Don’t Complicate the Invitationstring(33) "Don’t Complicate the Invitation"

When someone invites a guest to visit their BNI meeting or to a business networking event, they may be so passionate that sometimes others may feel it’s a bit… pushy. Most likely, the member is genuinely excited about inviting someone to meet the other members of their group and their enthusiasm bubbles over.

And then there are times when people explain things WAY too much, making the simple invitation much more complicated than it needs to be.

The Birthday Party

A BNI member, Shawn, shared a story with me about his child’s birthday party. He and his wife planned a party for their young son’s birthday celebration. They took care of all the planning details – selected a theme, scheduled the location, got prizes, got the cake. They did almost every single thing that was needed for the birthday party, except… they forgot one very important item.
They forgot the guests! They forgot to invite any of their son’s friends to come to the party.

A week before the party, he and his wife started calling the parents of all the children who were friends with their son. To be able to reach everyone in an expedient manner, they had to be quick, so they knew they needed to ‘get in, invite, and get out’. 

The conversations went like this, “Hi, my son is turning five, can you come to the party?”
“Hey, the birthday party is this weekend, can you and your child come?”

“Hello, here’s where the party is. Can you be there?”

Guess what? Everybody that they invited said YES and the party was a success. Looking back on it, Shawn realized that it was a very easy, very simple, very direct invitation, with the result that every answer was YES.

He also had the revelation that he had been overcomplicating the invitation to his BNI meeting. He would approach people and tell them everything (and then some) about the networking meeting. If he had used that same approach for the invitation to the birthday party, it would have sounded like this:

“Hey, my son is having a birthday party this weekend. Now, his actual birthday was yesterday, but we’re having the party next week, because that was the timing. It’s going to be at this bounce house location. And when you walk in there’ll be a table there. And when you get to the table, you’ve got to sign the waiver. After you sign the waiver, you’ll see some bins to the right-hand side, you can put his present in there, although you don’t have to get him a present if you don’t want to get him a present. And then you’ve got to have your kid watch the safety video. Oh, and make sure he brings socks, and he wears socks, and then…”  And it goes on and on and on.

Whew! THAT is a very good example of how we overcomplicate the invitation to our business networking groups. We overcomplicate and they get overwhelmed.  

Changing the Invite

Shawn decided to simplify the invitation for business professionals to visit his networking group. “I’m meeting with 70 of my referral partners, and I’d like to introduce you to them.” Or “Hey, I’m having a business meeting with a bunch of referral partners.” Or “I’m having a meeting with this specific professional who I know can pass you some business. Can you join us?”

When he started making the invitation easy and direct, people started saying Yes. He found that simplifying it made it easier to share the invitation in a conversational format, which is much more engaging.

It’s important to remember that you are extending an invitation to visit the group, not to join the group. You can’t talk somebody into joining something they haven’t yet seen, and nobody wants to feel pressured before they even walk in the door. It is simply an invitation to meet other business professionals. It can just be a few easy questions: “Do you get business from networking?”  “Would you like to meet 85 business professionals at my networking meeting?”

When we are so enthusiastic that we say, “Hey, you have to come to this group, you have to come and meet this particular member!” we may go a bit overboard and complicate the invitation.

When we say, “Hey, I would like to introduce you to a person that I think will be a good connection for your business,” the focus is on them. By clearly sharing our intention to connect them to a particular person that is going to benefit their business, our authentic desire to help is more clearly understood. When it comes to inviting, remember to keep it simple because LESS is usually much MORE effective.

Build Your Networking Skills to Get More Referralsstring(50) "Build Your Networking Skills to Get More Referrals"

There have been countless times over the years where I’ve heard of people who join a business networking group and then become disillusioned because the referrals don’t immediately start pouring in. The fact is, whatever you pay for membership when you join a networking group is only an admission price. It gets you into the room where opportunities may come your way, however, it does not entitle you to referrals. It is not enough to simply show up and participate in a meeting. You must make the most of these opportunities and the new contacts you meet.

