I first heard of BNI back in 2007 when a good friend of mine Lucy Lee used to talk about a breakfast networking meeting she had to attend every Friday. I remember thinking what a lot of commitment that required to turn up every week all through the year. I was pregnant at that time with my second child and I had conveniently forgotten what a bigger commitment I was making to nurture and care for another human being for the rest of my life. And instead, I was marveling at Lucy promising to turn up somewhere, once-a-week for a year. Clearly I was not thinking straight.
In the intervening years, I would occasionally come across the BNI logo on some website or the other and would be blind to it in much the same way as I would have considered say, pencil-thin high heels or bleached blonde hair or Star Wars. BNI was just not for me.
It was not until one night in December last year, snuggled under a fog of post-Christmas slump, I wandered on to the BNI Berkshire website. I had a trawl and quickly exited the site. I was right, it was not the place for me to network. All those men in suits who, behind those friendly smiles, were no doubt deadly serious about growing their businesses. While I was…well, wasn’t I hoping to do the same too? It was with some trepidation that I looked at the list of various chapters. And because of BNI’s policy to allow only one person per business, I had to look for a chapter that did not have a videographer on their list. It was not hard and I found one close by which met every Wednesday morning at witching hour (0kay, at 0645 but at the height of winter it felt unforgiving). I signed up as a visitor and then began fretting over my decision.
I spent the next two days in the throes of anxiety. I am not shy or retiring, normally and couldn’t understand why I was feeling nervous. In the end I succumbed and wrote them a terse mail the previous night explaining how my son had suddenly taken ill and how I would not be able to come to the meeting as originally promised. I bet they could see my excuse from a mile away. After sending the mail, I felt worse that I did earlier and the following day, I had signed up to be a visitor at another BNI chapter.
I went through the cycle of anxiety, stress and sending a mail canceling my attendance as son had taken ill yet again. I was plumbing the depths in my own eyes after pulling out for the second time. What chance did I have of growing my business if I could not stand behind my words? How could I be trusted to sell someone’s image when I had shown such little commitment? Who would be interested in what I had to offer when I had demonstrated such incapacity to keep a promise? Okay, may be I was being a little too harsh on myself but I was really annoyed with myself.
Could I ever redeem myself in my own eyes? Would I dare sign up to be a visitor to BNI for a third time and stick to my word? I had faltered twice and I wasn’t about to do it again. May be, I was about to be third time lucky.
(to be continued…)