Lewis & Jenkins – Heating and Plumbing

West Wales based heating and plumbing firm Lewis & Jenkins generates about half their revenues from their BNI membership, with the vast majority of work coming from the Trades Power Team. In the two years since they joined BNI, Lewis & Jenkins’ business has quadrupled in size.

Natalia Miles of Lewis & Jenkins kindly answered some questions about their BNI experience.

What does your business do?
We offer plumbing and heating services.  Our engineers operate throughout Pembrokeshire Carmarthenshire Ceredigion and beyond! We offer a quality service at competitive prices, including installations, maintenance, servicing and repairs. If it is anything to do with water, gas or heating then we can install it or fix it!

What strategies do you use to find new customers?
The majority of our customers come from recommendations. Our aim is to determine what our customer wants and create a customer service culture where we clearly explain our products and communicate with our clients enabling us to meet their expectations. We work closely with other trades within BNI and externally, and believe a good rapport is the best starting point.

Why did you decide to join BNI – and how long ago was that?
We joined BNI nearly two years ago. We were at the point of expanding but needed to increase our work load accordingly and meet other businesses and people who could also be our potential future clients. The idea of receiving referrals and networking with other local business seemed exciting and a new challenge.

Did you attend as a visitor the first time you were asked?
No, I was extremely apprehensive, I was asked several times by both members in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, but then joined the ‘Resolute’ chapter in 2011.

Why were you apprehensive about visiting BNI?
Meeting with a group of strangers in a methodical approach was the most daunting for us – it was a fear of the unknown. However once we had our 60 seconds in place and reviewed what questions I should be asking others within the meeting, I could then relax and start to enjoy my time at BNI.

Why did you finally decide to visit after being asked several times?
It was the right time for us, as we wanted to expand and move our business forward.

Had you heard of BNI and what did you expect?
I had heard of BNI and other similar networking organisations. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I did my research! I asked other trades we were working closely with – obviously I wanted to know if it was worth paying into and devoting not only the Tuesday morning but the extra time during the week to assist my BNI colleagues with potential referrals.

When did you realize that BNI was going to work for you?
Within the first two visits: the opportunity to expand my business became more realistic with the help of BNI, making us more effective and more successful. The support: fellow BNI members were fantastic – it was a no brainer!

What other networking groups have you tried, and which ones have worked well?
I have tried various local networks such as Pembrokeshire Business network, Innov8 Breakfast Network and The network breakfast, BNI being the most successful.

What tools or resources in BNI have you found most helpful?
60 seconds – 121s and your all important 10 minutes to go into more detail.

What proportion of your revenue do you generate through BNI?
It does vary. I may have a quiet month followed by a high referral month.  On an average I would say 50% revenue comes from BNI.

How much of your BNI revenue comes from the Trades Power team?
40% comes from the trades team alone.  We are a very pro-active group, meeting every 6 weeks to discuss ways to move forward.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a member?
How to use your workplace to generate referrals for fellow members, how to conduct ourselves in a more professional manor, taking into consideration our customer care focus and communication attributes.

What would you do differently if you were starting your membership again, from the beginning?
Be more confident, focus on what I can do for the other members within the chapter.

How can people get in touch with you?

  • e-mail:  info@lewisandjenkins.co.uk
  • landline:01994 241 744
  • mobile: 077862 62199

Do you have any other comments about BNI?
BNI has worked extremely well for us and helped us quadruple in size over the past two years.  We will continue to pass referrals and work hard to achieve future goals as well as assisting others to achieve theirs.

Glass Half Full?

Achieving your personal and business goals takes energy. Inspiration is necessary for both the exercise of will power and putting plans into action. One of the most important factors in retaining self-motivation is keeping good company – people who think that the glass is half full.

That’s why it’s vital, when seeking to attract new members to join a BNI Chapter, to look for people with positive attitude as as well as good network contacts and business reputation. A room full of energetic and focused individuals will most likely find a way to help each other achieve success.