Even with the built-in structure and focus on referrals in a strong-contact group, a member can fail to generate referrals or to receive referrals for themself. Why? Networking skills are the number one requirement for generating more referrals. The setting of a networking group simply makes it easier to use these skills. Being a member of a business networking group does not entitle you to expect or receive referrals. The following traits can help you build your networking skillset.

  1. Follow up on referrals. It is crucial to follow up quickly when you receive a referral, or even just a phone call, from a referral partner. If you don’t, you not only lose business, you also lose credibility. Likewise, it is important to follow up with your referral partners when you give them a referral to make sure they have contacted the person you referred to them.
  2. Have a positive attitude. A consistently negative attitude makes people dislike being around you and drives away referrals. A positive attitude makes people want to associate and cooperate with you. Positive business professionals are like magnets. Others want to be around them and will send their family, friends, and associates to them, too.
  3. Be enthusiastic and motivated. Think about the people you know. Who gets the most referrals? The people who show the most motivation, right? It’s been said that the best sales characteristic is enthusiasm. To be respected within our networks, we at least need to sell ourselves with enthusiasm. Once we’ve done an effective job of selling ourselves, we’ll be able to reap the reward of seeing our contacts sell us to others!
  4. Be Trustworthy. When you refer one person to another, you are putting your reputation on the line. You must have trust in your referral partner, and you must be trusted in return. Nobody will refer a contact to someone who can’t be trusted to handle it well.
  5. Be a good listener. Our success as networkers depends on how well we can listen and learn. The faster you and your networking partner learn what you need to know about each other, the faster you’ll establish a valuable relationship. Communicate well and listen well.
  6. Always be networking. Successful networkers are never off duty. Networking is so natural to them that they can be found networking in the grocery store line, at the doctor’s office, and while picking the kids up from school, as well as at the chamber of commerce mixers.
  7. Thank people. Gratitude is sorely lacking in today’s business world. Expressing gratitude to business associates and clients is an important building block in the cultivation of relationships that will lead to increased referrals. People like to refer others to business professionals that go above and beyond. Thanking referral partners at every opportunity will help you stand out from the crowd.
  8. Enjoy helping people. Helping others can be done in a variety of ways. It may be showing up to help with an office move or sending an interesting article to an associate or a client. Master networkers keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities to advance other people’s interests whenever they can.
  9. Be sincere. Most people can quickly spot insincerity. You can offer the help, the thanks, the listening ear, but if you are not sincerely interested in the other person, they’ll know it! Those who have developed successful networking skills convey their sincerity at every turn. One of the best ways to hone this skill is to give your give the person with whom you’re developing a referral relationship your undivided attention.
  10. Work your network. It’s not net-sit or net-eat, it’s net-work, and master networkers don’t let any opportunity to work their networks pass them by. They efficiently manage their contacts and have their referral partners’ contact information ready to share easily. They set up appointments to get better acquainted with new contacts to learn as much about them as possible so that they can truly become part of each other’s networks.

For years I’ve been teaching people that the networking process is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about cultivating deep, mutually beneficial relationships with other business professionals. Developing and consistently using your networking skills will help you get more referrals from your networking partners.

True or False – The More You Promote Yourself, the More Referrals You Getstring(79) "True or False – The More You Promote Yourself, the More Referrals You Get"

Some people believe that the best way to get referrals for their business is to promote themselves in the traditional sense – talking about what they do.
Guess what? It’s not a particularly effective way of generating referrals because just talking about yourself is not enough–you need to teach people how to refer you to others.

You would think that people would listen when you describe what you do, and then they could naturally put two and two together when they come across someone who needs your product or service. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t happen that way. People need to be led down the path to find referrals for you. You have to say, “This is what I do. Here is what you need to look for, and this is how you refer me.”

Referrals Are All Around Us

Every day, we all stand in the middle of a sea of referrals. They are all around us, they happen all the time. Yet unless we (and our potential referral sources) are trained to pick up on them or tune in to them, we remain oblivious to them. 

