Business Network International (BNI) is well-known worldwide for its extensive small business network and the many meetings that it hosts throughout various cities and locales. Today’s meeting, which was hosted by the BNI Greenacres chapter at the Greenacres Golf Club in Kew, felt quite earnest yet exclusive. BNI itself is very selective with who it accepts as members, and it showed today. Many of the attendees were recurring members, with a select few presented with ribbons in recognition of multiple years of service.
While it was clear that BNI meetings are typically very-structured, this particular event was not run very well. The hosts did not clearly signpost the various discussion sections nor did they provide succinct and clear explanations for what each participant was supposed to present in each section. In fact, I was not given the opportunity to speak in my relevant section but was instead rushed through a different one that was catered to familiar faces and not newcomers like myself. The lack of clear leadership really hurt the meeting’s potential for strong discussion and sharing insight, so the attendees most likely missed out on a fruitful experience. This was exacerbated by there being more energy put behind reminding members of their payment obligations than encouraging them to volunteer as highlighted speakers in succeeding events.
Networking-wise, the opportunities were excellent for small businesses who rely on referrals to generate sales, such as printers, bookkeepers, and photographers. However, BNI’s insular format doesn’t readily lend itself well to business owners looking to scale up their operations by developing a larger customer base.
My overall experience was a negative one, and BNI would do well to ensure that newcomers are greeted appropriately and are able to easily follow each meeting’s structure. Those looking for a clique of like-sized businesses may benefit from the weekly meetings, but those who are looking to expand their operations should look elsewhere.
Things of note:
- Location: Greenacres Golf Club, 51 Elm Grove, Kew East
- Cost: $1200/year
- Highlight: One of the members is participating in the Rottnest Channel Swim
- Hot tip: Bring lots of business cards
- Networking opportunity: 2/5
- Speakers: 2/5
- Venue: 3/5
- Food: 3/5