However, everyone gets that ‘glass half empty’ feeling now and again.  What can you do when your motivation level is lacking? What do you do to regain the motivation needed to move on with your plans and pursue your goals?

Dr Ivan Misner tackled the question of motivation in a recent article.Here’s what he said.

Motivation comes from within you not from outside you. No one can motivate you but yourself. I’m speaking long-term motivation. Many years ago, Frederick Herzberg wrote about motivation and he said that others can motivate you but only in the short term. He called that KITA (Kick in the… Anatomy – that’s really what he called it).

On the other hand, long term motivation comes from within. So, that begs the question – how do you motivate yourself when your motivation is low? First, you should understand that everyone has to deal with this throughout their lives. I’ve never met anyone that was immune to this (I certainly am not). So, what do I do when I feel down?

Here are some of the things that have helped me:

  1. Minimize contact with negative people! That’s not always completely possible but do it as much as you can. At least do this for for a short while. I really believe that some people complain as though it were an Olympic event! Keep clear of them while you are trying to get your mojo back.
  2. Maximize time with people that refuel your energy! You become the five or six people you hang out the most with. Hang out with people that make you want to “do” and “be” better.
  3. Read/listen/watch positive things. If you are feeling down, read a positive book. Listen to a CD with a positive message. Watch something that makes you laugh! Surround yourself with some things you love to be influenced by. Let that in to your life as much as possible.
  4. Prioritize the things you want to do and must do. Make a list. I live by lists. The more I can get a handle on the things I need and want to do – the easier it is to tackle them.
  5. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Take that list you’ve created and tackle some of that list EVERY DAY. If you really do this – you will be amazed at how much you get accomplished. The more you accomplish – the better you will feel. They feed each other.

Risk and Referral Marketing

When you give a fellow BNI member a referral, you’re taking a risk that they will fail to follow through and provide a satisfactory result for your contact. That’s one reason why many new members take several months to build up their number of referrals received.

First they need to build trust within the chapter, and this is very much an issue until they have carried out work for several of their fellow BNI members.

Once internal referrals have been followed through into excellent service delivery, the new member will hopefully attract written testimonials.

Testimonials are one of the oldest traditions in BNI. Here, in the words of Dr Ivan Misner, is how they came to be part of the regular weekly agenda.

We found a chiropractor who wasn’t getting any business and was looking for some. I suggested to him that he do a free initial consultation as a way of getting some members to use him. He did. He got one person to use him. He was a little disappointed that he only got one person to use him. Only one person used him but when that person stood up the next week, instead of doing what he normally did (give a referral), he said, “Ivan, do you mind if I talk a little bit about my experience last week?”

I said okay. He spent the entire minute talking about what a great chiropractor this was and how every member was an idiot if they didn’t use this free initial consultation because it was a wonderful experience. It was so glowing. The chiropractor was getting all kinds of referrals left and right. It was the first time that I realized that the way that I wrote the agenda was wrong because if you had a referral you gave it and if you didn’t, you passed. That was the way BNI worked in the beginning. If you had a referral you gave it and if you didn’t you passed. The passing was an opportunity lost. What we found was that if somebody stood up and gave a testimonial instead, it was much more powerful. That third-party endorsement was key.

If you are already a customer of a fellow BNI member, you have a good idea about the level of expertise and service they can provide. However, if you’re not yet their customer, the testimonials from fellow BNI members can help build your confidence sufficiently to ‘risk’ generating a referral for them.

One of Dr Misner’s weekly BNI podcasts talked about this risk element in referral marketing. But testimonials make a huge difference.

It is not very risky when I have ten people who have done business with this person. The risk is very minimal because I know so many people who have done business with him and had such great experiences, that’s when I hear that – and that is the power and value of testimonials.

Herding Cats

Local BNI chapters are all expected to follow the standard BNI systems. However, it is in the nature of business owners to be independent. Dr Ivan Misner has suggested that controlling an organization like BNI, with such independent thinking members, is like herding cats.

“It takes patience and grit to keep things going in the right direction, but it must not involve discipline applied for its own sake”, he said in Givers Gain: The BNI Story.

