Today’s episode is inspired by a letter Dr. Misner got from the vice-president of a struggling BNI chapter who wanted to know how to keep the long-term goal of building the chapter in mind when facing personal attacks from members?
Dr. Misner’s response was to refer this VP back to an article he wrote in SuccessNet in 2006, called “Addition by Subtraction.” The chapter in that story was facing a problem with absenteeism.
In the article, Ivan and Beth Misner take turns explaining that the way to grow healthy rose bushes is to prune them back—and the way to grow a healthy BNI chapter is to get rid of the members who don’t show up or don’t participate. BNI thrives on accountability.
This episode is brought to you by our new sponsor, Ask Ivan Misner.
Complete Transcription of BNI Podcast Episode 143 –
Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by AskIvanMisner.com, which is a new Web site where you can ask any question you have about networking.
I’m Priscilla Rice, and I’m coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, California, and I’m joined on the phone today by the founder and the chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner.
Hello, Ivan. How are you and where are you?
I’m doing great, Priscilla. This week I’m an BNI headquarters doing leadership team training – or I should say director training. We bring in directors from all over the world several times a year and do about three full days of training. And then after the training, we bring them over to my house for dinner, and that’s what we just did last night. It’s all about education, and that’s why we do these podcasts, trying to teach people how to do this effectively, and we make sure that our directors get really good training with a 700-800 page manual and go through the whole program.
Wow! That’s impressive. So what are you going to share with us?
I’ve got a fun topic today, an interesting topic. Maybe “fun” is the wrong word; I like it, but it is really based on a letter I received from somebody. The topic is Addition by Subtraction. And I’m talking about this today because I received a letter – actually an e-mail from a BNI member who’s a vice president, and he talks about his frustration and the burnout relating to rebuilding his chapter. And he said they are, for the first time, following the rules and guidelines for BNI, and he really feels like he is hitting a wall.
He’s the VP, and the VP gets all the dirty work; he recognizes that in his e-mail. And he said he has a tough problem, how do you keep the long term goal in mind of building the chapter while there are so many attacks personally. He said, “I’ve been called a tyrant by a member of my chapter who was late nine times and had missed several meetings.” And he had a conversation with the guy, and he didn’t take it well and called the VP, the poor VP a tyrant.
So this really is for members everywhere but particularly for you, VP, who sent me this letter. I hope you listen to this podcast because I want to share some information that’s really based on an article I wrote a few years back called Addition by Subtraction. And if you’re listening to this podcast and you want to see the original article, go to BNISuccessNet.com, BNISuccessNet.com. Do a search on “Addition by Subtraction,” and you’ll get this article. We’ll also try to put a link to this article on the podcast so you can go directly to it.
But here’s basically how the article goes, and this is my answer to the VP, how do you handle people that get this upset because you’re doing the right thing, you’re trying to turn the chapter around. So to him, I would say, “Have faith.” The best way to build the chapter, you want to add to your chapter is to subtract from your chapter. And I say that because this article that I wrote, and it’s done as a “he said/she said” article. I write a little bit, and then my wife writes a little bit. And I talk about the fact that I was in a local chapter and I asked how things were going, and she said, “Great. We’re up to 35 members, but only 25 are coming every week.”
I was like, “Whoa, wait a minute. That’s not great. If 25% of your membership is missing, that’s not good at all.”
Then we had my wife talk a little bit, and she talks about gardening. Big transition, but she talks about gardening and how, if you really want – we’ve got like 75 rose bushes at my house. If you really want the rose bushes to grow, you have to prune them back. You have to cut the rose bushes back in order for them to bloom.
And that’s what the whole article is about, is talking about the fact that if you want a chapter to grow, sometimes you have to prune the chapter, and people aren’t going to be happy about that. “Oh, my goodness! You actually have expectations of them? They actually have to show up on time? They can’t miss meetings?”
Look, this is a business organization. It’s okay to have rules and regulations that help raise the bar and the quality of participation. BNI is not for everybody; I get that; it’s okay. We want people who are committed, and the truth is this vice president is doing the right things by focusing on accountability. And Priscilla, we’ve talked about this in a lot of podcasts.
One of the strengths of BNI is that all the members, or many of the members, are friends. One of the weaknesses of BNI is that many of the members are friends.
It is both a strength and a weakness. And the truth is, if your chapter is struggling and hasn’t been following the program, the best way to turn it around is to prune it back, to let everybody know that we’re going to start following the program again, get everybody on board. And those people who aren’t willing to do what everybody else is willing to do, it might not be the right group for them. And so he’s doing the right things by starting to focus on absences and tardies.
The one part of this article that I end that I think is really important is a study that I did many years ago with two chapters, and it started because this one chapter had 14 members. And they came to me and they said, “Attendance is nonsense.” It’s what they said to me, Priscilla. “Attendance is nonsense. Whether people show up or not is not going to make a difference in the amount of referrals, and we’re going to prove it to you.”
