Dr. Misner has three guests today: Regina Russo and Lisa Frederick from the BNI Inner Circle chapter in western Pennsylvania and Phillip Pasek from the BNI Referral Net chapter in Palm Harbor, Florida. Deanna Tucci-Schmitt suggested the topic.
When the BNI Inner Circle chapter suddenly grew from 34 members to 50, they had some concerns about how to handle their growth. They listened to Episode 186 on 50-70 members at a BNI meeting but they still had some questions about fast growth and categories, so Regina arranged a conference call between Lisa and the presidents of groups in the Florida region that were successfully managing 50+ members.
If you’re in a chapter that has fewer than 55 members, here’s some information about what to do when you get to that point.
The major concerns that the long-term members had were
- Will we have to cut down on the time for commercials and the presentations?
- How do we keep the close connections and intimacy in the group so we can keep making referrals?
- How do we define categories so that they’re still broad enough to allow everyone to get enough business?
- Do we still have to have visitors? Aren’t we big enough?
- What do goals look like for a 55+ member chapter?
Phil responds that change can be uncomfortable; the long-term members need to experience the added energy from the larger group. As for categories, the profession you put down on your application is your classification, and there’s no place for classification cowboys. As for goals, the more members you have, the more thank yous for close of business. Increased membership means increased goals.
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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 where are you?
Hi Priscilla. Thank you. I am this weekend in Austin, Texas meeting with some members and doing some recordings for Del Fuego. If you have heard any of our podcasts, listeners, I have talked about several of the recording that I have done for Del Fuego, like the Visitor Experience, which I highly recommend. We are doing some new recordings this week, so I am keeping busy.
I have with me three guests. I think we have a world record here for a BNI podcast. Three guests on this one podcast. They were recommended by our Director in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my home town. Deanna Tucci Schmidt recommended this topic and I love the topic. We have with us Regina Russo. Regina is the Sales Director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. She is also a Director Consultant for the BNI Inner Circle chapter in Western Pennsylvania. And Lisa Frederick. Lisa is President of Unity Printing Company and she is also President of the BNI Inner Circle in western Pennsylvania as well. Phillip Pasek. Did I get that right, Phillip?
Phillip Pasek is with Fast Breaks Entertainment and his is President of the BNI Referral Net in Palm Harbor, Florida. So we have someone from Tom Fleming’s region, I believe and then a couple of people from Deanna Tucci Schmidt’s region.
Let me start with Regina. Regina, tell me what led to us getting to this topic. The topic today is How Big Is Too Big? How did this come up? I love the concept but I think it is important to lay the groundwork for our listeners to understand why this topic is being addressed today.
Sure. The BNI Inner Circle chapter was the first chapter in the western Pennsylvania region to reach the 50+ member mark. They had been at 34 members pretty consistently for years and had a very successful branded Visitor’s Day in May and added 16 new members in one week. So they quickly found themselves at the 50 member mark and had some concerns and questions about the growth.
One of the first support tools that I offered to them was the podcast of 50-70 Members at a BNI meeting, which helped with the agenda and starting the meeting on time. But they still had some other questions about member’ concerns about the fast growth and categories, so we arranged a teleconference call for the officers, Lisa, to talk with the successful presidents running 50+ members in the Florida region as well, so they could learn from each other.
Phil is from Tampa and will be talking a little bit at the end of this podcast. By the way, for the listeners, this is going to be a two part podcast. We have so much content that we wanted to put this into two. Regina, you mentioned about the 50-70 members at a meeting. That is episode 318 for those of you listening to today’s podcast. Anything else you would add to that, Regina, before I introduce Lisa?
No, I don’t believe so.
Okay. So Lisa, you are with the BNI Inner Circle chapter and you have had several questions for Phil and have come to some conclusions as a result of it. So let me run a couple of questions by you. This is really valuable, I think, if you are listening to this, if you are in a chapter that is under 55 members, there is some information on what to do and what to think about when you get to that point and a little bit possibly about how you get to that point from people who are working on this. So my first question for you, Lisa, is how do you handle the concerns of long term members who are uncomfortable getting too large.
I see that sometimes with chapters of 20 members. They don’t want to get up to 30. That’s too big. So what do you do when you are at 50 or more?
That’s one of the items that the members brought up. The older members were very concerned about the future. So we have 45 second commercials and two 7 minute speakers per week. The members are now saying since we are over 55, are we going to be cut down even further? They were also concerned about losing closeness within the group because we were very tightknit people and now we have added 16 and increased our chapter by a third in size. What do we do now? We want to maintain the relationships so that we can refer constantly?
So did you come up with some answers to this, or is this what you want Phil to respond to?
This is what we want to hear from Phil.
Okay good. Got it. These are important questions to ask and I hear it even when we are talking about smaller numbers. Like I said, 20 members going to 30 members. We certainly have those kinds of concerns. So those are some of the concerns that your long term members had. Another concern is how to handle dividing the categories so there wasn’t too much overlap. Tell me about that. Tell me what the members’ concerns were there and how you handled that.
The members were concerned about taking the categories and dividing them too small to where they can’t get enough business out of it to make it profitable for them. So they are very concerned. Another concern is about inviting more guests. Do we have to have more guests? Do we have to have another Visitor’s Day? It’s from the older members in the chapter, which is understandable, but their frame of reference is completely different than our new members because any members that visit now are used to seeing 50 people plus in a room, whereas for the older members, it’s a little bit overwhelming for them. So we really need to address these concerns of the older members.