He quotes an interesting example from one of the San Fernando chapters, whose members had recently renewed their commitment to following BNI systems. Essentially, they were following a ‘back to basics’ theme – sticking to the rules in order to improve chapter performance.

Three weeks into their reform effort, one of their members, John, was absent – his third absence in a short period of time.

The standard response would have been a warning letter from the Membership Committee. However, the chapter president decided to go a different route.

At the end of the chapter meeting he said, “I need all of you to do me a personal favour. It’s not hard, and it will only take a minute”. Several members offered to assist.

“No, no, I need all of you”, he said. More hands went up until all 23 members present had volunteered their help.

The president reminded members that John had missed three of the last five meetings.

“Now, John’s a good member, and we don’t want to lose him, but he’s apparently lost sight of how important it is to come to every meeting. So, rather than sending him a letter, let’s all give him a call.”

Everyone agreed to call John within a couple of hours of the end of the meeting.

John showed up the next week. He was laughing. “What the hell did you guys do last week?” He had been inundated with calls from his fellow BNI members.

“Hey, I get it! I won’t miss any more meetings! I’ll be here! You guys are all crazy!”

They all had a good laugh, but all the members got the message. Attendance improved.

The story illustrates a positive way to bend BNI rules. The rules weren’t ignored because of a lack of commitment or discipline. Quite the opposite. There was no lack of focus. The chapter president simply found a more creative and more effective way to achieve the desired result.

Networking and New Ideas

It’s easy to get so stuck in our own business routines that we miss potential opportunities. One of the most valuable aspects of networking is that it helps us to stay open to new ideas.

We may think that we know the best way forward to achieve our aspirations and goals. However, there can be great advantages in taking a contrary view: that there’s a much better way to do things if we could only find it.

The story about the founding of BNI is a good example of taking advantage of the unexpected. Though achieving goals requires focus, it’s important to listen out for other options that suddenly present themselves to us.

Dr Ivan Misner had no initial intention to build an international, national or even regional networking organization. He was just looking for a reliable way to find new clients for his consulting business.

After considering various marketing options, he decided that word of mouth marketing was best. However, he wasn’t able to find an organization that helped him produce the results that he wanted.

Finally, in frustration, I approached several business people I knew and trusted, and who knew and trusted me, who were in these groups. I asked them if they would be interested in forming a new type of group – a focused, positive organization that would be structured and operated entirely to promote networking.

Within a few weeks of the first meeting, they hit a problem. A visitor wanted to join up but the industry category was already filled by an existing member.

She came to me with a request: “Will you help me open another chapter?” I thought, ‘Sure, why not? Two chapters plus my consulting practice: I can handle that’.

Soon chapters three and four had to be opened for the same reason: competing categories. By the end of the first year, 20 chapters were open. A year later it was 40 chapters and the year after there were 60.

As it happens, the ‘networking group’ idea (which later became BNI) came out of Dr Ivan Misner’s own head. The key point is, though, that he was looking for a better way – a better way to generate sufficient referrals.

When I started that first chapter, I wasn’t even thinking of BNI as a business. I already had my own company; I just needed a way to round up more business for it.

Doing a 121 with BNI colleagues – and especially visitors to your chapter – can be a great way of finding better ways to do business. A 121 could bring up a new idea for your existing business, or it may give rise to a new opportunity in a joint venture or a completely new enterprise.

The most important point though is to stay alert and open to new ideas.

MLMs in BNI

BNI is not a Multi-Level Marketing organization, but many people in MLMs are BNI members. Members of reputable MLMs are definitely welcome in BNI, as long as they market only the company’s products or services.

Multi-Level Marketing – also known as Network Marketing – is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. In effect, some large national or international companies outsource their sales departments to individual self-employed ‘distributors’.

Distributors can earn commissions from direct sales (selling the company’s products) and indirect sales (product sales made by other people who they have signed up as distributors). It’s generally recognized that high earners in MLM make most of their money from indirect sales and, therefore, many distributors want to recruit new people into their sales teams.

