For the last couple of months, I’ve been working on a new BNI start-up chapter, which has been really stimulating and fun process. I’ve really been enjoying the experience and have met some really amazing people. Last week one of the applicants came to me and said she was leaving because she had been told that it was easier to get into an existing chapter. This got me thinking, why would a potential applicant want to join a startup chapter over an existing one?
Existing chapters have developed a specific chapter culture over time and the culture of each BNI chapter is very different. It may surprise you that whilst the BNI Agenda and process is the same in every chapter around the world, the way each group delivers this can often be quite different. This is neither good nor bad it’s just simply the result of 30 or 40 + people getting together and forming a norm as to how those people interact ie: creating a chapter culture which is typical human behaviour.
Existing chapter members already have relationships, members have been working together for some time and quite often have very established ways of behaving the chapter. This may or may not align with your expectations of being in a BNI chapter.
Some members often find it difficult to create relationships with people members in chapters. There is no reason for this but human behaviour is such that when you see a group of people interacting with each other it can often be quite challenging to break into. BNI has developed the passport program to help new members generate and build relationships quickly in existing chapters. The passport program is an excellent way for new members to generate relationships with existing members and done well, this can make joining an existing group very rewarding from the onset.
On the other hand being part of a startup chapter is very different. Everybody is on a level playing field. Personally having been part of BNI for some years, my preference today would be to be part of a startup because I would find that challenge exciting and rewarding as well as my ability to shape the group to align it for success. Everyone is different and at the end of the day, you need to make a decision for yourself and see what’s right for you.
A major benefit of being part of a startup chapter everyone’s in the same boat – everyone is swimming in the same direction and everybody wants to get in and result as quickly as possible. It’s quite exciting for applicants to create something out of nothing. This is why startup chapters often create an exciting and dynamic culture and as an applicant, in a start-up chapter, you can be part of the cultural foundations of that group.
One of the big pluses of being part of a startup chapter is that you also get to bring in your trusted network. BNI works best when you have your closest referral partners in your BNI chapter. This ensures that you get the maximum amount of business from these people as you develop deeper and more long-lasting relationships. BNI is a great place to get even better business out of your existing partners because of the overlaying system of expectation, and accountability coupled with a really easy to use system for success.
Existing chapters may already have your trusted networks categories represented therefore these people would not be able to join that chapter. This means you’ll be building relationships with potential new referral partners and this may cause conflict internally for you or externally for those who are seeking to generate referrals out of you, because it the end of the day there is a limited amount of business that you’re going to be able to generate here existing network and for your new network.
So you can see being part of a start-up chapter and existing chapter both have their challenges and both have the pluses. At the end of the day, it depends on whether you want to be a driver and create the vision of a collective group of people who are all trying to create something new, or whether you are more interested in being part of something that has an established culture that you fit in well into. Either way, BNI Directors are there to guide and support you.
One of the things I say to anyone that comes to BNI is that you need to see how BNI operates – you need to see a couple of chapters to make up your mind as to whether or not this is the right place for you. Ultimately BNI is not for everyone. Making a considered decision about where you want to put your networking efforts will guide you as to which type of chapter is right for you.