She steered me in the direction of groups where I’d meet the most people with no website and also helped me on my pricing – telling me to increase some of my prices!

Conclusions About Business Networking Groups

With the sole experience of just one bad group leader, I’ve found business networking an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. It takes time to build up that “know, like and trust” – offline as well as online, so it will take time to reap financial rewards.

But with monthly fees of just ยฃ3 for Links4Growth and ยฃ10 for Business Steps 4 Women I think I can stand the risk ๐Ÿ™‚

Over To You….

Have you tried any Business Networking Groups? If so, please share your experiences, likes and dislikes below.

Please share
Joy
 

I left it too late to plan for a financially secure retirement. Don't make my mistake. Start building an extra income with a part-time (or full-time) business online. Think you don't have time? Can't afford the start-up cost? Can't meet sales targets? The businesses I promote overcome all the problems you may have had with Internet Marketing before. Contact me for free advice (no obligation) on the best fit for your circumstances.

Carol Amato - February 22, 2015

Hi, Joy,

Wow, your post could not have come at a better time for me! I was looking online last week for a meetup group in Tampa so that I could start attending business meetings once per month.

Itโ€™s on hold for now as Iโ€™m visiting my daughter and family in Texas because they moved, and Iโ€™m helping them settle in, plus watching my granddaughter. ๐Ÿ™‚

However, I will pick up where I left off when I return. Thanks so much for sharing your experience – youโ€™ve given me lots of ideas and things to watch out for, so this is helpful to me. I really appreciate it.

Hope you have a great rest of the weekend.

หœCarol

    Joy - February 22, 2015

    Hi Carol,

    So pleased it came at a good time and helped you prepare. I think that’s the secret of these meetings – being prepared.

    When I do a blog post I can read it over, and tweak it and polish it, and come back and update it if necessary. That’s not a luxury available to me in a meeting, and that’s what I find a challenge. No doubt it will come with time, and meanwhile I’ll just enjoy meeting some nice people – and not let the others upset me.

    Hope you find as nice a group as I did and I hope you’ll write up your experiences so we can compare notes.

    Have a great week, Joy

Harleena Singh - February 22, 2015

Hi Joy,

I wish I could say yes, but no, I have never joined any business networking groups ๐Ÿ™‚

In fact, I have read about a few, but not the experiences as you shared them so well in your post here. I guess if you have a business, there is no reason why you shouldn’t join, and I am sure it would be beneficial for any kind of business venture you take up. I have a few blogging friend’s who are into various groups too, though don’t know the exact names, and perhaps they are also loving being a part.

I wish you the best with these, and I am sure they’d help you a lot too. Thanks for sharing this with us. Happy weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

    Joy - February 22, 2015

    Hi Harleena,

    Well as you obviously manage so splendidly without the business groups, no need to fix what isn’t broken ๐Ÿ™‚

    A lot of the reason for me going was that I felt I was interacting too much with computers only, and I should get out more and meet real people.

    Overall I’m pleased with the results, and learning as I go along – as always.

    I’ll report back in a few months when I’ve had chance to evaluate the results over a longer time period.

    Have a great week, Joy

Entine Muki - February 23, 2015

Hey Joy,
How is your new week starting?

You know I read this post yesterday but I was so tired that I couldn’t leave a feed. I’m glad to be around today.

Oh! Some people still think anyone can click around and setup wordpress. Wrong!

I can say confidently that this is one of the reasons a lot of people fail online. They want to do things by themselves and they end up hitting the wrong buttons whereas if the experts are hired, they will know how to connect the dots and table results.

Ahaha! A blind leader, the least I can say. That means the members in that network don’t have a chance to learn to do business the new way. So sad!

Maybe you’ll have to help her read about those 20 top bloggers. That may help open her eyes ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thanks for sharing your experience and giving me a link.
I hope you are set for a wonderful week ahead

    Joy - February 23, 2015

    Hi Enstine,

    So glad you agree with me ๐Ÿ™‚ I had a suspicion you would LOL.

    When I started up I too was “innocent enough” to believe that you could set up a blog and all would be well. But at least I had the good sense to listen and learn from people who were obviously doing it correctly.

    Yes – her failure to listen has cost the other group members, which is a shame because some of them expressed interest in hearing what I had to say and were obviously disappointed with what they already had online.

