In case you were wondering, BNI is not a scam. Having been propositioned from various scams and multi-level marketing schemes, we can see how certain business models can be used to scam people out of their money to benefit the people at the top. BNI is not like that.
Yes, BNI costs around £600 a year. This is the annual membership fee. Membership fees are very common for many types of organisations: Costco, golf clubs, and casinos. The purpose of a sizable membership fee is for two purposes: one is to line the pockets of people higher up (like founder, Ivan Misner). The second is to filter people.
Think about it like this: if you’re a landlord who is trying to rent out an apartment, do you rent it to some guy who promises that he’ll pay you at the end of the month or the guy the that already has a cheque for the security deposit and first month’s rent in hand? You choose the latter because he shows that he is both responsible with money and committed (money isn’t the only way to show commitment, but it’s a really good one). The same idea applies to membership.
Also, we have to look at this BNI fee as an investment. It costs £435 to join, but if your contacts in BNI can generate you more than £435 in business, then it’s a positive return (not accounting for opportunity costs and time spent at BNIs, of course).
Yes, there are monthly fees at BNI, but those are only to pay for the breakfast and hiring of the meeting venue. They are a business too, have overheads and the breakfast costs money to prepare, cook and serve.
Yes, BNI does encourage you to invite other people to the meeting. But no, not anyone can join — BNI is strictly for business owners and independent contractors. Scams often encourage you to get anyone to join because the sizable, initial costs alone will make the scammers profit. With BNI however, member quantity and networks determine the strength of a chapter, so all members are encouraged to invite only quality business owners to the meeting.
There is no “upline” or “downline”, so there is no monetary incentive for members to have other people join BNI. This is a good thing too, because monetary incentives usually corrupt the hell out of everyone.
The only reason current members want you to invite visitors is to give them the opportunity to see what a great networking meeting this is. We all know that the more quality people we have in the room, the more business that will be passed and more opportunities created.
It costs £435 for a year’s membership. It’s a steep price to pay for something that you might not be sure about when you first start. Also, if you’re on the younger side or just starting a business, you may not have that much money to put into something you’re not sure about.
BNI meeting attendance is mandatory. The strength of BNI chapter relies on people showing up. Whenever your chapter meets, you’ll have to close off that block of time on your calendar for the rest of the year. You’re allowed 3 absences every six months. If you exceed those 3 absences, you may be warned, put on probation, or your membership may be terminated. You are allowed however to nominate a substitute to represent you if you are on holiday or have other appointments, just don't make it the norm as it's you that is the member.
A chapter’s effectiveness is largely determined by people in the chapter. If it’s too small, if the members are not well-established networkers, or if there aren’t the right people in there to help you get business, the chapter may not get you a lot of business.
No this isn’t a mistake – the sizable membership fee is actually a good thing. When you have any event for free, all sorts of people will show up. This will include those serious about doing business, but also include a lot of jokers who are not serious, have no money, or are just looking to plug their business. Over time, the presence of jokers brings the member quality down. It’s the same idea with Facebook or a public park — when something is free, you’re going to find a lot of freeloaders, flakes, and jokers there. Money is a great way to filter those people out, plain and simple.
The mandatory attendance of BNI really weeds out people who aren’t serious about their business or business networking. Some will admit, if attendance was optional, that they'd never show up! Our meeting time is in the morning, so if you're a night owl, you might be a bit of a zombie when you're at a 7:00am BNI meeting. However, you very soon get used to and interestingly enough, many have a sudden burst of energy right after the meeting ends.
A business network grows exponentially with every additional member, as that one member has their own network with which they can refer for business. With that said, some chapters will be more successful than others. Our own chapter, for example, does very well because there are many veteran and well-established networkers.
Another reason why success is based on members is that certain industries complement each other. In our chapter, we have a series of trades who when working may often require the services of the other trades. We have a group of professional services, a collection of marketing professionals, property services, the list goes on...
Simple... One usually involves lots of coffee and chatting, the other helps grow your business with genuine business introductions