The BNI rule says that if a distributor becomes a member of BNI, he should only market direct sales of the product in his 60 seconds and 10 minute presentations. Any attempts to find new distributors should be left to 121 meetings.

What’s the reason for this rule?

Imagine that a particular Chapter had two MLM distributors as members, these two distributors representing different national companies in completely different industries.

If these two members tried to use their presentations to ‘sell the opportunity’ they would be competing with each other – transgressing the spirit of the BNI rule that only one member of a profession can be a member of a chapter.

BNI founder Dr Ivan Misner gave more detail on the background to the policy in a recent podcast.

First, let me say that reputable MLM companies are more than welcome in BNI. We have had one or more MLM members in many of our 6000 or so groups around the world. As a matter of fact, MLM companies are active in our organization going back to the very first chapter, which started in 1985. I personally approved a MLM representative to become a member of that chapter. He and his wife were members of the organization for almost two decades, good members for a long time.

BNI is all about promoting the products and services that people represent. That is our mission. That is the BNI mission: to promote the products or services that you represent. However, each BNI group is permitted to have one person of each profession or classification. Though it is not a problem if multiple members represent MLM businesses selling one or more non competing products or services, it can become a problem if one or more of those members begin to talk about the business opportunity part of their business. It creates a problem because it creates competition amongst all the MLM people in a group.

Over the years, we’ve learned this the hard way. When one BNI member pitches a business opportunity during a meeting, every other person who might be in MLM starts doing the same thing. They want to sell their business opportunity. What we try to do is get them to focus on the product. What happens when one person is pitching is the other members witnessing this opportunity pitch and get really upset because they feel the opportunity no longer exists for them to attract any other chapter members.

Show them what your products do. Be proud of what you have to offer. What is really interesting is I find that a lot of MLM members who take that approach get people who love their products so much that they get people who ask them, “How do I become a representative of this?” When that happens, you know you have a BNI member who is doing it right.

Increasing Membership Retention

How much money do members make out of BNI and how does this factor relate to the likelihood of members deciding whether or not to renew their membership?

Back in 2009, a survey of 4,785 members in UK and Ireland gave some insight on these questions. Though the data was collected a few years ago, it’s worth taking a look.

Money Generated from BNI Referrals

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the survey was the value of referrals received. Each member was asked to quantify the value of their referrals over the past 12 months.

  • Over £50,000                         6%
  • £25-50,000                             9%
  • £10-25,000                           23%
  • £5-10,000                             21%
  • £2-5,000                               21%
  • £1-2,000                               10%
  • Less than £1,000                 10%

If we take the cost of annual membership as around £1,000 (including breakfast fees), at least 80% of members were in profit, albeit by a slim margin in some cases.

What’s interesting is the comparison of these figures to the profile of membership renewals.

Membership Renewals

Roughly six out of every seven members said they were likely to renew their membership. The other 14% (1 in 7) who were not likely to renew were asked how much money they made from BNI. Here’s the result:

  • Over £50,000                          1%
  • £25-50,000                              1%
  • £10-25,000                              6%
  • £5-10,000                                8%
  • £2-5,000                                 15%
  • £1-2,000                                 15%
  • Less than £1,000                   54%

So, over half those intending to stop attending BNI were receiving less than £1,000, thus making a loss. Another 30% were receiving less than £5,000. When reading both sets of statistics together, it’s easy to see that most members who were making over £5,000 were happy to stay in BNI.

If you take a Chapter with 28 members, 4 of the members (1 in 7) will probably be intending not to renew – assuming the survey percentages apply.  Of the 4 members who are likely to drop out, 3 will be receiving about £2,000 or less from referrals.

Increasing Membership Retention

It’s clear from the figures that if a Chapter can identify which members are receiving less than £5,000 in referrals, they will also have a pretty good idea who is likely to drop out. If this exercise is carried out on a regular basis through the year, the Chapter can take early action to help ‘low income’ members increase the amount of business they’re gaining from BNI.

