Member Profile: Darren Roberts, BNI Member and ASBO owner…

In each newsletter we’ll be giving you a pen-portrait of a BNI member – including a few things about them that you may not know! We start with Darren Roberts: Around the time that BNI was founded in the mid-eighties, Darren joined Rainbow Print on a YTS Scheme, making tea, emptying bins and sweeping floors. Twenty-eight years later he and co-director, Hayley Jones, run the business, a successful lithographic and digital printing company, following a Management Buy-out in 2003.

Merthyr born and bred and the son of a colliery worker, Darren is now a Labour Councillor for the Merthyr Vale ward, where he and his Ward colleague have been successful in attracting £6.4 million of funding to develop an old colliery site, including two new bridges, a new road and, eventually, affordable housing. It was BNI that gave him the self-confidence to run for council. “Before I joined BNI I don’t think I would have had the confidence to play a part in a meeting or speak confidently in public.” says Darren, who now chairs one of the Council’s Scrutiny Committees.

To home life and, amusingly, Darren has a dog called ASBO. Asked why the American Hairless Terrier was named after an Anti-Social Behavioural Order, Darren explains that he was re-homed from the Dogs’ Trust and already had that name.

He’s also a rock bass player (Darren, not ASBO), but has long since given up band life and instead now enjoys travel, food, rugby and wine in his spare time. Married, with a 27 year old son and 19 year old daughter, Darren is a veteran member of the Quinnell Chapter, where he recently tipped the £1m mark in “Thank You for the Business”. An avid spread-sheet fan, Darren has been tracking Rainbow’s return on investment from BNI since they first joined seven years ago, and was delighted to pass the million pound milestone. “We were very pleased to hit the figure, particularly as it coincided with our 30 year anniversary”says Darren. “As well as revenue, BNI has given a lot to me personally and I hope that I have given back, too.”

Rainbow Print is based in Merthyr Tydfil and provides high quality, affordable print to companies across Wales and the UK. You can contact Darren on email: and visit Rainbow Print at to find out more!

BNI Means Business (…and we can prove it)

Hello to all of you across the BNI South Wales region. Many of our chapters are performing superbly well, with some making top-five appearances in the national rankings. Big congratulations go to Burton Chapter who topped the UK rankings at No 1 for several weeks this summer! It goes to show that when a chapter starts on an upward spiral, it really can gather its own momentum and sky-rocket its way to the top!

A new local promotional campaign kicks off in early October and features the headline “BNI Means Business (…and we can prove it)”. Come and visit our stand at The Welsh Business Show in October to see the campaign in action. To prove that BNI can turn business cards into cash, we’ve teamed up with a famous close-up magician who will be performing a BNI-related show at the stand. I won’t tell you more – just come and see us!

This month, members have been seeking out more funny videos from the BNI online community and telling me about them. If you’ve seen and amusing BNI video online, please tweet about it using the hashtag.

I’ve picked this one for you to look at this month – just to demonstrate that there are no limits – not even the sky – to how high a chapter can go if they really try. Enjoy!

Watch the Video

Top 10 Traits of a Master Networker

BNI conducted a survey for the book Masters of Networking that asked business professionals to give their opinion on the most important character traits of a ‘master networker’. The survey included about 2,000 professionals from several different countries, who ranked various traits deemed useful for ‘developing and maintaining good relationships’.

Here are the top ten, ranked in order of their importance as judged by the survey respondents.

