Ladies’ Day, a networking triumph

October 2nd, 2016

Networking is one of the arrows every business owner needs to carry in his or her quiver of business development tools. If it was ever enough just to do the job, it certainly isn’t now: you have to be able to talk about it too. Business Network International (BNI) is a world leader in developing and encouraging networking skills: it has thousands of chapters worldwide, including many hundreds in the UK, where members meet weekly for breakfast, and pass business referrals to each other. I was a member of the Sutton chapter of BNI for about five years, during which time it increased my confidence and helped me reach out to people in other trades and professions. I said a fond farewell to BNI at the end of 2013, but I keep getting invitations to go back and “sub” for members when they are away – on holiday, for example – and can’t get to the meeting. (Part of the membership deal is that you commit to showing your face at every weekly meeting.)

Last week BNI Sutton pulled off a brilliant meeting: of their current list of close to 30 members, only three are women – interior designer Nina Haydon (currently chapter president), Marion D’Moirah, of the Queen Elizabeth Foundation, and Nicole Barry, of Associated Neighbour Training – so September 29’s breakfast was named Ladies’ Day. Members were urged to invite women guests to the meeting, and everyone was asked to wear a hat.

It was a triumph: there was a buzz in the room, as there always is on BNI visitors’ days. The meeting drew several visitors, six of whom were women: Allison Staines, of Photo Booth Events; Dina Georgiou, of Paris St. Clair health and beauty salon; Natalie Agius, a distributor with Forever Living Products; Verity Lamb, sales executive with Jewsons; Nicky Lavede, hairdresser; and Hannah Gramson, of Tinies, the childcare business.

I was there subbing for Ashton-Paul Smythe, the chapter architect. At each BNI meeting, everyone gets 60 seconds to talk about their business and the sort of referrals they want. I did that on Ashton-Paul’s behalf (the message is that he doesn’t just work with drawings, he works with people). I was also invited to speak about my business. Rather than give the usual promotion of Words for Business as a journalism service, I delivered a “commentary” of the Sutton BNI Referrals Chase, a horse race in which the runners were named after member businesses and the riders were their people. It seemed to go down well.

Of the real runners and riders in the Sutton BNI chapter, here are some achievements of the past quarter, as reported by chapter vice-president Alan Johnson: Gary Beckett, Martyn Fowler, Steve Bellamy, Nina Haydon, Eny Osung and Alan Johnson himself had each passed 20 or more referrals; Mark Thaw, Eny Osung, Nina Haydon and Alan Johnson had each brought three or more visitors to meetings; and Eny Osung, the chapter’s social media specialist, had held the most one-to-one meetings with other members.

And what did all this add up to? Over the past year, members of the chapter have thanked each other for £971,372 worth of business generated by referrals. Well done, Sutton BNI.

Categories: BNI, Networking

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