I said, “Okay.”
“We’re going to start following the attendance policy, and we’re going to track it and we’re going to show you that it doesn’t make a difference.”
I said, “Okay. That’s fair. If you show me it doesn’t make a difference, I’ll stop bothering you about attendance.”
Originally, this was published in 1994, and it was republished in this article.
So they had an average of 2.1 absences per member per quarter. That’s a lot of absences. Fourteen members and they were passing 188 referrals a quarter. Once they started focusing on absenteeism, they dropped absenteeism down by 52 percent, so it want to one absence per member per quarter. Their number of members went up 29 percent, and their number of referrals went up 43 percent to 269 referrals.
They did it in another quarter, absenteeism dropped to .6, .6 absences per member. The number of members jumped up to 21 percent, a 50 percent jump in membership, and referrals went up 62 percent to 305 referrals. A 71 percent drop in absenteeism, a 62 percent increase in referrals. That is a direct correlation.
Here’s the funny part of the story. The chapter came up to me when we originally published that back in 1994 in a printed version of SuccessNet, and they said, “We don’t believe these numbers.” Oh, by the way, the [original] chapter started following the attendance policy all the time. They said, “Never mind. It is correct.” And so they followed the program.
I had another chapter come to me and said, “We don’t believe these numbers.”
I said, “Why?”
He said, “These guys are in your pocket. They’ll just do whatever you say.”
“They’re an independent chapter. They did this on their own.”
He didn’t believe me. He said they wanted to do it, but they wanted to do it one month longer – or one quarter longer; they wanted to do it for three quarters instead of two quarters.
I said, “Sure, fine.”
And he said, “You have to publish our results, because I don’t believe it’ll make a difference over a nine month period.”
So I said, “I promise I’ll publish the results.”
He was right, it didn’t – he said, “I don’t believe that they’ll be the same.” And he was right; they weren’t the same. They had a 53 percent drop in absentees and a 164 percent increase in referrals.
A 90 percent increase in membership.
And all they did was follow the attendance policy. And that’s not all. They also focused on the visitor host and they did a few other things right, but they just focused on following the program.
So to every chapter out there that’s made the decision, the tough decision to follow the system, go read this article because it shows that there’s a direct correlation between attendance and referrals. 53 percent drop in absenteeism led to a 164 percent increase in referrals over a nine month period.
That, vice president who wrote me the e-mail, that’s the reason why you are doing the right thing by focusing on the fundamentals in your group. Keep it up. Don’t let it bother you that people are resistant to the change, because they will be. People don’t like change, but this is good change. And it will make a difference for your chapter.
And that’s my message for today, Priscilla.
It’s a good message. I just have a question as to why he had to take all the heat and why it wasn’t just a leadership team decision.
That’s a good question, and the truth is, the VP is the one who usually does take the heat because they’re the spokesperson for the membership committee; they’re the chair of the membership committee. But I think it would be good if an entire chapter, if the leadership team can get behind the vice president, it makes it a little bit easier. The worst thing a leadership team can do, and he did not say that his group was doing this, but the worst thing they could do would be to say, “Hey, look, it’s not my responsibility; it’s the VP doing this,” to wash their hands of it.
What they really need to do is to say, “We support this. This is in the chapter’s best interest. Go read that article, Addition by Subtraction. You’ll see why it’s important to do this. And so if you get a leadership team who is supporting the VP, you’re going to have less of this. But there’s always going to be – the person who brings the bad tidings is the person that’s going to get most of the anxiety from the chapter.
So I understand. Just hang in there. You’re doing the right thing, and I promise you, if you continue to do it and you do it in a tactful way, don’t be a fascist about it, be polite, be professional, but be tough, tough love. And you will absolutely build your chapter.
I urge people listening to the podcast, go read that article, Addition by Subtraction. It was written by my wife and I a few years ago. We’ll include the link here.
You’re so welcome. And, Ivan, I was wondering if you could tell the listeners a little bit about our new sponsor.
You know, we do have a new sponsor, AskIvanMisner.com. This is a Web site that was developed by Alex Mandossian. He is like the world’s expert on Ask Web sites, and Alex has put this site together, and we’re working with him on it. Just think about any question you have about business networking, go to that Web site, and type in your question. It’s free! When you type in your question, you’ll get a link that will tell you when to the phone call is. You may go and listen to the phone call live for free, no cost. If you want a recorded copy of the phone call, it’s $15 or less for the recorded copy of it, but free, listen to the telebridge for free live. And it’s once a month – at this point, it’s once a month. That may change over time.
But go to AskIvanMisner.com, throw a question at us. It can be either about BNI or about networking in general. This is not just a BNI Web site; it’s a networking Web site. Go check it out, see what you think.
Great! Okay, then.
Well, listeners, I’d like to remind you that this podcast has been brought to you by AskIvanMisner.com, new Web site where you can ask any question you have about networking. Thanks so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope you’ll join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.