The title of today’s podcast comes from the late Paul Harvey’s radio broadcast. It’s “the rest of the story” about Ivan Misner and the founding of BNI.
When Ivan was six, his family moved from Pittsburgh to south-central LA. He wanted to be a lawyer, but couldn’t afford to attend a four-year private college, even with scholarships. He went first to a community college and then to a state school. He was accepted to law school, but realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer and went to graduate school in management instead. At the age of 24, he was supervising 500 people for the Census Bureau…making $16,000 a year.
This cured him of any desire to work for the government, and before long he set up his own consulting practice. Speaking and referrals were his main source of business. He created BNI in order to grow his own business. At the time, he didn’t have a clear vision of where he wanted to go professionally. Like most successful entrepreneurs, he’s bounced around a little bit.
Anyone can achieve success. But don’t just do what you think you should do. Do what you love. If you don’t do what you love, you won’t love what you do. And since you need persistence and commitment to succeed, it helps to have that passion.
Brought to you by Networking Now.
Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 203 –
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 today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello, Ivan. How are you and what is this title, The Rest of the Story, all about?
Well, it’s- I didn’t know what else to call this. It’s an interesting podcast this week. It’s a personal story more than an educational piece. The title comes from actually Paul Harvey, who passed away a number of years ago, but he used to do a radio broadcast. He incorporated into his radio broadcast a piece that was called the Rest of the Story. It really dealt with an element of what was in his news either that day or some other day that was behind the scenes. It was the rest of the story. It was the story that wasn’t really talked about in the news but an important aspect or an important part of the result that ended up being the story. He would always end with, “That’s the rest of the story.”
I thought that might make a good title for this because I am talking in a way about what happened to help me create BNI, but it’s part of the story that I rarely talk about. I did an interview in the San Gabriel Valley Business Journal not long ago. One of my staff members read the story and she said, “You ought to do this as a podcast.” I said to her, “Why would I do that as a podcast?” She said, “Because members would love to hear the story.”
I didn’t understand why and she said, “Because a lot of people think that you come from wealth or that you come from a special background. It would be of value for people to see that anybody can go from anywhere to create a successful business.” So she kind of talked me into talking a little bit about what that interview consisted of that I did with the San Gabriel Valley Business Journal.
With that interview, I basically started with where and how I grew up. I moved from Pittsburgh, PA. We moved from Pittsburgh, PA to south central Los Angeles. At the age of six, I lived in south central LA, which is a pretty tough neighborhood. By the time I was seven, I moved to the Azusa area. I went to elementary, middle school and high school at the Azusa Unified School District, which was definitely a lower middle class community.
I always wanted to be a lawyer, so in high school, I really prepared myself mentally, emotionally to go in the direction of becoming an attorney. I had been accepted into college. I was actually accepted into Occidental College, but I couldn’t afford it. Even though I had some scholarships that they had given me, I couldn’t afford it. I knew I would go to graduate school probably, a lawyer. I just couldn’t afford four years of private school and then graduate school.
So I turned down the scholarships at Occidental and went to a little community college in Azusa, called Citrus College. From there, I went to a state college, Cal Poly Pomona, and I actually received my bachelors degree in political science, of all things. Political science. It was there when I got my bachelors degree that I applied and was accepted to law school.
I have to tell you, Priscilla, something happened. I don’t know what. I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t know why but I decided as a young man 22 years old that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t want to be one anymore. I just knew that’s not the direction I wanted to go. So I went on to graduate school in management.
Interestingly enough, my direction early on was in the public sector, public administration. My first management job was in 1980 with the Department of Commerce. I actually worked with the Department of Commerce at the station of the US Census Bureau in Covena. I was 24 years old and supervised 300 people. At 24. Later that year, they moved me to the North Hollywood office and then it was a bigger office, so I supervised about 500 people there. You’ll laugh at this. I made a whopping $16,000 a year salary.
Did you do a good job, Ivan?
That’s why they promoted me to the North Hollywood office and actually asked me if I wanted to go to New York, but I turned that one down. But it was great experience. It was trial by fire. I learned how to manage people, really, through necessity. I probably hired and fired more people in that one year than I did in the next 20 years combined. It was an amazing experience. Even though there wasn’t much pay, it was incredible work experience for me.