Alright. For those of you listening, we are going to have Phil touch upon this now. What we are going to do on our next podcast is really go deeper and sort of have a seminal discussion between all of us on these issues. So Phil, if you don’t mind answering some of these questions now on this podcast, time permitting, we will follow up with more dialogue in our next podcast.
Our third topic is what the goals look like for a 55 member plus chapter. Lisa, can you tell me what were the questions or concerns on this particular issue?
Yes I can. Again, the older members are saying, “Am I still supposed to invite people? Do we still invite visitors now? Don’t we have enough? We don’t need any more insurance agents. We don’t need more lawyers.” That’s what we hear.
Yeah, alright. So those are the three questions that seem to be coming up a lot with your group. Refresh my memory here. You started off at what size and you go to fifty something pretty quickly, yes?
Correct. We started off probably in the high 20’s and then we have been adding members over this past year and then we had the Visitor Day. We had 48 visitors there that day and 16 of them joined that day.
By the way, if you get 16 people to join at one meeting, you have done a great job. I see chapters often who will throw a big Visitor’s Day. They do a lot of work to get this great Visitor’s Day and they get a lot of visitors to show up and then they run a meeting that sucks. That’s a technical term. And nobody joins and they can’t figure out why.
Clearly, you guys ran a great meeting because if you get 16 people to sign up- and you probably had more apply but didn’t accept everyone- that’s a great ratio. Plus, you never know how many people are really potentially qualified. You have people who show up who aren’t qualified. You take them out. You have people who show up and sign up and you can’t take them, so getting 16 people, you obviously did a great Visitor’s Day. I want to point that out because just doing a Visitor’s Day is not enough. You have to really knock it out of the park with doing a good meeting.
So you did all of this. You have members who are concerned and then you had a conversation with Phil. We have Phil here. Phil, let’s take a stab in the remaining minutes that we have to sort of give me an overview of these three things and in the next podcast, we will go deeper on them if that is okay with you. In a brief way, how do you handle the concerns of long term members who are uncomfortable with getting too large?
I was born and raised in the big group. So that is how I started my experience with BNI. For them, it is a smaller group and they are a tighter knit community. So with us, we have 55 members all day in our chapter and have no problem. But when I kind of see their chapter, it’s kind of like that fish that can’t grow out of that fishbowl. The larger the aquarium, the larger that chapter is going to flourish.
The three points they brought up was how do you handle concerns with long term members that are uncomfortable? Well, frankly, they have to kind of experience it on a different level. They are uncomfortable. Growth is not going to go with that.
How do you divide categories if there is overlapping? That’s simple. In our area, whatever your profession is on your application is your seat. So that is the seat that you hold. For members who have an issue with that, that is not- I believe we use the term “category cowboy”. Is that right, Ivan?
Yeah, category cowboy. We used to call them category hogs and we got in a lot of trouble when we called people hogs. We changed it actually to “classification cowboy”. That’s much less rude.
Yeah. And finally, what goals look like for a 55+ member, our goals are increasing because we have more members and the more members we have, the more thank you for closed business, the better quality referrals we are getting through one to ones. We can invite more visitors because we have such a large group.
The dynamic, too- there’s energy in the room. When you have a meeting with 35 people, the energy is not as exciting as when you have a 55-60 member group. It is so much different. I have experienced both in our area, and I tell you, the bigger the group, the more positive energy that you are having. That meeting runs like clockwork if you have a very president time dinger.
I couldn’t agree more. I have seen groups of 20 members and when they go to 30-35, the energy level is just completely different. Much higher. I have seen groups of 35 who have gone to 55 and again, it’s another almost an exponential leap in terms of energy and the amount of business. Lisa, did you find a similar kind of change in the energy level of the group when you went from high 20’s to 50 some members?
Yes. Absolutely. We just had a gentleman join a couple months ago and he said he told his wife, “I don’t care if I get any business or not. I just come because I love the energy.” So he really appreciated the energy in the room. People can tell right away. They just say it is unbelievable.
I don’t know if you guys are morning people or not. This will surprise most of the listeners. I am not. I never have been. I have always been a late night person. But having done this for 30 years, it is a different experience for me and I always wake up without an alarm clock now. I used to have to set three to get up. When I started BNI, I hated early mornings. So one of the things that really shocked me early in the process was when people said that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday- whatever day we met- was the best day of the week for me. I loved getting up and going to the meetings because I walked out so energized.
I have to be honest. When I listed, in my mind, all of the benefits of participating in BNI, getting up early at o’dark thirty to be energized for the day was never on my list. I was always surprised when people said that, but I hear that all the time.
I agree with you. Our meetings are on Wednesday morning and I said halfway through the week, it gives me the energy to get through the rest of the way through the week.
Yeah. Listen, we have a lot more still that I think we can over that will benefit our members all around the world because it is the 50+ member chapters that are the powerhouse groups in the organization and I want to talk about that a little bit in our next podcast. So I invite all three of you to be on the next podcast next week. We are going to go a little bit deeper with these topics and talk a little more so that our members all around the world can use this content to help build their chapters.
Priscilla, let me turn it over to you and we will continue this dialogue on next week’s podcast.
Okay. Well, that sounds great. Thanks so much, Dr. Misner. I just want 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.