So I was in BNI years ago, around 2013. It was before I started this business. At the time I was a Business Development Director for a software company. I was brought in during the growth phase to increase lead generation and sales. One of the ventures we embarked on was networking. More specifically, BNI. So, why am I writing this and why now? Well, it’s because I’m often asked questions about my BNI experience from others interested in joining. It occurred to me it would be helpful to share my results and data in an article. So here we go!
BNI Experience By The Numbers
I kept track of the time and costs associated with my first year. Keep in mind I was an employee, which is easier. This tends to keep expenses lower too, depending on how much money your time is worth when you aren’t billable. Here are the numbers I ran for 12 months:
- 8 hours a week x 52 weeks = 416 hours (BNI related meetings, activities, training, etc.)
- $20 hourly rate = $8,320 wages
- Commission = $1,500
- Mileage = $720
Keep in mind if that if I did this now as a business owner, I’d have more mileage and travel costs. Also, consider this calculation DOESN’T cover the taxes on wages paid by the employer.
- Total = $10,540.00
- Membership = $550
- Room Dues = $520 (varies by location)
- Meals = $520 (some venues require a fee per member for food, or restaurants require food to be ordered)
- Total = $1,590.00
Pieces of training that are paid aren’t required. BUT, they will make your experience MUCH better.
- Trainings for E Squared Certification = $125
- Room Full of Referrals = $100
- Referral Institute’s Certified Networker = $1,300
- Total = $1,525.00
Total 1st Year Investment
5 referrals with 1 closed for $15,000 – the investment of $13,655.00 = Profit of $1,345.00
Scouring forums and websites for days, I calculated when ROI others were reporting in their BNI experience. The average hourly return from BNI was $8.76. I was shocked to see it was this low. I calculated mine and it was $36.00. Not shabby. Granted custom software is a VERY HARD industry to successfully network with but the trainings were paramount to the results I had.
Non-BNI Networking Experience by The Numbers
After nearly 2 years, I decided to change our networking approach. We crafted a small sphere of referral partners, which included current clients. The same networking strategies applied, but I speculated that I would have better results if I got to chose what people I focused on being referral partners with.
I replaced 8 hours a week on these efforts but having had greater results resulted in higher commissions. At $7,500 that brought the employee cost to $15,820 for the same 416 hours.
No group fees, no travel costs, no additional fees or training kept these efforts to simply the employee costs for this year of efforts.
4 referrals with 3 closed for $75,000 – the investment of $15,180 = Profit of $59,180
My hourly return of these efforts was $180.29
Is BNI Right For You?
The goal of sharing my BNI experience isn’t to get you NOT to join. The opposite actually. It’s to get you to take the time and analyze your industry. Some industries are a no-brainer to join. The time vs payoff curve is different for everyone but ‘easy to understand’ industries will do better, faster. Some industries are just harder for people to understand how to refer. Some don’t even need an explanation. The other industries in a chapter will help determine if the best contact sphere for you is present.
The Personal Injury Attorney in my group did really well partnering with the Chiropractor, Massage Therapist, and Auto Body Shop. They could easily pass referrals back and forth.
Another example? The Real Estate Agent, Property Insurance Agent, Mortgage Underwriter, Title Company killed it together. It was easy for them to throw business to the Property Manager, Irrigation and Tree Services too.
Some people are just easy to refer because it’s low cost, low risk, and easy to understand. Pet Grooming, Health Insurance, Florist, Banker, Mechanic, Flooring, House Keeping, etc.
If you already have a network that’s reliable and profitable, you probably don’t need BNI. But if you do need a contact sphere, it might be right for you.
My BNI Experience may not have been financially profitable, but I don’t regret it. What I learned and was able to repurpose was invaluable. It’s extremely profitable today. I just needed a different group of people to network with.