The secret is to train yourself and your sources to listen for the language of referrals. Tell them, “When someone says, ‘I can’t,’ ‘I need,’ ‘I want,’ or ‘I don’t know,’ whatever they say next is a possible referral for me.” 

Teach your referral partners to listen for words or phrases expressing a specific need related to your business, such as “I can’t get this lawnmower engine running right,” or “I’m not sure which tax form I need to use,” or “I want to remodel my living room, but I don’t know any good contractors.” One of these statements could translate into a referral for you or for someone you know.

Referral success arises from a system where information flows in both directions. The best approach is to first learn about other people’s business so you can find business for them instead of rushing to promote yourself. After you hear about their business, then you can explain to them what you do – that is, IF they are interested.

Talking About Yourself

When you do talk about yourself and what you do, be specific. Focus on only one or two parts of your business rather than naming everything you do as a long list.

Remember that you are the expert – there is nobody that knows your business as well as you do. Speak confidently about your expertise and your experience. And share your passion; you will be more memorable when people feel your connection with why you do what you do.

Professionals who focus on giving first and asking, “What can I do to help you?” rather than having an attitude of “What’s in it for me?” usually find more success in their business networking efforts. Maintaining a balance when promoting yourself, with an emphasis on the philosophy of Givers Gain®, is what will most effectively and efficiently bring you success in referral marketing.


Is there someone in your network whose business you are interested in knowing more about? Think about ways that you can get the ball rolling this week in to begin a discussion with them to learn about each other’s respective businesses.

Business Networking is a Marathon, Not a Sprintstring(47) "Business Networking is a Marathon, Not a Sprint"

In the world of professional relationships and business growth, networking plays a pivotal role. As the founder of BNI®, an organization built on the foundation of networking, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power it holds. Networking is not merely a sprint to collect business cards and make quick connections; rather, it is a marathon that requires patience, perseverance, and the cultivation of genuine relationships. Today, we will explore why networking is more of a marathon than a sprint, embodying the principles and philosophy I have advocated throughout my career.

Building Authentic Relationships

Networking is about building authentic relationships, not just accumulating contacts. It is essential to invest time and effort in getting to know others on a deeper level. Building rapport, trust, and a genuine connection requires a commitment to long-term relationship building. Like a marathon runner training to endure the miles, networking calls for consistent engagement and follow-up with others, nurturing connections that go beyond the surface level.

Establishing Credibility and Trust

A successful networker understands the significance of establishing credibility and trust within their professional community. This is not something that can be achieved overnight; it requires consistent effort and demonstrating reliability over time. By consistently showing up, delivering on promises, and providing value to others, one can establish themselves as a trusted resource and expert in their field. This reputation cannot be built hastily; it is cultivated over the course of a marathon networking journey.

The Power of Referrals

Referrals are the lifeblood of successful business networking. However, they are not instant gratification. Similar to the stamina required to complete a marathon, it takes time and a solid network foundation to earn referrals. As connections grow stronger and trust deepens, individuals become more willing to recommend your services or products to people they know. Referrals flow naturally when relationships have been nurtured and when others are confident in your abilities. This process cannot be rushed; it evolves steadily as your network expands and your reputation spreads.

The Depth of Connection

While a sprint may be a quick burst of energy, networking thrives on the depth of connection. It is not about the number of connections one can acquire in a short period; it is about the quality and depth of those relationships. By taking the time to truly understand others, their needs, and aspirations, one can offer genuine support and be a valuable resource to them. This depth of connection allows for collaboration, partnerships, and long-term business opportunities that are often missed in a sprint.

Patience and Long-Term Vision

Networking is a journey that requires patience and a long-term vision. It takes time to develop a network of trusted individuals who believe in your mission and are willing to support you. Like a marathon runner, there will be times when progress seems slow, and the finish line feels distant. However, by staying committed, consistent, and focused, networking will yield invaluable rewards that a sprint can never provide.


Business networking is undeniably more of a marathon than a sprint. It necessitates dedication, perseverance, and the cultivation of authentic relationships built on trust and credibility. By understanding that networking is a long-term endeavor, we can appreciate the true power it holds in creating opportunities, fostering collaborations, and ultimately achieving professional success. So, let us lace up our networking shoes, embrace the marathon, and forge lasting connections that will propel us forward on our journey to success.