  1. Timely follow-up on referrals. Following up with what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, builds your credibility and trust with your network partners.
  2. Positive attitude. When you’re positive, people tend to be more attracted to you and will be more likely to refer family, friends and colleagues to you. It also helps your determination and motivation.
  3. Enthusiasm. Enthusiastic and motivated people tend to make things happen for them and for the people they know.
  4. Trustworthiness. When someone gives you a referral they’re taking a risk. They’re putting their personal and professional reputation on the line. Trust has to be earned, over time, and plays a huge part in building your credibility.
  5. Listening skills. Listening for the needs, problems and aspirations of others is vital for identifying the type of referral that would really be valuable to them. Asking questions and listening to the answers is a key skill.
  6. 24/7 networking. Networking becomes second nature to master networkers. In every conversation they are alive to the possibility of givers gain. Their focus is more on helping others than selling themselves.
  7. Gratitude. Saying thank you is so easy and yet is very powerful in developing business relationships. You often read that it’s a good idea to send a written thank you note or card but it’s very rarely done.
  8. Helpfulness. If you gain a reputation of going out of your way to help others, you are more likely to be given referrals.
  9. Sincerity. Some of these master networker traits may not feel natural at first. However, if we try hard enough we can get to enjoy them and that’s very important because, otherwise, we can come across as insincere. “He’s just out to sell me something. He’s not really interested in me”. Develop the skill of giving your complete attention to the person in front of you.
  10. Professional approach. Top networkers tend to be well organized in terms of their contact management systems. For example, they will tend to carry their referral partners’ business cards along with their own.  They also develop a great attitude to building their network, setting up appointments to meet new contacts without any specific expectation that a sale or referral will result.

Fear, Persistence and Success

Regardless of our chosen field, we normally have to work hard for a long time to become the sort of person who is able to achieve great results. Two of the most important character traits we need to develop in order to achieve success are persistence and overcoming the fear of rejection.

Everyone experiences fear of rejection. In the case of BNI founder, Dr Ivan Misner, the overwhelming experience came when he was trying to persuade stores to carry his first book. He found himself afraid to get out of the car and walk into the store to ask.

Finally he realized that the worst that could happen if he asked was the same thing as if he did nothing at all: the store would not carry his book. So he picked up a copy of the book and went into the store. They asked for 20 copies.

I remember thinking back. That was sort of a nexus point in terms of rejection. I could do it or I could not do it. Not doing it would give me the same response as what I presently had, which was no books there. So I tell people don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from doing what you are excited about. If you are excited about your business, don’t let rejection stop you. You have to just know that when it comes to asking somebody to do something, including asking people to join BNI.

Some will. Some won’t. So what? It’s not the end of the world. I just had to put myself in the frame of mind that this is just not that big of a deal. If someone doesn’t want to do it, that’s fine. God bless them. I love them. It’s not that big a deal.

I have always thought that I may not be the most successful man in a room. I may not be the smartest man in a room. But I am pretty confident that I am the most persistent man in the room—or certainly one of the most persistent men in the room. That commitment to trying has helped me succeed. I think it is one of the things that consistently helps anyone have long-term success. The whole process has to begin with the old axiom that if you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’ll be right.

So I say to people don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from what you are excited about. It begins with trying versus quitting. Keep trying and you have a chance at winning.

Success doesn’t necessarily go to the smartest person: persistence is critical. If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. So don’t let fear of rejection stop you.

5 Key Questions

Networking Like a Pro, written by Dr Ivan Misner and David Alexander, recommends asking five key questions if we want to make a lasting impression when meeting people for the first time at networking events. The same questions can also be used, or adapted, for 121 meetings between BNI members.

Here are the five questions together with Dr Misner’s comments during a BNI podcast.

What do you like best about what you do? This really leads to a more interesting conversation about the other person’s business, their likes and dislikes, experience, and so on. It’s a much better alternative than simply asking, “So, what do you do?” Or it’s a good follow-up question after you ask, “What do you do?” Then they really open up oftentimes and talk more about their business.

What got you started? And this gives the other person a chance to talk about their personal goals and desires. It gives them a chance to really open up about what led them into what they’re doing. It also gives insight into how dedicated they are to the profession and how proficient they may be in that profession based on how excited they are about, in effect, their story, what got them started. You’ll find that people that are in a business, particularly for any length of time, are really excited usually to talk about what got them into that business.

