The world’s largest business networking organization has a new chapter.
The Cranbrook chapter of Business Networking International (BNI) was launched last week at a lunchtime event at the Heritage Inn.
BNI is considered the world’s largest referral organization, with over 150,000 members in more than 6,000 chapters worldwide. It was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner “for the primary purpose of building powerful referral networks.”
BNI’s latest chapter — BNI Rockies, which was inducted May 27 — was the brainchild of its president, Shelagh Redecopp of Sun Life Financial.
“BNI is a huge, worldwide franchise for business networking, but for some reason it has never appeared here in the Kootenays before,” Redecopp said. “So I got a few people together last fall and we got started. We are now 21 strong.”
The BNI organization works by creating a group of people from various industries and encouraging regular passing of referrals. Redecopp said that the members’ grouped familiarity of the community, its residents and each other’s business needs means that members can help match up businesses with clients and clients with businesses.
“New members are welcome and the ideal member would be businesses that are looking to grow, primarily via referrals and word-of-mouth,” Redecopp said.
BNI’s philosophy is “Givers Gain” – members are expected to focus on giving referrals to other members to build relationships and receive referrals in return. And chapters have specific rules regarding required attendance in order to cultivate the relationships needed to create a comfort level in referring business.
“It’s a very strict set-up, meaning people need to meet once a week, or if they can’t be present they have to have a substitute,” Redecopp said. “The idea being that if you’re present with your peers every week, and we talk about our businesses every week, we get to know and trust who you are as a person and business person. We can then move to the next level, which is to give referrals confidently to each other.
“Referrals are obligatory,” Redecopp added.
And each chapter allows only one person per occupational classification — “this is crucial,” Redecopp said. “That means you have to pick your members very carefully, because they’re going to represent that industry, and that’s it.”
Prospective members must be approved via an application process. Redecopp said while many industries are represented already in the local chapter, BNI Rockies is still looking for representation from many more, including legal firms, massage therapists, chiropractors, spa owners — “it’s a huge list.”
The board of BNI Rockies is comprised of Shelagh Redecopp (Sun Life – recruiting) as President; Vanessa Dickson (Sun Life – Insurance) as Vice-President, and Brandon Wright (BMO) as Secretary-Treasurer.
More than 120 people came out to BNI Rockies’ induction meeting (which was held as an information session as well). Redecopp says the chapter now begins normal operations, including the weekly meetings.
For more information on BNI and the local chapter BNI Rockies, contact Shelagh Redecopp at Shelagh.Redecopp@sunlife.com, or Vanessa Dickson at Vanessa.Dickson@sunlife.com.