Episode 19: Givers Gain, Chapter Three

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Synopsis –
In This Episode, Dr. Misner Discusses BNI’s Very First Year, As Described In Chapter Three Of His Book, Givers Gain

  • Ivan’s Calling-In From Leon, Mexico
  • The Importance Of Maintaining The Organization’s Culture During Rapid Initial Growth
  • 20 Chapters Opened In The First Year Alone – All By Word-Of-Mouth
  • Ivan Was Surprised How Many Businesspeople Rushed To Learn About Referral Marketing
  • Formalized Training Was Instituted To Maintain Success Standards

Complete Transcription of BNI Podcast Episode 019 –

Frank Felker:
Hello everybody in welcome back to the official BNI podcast, brought to you by networkingnow.com, the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I?m Frank Felker in Washington DC joined on the phone today by Chairman and Founder of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner, calling in today from Leon, Mexico. Hola Ivan.

Ivan Misner:
Hola Frank. I am here in Mexico with National Directors for Mexico, Lorraine Medina and Senator Carlos Medina. Carlos is a past Federal Senator for the country of Mexico and his staff contacted me a little over a year ago said the senator was retiring. They asked about starting at BNII in Mexico.

I think it is great how they found us. They went to the internet and did a Google search on business networking. If you do a Google search on business networking, from just about anywhere in the world, you get over 200 million hits. Listeners should try this. Type in business networking in Google. There will be over 200 million hits and BNI will be right up there at or near number one.

That is what his staff did and BNI popped up there and they contacted us and asked what it would take to get BNI started in Mexico. We?ve been working with them. They kicked off last year and are doing well. I am here in Mexico to do my first presentation. My Spanish is not very good but my wife is fluent in Spanish. Either way, Frank, if you speak to languages, would you call it in English?


Bilingual. Right. What do you call it if you speak three languages?


Trilingual. Very good. If you speak one language, what are you called?
You?re called American. I don’t speak Spanish, but luckily my wife does so she will be doing a presentation in Spanish and then I will be doing one in English for the English speaking members here in Mexico. We’re really looking forward to it.

You wanted to talk to us today. You are carrying on with your discussion of your book Givers Gain and today he will talk to us about chapter three.

Chapter three is the first year. And I think with me being here in Mexico, which is a reasonably new country, I think it is good to go back to Givers Gain. My plan was over the course of the year to talk about one of the chapters. For every new member and everyone who is listening to this podcast from BNI, you should get a copy of Givers Gain for free when you go to the MST, member success training.

Chapter three is the very first year of BNI. It is really good for people to have context as to how an organization grew the way it did, and that is what we try to do here in Givers Gain, to help maintain the organizational culture. Sometimes the things that help the company grow get lost in the growth process, especially as you open up in different cultural contexts. So we do the book and it is done all around the world as a way of helping to maintain the growth and healthy culture of the organization that was created.

Chapter three talks about the very first year of BNI. Basically, what happened was- we?ve talked about in chapter two ? BNI was very successful. Pretty quick into the process, somebody came and couldn?t join because of a conflict and she asked if I would help her open up the second group. We opened up the second chapter. The first was in Arcadia California and the second was in Pasadena.

At the very first meeting of the second chapter, we had about 25 people come. Two couldn?t join because of a conflict and they said this is a great idea. I can get a lot of business out of this. If you?ll help me open up my own group, you can run four groups and your consulting practice. I was a business consultant as I talk about in the other chapters.

I said sure I can do that and run my consulting practice so we opened up two more and all those groups had about 25 to 30 people come, three of which could not join because of a conflict. Two and one group and one in another. All three of them said well this is a great idea and I could get it on a business out of this. So we literally ended up opening about twenty chapters all across southern California in the first year, pretty much by accident.

Twenty chapters in the first year. Wow.

Twenty chapters in the first year and it happened totall through word of mouth. I was really surprised. I would like to tell you that I had a vision of an international organization of the point the truth was that I needed some referrals for my consulting practice and I was helping my friends build their businesses. I realized that I had struck a chord that I never saw. I don?t see this in the book and when I redo the book, I will put this in.

I know it sounds crazy but sometimes you?re in a situation where you think that something is happening to you and you think that you?re the only one who has experienced this. I was there in the early days thinking that I need to build my business through word of mouth and I don?t know how to do it. Everybody else has figured out that out. I created BNI as a way to fit my philosophy of doing business with people through relationships.

I did it to fit my own philosophy of working with people, thinking that everybody else had this figured out. What I learned was that most people didn?t have networking through word of mouth figured out. I struck a chord that just resonated with so many people and I think that?s why we were successful in opening twenty chapters in the very first year of the organization.

It makes a lot of sense. And I?m sure it?s the same reason why you have grown to thousands of chapters around the world to this date.