Where else do you usually network? (Is this one of the kinds of organizations you usually visit? Are there other groups that you go to?) And this really helps break the ice during maybe an awkward period just after the introductions and offers a chance to talk about something in common to both parties. They might tell you about some casual contact network somewhere that might be of interest to you that you haven’t heard about or that you haven’t gone to visit. Or you may hear about some other groups that they’re in that may be of interest to you.

What are some of your biggest challenges in what you do? You really want to ask this question towards the end of your conversation. Otherwise they’re going to say, “Who are you, and why are you asking me that?”  However, once you have developed a rapport this question can help you learn about the other person’s challenges and possibly help you to give them a referral. I don’t mean sell them your product or service, but a connection or referral to somebody that might be able to help them with that challenge.

It’s a technique I use all the time with people that I want to build a relationship with, because it allows me to follow-up in an easy way. “Gee, I read an article that addresses that very challenge that you’re talking about. Would you like to see a copy of it?” And then they’ll hand me their business card, and they’ll say, “Yeah, would you mind sending that to me.” You know you’re networking right when somebody gives you their business card and says, “Would you contact me?”

How can I help you? If you decide that the person you’re talking with is someone you’d like to have in your network, this is a great question to ask, and being helpful is probably the best way to start building a solid relationship with them. Don’t underestimate the power of “How can I help you,” especially if it’s somebody that you want to network with and they’re at a higher level of business that you are.

Does BNI Work?

Motivational speaker and author Brian Tracy makes a comparison between networking and using an exercise machine. Back in 2008 he was interviewed by BNI founder, Dr Ivan Misner, and asked to explain his thinking. Here’s what Brian Tracy said.

One of the things that people often ask is does it work? They want to know if being a member of BNI works. Is it helpful? I ask the question, what is the best-selling piece of exercise equipment in America? After a few guesses, we conclude that to the best-selling is the treadmill. They sell $8 billion or more worth of treadmills every single year in America.

Now if you buy a treadmill and you take it home, what determines how much value you get from the treadmill? I ask this of my audiences and people will say how much you use it. I say, yes, that it is actually a combination of two things. It’s how often you use it and how long you use it each time. And everybody agrees.

Then I say now here’s the question. Is there any it doubt whether or not the treadmill works? The answer is, of course, no. That’s already been decided. That’s why it’s so popular. Everybody knows that it works. It’s been proven over and over again hundreds of times, millions of times, at every health club in the world that the treadmill works as long as you use it on a regular basis.

Now, it’s the same thing with networking. And that is the point that we are discussing. The same thing with networking – throughout the last hundred years of business, the most successful business people are those who know the most other people in business and know them in a positive, favorable way. So the only question about BNI and the only question about networking is how often you use it and how long you use it each time.

One of Brian Tracy’s specialist areas is sales. Dr Misner asked him to give his top tips on becoming more successful at selling.

One is you have to make more calls. The key to success in sales is to make more calls on better prospects. Make more calls on better prospects. Of course, that’s what BNI does. It gives you better prospects, but you have to make more calls. There is a direct relationship between the number of calls you make and two things. First of all, the number of good calls you make. And secondly, how good you get.

The more you call on people, the better you get. The second thing is to present well. This requires continually upgrading your skills in selling. Never, never be complacent. You get better and better at what you do. The first thing, of course, is ask for the order. At the end, just ask for the order. “Do like what I’m showing you? Why don’t you give it a try?” Ask for the order.

This is a skill that you can learn, again, through practice, repetition, books, tapes and so on. I would say that the key to success in sales is frequency of activity. Make more calls. Make more presentations. Ask for the order more often.

Wisdom from Woody Allen

“80% of life is showing up”, according to Woody Allen. But what did he mean by that, and does it suggest that most of our success at BNI can be earned simply by attending weekly meetings?

By ‘showing up’, Woody Allen was talking about putting in the hard graft rather than just wishing something good would happen. “I made the statement years ago which is often quoted that 80 percent of life is showing up. People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen. All the other people struck out without ever getting that pack. They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing, so once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening.