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Management in the Twilight Zonestring(31) "Management in the Twilight Zone"

One of my more unusual moments in business was years ago; it was a short stint I did working as the general manager of a light-manufacturing plant in Los Angeles, California.

The story actually begins many years earlier when I was a young boy. I would stay up late watching old Twilight Zone episodes on television with my mother. There was one episode that I particularly loved about a little boy named Anthony who had incredible powers and completely controlled a small town. He would do horrible things to people and animals with his mind, and then his family would beg him to send the misshapen or deformed beast to the “cornfields.” As soon as he’d done it, one of the townspeople would inevitably utter the infamous words . . . “It’s a good thing you done that Anthony, it’s a real good thing you done that.” Then everyone would nod their heads in agreement in total fear that Anthony might do it to them next. This made for great science fiction and, because I love science fiction, it stuck in my mind for many years.

Fast forward about 15 years later when I worked as the general manager of a light-manufacturing plant. While there, I had the misfortune to work for the absolute worst, most dysfunctional, team of people I have ever seen. It was headed up by Sally, the co-owner of the company, whose idea of good management was yelling at everyone who didn’t do what she said–immediately. This woman was Genghis Khan in female form.

As soon as I started the job, I realized it was a horrible mistake and almost every day I dreaded going to work. Finally, after three months, “it” happened – the most surreal experience of my management career. I was in the middle of a meeting with some employees from the production department along with “Ms. Khan” when she went into an absolute tirade. She screamed at an employee and then threw the young lady out of her office.

At that moment, one of the horror-stricken production employees who was still in the room looked solemnly at The Khan, nodded, and said . . . “It’s a good thing you done that, Sally, it’s a real good thing you done that.” I couldn’t believe it! It was at that very moment that I thought, “Oh, my God, I’m in the Twilight Zone! I’m THERE . . . this is it . . . the cornfields have to be next!! I AM OUT OF HERE!” The very next day I gave my notice to quit the job.

I have never regretted leaving the company. It was the experience that prompted me to start my own business. Leaving there and starting my own company was the best decision I ever made, and I’ve never looked back (except to chuckle from time to time).

Have you ever had a similar Twilight Zone Management experience? If so, share it in the comments.

Thoughts About Artificial Intelligencestring(38) "Thoughts About Artificial Intelligence"

Most of you have heard about the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and websites like ChatGPT. There is no doubt that this technology will impact business in many ways.
Eventually, it will likely replace research assistants in law firms and maybe even aspects of a physician’s assistant at a doctor’s office.  One of the most immediate impacts will be on business development writers and editors. It is definitely going to be a game changer in what you read.

Just for giggles, I recently wrote the following question on ChatGPT and received the response below:

Question: Write an essay on business networking and quote one of the world’s leading experts in the field.

ChatGPT Answer: Business networking refers to the process of building and maintaining professional relationships in order to create business opportunities. It is an essential aspect of any successful business as it allows individuals and companies to expand their reach, increase their visibility, and establish credibility within their respective industries. In today’s competitive business environment, networking has become even more crucial as it can often make the difference between success and failure.

One of the world’s leading experts in the field of business networking is Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI (Business Network International), which is the world’s largest networking organization. According to Misner, business networking is not just about exchanging business cards and attending events, but it’s about building long-term relationships based on trust, credibility, and mutual benefit.

Misner emphasizes the importance of giving and helping others in order to build meaningful relationships. He believes that networking is not just about what you can get, but also what you can give. By helping others achieve their goals, you establish yourself as a valuable resource and build a strong network of contacts that can help you achieve your own goals in the future.

In addition to building relationships, Misner stresses the importance of having a clear and concise message that communicates who you are, what you do, and how you can help others. This message, known as an elevator pitch, should be memorable and easy to understand so that others can easily refer you to potential clients or partners.

