Episode 302: One-to-Ones and Van Gogh

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Andrew Hall from BNI Sussex, who brought BNI to Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, joins Dr. Misner on this week’s podcast.

You need to have a rota of one-to-one meetings of your members. Your 60-second intro is static. A one-to-one is a conversation. It’s dynamic. Nothing opens out your business to your fellow members as effectively as one-to-ones. Here’s a story to illustrate this: when Ken Wilkie was writing The Van Gogh File, instead of just reading all the other books about Vincent Van Gogh, Wilkie interviewed everyone who was still alive who had ever known van Gogh. In doing this, he discovered that Van Gogh had once been in love with his landlady’s daughter Eugenie. He visited Eugenie’s granddaughter and discovered a heretofore unknown sketch that Van Gogh had made of Eugenie.

If you make one-to-one appointments with your fellow BNI members, you might not discover a Van Gogh sketch, but you will discover things and make connections you couldn’t without those in-person meetings.

Brought to you by Networking Now.

Podcast intro recorded by Tony Wolfe.


Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 302 –

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 and who do you have with you today??

Hi Priscilla. I have a good friend and BNI Director, Andrew Hall, with me today. Andrew has been an entrepreneur most of his life. He left Cambridge University and went straight into business. Throughout the 1990’s, Andrew ran a series of art galleries, which is perfect for the story that he is going to share today. He was in London when he did the art galleries and it was a new venture after the art galleries that brought him into BNI.

He has launched some of the very, very first chapters of BNI in the UK and in 2000, he helped take BNI outside of the Western world for the very first time, helping to open up our first chapters in Malaysia. His wife, Jung, and he have gone on to assist in opening chapters in Taiwan and Hong Kong and just opened their first chapter on mainland, China.

I visited the Hong Kong region again just recently and got an amazing warm welcome from his team and Jung’s team there in Hong Kong. I would urge members if you are ever visiting in Hong Kong to drop in on one of the chapters. They always roll out the red carpet for people. Andrew, thank you very much for being on the podcast today.

Thank you. It is an absolute pleasure. You are right. There are some tremendous members in Hong Kong. I am just in Taiwan at the moment and we just had a great Directors meeting here, so things are pretty good at the moment.

I am looking forward to visiting Taiwan one day. I haven’t been there, but I have been to Hong Kong a couple of times. It’s a truly amazing experience. We even had a television show, which was out of the UK, filmed in Hong Kong chapters, The Last Millionaire, which in and of itself an interesting story. For anyone who is interested in it, go to “Pick Up Networking Like a Pro” and you will see it there.

It’s a pretty good watch if you get a chance to see it. It’s a good program.

Andew, today we are going to be talking about one-to-ones and Van Gogh. I know the answer to this but my listeners don’t. What in the world do one-to-ones and Van Gogh .

Well, let me tell you. I am delighted at the chance to speak to you today because I wanted to talk about this because I know that many people who listen to this podcast will be fairly new members. I wanted you to know that when you join BNI, the meeting, the 60 seconds, the ten minute slot, is so large in what we do, it’s very easy to lose sight of what you need to be doing if you want to get the most out of your membership.

You need to have a rota of one-to-one meetings with your fellow members. Focusing on your 60 seconds will bring great results, but it is static and it’s largely a one-way. You speak to the group.

But a one-to-one is a conversation. It’s dynamic. I say something to you. You react to it. I, in turn, respond to you, and we find ourselves in a very different place. Nothing opens the door to business of a member with fellow members as effectively as a one-to-one meeting. Opportunities arise that you never even knew existed.

As you say in my introduction, I used to have art galleries in London. One of the people that I met at that time was a guy named Ken Wilkie. Ken made his life’s work to study Van Gogh. He decided he was going to write the definitive book on Van Gogh. What most would have done in that circumstance is they would have gathered all the books written about that artist and pooled that information into their book. That would be a pretty comprehensive book on Van Gogh.

Ken didn’t do that. What he did instead was to track down every living soul who still had a connection with the artist. He picked up the phone and he went to see them. He was doing one-to-ones. He found out that at one time, Van Gogh had been in love. He fell in love with his landlady’s daughter, a girl called Eugenie. Ken tracked down the last living relative of Eugenie. It was her own granddaughter.

You need to remember that a lot of time had passed since Van Gogh had died, and this lady was very elderly herself by this time. She had no idea that she had a connection to Van Gogh, and there were some pretty awkward moments as the two sat there having tea, trying to figure out what to say to each other. As Ken got up to leave, the old lady said, “There are a few trinkets up in the loft. If you want, you can have a look.”

Ken climbed up into the roof and there, in a box, he found a picture, a photograph from all those years ago of Eugenie. Underneath, there was something else. There was a picture of a house where Van Gogh and Eugenie used to live. He was holding the photograph. This picture contained the hand of the master. You can see this picture today. It hangs in the Van Gogh museum of art in Amsterdam.

Ken could have gotten on the phone a thousand times with that lady, and he never would have known what was in that box if he hadn’t gotten to see her.