Of course, it’s not doom and gloom for a Chapter when a member leaves. It quite often happens that a vacant category is filled by a new person who does very well and makes a strong contribution to the group.

However, if a Chapter is to grow, it is important to retain as many good members as possible. And helping our fellow members to increase the value of their BNI membership is a good example of ‘Givers Gain’ in action.

Martin Hudson FCCA – Morgan Hemp & Company

For any BNI members who want to learn how to get more referrals, it’s very valuable to speak to businesses who have joined more than one Chapter. Clearly these businesses have found how to make a healthy return on their investment.

Morgan Hemp & Company fills the accountants’ slot at two Swansea chapters. Martin Hudson is a member of Dylan Chapter while his business partner Richard Morgan is at Waterfront.

We asked Martin to share the secrets of his BNI success.

What’s your business called and what does it do?

Our business is called Morgan Hemp & Company, we’re a firm of Chartered Certified Accountants.

How did you end up in this business?

I actually came to work at Morgan Hemp & Company on work experience in 1989! I must have made such an impression with the original partners, that they offered me a job the following year. From there I qualified as a Chartered Certified Accountant, and purchased an equity share in the practice in 2005, becoming a director in 2011.

How does Morgan Hemp find new clients?

Mainly by word of mouth from existing clients and other business contacts, but more recently we have made a conscious effort to promote our practice at various networking events.

Why did you decide to join BNI – and when was that?

I joined BNI in early 2012, My business partner has been a member of a BNI chapter since 2004, I had substituted for him on many occasions and had been anxious to find a chapter to join, unfortunately the accountancy positions rarely come up, I was lucky that several clients of mine were in Dylan Chapter who all recommended me to join the chapter when the previous accountant left.

Had you heard of BNI and what did you expect?

I had heard of BNI, from my substitute visits to various chapters I knew what to expect, but it is different when you start to build personal relationships with other members of your own chapter.

When did you realize that BNI was going to work for you?

It probably took me at least 8 to 9 months to fully understand how to get BNI to work for me, from speaking to other members of other chapters that doesn’t seem uncommon. The best way I can describe it is a ‘lightbulb moment’, knowing how to ask for what you want. From then I have had the type of client referrals I had been looking for.

What other networking groups have you tried, and which ones have worked well?

I’ve visited several networking groups over the years, Swansea business club, west Wales chamber of commerce, etc.  I find them all ok for general networking, but find that the structure of BNI focuses more on actual tangible business referrals.

What tools or resources in BNI have you found most helpful?

Member success training is essential, it is all too easy to get complacent, I find that attending regular training events gives you the kick up the backside to keep challenging yourself.

What proportion of your new business do you generate through BNI?

I probably generate 50% of new business through my BNI chapter.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a member?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to listen to other members, whether it be in their 60 seconds or in one to one’s, the more you know about their businesses the easier it is to get referrals.  Also the need to be specific when asking for referrals to specific businesses, you never know who your fellow chapter members know.

What would you do differently if you were starting your membership again, from the beginning?

Definitely have more 1 – 2 – 1’s with every member, I mainly focused on members who I thought I would have close business relationships with, which in hindsight was a mistake.  Only when I met for 1 – 2 – 1’s with all of the other members did I realise the amount of referrals I could either pass to them or receive from them.

Do you invite clients to BNI and, if so, do they feel that it was worth their while attending?

I do invite clients to my BNI meeting. The feedback I have had has been mainly positive. Initially I made the mistake of deciding what clients would benefit and which wouldn’t. Now I invite clients regularly and will continue to do so.

How can people get in touch with you?

  • ·         Address:              103/104 Walter Road, Swansea, SA1 5QF
  • ·         Tel:                       01792 466428
  • ·         Fax:                      01792 480075
  • ·         Email:                   martin.hudson@morganhemp.co.uk
  • ·         Twitter:                @morganhemp
  • ·         Facebook:           www.facebook.com/pages/Morgan-Hemp-Company
  • ·         Web:                     www.morganhemp.co.uk

Becoming a Good Networker

The more effective you can become at networking, the higher the likely return on your investment in networking activities. The good news is that our abilities as networkers are not set at birth. There is a skill set that anyone can learn – provided they have sufficient motivation.

