Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Thursday, November 06, 2008

BNI Breakfast Meetings – what are they all about?

This morning I have been to a visitors’ breakfast of a BNI breakfast meeting. I have never been to one of these before and I should start this article by saying that I am not a member and have no links to the BNI.

I had looked on the website before I went, as well, as read the email from the inviter that warned me that I would be doing a 45 second speech about my company.

I went to a local golf club for the meeting and there were about 15 people there. I paid £7.50 for a breakfast and the meeting consisted of an introduction from the regional director that lasted about 15 minutes, followed by each person there speaking for one minute about the organisation they were involved with and then a talk by the assistant director on the benefits of being in the Business Network International.

The cost of joining the BNI is £400 for the year with £100 membership fee.

As the regional director pointed out, it actually costs quite a bit more than this because you have to pay for your breakfasts and meetings every time you attend, and the breakfast this morning was £7.50. Incidentally, I had not realised that it would be a sit down breakfast and unfortunately I was unable to eat the fare that was put in front of me as I am a vegetarian. This seemed slightly expensive, and I ordered four pieces of toast and drank a cup of tea, which must rank as the most expensive breakfast I have ever had. Obviously this was not the fault of the BNI, but rather my own for not realising that I would need to tell anyone I was vegetarian.

In the room was a solicitor from a local firm of solicitors who was a fully paid up member. It is becoming very common for solicitors firms to be members of the BNI and to use it for networking.

I am always interested to see, and to speak to junior lawyers at every firm, who almost always are the ones who network and not the senior lawyers. I wonder exactly how much business solicitors firms get out of the BNI and what quality this is on the whole.

I am very new to networking, but generally the idea seems to be to go up to people and try to flog them your business.

However, it appears the BNI work in a slightly different way in that they are trying to get their members to promote all the businesses in the chapter (i.e. the local branch) to sell each other’s products to people that they meet and to give cross referrals.

In the chapter I went to this morning, there was a mortgage broker and an estate agent dealing with rentals. Obviously these two fit hand in glove and probably refer people across to each other quite regularly. Also there was a computer repair company there and obviously this would fit very well with any web design or web marketing companies who attended.

So should I join? I would be very interested to hear from anybody who has anything to do with the BNI as a member or non-member of their thoughts on this. I have spoken to other people who have been along to the meetings and joined and left after a fairly short period of time as they work they were getting from the meetings was not sufficient to market the company and to justify the membership fee.

Obviously at the meeting, I was told of lots of benefits by the people there, but it clearly is in their interest to get as many people to join as they can right across the spectrum.

If you would like to comment, simply add your comment at the bottom of this article. If I have in any way misrepresented the BNI, I apologise. I am still interested in any comment from the BNI, particularly if they would like to offer me a discount for writing such a glowing article about them!

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and regularly comments on the state of the legal profession and the job market. He went to the local BNI meeting with his other hat on, which is as a director of Chester Web Marketing (www.chesterwebmarketing.com).