In a recent podcast Dr Ivan Misner, referring to the Woody Allen’s 80% quote, explained that BNI members have to do a lot more than simply show up at weekly chapter meetings if they want success.

Dr Misner identified five key action points. He said, “I bring this topic up because a year ago, I had a conversation with a man about his participation in a BNI group. He used this quote that Allen had to argue that he should be experiencing significantly more success from his networking effort than he was because he was just showing up. I had to have a conversation with him about it. It takes a lot more than just showing up.”

Here are the five key action points:

  1. Create a 60-second introduction that changes each time. Train a sales force rather than trying to make sales. Interestingly, Dr Misner downplayed the role of ‘memory hooks’. “I wish I had never written about them because people get so focused on doing memory hooks that they don’t educate people on how to refer them. So create a 60 second introduction that changes every single time.”
  2. Schedule a one-to-one meeting with someone from your group every week to build deeper connections and learn more about your fellow members – as well as them, of course, learning about you.
  3. Take on a leadership role in your group. This raises both your visibility and your credibility – as long as you do a good job.
  4. Bring legitimate referrals for other members. If you want to receive referrals you have to be able to give them.
  5. Immerse yourself in referral education. As well as training courses there are blogs and books.

You could add more action points to the list. However, these five points provide a strong foundation for success at BNI. Showing up is just the start.

Getting Dream Referrals

A dream referral is one of those clients who will provide you with enough business for a year. Ask for that client, and find out who that client is for your fellow BNI members. Be specific and encourage your fellow BNI members to be specific.

In a recent podcast, Dr Ivan Misner was interviewing Hussein Hallak, Director Consultant from the Dubai BNI chapter in the United Arab Emirates Region and author of the BNI Ultimate Success Roadmap.

You can access a copy of the useful Roadmap step by step guidelines at Podcast Episode 309. It contains four key elements:

  • GROW your team – are you recruiting and retaining great team members?
  • GIVE dream referrals – are you asking fellow members which referrals would give them a year’s worth of work?
  • GAIN dream referrals – are you building credibility and making specific requests for high value referrals?
  • GREAT follow up – are you giving testimonials and asking for feedback?

Why don’t we all ask for specific dream clients? One common reason is that we may not think that we’ll be able to make a sale, even if we’re fortunate enough to get a referral. For some of us it’s a kind of psychological barrier.

Maybe it’s a question of plucking up the courage and daring to ask. ‘What difference would it make to my business and my life if I did land a really major project?’

Here’s what Dr Misner had to say during the interview.

“[Members often say] …I am looking for anybody that might be looking for this product. They are so broad that they don’t really give anyone information. Being specific and asking for that, like you say, dream referral actually ends up working better.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people be specific and they said, ‘When I asked for a connection with this person at this company, it amazed me how somebody actually knew that person and I would have never dreamed that people would know that individual and been able to make that introduction. I wouldn’t know it today if I hadn’t been that specific.’

I agree with you completely. The way to get a dream referral is to be really specific about what it is you are looking for, particularly who you are looking for.

10 Ways to Avoid Getting Referrals

The BNI system is designed to help members gain more business from referrals. The format of the weekly chapter meetings is part of the this system, but there are other important elements such as one to ones. However, getting referrals is not so simple as turning on a tap. Success takes work.