Another key aspect of successful business networking is follow-up. Misner advises that it’s not enough to simply meet someone at an event and exchange business cards. It’s important to follow up with a personalized message or phone call to build on the initial connection and establish a relationship.

In conclusion, business networking is an essential aspect of any successful business, and it requires a strategic approach based on building long-term relationships, giving to others, having a clear message, and following up. As Ivan Misner, the world’s leading expert in the field, notes: “Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.” 

Hey, I’m glad they listed “me” as the expert to quote!  That said, this is actually written accurately using my voice in a very effective way.  AI is going to have a major impact on writing content – not to mention other fields we haven’t even considered yet.

The Prima Donna Syndromestring(24) "The Prima Donna Syndrome"

Prima donna syndrome is a term used to describe individuals who display excessive egotism, arrogance, and self-centeredness in their professional and personal lives. This syndrome can be found in people from all walks of life, but it is often observed in those who have achieved (or “think” they have achieved) a level of success or fame.

I first recognized this with two individuals that I worked closely with, neither of whom had achieved a substantial level of success or fame, but they were beginning to, and they fell right into what I call the prima donna syndrome.

The first gentleman was a trainer within the company. He was a good trainer and very entertaining. The problem was – his territory was in horrible shape. He acted like a prima donna but performed like a deadbeat. The showman just couldn’t show up in results – but he behaved like he was the best in the company. The second person was a co-author of a recently published book. As soon as her name was on the book, you’d think she was born a queen. She jumped into the prima donna syndrome with both feet and treated everyone accordingly.

When individuals exhibit these characteristics, they may find it difficult to build and maintain positive relationships, both personally and professionally. The constant need for attention and validation, coupled with a lack of empathy for others, can create feelings of isolation and loneliness.

The prima donna syndrome is characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance and obsession with status, and an expectation of special treatment. Individuals with this syndrome often believe that they are the most talented, intelligent, and hardworking people in their industry. They demand recognition for their accomplishments, and they expect others to cater to their needs and desires.

Unfortunately, the prima donna syndrome can really have devastating effects on an individual’s career and personal life. Prima donnas often alienate colleagues and clients with their demanding and entitled behavior. They may refuse to collaborate with others, believing that they’re the only ones capable of achieving success. They may also become resentful or hostile when they don’t receive the recognition they feel they deserve.

One of the most insidious aspects of prima donna syndrome is that they can be really difficult to detect in oneself. Many individuals with the syndrome believe that they’re simply ambitious or driven, rather than arrogant or entitled. And as a result, they may be resistant to feedback or criticism, and they may struggle to form meaningful relationships with others.

Prima Donna Traits

Here are some of the traits I’ve observed relating to this behavior:

  1. Need for control: Individuals with prima donna syndrome often have a strong desire to control situations and people around them. They may become frustrated or angry when things don’t go their way and may try to exert their control over others through manipulation, bullying, or other tactics.
  2. Sense of entitlement: Prima donnas often have a belief that they are entitled to certain privileges, recognition, or treatment that others are not. They may feel that they are above the rules that apply to most or that they deserve special treatment simply because of their position or status.
  3. Lack of empathy: Prima donnas may have difficulty empathizing with others and may dismiss the opinions or feelings of those around them. They may lack the ability to understand or appreciate the perspectives of others and often come across as cold, aloof, or uncaring.
  4. Inability to take feedback: Individuals with prima donna syndrome may become defensive or angry when receiving feedback or criticism. They may view any suggestion for improvement as a personal attack and may be unwilling to acknowledge or address their shortcomings.
  5. Need for attention: Prima donnas often crave attention and may behave in ways that draw attention to themselves. They may seek to be the center of attention or may use attention-seeking behavior to feel validated or important. This was the case with the co-author I mentioned above.
  6.  Poor team player: Individuals with prima donna syndrome may be unwilling to collaborate or work with others. They may belittle or dismiss the contributions of other people and may view themselves as the sole authority on a given topic or task.
  7. One additional trait of individuals with prima donna syndrome is their tendency to think that they are above menial tasks or mundane responsibilities. They may believe that these tasks are beneath them and that they should only be focusing on the “important” work. However, this can lead to them being seen as lazy or entitled by their colleagues.

