Purpose & Overview of BNI

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Two professionals exchanging business cards outside of a building.
Two professionals exchanging business cards outside of a building. (Image: Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Founded on the adage of “what goes around, comes around,” Business Networking International and its members strive to build their businesses through old-fashioned word of mouth, according to the BNI website. BNI founder Dr. Ivan Misner created the organization in 1985 based on the idea that givers gain: If a member gives business to others, he will get business back.

How It Works

A BNI member joins a local chapter and develops relationships with other business professionals in that area. Chapters meet weekly and all members must attend each meeting or send a substitute. When a member meets a consumer that could use the services of a fellow BNI member, he passes along that member’s contact information through business cards or other media. He also receives business referrals from other members passing along his information.

What’s Involved

Each BNI chapter can only have one professional from each type of business. For example, a chapter can have several real estate agents, but they must have different specialties, such as residential or commercial. Potential members must apply to join a local chapter and pay yearly dues. The chapter meetings generally follow the same agenda each time and include networking education, speakers, referral testimonials and a chance for each member to talk about her business.

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