Do you have a burning question for Dr. Misner? Ask on his Facebook page.
This week’s question comes from Dave in the US. Members of his group ask “Why” about everyone of BNI’s rules. (You can learn more about the attendance rule in Episode 436.)
The answers to this question are in Chapter 5 of Givers Gain, discussed in Episode 31 of this podcast. Every single policy in BNI was created by the members or approved by the members through the Board of Advisors, which is made up of BNI members. No one can present and defend decisions to a chapter like a member of that chapter.
Without rules, a game like ice hockey wouldn’t work. Without rules, BNI would be chaos. BNI members have learned this the hard way over the year. BNI won’t work without accountability, and without systems in place, there’s no way to have accountability. BNI’s entire infrastructure is all due to the experience and input of BNI members.
Another podcast that addresses this topic is Episode 162: “BNI Light Just Isn’t Right.”
Brought to you by Networking Now.
Complete Transcription of Episode 440 –
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, California. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and the Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello, Ivan. How are you and where are you?
Hey, I am in Costa Rica this week and part of next week as well. I am here for a TLC conference. Transformational Leadership Conference. I am also here to visit the BNI region for the first time in Costa Rica. It should be really exciting. I will meet members next week.
I am really excited to be here. I mean, going to new countries for BNI is fantastic.
Yeah. You have to brush up on your Spanish.
Muy poquito. I am not very, but my wife is very fluent in Spanish. Very fluent in Spanish. So I just need to take her with me everywhere.
That sounds good. So what is this topic: why the rules?
I have been doing this month a lot of Ask Ivan questions. For those of you who have a question for me, stay connected with me on my Facebook page, facebook.com/IvanMisner.BNIfounder. I will put a link in this podcast trascript. You can go there. Every now and then we ask, “What questions do you have for Ivan?” Also, you can post the question on the podcast. I will get to as many questions as I can.
Unfortunately, I can’t answer them personally- you know, individually. But I will do them in these podcasts as much as possible.
This question comes from Dave in the US. He says, “Members in our group are looking at every single BNI rule and they are saying, ‘Why? Why are there absences? Why do we have assigned duties?'” Poor Dave. He said, “It gets really tiresome. Sometimes I feel like a parent more than a business associate working on keeping relationships.”
So I just thought I would talk a little bit about why we have policies. Why we have rules. We talked a few weeks ago, Priscilla, you may remember, about the attendance policy. Incredible results from a couple of chapters that tracked absences and what results they had when they reduced them. So go back to that podcast if you are listening and want information on that particular policy.
I want to talk about it in general. Why the rules? Why the policies? I want to refer you, the listeners, to the book, Givers Gain. One of the reasons I wrote Givers Gain- every new member who joins BNI in almost every country- there are still a few countries who aren’t giving the book yet because they are still small. Costa Rica is an example. They are a small country. They aren’t giving out Givers Gain. As they get bigger, they all hand out Givers Gain.
Go to chapter five. I talked about it in a podcast a number of years ago, so you can find out about chapter five of givers gain here on the podcast. In chapter five, I talk about the Board of Advisors, and that is what I want to discuss here.
The Board of Advisors created or approved every single policy in BNI. I think I may have said this in the absenteeism podcast. You know, sometimes people ask me, “Why did you create this rule?”
I tell them, “I didn’t create it. You did.”
I didn’t create it. “Not you personally, but you through the Board of Advisors.” Every single policy in BNI was created by you, the members, or approved by the members. There are some policies that I wrote in the beginning that really were good and they approved them as is. But there is no member policy in the organization that has not been approved by or created by the Board of Advisors.
I wanted to tell a little story about how I created the Board. I don’t think I have ever told that story, have I, Priscilla?
I created the Board. Honestly, it was one big issue, one problem that I had. I created a task force. I talk about it in chapter five of the book, so you can get this in writing. What happened is I created BNI in a way that couldn’t scale very effectively. Most people know when I started BNI, it wasn’t my intention to have thousands of chapters all over the world. I wanted a chapter to get some referrals for my friend and for myself.
It snowballed. It just took off. But one of the things I really did wrong is one of the reasons I wrote Givers Gain. I wanted to show people that it didn’t come out as a fully formed organization. We learned through trial and error over many years.
One of the first big things I did wrong was the marketing efforts were decentralized. So each chapter basically created their own marketing materials. They had a little fund to do that. It talk about this in detail. Read the book. But you know what they mostly did with the marketing money?
What? Had parties?
Yeah. Really good parties. Really, really good parties. You know, of course, the idea was they were going to put together a mixer and people would come to the mixer and then join. It didn’t work as a marketing tool.
I went to one chapter that spent their entire year’s marketing money on this bog mixer and said this was going to be the thing that was really going to build their chapter. They had about 75% of their members show up and no visitors. This was 1985. They spent about $17 per person and they were assuming 70 people in attendance. You know, they had the best hors devours I have ever had. $17 a person in 1985. That was a lot. I remember just standing there thinking I am eating the marketing budget for this group.