Overall, people with prima donna syndrome may exhibit a range of challenging behaviors that can make it difficult to work or interact with them effectively. It is important to recognize these traits and to develop strategies for managing or mitigating their impact on others.


Helpful Strategies

Dealing with someone who has prima donna syndrome can be challenging, but here are some strategies that may be helpful:

1. Establish clear boundaries:
It is important to set clear boundaries with individuals who exhibit prima donna behavior. Establish expectations for how you will work together and communicate these expectations clearly and assertively. Be prepared to enforce consequences if the individual crosses these boundaries.

2. Stay calm and professional:
It is important to remain calm and professional when dealing with prima donnas, even if they become hostile or difficult. Avoid getting drawn into arguments or emotional reactions, as this can escalate the situation and make it harder to resolve.

3. Focus on facts and solutions:
When communicating with someone who has prima donna tendencies, try to focus on facts and solutions rather than emotions. Provide clear, objective feedback and offer suggestions for improvement or compromise.

4. Seek support:
Dealing with someone with prima donna syndrome can be stressful and challenging, so it may be helpful to seek support from colleagues, friends, or a mental health professional. Talking through your experiences and feelings with someone else can help you maintain perspective and develop effective coping strategies.

5. Consider disengaging:
In some cases, it may be necessary to disengage from an individual with prima donna syndrome if they are consistently difficult or toxic to work with. If you feel that the individual’s behavior is impacting your well-being or the well-being of others, it may be time to consider ending the relationship or seeking other professional or personal opportunities.

The behavior of individuals with this syndrome can lead to low morale, high turnover, and strained relationships with colleagues or clients. The earlier you recognize it and the sooner you address it, the stronger your organization will be.

Sometimes, business networking groups and BNI chapters find themselves with a member who displays prima donna syndrome. I recommend that you use these suggestions on how to work with them, and also how to work with people that you meet in other contexts.

One of my favorite sayings is: Humble people don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less. Well, prima donnas tend to think of themselves a lot. I share this information to help you recognize this behavior and be better equipped to interact with someone displaying these traits.

The Body Slam!string(14) "The Body Slam!"

Business conferences, as a rule, aren’t extraordinarily exciting. They don’t really take your breath away.  In 2006, I attended one in Hot Springs, Virginia, USA that was no exception. Mind you, it was interesting – but not much really exciting happened except for one particular evening. A friend of mine witnessed someone desperately choking at a restaurant. She calmly and professionally walked up to the person and swiftly did the Heimlich Maneuver to dislodge the food.  I heard all about the experience from several witnesses who watched in awe, as our mutual friend saved the day.

I vividly remember stopping to think about what I would do if I were alone, had something stuck in my throat and there was no one around to do the Heimlich on me. At the time, I didn’t know anything about the chair Heimlich which would have made my experience, and this story, much less dramatic. But I didn’t know it at the time, so I sat with my thoughts considering what I might do.

I finally concluded that I would simply jump as high into the air as I could and slam my body onto the floor to force the air (and the food) out! There, great. Another problem solved. Now, next thing to contemplate. Seriously, that was about as much time as I thought about the “possible dilemma” which I would probably never face.

Fast forward exactly one month later to May 8th, 2006. I was sitting in my office working from home one afternoon. It was well after lunch time, and I was getting hungry. I decided to heat up some left-over food from the previous night’s dinner. I checked with my son who was way over on the other side of the house to see if he was hungry. He said, “No,” so I proceeded to heat the piece of tri-tip beef and some vegetables in the microwave.

When it was good and hot, I took it into my office and sat at my computer working on whatever project I was working on while I absentmindedly ate my lunch. The steak was really good, but it had some gristle that made parts of the meal a little difficult to chew. I took a pretty big bite of meat, chewed it up, and swallowed. What I didn’t realize, however, was that a tough piece of gristle was attached to the other half of the piece in my mouth that I had not yet chewed. So, when I swallowed the one piece, it pulled the other piece down on top of the first. As I’m sure you guessed by now, the steak was well and truly lodged deeply in my throat.