The problem was I learned that I could never work for government, government jobs. It’s insanity. The bureaucracy just drove me crazy. I found out I couldn’t work for government anymore. I got a job working as the plant manager for a small manufacturing plant in Los Angeles. That was the first time that I was really working for the public sector. In between, I worked at a transportation company. That was funded mostly by the government. I didn’t like that and went to work as a manager for a light manufacturing company.
All of this is what led me up to finally deciding to go on my own. Most people know this story about starting BNI. I decided to start a consulting practice and most of the way that I got my business was through referrals and speaking engagements. So I did a lot of speaking engagements and then really referrals were the best way to get business. I put together BNI as a way of getting referrals for my consulting practice. I had lost a big client that I had just started with a year earlier. When he didn’t renew, I really needed referrals desperately and put BNI together.
That is sort of the rest of the story in what led up to getting BNI. I think the reason that my staff thought that this was valuable was really the whole idea of- and I think I’ve said this before in the podcast- I’m a 20-year overnight success. It took 20 years to build this business, but it took a good 5 or 10 years before I even started this business, and I didn’t really have a vision of exactly where I wanted to go professionally.
I think particularly new people in business look around at people who have been around for 20, 30, 40 years and finally achieved some level of success and they think this person has it all together. They don’t realize that almost everybody I’ve met that has achieved a level of success has bounced around a little bit. I certainly didn’t have it all worked out in my head as to what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go and how to get there. I mean, I had ideas, but I changed careers. I changed focus from political science and being lawyer to working for the government and going out on my own.
I think the message in this is anyone can achieve success in whatever it is they choose to do as long as they focus on hard work, dedication, and really a systematic plan to achieve the goals and objective that you have- and most importantly to do what you love. Don’t just do what you think you should be doing, which is what would have happened if I had become a lawyer. You have to do what you love because if you don’t do what you love, you’re not going to love what you do. I think that is a really important piece of being successful in any business that you decide.
I think all of that is true, but I think you also need a little bit of talent in the field that you have chosen.
No question about that. It certainly helps if you have a little bit of talent in the field that you’ve chose. No question. But I’ll be honest with you. I am not always the smartest guy in the room. I’m not always the best at doing something in a group of people. But I’ll tell you what I’m almost always the best at.
Knowing what you’re not good at?
Nope. That is a an important piece of it. I’ll tell you what I’m really good at. I’m persistent as heck.
I’m like a dog with a bone. So I may not be the smartest guy in the room. I may not be the most talented guy in the room, but I’m generally the most persistent person in the room. Not necessarily in your face persistent but committed persistent. So I think you do have to have talent. There is no question about that. But you can be very successful if you are consistent and persistent at applying the talents that you do have in a way that is effective.
Take networking. I’ve been called the greatest networker in the world. That’s so not true. It really is not true. I don’t consider myself the greatest networker in the world. I am pretty good at what I do as a networker, but these are skills that are learned, not given to me. I wasn’t born with them. I think it’s that persistence and commitment to learn how to do things better because I wasn’t very good at it.
If you are listening to this podcast and are new to it, go back and find the podcast that I did on OMG I’m an Introvert. I think that might put it into perspective for you because there are a lot of things that I came into this field of networking with weaknesses not strengths but developed those. It’s one of the reasons why I have achieved some level of success.
I certainly have witnessed your dedication and consistent energy, just through this podcast. We are on number 203 and that’s says something right there.
Yeah, like a dog with a bone.
I hope the listeners found this interesting because I was not going to do this topic. It was really my staff here at BNI headquarters who said no, you really need to share this with members. Drop me a note and let me know if you found this of value. Really, the overriding message here for business people is anyone can achieve a level of success. You don’t have to have anything handed to you. As a matter of fact, in many ways, I think people who are handed things end up becoming a little complacent. I think that people who have to really work at achieving something are hungrier. It’s that hunger that I see in people’s eyes, tied to talent, tied to persistence, tied to knowledge that helps to truly make people successful. I think it was that hunger and a little bit of talent that helped me build BNI into an international organization.
Well great. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. I really appreciate it.
Thank you, Priscilla.
Okay. 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.