    They have my business card and perhaps they’ll contact me when they find their blogs do NOT do well. If not, no worries, as I have found other good prospects in the two groups where the leaders DO support me, so I shall be concentrating my efforts there.

    I am indeed set for a wonderful week ahead – my son just texted me to say his wife and dog and son and just setting off for a visit to me. Yippee ๐Ÿ™‚

    You have a wonderful week too, Joy

Bill Garland - February 23, 2015

A great summary of different networking groups. The importance of a great group leader / facilitator can not be overstated. The business networking groups with attendance policies should rethink their approach — successful business owners are busy people and will likely miss meetings…

    Joy - February 24, 2015

    Hi Bill,

    I completely agree – unfortunately I have to miss a monthly meeting for ONE of the groups as my family will be visiting. But with the other group (Links 4 Growth) there are many meetings in the local area that I can go to instead, and of course that’s encouraged.

    Certainly at the time (and now!) I was far too busy to commit to the very strict BNI meeting schedule, no matter how good they are. Family – and existing business commitments – always come first.

    Have a great week, Joy

Stephanie Nissen - February 23, 2015

Offline networking groups are one of my favorite things to do to boost my business. I’m a member of 4 groups myself – one that I’m the President of and one where I am Secretary. I get really involved with groups and they have doubled my business in the last few months on the referrals alone! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Joy - February 24, 2015

    Hi Stephanie

    I’m glad to hear your good results. It encourages me (even more) to think that this is a good way to progress.

    The leader of the Links 4 Growth has already introduced me to more like-minded people, so I’m really finding this a useful group – and SO affordable for start-ups businesses too!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Shellye L Lyons - February 23, 2015

Well, I’m not in the UK so some of the places won’t pertain to me. However, I have visited BNI and our services were very much needed. But, just like you, the mornings, high fee, and only being able to refer/trade within the group were somewhat turnoffs so we didn’t join. We did join two chambers of commerce but found that our services were severely misused and abused – meaning people wanted our services, voluntarily, but were unwilling to pay for them. So we’re not in the market to join any networks at this time. Those experiences kind of soured our taste for the moment!

    Joy - February 24, 2015

    Hi Shellye,

    Sorry things turned out like that for you – you’ll really relate to the post I linked to below, although that wasn’t from a business networking group!

    It’s a good warning to bear in mind in all situations tendering for business – how much free work to do up front and how / when to turn free work into paid.

    Thanks for raising this salutary point.

    Joy

donna merrill - February 23, 2015

Hi Joy,

I wish I did have an offline network to go to, but where I live now there isn’t one available. I did check one, but it was in the morning and I too am not a morning person.

In the past, I have tried some meet-up groups, but all I found there were many MLM people with the “get rich quick” ideas. It wasn’t for me at all.

I’ll keep hunting because I do like to be social off line as well as online.

When it comes to online groups, I am in a few, some are great and have a lot of action, some are, well too slow for me. But I love all the people in them.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

-Donna

    Joy - February 24, 2015

    Hi Donna,

    Glad to hear that you are also a NAMP ๐Ÿ™‚ (Not A Morning Person)

    There are a few MLM visitors at the groups I go to, and having an MLM background myself I have sympathy. I was having a chat with someone else in one of the groups and we had a smile about how many of them are totally amazed that some of us probably know more about their companies and the pitfalls than they do themselves.

    However, on balance there are more non-MLM businesses than MLM, which I like. Although I’m not averse to buying from an MLM person to help them out.

    Shame there are no suitable business networking groups near you, but you never know, you might find one. (Or start one, with your entrepreneurial streak!)

    Thanks for dropping by, Joy

Edward Thorpe - February 23, 2015

Hi Joy,

Just love your personal stories. You’ve gotta gift!

While I no longer have a business that’s compatible with business networks, I have been out visiting the local senior citizens organizations.

Thinking of asking for some interviews & maybe videos of the people I’ve met.
Great post…
Edward

    Joy - February 24, 2015

    Hi Edward,

    That’s a great idea. There are lots of groups that I’m sure would welcome a talk from you. In my experience many organizations are desperate to find speakers, and I just know you’d have a fund of stories to keep them rolling in the aisles. Laughter the best medicine and all that. Church, Rotary, local radio, University of the Third Age – anything! Don’t just think of the over 55s as your target market – widen it to thinking of people whose parents are over 55, and want to keep them in the best of health too.