Yikes!  “What do I do?” I thought. I reached for the phone to dial 911 for emergency services, however, I quickly discovered that when you have something completely stuck in your throat – you CANNOT make a sound. Nothing, nada, zip, zilch. You are completely silent!!!  “But wait,” I thought to myself, “I have this all figured out – I thought about this a month ago. I’ll simply jump as high as I possibly can and slam my body on the floor. Yeah, that’s the ticket – I’ll do that – NOW!”

With that, I stood up, took a big step, launched myself into the air and slammed onto the floor. Unfortunately, other than a couple of badly bruised ribs, absolutely nothing happened. At this point, I was getting quite desperate and felt a little light-headed, so I quickly stood up, took two or three really big steps and LAUNCHED myself as high as I could into the air. It was so high it would have made any professional wrestler proud. It was in fact, a world-class Wrestlemania body slam – right on the floor of my office.

With that, the stuck piece of steak popped out of my throat, but it remained in my mouth. I then opened my mouth and frantically gasped for a big deep breath. Luckily, I was able to get a big gulp of air. Unluckily, the steak was still connected to the rest of the bite by the stringy piece of gristle – it immediately got sucked right back into my windpipe!!! The thought flashed through my mind that this might just have been my very last breath.

I thought I was desperate before – now, however, I was incredibly desperate. I wasn’t thinking very clearly, and I thought I would run upstairs to get help from my son. Unfortunately, I managed to get only part of the way there before I could feel myself starting to get light headed and on the verge of passing out. I saw the stairs and called an audible. Instead of slamming into the flat surface of the floor, I would slam my body into the stairs while aiming my solar plexus for one of the stair steps. I took a running start for the stairs and did what had to look like a Three-Stooges-like physical stunt, launching myself into a stair step that I was aiming for. This time, the piece of steak AND its evil twin both ejected from my mouth in a manner that was reminiscent of the Exorcist movie.

I sat down on the stair that saved my life and coughed, coughed, and coughed – but more importantly, took long deep breaths of air.  My throat hurt, my head hurt, and I can’t tell you how badly my ribs hurt. I sat there for no more than a minute when the phone rang. To this day, I do not know what possessed me to stand up and answer the phone – but I did. I answered it with the most grizzled, gravely, frog-like voice you could possibly imagine.  “H-e-e-ello,” I rasped.  It was my mother.  She said, “Hi honey, is everything ok?”

Now, I have no idea why my mother called. We spoke often but not every day. She had no reason whatsoever to call me that afternoon. But she did call me. Furthermore, she sounded worried. She said, “I just had this bad feeling and I had to call you to make sure you were ok.”  “I’m f-i-i-i-ine” I rasped out. “You don’t sound fine,” she said. “No, I’m good – just something stuck in my throat is all. I’m good now.”
I never told my mother what happened that afternoon. 

I sometimes think back to several moments surrounding this whole episode. Why did that story about my friend doing the Heimlich give me pause? What in the world possessed me to think about what I’d do if no one were around and I had something stuck in my throat? And, how was it that my mother called moments after the episode and wanted to know if I was ok?

All of these are mysteries to my linear thinking, left-brained self. But I think of them nonetheless. Needless to say, I have a new appreciation for each of the breaths I have left and that’s why I felt compelled to share this story with you today, the 17th anniversary of my tri-tip body slam experience. 

Have you personally experienced something that has caused you to never take another breath for granted? If so, I’d really like to hear it. If you don’t mind sharing it, please tell us your story in the comment section below–thanks!

A Day of One-to-One Meetingsstring(28) "A Day of One-to-One Meetings"

One of BNI’s Core Values is Traditions + Innovation. In 2021, I announced that I was beginning a new tradition called “Founder’s Day” which is a day where I meet with BNI members from around the world in one-to-one meetings. This is possible because of the technological innovations that allow us to conveniently have global video conversations from the comfort of our own home or office.