Yes. We now have ? our official chapter count as of this date is 4832. But who?s counting? That?s 4832 and more than three dozen countries around the world. It all started with this very first year where we really learned a lot. We made lots and lots of mistakes. That is what I talk about throughout chapter three of Givers Gain.

I really urge listeners of the podcasts and members of BNI to pick up the book because you really learn a lot of things about why we do some things that we do. Example: we have one chapter than a talk about in the group. You?ll love this. I went to a meeting and in the first year we didn?t have the kind of training that we do now. Now we have leadership training. We didn?t have that the first year. So I went to a chapter that had been trained by me nine or ten months earlier and saw the leadership team.

The leadership team was training the next generation of leadership people so some of the information kind of gets lost in translation. So one of the things they did was they opened up the meeting and they had 60 second introductions, they introduced the visitors, they had a speaker, they had announcements, and they closed the meeting. Anything missing, Frank?

Yeah. How about standing up and say who you are and what you need and how you can help me.

No. They did the 60 second intro but the entire referral part of the meeting was missing. They dropped it from the group. I met with them and at that point I felt like Dr. Phil. Is there something that I was missing here? They said oh, the referral part? I said yeah, the referral part. You didn?t do that. They said yet they took it out. And I said well why? They said that these people felt uncomfortable standing up in front of everyone if they didn?t have any referrals. It just put them on the spot.

And that?s where I felt like Dr. Phil when I aid how is that working for you? And they said well they don?t know, so let?s look up the numbers. Know what happened to the numbers? They plummeted. Referrals absolutely plummeted. We found there has to be accountability as well as friendship. You have to have these friendships with people but you also have to have accountability.

So it was really at that point in the chapter of the first year that I realized that you had an ongoing training. We can?t just hand over materials and train one set of leadership team people who train trains the next set of leadership people who train the next set of leadership- that doesn?t work at all.

I call it the leaky bucket process. Education is a leaky bucket process. If I train you and you train someone else who trains someone else, you lose information. What happens is through the levels of training and you have a bucket of information and then when you have half of the bucket of information, people start putting their own stuff in. I saw that really, really quickly and that?s what when decided to start doing leadership team training.

By the way, take a wild guess how many hours of leadership training began ideas as of this day of this recording? How many hours of leadership team training to do we do each year? Can you take a guess?


Try about 130,000.

That is a lot.

That is a lot. We do over 130,000 person hours leadership team training. Many of the listeners are skeptical about that? hear the numbers. The three leadership team people and they do about four and a half hours of training twice a year times 4832 chapters. If you do that now, you?ll find it?s over 130,000 person hours. That was one of the things we learned in the first year, that you have to have a commitment to training and education.

Members of BNI, if you ever have a leadership team person who has decided to take on the role and the chapter has approved them to be president, vice president, secretary treasurer- if they decide they don?t want to go through training, kick them out ? not out of the chapter ? but don?t let them be on the leadership team.

How many of you would like to take flight with a pilot who hasn?t been trained? Yikes. Nobody wants to do that. But that?s what happens with the chapter because the leadership team pilots the chapter. They fly the chapter. The chapter is not going to be as successful as it could be. It?s critical.

We absolutely nailed that the first year. I think that was probably one of the most important things that we learned in the first year. But there are many, many other things that we can talk about. As a matter of fact, I probably could speak for hours talking about chapter three. I don?t think I have an hour, do I?

No is a matter of fact are just about out of time, Ivan.

There are lots of things we talk about in chapter three. Get up and take a look at chapter three because we really learned, I would say, two important principles during the first year of vigorous growth. That was when we had focused on maintaining the traditions that were being created and I love to talk about that in one of the last chapters of Givers Gain.

We?ll talk about some specific traditions, procedures and systems as we added new chapters and spread further and further from our headquarters, we had to train and train retrain. The second principle was that we would consider every suggestion of change on its own merit.

The organization that exist today is substantially different in many ways than it was 22 years ago because we had so many ideas- some of which we talk about in chapter three but we don?t have enough time in this podcast, so many ideas that we learned early on that we integrated into the chapter over the years. Things like MST and things like education coordinators ? these are things that were all added over the years from good ideas that we experimented with. I think that?s one of the things that created the strong organizational culture that we have today.

Clearly, what you?ve done has worked and so, Ivan, I congratulate you for that. That?s it for this week?s episode of the official BNI podcast. For Dr. Ivan Misner, I?m Frank Felker saying we?ll see you next week on the official BNI podcast.


  1. says

    Thank you for such a great show. I just joined BNI this week and LOVE it. I am looking forward to hearing more of your show and learning all I can to be the best member and contributor to BNI ever. Make it a great day friends!

  2. says

    Great stuff!

    I particularly like the part where we get to stand up and give / gain referrals as it gives recognition to the great referrers and re-inforces our committment to each other.

Solutions-focused comments are welcome