In a BNI podcast Dr Ivan Misner said that “a lot of people invest time in networking but not much time in learning how to network effectively”.

So what is that we need to learn? There are many skills that can help but being born with the ‘gift of the gab’ isn’t important.

According to Dr Misner, “Oftentimes, the people who think they are good aren’t really as good as they think. You know, they think they are good because they can talk to anybody and strike up a conversation with anyone. But the truth is that striking up a conversation with somebody doesn’t make you a good networker. It makes you a good talker. Being a good talker doesn’t make you a good networker. A good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them both proportionately. You should be listening more than you are talking.”

He went on to identify some other important characteristics including:

  • Being willing to help other people – the ‘givers gain’ mentality
  • Having a positive attitude – it can work for me if I take the right action
  • Following up on referrals – building a reputation for reliability

Having a positive attitude about networking doesn’t ask anyone to have ‘blind faith’ in the givers gain process. In fact, treating one’s BNI membership as a marketing experiment is very helpful because an experiment entails:

  • Taking action
  • Measuring results
  • Testing new actions to see whether better results can be achieved

In order to achieve any goal, we need the right motivation – a strong reason why we’re going to be bothered to work hard to get results. And that means really ‘going for it’.

How do we become good at networking? It’s really no different from learning any other skill. We need to master the process and connect with others who have mastered the process.

One of the best strategies is to attend BNI training events. There are two reasons.

  • The trainer will hopefully cover a number of key action points that we can feed into our BNI marketing experiment.
  • We will have the opportunity to meet other participants who are attending the training – other people who are seeking to get better results from their BNI membership.

Dr Misner summed it up, “You can belong to a networking organization, but if you’re not an active participant, you won’t benefit much. Engage your fellow members in the learning process and practice, practice, practice”.

50 Reasons to be Specific

If there’s one piece of advice you hear time after time at BNI training, it’s ‘be more specific in your 60 seconds presentations’. Yet many BNI members don’t put this advice into action.

The fear is of course that, if you get too specific, you’ll miss out on a wide range of referrals. But how realistic is this fear?

For example, if an architect talks about his skill at obtaining planning permission, will his BNI colleagues forget to generate referrals for building design? Of course, that might happen if the architect is new to the group but, if he’s an established member, everyone will have a pretty good idea of his range of services.

The key point about BNI is that you get 50 opportunities in a year to educate your ‘referral generation team’. Sure, if you only had one opportunity, you might think it wise to describe your general service: “I’m an architect and I offer the full range of design and planning services you’d expect from someone in my profession”.

Your referral partners do need to know your full range of services – eventually. But you can build the picture one week at a time, covering a few key points about each segment of your service offering.

Your goal for your 60 seconds isn’t to close a sale. It’s to train your referral team. If you took on a new salesperson you wouldn’t keep on repeating an overview of what you do, groundhog day style. No, you’d drill down to the detail helping them build product knowledge. It’s the same idea with your 60 seconds.

Dr Ivan Misner advocates creating a curriculum for the year ahead, listing the topics that you want to cover each week. You don’t need to prepare the content for each topic until a few days before the meeting. You simply prepare the list and get your computer to remind you on a weekly basis to prepare the next ’60 seconds topic’.

There are several other benefits to covering a different specific topic each week or each month:

  • It keeps your audience alert. If they know what you’re going to say – and if they’ve heard it 23 times before – they’ll find it tough to listen.
  • You’ll cover services that your fellow members haven’t previously associated with you. “Oh, I didn’t know you did that.”
  • You are likely to receive more referrals because the specific topic you feature may spark a referral idea in someone’s mind. You’ll get the ‘general referrals’ anyway.

As Ivan Misner says, “You can mention a different specialty every week. Your referral partners build up the big picture of what you do from the details”.