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Business Networking groups - Benefit or Scam

Business Networking groups - benefit or scam

A common question that I get asked a lot is; are Business Networking groups worthwhile or just a waste of time and money?

This is a really good question, but has no simple quick answer to it. Over the years I have seen groups start up and close down, I have personally joined groups and have made good contacts and have had success, and have visited others that were a total waste of time.

Here's a little story about one of my own experiences.
Just two weeks ago I received an email about a new BNI group being opened in my area, apart from myself being interested in joining; I sent an email to one of our clients who I knew would be interested too. My client contacted the co-ordinator by email to ask if they had filled the position for a financial planner and a business coach. The co-ordinator responded to let him know that either position was not filled but they were looking for someone. My client forwarded the email to myself and was excited about going and was keen on joining (and so was I).

Both of us attended the morning of the meeting and it seemed to be a good group and the meeting was going well and looked positive for both of us to go ahead and join. At the near conclusion of the meeting the co-ordinator asked people who had already joined to stand up and ask why they did - a Business Coach stood up and explained his reasons why he decided to join the previous week...

Now, we had made our intentions clear upfront in an email that we would only attend if these positions were not taken, and the reply we received assured us that the positions were vacant.

As you can appreciate I was extremely annoyed as I had just wasted my morning and confront the co-ordinator as to why we were lied to? The response was that the business coach had not be ‘officially' accepted, and further explained that the position would go to which business coach could bring along the most people who sign up as members.

If you think about this, one of us would miss out and the only winner would be BNI who would have the benefit of us getting others to join. If this wasn't bad enough already, they wanted payment upfront prior to the group officially launching, which I have not experienced with other BNI groups.

To me that is very bad business practice and border lines a scam. The situation now is I would unlikely be interested in another BNI group, and my client who attended with me is annoyed too. If the co-ordinator had just been upfront there would have been no problems.

Footnote to my story: BNI (Business Networking International) is generally quite good; I unfortunately had a bad experience with this particular group which just shows that not all groups are the same.

So to conclude my story; when looking at joining business clubs, you need to do your own research and come to your own conclusion.

Here are 7 simple tips I suggest when looking at joining a business group:

  • Visit the group you are looking at joining at least twice before committing
  • Grab business cards from existing members and calling them after to ask them about their experience in the group
  • Take note of the current members and ask yourself this question: are these the sort of people I would feel comfortable to refer work to? And are these the right type of people to refer work to me?
  • Have a look at the quality of businesses represented in the group
  • Business owners in the group who you think would be a good referral source who you can refer work to and get work from (example would be a Book Keeper and a Accountant) - ask them if they have existing alliances already.
  • Ask about the financial commitment - do you need to pay upfront, and what other fees are involved (like breakfast costs etc). Do they have a refund policy?
  • Guarantees? Are they prepared to offer a guarantee that you will actually make money by joining?


Article by Brian Brown

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