The next week, I was at another chapter. There was this attorney. He was the President. I said, “What are you doing with the marketing moneys?”
He said, “You know what? The truth is I am a lawyer. This isn’t something I should be doing. You are the Founder. You should be coordinating this, not me.”
I was like, okay. You know, there was some truth to that. What I actually did, Priscilla, is I went out and I took a second on my house, a line of credit mortgage, and I went out and designed a lot of material and produced brochures, visitor information sheets, visitor cards. A whole lot of materials.
And I decided to put together a task force. This is how the Board of advisors came about. I put together a task force to evaluate one thing- the issue of the marketing fund. I had a large number of members I invited as a percentage. I wanted on representative for each chapter. Most of the chapters that were in existence had a great turn out.
We talked about it and we all agreed that the way we had set it up was too decentralized and unorganized. There was no system in place and nobody had anything that was effective with the money. They all agreed. Somebody said what we really need to do was to centralize our efforts. When I heard that I said I couldn’t agree more.
So I went out and I produced some things to show what we could do if we centralized some things. I just pulled out boxes and boxes of stuff and showed them what could be done. They said, “This is awesome. We need to reorganize the way you have created this organization and centralize the marketing efforts.”
I said, “That’s great, but if I go back to the chapters and say, ‘You know that marketing fund that you have? You are not going to have it anymore,’ they are not going to like that too much.”
They said, “You are absolutely right. You can’t do that.”
I said, “Well, what do I do?”
They said, “No, no. We need to go do that. Because if we go and tell the chapter that we are members just like you, especially in our own chapter, and we said this is what we wanted to do and here is what we can get. Can we take boxes of material with us?”
I said, “Yeah. Take as much as you want.”
They said, “If we go and tell the chapters, then they are going to buy into it more than if you go and say we are not going to do this anymore.”
I was blown away. I was blown away by the commitment of members to go do something that would create a stronger organization even though it may not be a popular one. They went in and it was a slam dunk with virtually all of the chapters. We made the transition.
It was at that point that I came to the realization that I had to have members involved to help make the decisions on the policies in the organization because nobody can present it and implement it, support it, defend it like a member. After that task force met, I asked most of those people if they would like to stay on for a formal Board of Advisors.
That happened in early 1986. So in our 31 years, our Board of Advisors has been around for 30 of the 31 years.
With any of the same advisors?
No one has been in for the whole 30 years. We have had members who were in – and we have some members now who have been on the board for 10 or 15, probably 15 years. They have been members for probably 20. But none of the original founding members on the Board of Advisors is on today. That is a long time. We still have a couple of members who have been members for 31 years but not on the Board.
So that is how the Board of Advisors came along and that’s not the why- that is how the Board of Advisors came about. Let’s talk about the why because people don’t care about how to do anything until they understand the why. The why is, I think, so important and here is an overview of the why the policies are so.
Something like hockey, ice hockey. Ice hockey without rules would be boxing on ice. People would just want to fight. It wouldn’t work. The game wouldn’t work. BNI without rules, without guidelines, without systems and processes would be chaos.
I love when I hear other independent networks say, “We are BNI without the rules.” It drives members crazy when they see that. I like it. It will virtually always fail. One of the strengths of a network is that most of the members are friends, but one of the weaknesses of a network is that most of the members are friends. Friends don’t like to hold friends accountable.
This isn’t a social organization. This is a business organization. If you want to be successful in a business organization, there has to be accountability. If there has to be accountability, then there need to be some systems in place and rules. So the bottom line is if you want results, you have to create an infrastructure to get results.
I felt from experience that the best way to get that infrastructure was to have the members create the policies that the members would follow. That is sort of the thumbnail sketch of how we created and why we created the Board of Advisors.
Good. It sounds like it is working.
Oh, it is working so incredibly well. The decisions that they have come up with over the last 30 years, I think, are one of the reasons why this organization is as successful as it is today.
You know, in the early days, we met once a month. And we met at my house around the coffee table or the dinner table. Or we met a one of the member’s houses, around their dinner table. Every month. We did that for several years. Over time, we dealt with most of the issues and problems. Then we went to meeting a few times a year.
Now, because we are global, we now do webinars. We meet anywhere from two to four times a year via webinars where we get members from all around the world. Now there are over a hundred members of the Board of Advisors. They get together via webinar and talk about issues and take votes on a number of – mostly not policies but tweaking and improving existing policies.
Yeah, yeah it does.
So Dave, I hope that answers your question. BNI without the rules would just be a social club. If you want results and success, you have to have some systems in place. Let me refer you to one other podcast that kind of addresses this topic. It is BNI Light. Just do a search on “BNI Light”. I talk about why the rules on that one as well.
Okay. That’s it for this week?
Thank you so much, Ivan. 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. Thanks 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.