While the BNI system is built to make it as simple as possible to win referrals from fellow members, it’s still possible to make some tactical and strategic blunders. Dr Ivan Misner listed his top ten BNI blunders as follows:

  1. Show up late or multi-task during the meeting.
  2. Be absent.
  3. Don’t invite guests.
  4. Use other people’s 60-second presentation time to think about what to say yourself.
  5. Focus your efforts on selling your services to the members. “BNI is really about training a referral team, not closing a sale. And so if you come to the BNI meetings thinking that you’re just going to close sales, you’re missing a great opportunity, because the people in the room are not just prospective clients, they’re referral sources. If you can get them to refer you, that’s that classic way of farming and not hunting.”
  6. Don’t rush following up on a member referral.
  7. Use one-to-ones to talk about the chapter. “You’ve got to use one-to-ones to educate people about your business and how they can refer you. That’s really important.
  8. Wing it with your 60-second presentation.”
  9. Use your 10-minute presentation to explain minute details of how your business works. “People don’t need to know the inner workings of your business, but they need to know how to refer you. So the more you can educate them on what a good referral is and how it works and what sets you aside from your competition, the better you’re going to be.”
  10. Air your grievances among your table-mates and guests.

Your BNI seat in this chapter, the chapter that you’re a member of, is worth a considerable amount of money. If you calculate the time you spend each week and the business value of your time, you don’t want to squander that money. Now, success in BNI comes when the rest of the chapter members trust you enough to open up their best referrals to you, not just their normal referrals, but their best referrals. And that comes when they have seen you work, when you have earned trust with them by demonstrating your professionalism at all times.

Storytelling in Business

In 2011 Peter Guber, the Academy Award winning producer of movies including Rain Man The Color Purple and Bat Man, wrote a book called Tell to Win. It’s about how to capture your audience’s attention and get your message across when presenting, so that you achieve more success in getting the results you want.

For example, you might relate it to improving your weekly BNI 60 seconds to improve the value of referrals generated for you by your local chapter.

A few years back, Guber invited BNI founder, Dr Ivan Misner, to a day about storytelling in business.

Peter Guber is clearly passionate about the power of story telling and considers it the ‘secret sauce’ that has enabled him to achieve his success in life. He decided to create this opportunity for a diverse group of experts to come together to exchange ideas, and be inspired and enlightened. He invited about 16 people including yours truly, myself, along with people like Warren Bennis. Warren is one of the world’s foremost experts on leadership. Of course Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, and Mark Victor Hansen who was a co-author of Chicken Soup For The Soul, as well as more than a dozen other story tellers from various businesses, backgrounds and areas of expertise.

Basically, this group found that, or talked about the fact that, effective story telling is an important part of one’s emotional intelligence – emotional intelligence. I’ve always believed in using stories to make a point, but I’ve never really given a lot of thought, of some of the how’s and why’s of their effectiveness. There were a number of take-aways for me from this meeting that I want to share with BNI members around the world. Here are a couple. Storytelling is about tapping into a passion about some topic. It’s about taking the listener to a place that is visceral, visual, concrete, emotional and possibly unexpected. Now this is important for members to understand when they’re doing their 60 second presentations, and when they’re doing their 10 minute presentations. If they can make those presentations more visceral, visual, concrete, emotional and unexpected, they’re going to be a lot more effective.

One of the participants, a gentleman who I’m getting to know really well, a great guy, Dr. Mark Goulston, said that a story is a portable storage unit for one’s dreams, fears, hopes, humor and sorrows that people visit or visits people from time to time, for them to stay in contact with their humanity. The group loved that definition and I really love it too. A story is a portable storage unit for one’s dreams, fears, hopes, humor and sorrows that people visit or visits people from time to time, for them to stay in contact with their humanity.

Mark Victor Hansen, who’s one of the co-authors for Chicken Soup Of The Soul, said that when the authors were working on the Chicken Soup series, they were looking for stories that gave people God-bumps or goose-bumps. I love that– God-bumps or goose-bumps, happy tears, a change in perception, weakness in the knees, or a change in your life. I think one of the best comments of the day came from Peter Guber who said, ” ‘What if ‘ is more powerful than ‘how to’ in a story”. Now that is really appropriate to BNI. ‘What if ‘ is more powerful than ‘how to’. If BNI members can talk about ‘what if’ rather than ‘how to’ they’re really going to connect with other members more effectively. I think that’s very true indeed.