    YouTube videos would probably get people to your blog too. I’m BAD on videos, but I know there are people in Sue’s group who could really help you with videos.

    Love to hear how you get on with this!

    Just back from a Bailey walk – he’s looking reproachfully at me and asking Where’s my Mama and Dada?

    Thanks for your kind words about my stories – LOL, I enjoy writing!

    Joy

      Edward Thorpe - February 25, 2015

      Hi Joy,

      Your ideas for visiting other organizations are great! Bringing adult children of seniors into my niche mix has a lot of potential, as well. Thank you.

      I hope you mean video interviews of other seniors uploaded on YouTube, because I’ve a face more suited for radio. ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Edward

        Joy - February 25, 2015

        Hi Edward,

        Well I didn’t LOL

        But don’t forget (says she who just doesn’t do videos LOL) you can do voice-overs to videos with images!

        Jan Kearney or Una Doyle in our group know much more about video than I do.

        Glad you like the other ideas.

        Joy

Adrienne - February 23, 2015

Hi Joy,

I’ve checked out a few of these types of groups a few years back when I wanted to start making some outside contacts as well. I found what they shared though not really what I was looking for and their pricey venues and monthly subscription really was a little more than I was willing to pay. Had it been the right information I would have gladly paid though.

I think that group leader just didn’t want you to take that business away from either her or someone she was obviously close to in the group. I don’t think it had anything to do with you personally but as they always say, you don’t need to be with people who don’t appreciate you.

I’m not really interested at this time in venturing out. I have too much on my plate as it is but I’m hoping to later on when I can get a better handle on my schedule. I think it’s good to meet new people who hopefully can use your services.

I have heard about BNI as well back when I was checking into groups but you really have to be committed to holding down that type of schedule. If I knew I would get a lot of monthly business from those contacts even after a short period of time I might think it’s worth looking into again.

Good luck with moving forward and I wish you all the best.

~Adrienne

    Joy - February 24, 2015

    Hi Adrienne,

    It’s good that we more or less came to the same conclusions on business networking at BNI – although I AM still going to pursue it with the other groups and see how it works out for me.

    You’re very shrewd with your remarks about the group leader who didn’t want me in that group. Being me I DID take it personally at first, but then I just moved on to the next group. There are plenty out there – and I’d rather put time and effort, and any money, into groups where entrepreneurship is supported rather than stifled.

    Thanks for your good wishes, I’ll keep you updated ๐Ÿ™‚

    Joy

James McAllister - February 24, 2015

Hi Joy!

I’m not a part of any official networking groups now but it’s not something I’d rule out for the future. I do love to reach out to and connect with people individually though so I’ve got that going for me.

I take a bit different strategy to most people though. I don’t try and change anything for anybody. I really don’t care if people decline any of my offers. I approach as many people as possible and of course I am faced with rejections many times. That’s fine. Those people are dead to me. I don’t care about them, I don’t worry about them, I focus on the people that will connect with me because they are far more important.

I guess that’s part of the reason I haven’t joined any paid groups. While I’m fine with walking away from people, one thing I don’t like walking away from is money. The benefits of a paid group have not seemed appealing enough for me to join. I can’t walk away without a penalty of my money still being taken away from me.

I have considered forming a private mastermind group for MMO/IM bloggers that would meet via Skype, Google+, or conference call every month or so. I feel like we all have our own strengths that we can share with others and help us all grow. I’ve put it off because I’m expanding into so many different areas quite quickly and don’t have the time right now, but if I ever end up getting around to it I’d love for you to be a part of it if you have the time. I’ll send you an email if/when that time comes.

As far as your story goes… I don’t take anyone seriously that doesn’t take blogging / internet marketing seriously, LOL. I’d love to just show them a paycheck but I guess they don’t have time to be proven wrong, huh?

Have a good one Joy!
– James

    Joy - February 24, 2015

    Hi James,

    Very smart approach to business networking – and we’re lucky in our chosen profession that “networking online” can pay off so well, as opposed to businesses that rely on geographical regions.

    It’s one thing to pay a hefty annual subscription to a networking group if you ARE “sure” of making profitable connections, but if it doesn’t work out – or circumstances change so that you can’t make the regular meeting commitment – that’s one heck of a lot of money down the drain. I’m sure they can justify the fee by the quality of leads, but – as we all know – there are no guarantees in life.

