When you’re looking for new ways to market your business, or starting out in your career, it can be hard to know which opportunities to pursue. We spoke with some of the newest members of Business Networking International Springfield, IL, chapters to talk about their experiences over the past year or so.
Abby Sgro is an attorney at Griffin Winning Cohen & Bodewes Attorneys at Law and has been a BNI member with the Springfield Insiders chapter for just over a year. She heard about BNI through an existing member who’d had a positive experience with the group.
“I decided to join BNI after attending two meetings,” said Abby. “Within two meetings, I did not know exactly the benefit BNI would bring, but I enjoyed the meetings and the group so much that I knew it was worth a shot.”
Abby said she would definitely recommend BNI to anyone looking to grow their business, or get more acclimated in the community. “I cannot speak for the other chapters, but our particular chapter is really like a family, and outside of referrals, I appreciate all of the people in the group and the great friendships that have grown.”
Abby has not only gained valuable friendships, but her confidence in her ability to be a lawyer and in searching out referrals and asking for business, has also grown. “It isn’t easy to make that ask, but through BNI, you come out of your shell and develop that skill,” she said. “Not only have I gained great businesses and other clients from members of the group, but you just never know who will have a friend of a friend, or a client, who needs the type of service you can provide. Your network web grows more than you could ever imagine.”
Members pay a fee to belong to a chapter, which encourages attendance, but there are many other benefits too. “You are the only person in your field and each week you are reminding members of the different services you provide. I have not received nearly the amount of business from any other group,” said Abby.
“I have been a member of BNI for just over one year. I was very skeptical when I joined the group since it is a time and financial commitment, but I could not be happier that I took the leap. The connections and friendships I have made are well worth the time and financial commitment.”
Chris Fehr owner and investment advisor at Freedom Financial Wealth Management is also a member of the Springfield Insiders chapter. He was invited by a member and decided to join two years ago because of the potential for increased business through referrals.
“I think it is a great fit for the right type of person and industry,” said Chris. “But you have to commit to making the meetings and actively producing referrals for your fellow members.”
Chris said, through BNI, the biggest lesson he has learnt is the givers gain philosophy. “If I give referrals, and just generally try to help out my fellow small business owners, it will revert to my bottom line.”
BNI meetings are structured; members are provided the opportunity to ask for referrals each week, and each member will take turns to speak about their business in-depth for 10 minutes about once a quarter, before referrals are passed. “It differs because there is a fee, so people that join have a vested interest in seeing it work,” said Chris. “Some other network groups are just social clubs.”
Mark Kluemke of MA Kluemke & Associates has been a member of the Springfield Thursday Lunch chapter for a year. His CPA, Kyle McGinnis, introduced Mark to BNI when they discussed marketing opportunities in the city. “He mentioned that BNI had been very beneficial for his business in the past,” said Mark. “I was invited to attend a couple of meetings by Kyle’s daughter, Shelley Bussen. Their group had an opening for a financial advisor. I felt a good connection with the other people in the group. I thought forming relationships with them could be mutually beneficial.”
Mark said he had learnt, from those who have been long-term members, the commitment to BNI pays off. “You see long-standing relationships interact and business developed between them indicates the possibilities, but don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t impact your business immediately.”
Mark has been in his industry for 29 years and this is his first networking group. “Most of my clients have come from marketing that I have done, referrals, and personal observation with the people I encounter. Through BNI I have built professional relationships across multiple industries.”