7 am Friday Means It’s Time to Network!
Every Friday morning, at 7 am sharp, BNI Stroudsburg Chapter President Stephanie Forte, a Neora representative in the chapter’s “Health & Wellness” category, calls the meeting to order.
In pre-COVID days, members gathered in a private room at the Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort for a buffet breakfast and “open networking” before the meeting. These days, they gather on Zoom. But the organization, form, and purpose of the meetings haven’t changed. The approximately 30 members of the Stroudsburg Chapter of Business Network International are there to help one another out with hot referrals, and by helping one another out, they help themselves as well.
“The more you give, the more you receive,” said Joanne Leasure, owner of Day One Accounting and Financial Services, the bookkeeper in the group. She articulates the base principle of BNI as expressed by its founder, Dr. Ivan Misner, in two words: “Givers Gain!”
Misner founded BNI on this philosophy in 1985. From his small network, the organization has grown to nearly 10,000 chapters worldwide.
Ed Kmetz started his home theater business, Pure Sight & Sound, in 2003, and joined BNI in 2004. “Since then we've never looked back,” Kmezt said “In those 16 years, we've received more than $400,000 in new business thanks to the members of our chapter and have given referrals to other members of the chapter of at least that much.”
Kmetz is one of the chapter’s “elders” in terms of membership length. His experience revealed an ancillary. “Now, the referrals are certainly great no doubt, but what really makes us valuable to our clients is their knowing that they can come to us for practically anything they need for their home or business, and we either have someone in our BNI chapter who does what they need or we know someone in another chapter who does,” he says. “That keeps Pure Sight & Sound top of mind for our clients, and at the same time lets us help them answer their needs.”
The only member of the Stroudsburg chapter with a longer tenure than Kmetz is Boro editor, Tom Ford. Ford, who joined the chapter about 6 months after it originated in 2001, invited Kmetz to his first BNI meeting. Ford is currently in the Advertising and Marketing category in the group, but he started out as the chapter’s business lawyer.
BNI works, Ford says, because it is based on relationships. “We get to know one another and trust in their capabilities and integrity,” he explains, “its after we build that relationship that we have unquestioned confidence in our fellow member to refer them not only to our best client, but, more importantly, even to our mother-in-law.”
The meetings are run on a schedule developed, and frequently revised, by the BNI International organization, based on what works in the field. The mandatory weekly gatherings are a 90-minute meeting finely tuned to the goal of enhancing members’ ability to make referrals. Each week, every member gives their 45-second “commercials”, concisely describing the referral they are looking for that week.
At each meeting, two members have the opportunity for more in-depth eight minute presentations of their businesses to help the chapter members better understand what they offer and make referrals for them. There’s also an education segment where the education coordinator highlights an element of the BNI system and helps members get a greater understanding of how to use the system to give or get referrals. The current education coordinator is Dawn Larkin, of Dream Vacations, the group’s travel agent.
“Joining the BNI Stroudsburg Chapter has been the best return on my investment,” Larkin told us. “Networking with this group of business professionals has helped me grow my business to top levels in my franchise.”
Each chapter accepts only one person from an occupation or profession. That exclusivity means that when a business person applies for membership and is accepted they will lock out their competition
The Stroudsburg chapter was the first in the entire Northeastern Pennsylvania area and is ranked as the most productive BNI chapter in the entire region. In 2020, through the end of November, the chapter members have exchanged $1,686,970 worth of business with one another. Even through COVID.
Everyone is welcome to visit – virtually now – to see how the meetings run. Visitors have an opportunity to give their own 45-second introduction to the group. Invitations are available from Ford at email@example.com, Kmetz at firstname.lastname@example.org, Larkin at Dlarkin@dreamvacations.com, or Leasure at email@example.com.