    When you have the time to move forward with your private master mind group I’d feel privileged to be part of it, so please get in touch. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    These days, I agree – you can’t be taken seriously in business if you don’t take Internet Marketing seriously. Poor (and uncalled for) judgement on her part.

    Enjoy the rest of your week, Joy

Mark - February 25, 2015

Good for you Joy

It sounds like with the exception of that one highly questionable
group leader, you may in fact have found yourself a pretty good economical
way to reach at least some in your target market!

You can hopefully chronicle some of your future adventures in the group as I’m sure it will be a highly entertaining read!LOL!

    Joy - February 25, 2015

    Hi Mark

    LOL – yes I’ve already had some great ideas from my meeting with the Links For Growth group leader.

    I’ll certainly post my further adventures!

    Joy

Sandy - February 28, 2015

Hi Joy,
Adrienne had shared my thought about the ‘bad leader’. That’s what I would suspect so.

As for BNI, I was an active member some ten years ago, for 3 years. Being the President for one. Regarding your question on passing business to personal outside contacts. What I would say is, as much standardization and protocol from HQ being set, certain groups do twist or bend rules.

As a member in the chapter, we are ‘supposed’ to help each other with business. Both our own as well as looking out for potential biz opportunities for our fellow members.

As much as possible, we want to refer biz to them. But what happen if you find them not ideal and would rather pass to your outside contacts? Those are the tricky situation.

Hence, it is not a CAN’T. It is more of supporting your fellow members being FIRST PRIORITY. If you find your own members not up to mark, have a discusion with the President. Let the leadership team sort this issue.

Hope I have explained clearly. And that, is just my personal opinion ๐Ÿ™‚

Like your mentioned groups above. Seem to be nice groups to be with. Me? Have been ‘out of the market’ and network with my virtual friends now! ;p

    Joy - March 1, 2015

    Hi Sandy

    Good to hear from you and I particularly like that you were able to clarify that issue with the BNI referrals from personal experience. It’s good to know that common-sense can prevail over “rules”.

    If you were with them for 3 years that’s a great recommendation. It must pay dividends for loyal members – my own personal reservation is that I can’t give any group that level of commitment (which is MY problem, nor BNI’s).

    Especially as I’ve found two good groups that are better suited to my current lifestyle.

    I still love networking with my virtual friends too!

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Joy

Lea Bullen - February 28, 2015

Hi Joy,

Sorry about you being fired (I used to watch the Apprentice, I imagined the hand gesture as I read it lol).

Blogging is such a new career path that a lot of people don’t understand it. But the fact of the matter is there are various different business models for bloggers.

I had not thought about joining a Business Networking Group. In fact, I think you just educated me on something new.

Thanks for sharing your experience, no matter how unpleasant, I’m sure it’ll help avoid the same issue.

~Lea

    Joy - March 1, 2015

    Hi Lea,

    Hope you enjoyed the Apprentice as much as my family and I do. We enjoy sitting there yelling at the TV what seems so obvious – from the sofa, but probably not when you’re in the hot-seat.

    Yes, blogging IS a new concept for many people. Shame that leader decided, on behalf of her members, that they should not learn about it.

    Never mind – I’ve easily replaced her with two far more supportive groups and the two of them together don’t charge me what that one would have cost.

    Do let me know if you go ahead with local networking, I’d love to hear how it turns out for you.

    Have a great weekend. Joy

Ed Akehurst - March 2, 2015

I did BNI for a while, and loved it, but then I moved. I have been to a few BNI meetings since then, but never found one quite right for me. They do have some around here that do lunch meetings, rather than mornings, but I’d almost rather do the morning meeting and not break up the middle of the day. There are some other groups in this area, but they are a bit disorganized. I love the whole idea of business groups, but finding one that fits has proven to be a bit of a challenge. I was treasurer of a local business association for a while that operated like a networking group, but it turned into more of a civic organization. It was loads of fun, but not very productive from a business standpoint.

    Joy - March 2, 2015

    Hi Ed,

    Glad to hear from another BNI fan. I know it’s very successful when you get the right one. Shame you had to move away from one that was working for you.

    Links 4 Growth is great because they have such a wide range of dates and times of meetings to choose from, so you get to meet different people.

    Your other experience is a danger too – particularly for a women’s group LOL I really enjoyed going to one of those a few years ago, but in the end we were great friends but not a lot of business done!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Joy

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