I am evangelical in my endorsement of BNI. So it was natural that I would want to visit a local BNI group in Chennai where I am on holiday at the moment. There was a meeting not far from where I was staying and after checking their member list to ensure that there was no conflict of interest, I signed up as a visitor to BNI Benchmark.
Unlike my local Thames Maidenhead chapter where the meeting follows breakfast, at Benchmark, we were served fresh teas and coffees before moving to the meeting area at 8 am sharp. My worries about foregoing breakfast were put to rest when someone informed me that food will be served once the meeting was over.
I sighed with relief and settled into the proceedings. Benchmark follows the structured agenda set by BNI and followed by all its chapters across the world. Where it differs from my local chapter is in size (they are 50 to our 20), in the time allocated to pitch our respective businesses (30 seconds to our 60 seconds) and in the time allotted for the weekly presentations (they have two 8-minute presentations each week whereas we have one 10-minute presentation).
I was impressed by the number of referrals passed between its members and their value. There appeared to be genuine camaraderie in the room. At the 8-minute presentation a member spoke with disarming candour about the slump in his real estate business and beseeched other to help him tide over the situation with referrals.
Later, as I tucked into my warm breakfast (idli, dosai and vadai served with two different types of chutney, since you ask), I reflected on just how far I have come with BNI in just the few months that I have been a member. I have grown in confidence in promoting my business and in my ability to network with others. Monetarily, I have got back more than what I have invested in the organisation. And what’s more, I still have nearly half-a-year to go before my membership is due for renewal. My reverie was interrupted by someone who wanted to know if I knew of a good SEO specialist in the UK. And if so, could I give him/her an introduction? Of course, I said, pulling out a notebook to take down his details.
ETA: The menu included, sambar, omelet, gulab jamun and a selection of seasonal fruits.