Episode 222: Why Do People Leave?

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If your chapter seems to lose a lot of members, start doing exit interviews, and don’t just take the first exit. Use semantic differentiation to get at the real reasons. There’s an exit interview sample in the BNI director binder.

One of the biggest reasons people leave is a personality conflict within the group. If several people have had problems with a particular member, get rid of the problem member rather than losing the members who contribute more.

20% of turnover across chapters is due to factors beyond the control of the chapters. People move, retire, experience health problems or family crises. Many associations, even of fanatically loyal members, experience 40% turnover annually.

So how do you keep people in? Create an environment where people want to be. Focus on accountability and referrals, and you’ll keep turnover low.

Brought to you by Networking Now.

Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 222 –

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, CA. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan, how are you?

I am doing great and I am looking forward to this topic, Priscilla.

You listed it as why do people leave, and I am just wondering. You are talking about BNI in this. Is this something that we should be worried about because people seem to leave and it’s true.

That’s a great question. The answer is yes, it should be something you should be cognizant of. I wouldn’t say “worried about” because sometimes it is good to have some people leave a group. But it is something that you want to be aware of, like in any organization.

Let me tell you where it came from. I was asked a question by an assistant director in BNI. His question was, “What do you think the number one reason is that people leave BNI?” That was his question to me.

I really can’t give you the number one reason. We have done some exit interviews and surveys in the past. I don’t have the numbers with me as to what the number one reason was. But I have a sense of one of the biggest reasons that people leave. It might surprise people. I will explain that in just a minute.

The first thing that I would recommend that chapters do if this is something that you want to focus on is start doing exit interviews when people leave. Ask people why they are leaving. By the way, don’t just take their first answer. Sometimes is it good- in interviews, there is what is called semantic differential questioning, where you basically ask the same question in a different way two or three times. What’s really interesting is that if you ask the question two or three times, you might get a real answer.

For example, here’s a real common one: “Business is so big. There is so much business that I can’t handle it all, so I am stepping down.” Okay, almost never believe that answer. It is almost never true. It is occasionally true, but the truth is if somebody is getting so much business, there is this amazing thing, Priscilla, called hiring someone. Business people know that. If you have someone who can’t hire because business is so big, they might not be the right member anyway. If you are growing, you don’t want to cut off your referral source, referral pipeline, because business is growing. More often than not, it’s not the real answer.

You can connect with your local BNI Director. We do have an exit interview sample in their manual, but the truth is they are just some real simple questions, and you are asking why they are leaving and what they liked about their participation. What were some of the challenges? By the way, the number one reason when people say they are leaving because business is really big and you really go deep and question them-

Number one: personality conflict. They almost always say, “Alright fine. You want to know the truth? I can’t get along with so and so.” Or “they give bad referrals and it is really making me aggravated.” That is a great opportunity to save a member. You can say, “Look, you are not the only person who has had that problem. I think some others have. Rather than you leave, let’s deal with the problem member because you are a good member.” I remember saving a member in BNI who gave me that reason of leaving because business was growing. The truth was that they were just mad at somebody else. When we discovered that, we got rid of the problem member and saved the good member. Being too busy is generally a symptom of another issue in a chapter.

We did two surveys, a series of interviews, in two regions over a several year period about people leaving and getting a sense of why they were leaving. Here is something that may surprise you. 20% on average of every chapter has turnover for reasons that are beyond the control of the chapter. No control whatsoever, meaning there is a health issue and they had to quit, they are moving- oftentimes, by the way, people who move end up joining another chapter someplace else, but they have to drop out of that chapter. They retired. They changed jobs.

Childcare issues.

Sometimes it’s a childcare issue. That’s right. There may be a number of reasons that are completely beyond the control of the chapter. Nothing you can do about it. Which means if you have a chapter of 30 members, you can pretty well expect to lose 6 members a year on average for reasons that are completely out of your control.

To the original question, what is one of the biggest reasons? Really, one of the biggest reasons are a series of reasons that are beyond our control. It’s not uncommon to see a larger number of people turn over, but here is a percentage that really jumped out at me from something I read from the Corvette Association. The Corvette Association- now you are talking about zealots, right? These are people who went out and bought a Corvette and then they joined an association to celebrate that ownership. These are people who love their car. I read a newsletter where the National Director of the Corvette Association said you can expect- and he was writing to Presidents of local chapters- 40% turnover a year in your membership. 40% is common.