I think this is one of the most amazing stories, and I heard you talk about it at a conference. As I recall, this was almost 100 years after Van Gogh’s passing. It was around the 1990s that he wrote the book. Do you remember the title of the book?

Offhand, I don’t. I met him before he actually wrote the book. I actually discovered the book after you asked the question.

People can do a search on the author’s name. What was his name?

Do a search for Ken Wilkie. I think it is available on Amazon. You will find it. It’s a great read.

It’s a great read and a great story. Imagine going to the granddaughter or great granddaughter of the woman who was the landlord where he stayed and talking to her and finding a genuine, authentic Van Gogh drawing in her attic. It’s amazing to me. Just amazing.

You might not find a Van Gogh if you do a one-to-one, but things will happen to you and consistent things will happen to you in your business. I joined BNI now, I think, 15 years ago. I joined when the thing was first starting. I remember I wanted to know how an established group ran. There weren’t many established groups in the UK at that time. I took a decision to drive about 60-70 miles in the morning to go and see a group that had been running for about a year.

When it came to the contribution section of the meeting, something rather special happened because the financial adviser picked up his chair. He said to the group, “This is my chair. I want you to know that I couldn’t sell this chair for 100,000 pounds.” Being a Brit, I was quite keen on having a chair worth 100,000 pounds myself.

I said, “Really? What did you do?”

He said, “I am a financial advisor, and I am well aware that most people aren’t that interested in what I do. So what I did was once a week, I booked a one-to-one appointment with one of the members, just so I could learn a little bit more about their businesses. By the time I had been a member for six months, I was the top referral giver in my chapter. But what I also noticed was that I was doing 45% of my new business from the group. So I stepped it up. I started doing one-to-ones with the members, with referrals, with the visitors who came along. Today, I have been a member for a year and I get 80% of my business just from the fact that I am a member in BNI.”

I have heard many members say the same thing. As a matter of fact, I have a podcast where somebody won an award in a region for having given the most referrals and he also did the most one-to-ones. I asked him at the awards ceremony, “That is probably not a coincidence, is it?”

He said, “Absolutely not.”

They are directly related, and that is what you are saying here. The tie to Van Gogh is that the author of the book went out and met with these people and he just learned things that he never would have learned had he not met with these people one-to-one.

60 second introductions, although they are good and they are important, are not the same as a one-to-one. Do you want to talk about that for a second?

They very much aren’t because you are talking at the group in a sense. If you hit it right and you give a laser specific request and someone has that referral, it works beautifully. But when you sit down one-to-one, things open up. You build relationships and you build trust and you warm to each other. All those things happen that don’t quite happen listening to 60 seconds. Somebody that you didn’t realize had any connection or contacts for you- suddenly you have the dream ones that you have always been looking for.

It’s interesting because it’s about having the education to do the one-to-ones instead of the odd one-to-ones. I am sure that is the key to it. Ken Wilkie talked to everybody. He was absolutely dedicated to what he was doing. The financial adviser I was talking about had a rota of one-to-ones. Probably every one didn’t hit off, but they were hitting on such regular basis because he was doing so many one to ones. That is what was building his business.

One of the things I have seen with people who are doing one-to-ones is sometimes they will do one with somebody and not have any success. This is different from the Van Gogh story. But a year later, they will go back and do a second one to one with the BNI member and then something clicks later. When you have done a whole round of members, don’t stop there. Do follow up one-to-ones. You will be surprised at how well those work as well.

Absolutely because there were things that you said in the first one have been slowly sinking in. And those things you said in the first one- they have been thinking about you and these things are just slowly dropping through. When you sit down again, suddenly it is just far more relevant. You pick up from a different place from where you were when you started last time.

Closing comments before we wrap up?

Let me just say any member, particularly a new member who is listening in- pick up on this because there is a secret here to great success in your membership. If you have a dedication of a one-to-one per week with a fellow chapter member, you will be building up a grand swell of support for yourself in your BNI chapter that will serve you well for years to come.

Don’t forget. People do leave BNI. Let’s be honest. People do leave BNI. When those people leave, if you want them to remain a great referral source for you, if you put the investment of building up a little trust with them outside, perhaps, of the meeting, you will find that they stay in your support structure much, much longer.

Very true. Listen, you mentioned 60 second presentations, and I think those are really important. To me, it’s sort of Networking 101. It’s the beginning. You have to do it and you have to do it well. But if you want to go deeper, Networking 401, it’s really about the one-to-ones. This is a great story. It’s something that will remind members of the importance of meeting people and how much deeper you can go.

Andrew, thank you so much for being out on the podcast today and for all of your hospitality as I visit your regions around the world. I’ll turn it back over to you, Priscilla.

Okay, thank you. I just want to compliment Andrew on what a wonderful story teller you are.

Thank you. It’s a real pleasure to be on.

Great. Thank you so much. Well, that’s it for this week, and 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. says

    This is excellent Andrew & Ivan – thank you! We’ve just started tracking 1-2-1s in our region on the PALMS and this is a great story to get them realise the value of 1-2-1s. I’ll be sharing this with the teams next week.

  2. says

    One-to-ones is really about building lasting relationships that becomes business partners for life.

Solutions-focused comments are welcome