So if you are talking about zealots, people who are really excited about their car, and you are going to have 40% turnover, if you get in BNI another 10 or 20% of your members who leave for other reasons- they can’t get along with another member, they feel they are not getting enough business, whatever- and then you add that to the 20% that you know is going to leave for reasons beyond your control, you are are 30 -40% easily in turnover.

I bring this up because sometimes when you have a chapter who has 30% turnover in a year, you say to them, “That’s excellent!” They say that it can’t be excellent. It’s horrible. Well, 20% of is probably, according to studies we did, beyond your control. Now, if you want to know whether it is or not, do exit interviews and they will tell you where they sit. But a 30% turnover is outstanding because you are going to lose people for reasons that you can’t control. T

That is really what I wanted to talk about with this A.D.’s question. Now, how do you keep people in? I think it’s about creating an environment where people want to go to that meeting every week. So if you can create an environment where people want to be there, you are focused, you are structured- we talk about this in a podcast a few weeks ago. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you have a healthy culture, then you have groups where people want to be there. I meet members all the time that say to me- whatever day of the week they meet, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Tuesday- it’s their best day of the week. I ask why and it’s because they go to the BNI meetings and they love them.

It’s really funny to hear people say that they hate early mornings. Most of our groups still meet in the morning. “If you would have told me two years ago that I would be going to an o’dark-thirty meeting every week for two years, I would have said you are crazy, but it’s my best day of the week.”

I think that is really exciting, and it’s because if you focus on the culture of the group and keeping it healthy, you keep the turnover low. There are many reasons but one of the biggest that there is turnover is reasons beyond your control. You want to focus on reasons that are within your control.

I guess we should expect some people to leave, so we don’t have to fret about it too much, knowing that other people will join.

There is always going to be turnover. Be prepared for that. The real question is whether there is turnover in a group that you can control. Sometimes there is turnover and somebody leaves who you want to go because they bring such a bad attitude to the group. The people that you want to keep in the group are the positive, supportive people who are bringing referrals in and who are leaving for some reason other than something outside your control. The best way to do that is create a healthy chapter with a great organizational culture and focus on accountability and referrals. And you will keep your turnover very low. That’s all I have for today, Priscilla.

Okay, great. That was excellent. Thank you so much. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. Thank you so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.


  1. k.s.ramesh says

    be it local or global as long as we deal with humans issues remains universal! being a infant chapter i.e nakshatra, i was bit worried about the issues of people leaving, having bad attitude, providing bad referrals, being non-accoutable but having entitlement attitude, looking going thru the interview and the issues involved, am bit relived that what happens is for good and in the proces of churn out we can aim to retain the like minded networkers who care for each and want to reach and make difference to others and in the process themselves. Thanks Kushal for reaching the great interview and the insight as well

    with regards,

  2. says

    This was a great article about chapter turnover, However, I would love to hear about the chapters that have a low turnover. I visit and enjoy relationships with members of other chapters in my area. I have also visited other chapters in other states. Amoung the well diciplined, by the book 5%ers, there are chapters that have a much lower turnover figure. I think I understand part of the reasons why and suspect others know the parts I’m missing. I think a future podcast about how these chapter developed a culture that leads to a lower turnover % may be a subject for consideration. It’s very hard to leave an organization where you have strong relationships, puts money in your pocket, gives you a host of resources and suports you when things are difficult.

  3. says

    I have heard that the average chapter loses 17 members per year. In order to affect net growth, you must add 18…1.5 members per month. I believe that ALL chapters should focus on the RETENTION of members…how do we frow our businesses by helping others grow their business. It is incumbent upon all of us (as members) to participate in this retention

  4. says

    Great podcast Dr. Misner – Thank you!
    Jerry, we have a couple of chapters here in Dubai where the turnover is very low – less than 20% and they’ve acheived that by being very selective in their recruitment process. These chapters have been around for about 3-4 years now and they have very strong ‘core’ team which is the pillar of the chapter

  5. says

    Totally agree with everything Ivan mentioned. Most members leave because they have issues with another member. Let’s work it out! Be a part of the solution instead of baling!

    One of the (many) incredible things about BNI is that we build better business people. You can help fellow members by working out any differences you have. By doing so, you will be calling them higher!

    Shawn McCarthy

  6. says

    Hello Chris. I will have someone send you the list. However, you bring up a good point. I didn’t go over the Exit Interview in this podcast. I will do so in a future podcast.

    Dr. Misner

Solutions-focused comments are welcome