The idea came from an episode of one of my favorite television shows called West Wing, which talked about the “Big Block of Cheese” concept. In 1835, the U.S. President, Andrew Jackson, was given a 1,400-pound block of cheese from a grateful dairyman. The gift was delivered to the White House (the President’s residence) and he didn’t know what to do with so much cheese. So, he opened the doors of the White House for the public to come in and take some of the tasty cheese for themselves. The story goes that thousands of visitors came to the White House and dispatched the massive block in just a few hours.

The TV series had a few episodes where they took this concept further and required that all the top staff meet with public citizens to listen to topics that they wouldn’t normally hear about and embrace.

That motivated me to do a networking variation of the idea. Founder’s Day is my opportunity to meet with BNI members from around the world for the purpose of answering their questions about business or networking.

The results from the first two years’ events have been gratifying. I enjoyed the meetings and appreciated the conversations and positive comments; one person shared afterward, “It was an inspired session. I am ready to hit new destinations in this journey.” A new book in both English and Hindi, “Knowledgepreneur”, came about because of one meeting. I was able to connect with people from around the world in a meaningful way for both of us.

You’re Invited

Business owners, managers, and professionals, have you invited your team or your customers to have a conversation with you or ask some questions? It can be a great way to build and strengthen your business relationships.

The 2023 Founder’s Day is taking place on Thursday, June 29th. I invite you to have your own day of 1-2-1 meetings that day, too. Schedule time to meet with your clients or your teammates so you can listen to and answer their questions. You may discover overlapping areas of professional and personal interests, and you may find out how you can help them in their business or role.

I look forward to hearing how many One-to-Ones you schedule for 29th June, and hearing about the results.

BNI members – follow me on social media for information on how you can submit your request to be part of my 2023 Founder’s Day on June 29th.




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The Importance of One-to-One Meetings with Referral Partnersstring(60) "The Importance of One-to-One Meetings with Referral Partners"

For years I’ve said that successful business networking is about building relationships with the people in your network. In addition to attending regular networking group meetings, it is imperative that you have one-to-one meetings with your fellow members outside of the group meetings.

This allows you to get a deeper understanding about their business, their products and services, their customers, and learn how you can refer them to people you know. It is also a way for them to do the same for you.

However, some people decline to have one-to-one meetings with their networking partners. I had a conversation with Tiffanie Kellog, BNI regional Training Team Coordinator in West Central Florida, USA, and we discussed the question: When is it okay to say no to a one-to-one?

Well, the answer is: NEVER. It’s never okay to say no to a one-to-one; that is, if you still want to generate referrals from that member.

What is the Purpose of a One-to-One?

The goal is to build relationships with our networking partners — to move through the VCP Process®, going from visibility, to credibility, to profitability. If we say no to a one-to-one meeting, if we’re too busy for our fellow members, then it is stopping the relationship. Think about it – if you’re too busy for a one-to-one, how are you going to have time to take care of the referrals I want to give to you?

And you never know what can come from a one-to-one meeting, even if you don’t think that person has much to contribute to you. I once went to a business meeting and sat next to a college student. I first thought, “Geez, what am I doing, sitting next to this college student? There are all these businesspeople that I want to sit next to.” And I thought to myself, okay, buck-up buttercup. You’re an expert on networking, network with this student. So I asked her lots of questions and got her to open up.

And guess what happened. After the meeting, one of the business associates came up to me and said, “Thank you.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Nobody ever talks to my daughter like that. They all want to sit next to the businesspeople. But you got her to open up and I really appreciate what you did at dinner.” I ended up making a good connection with the father, and I hardly talked to him at all. You never know where a one-to-one can lead.

Tips to Make it Easier to Say “Yes” to a 1-2-1

  • Schedule well in advance. Find a date that is convenient for both of you. One-to-one meetings are always more successful when both members have time to prepare.
  • Schedule outside your busiest season. We all understand that certain times of year are busier for some professions, such as accountants during tax time and retail store owners during holiday season. People appreciate when we respect their time restraints.
  • Have a purpose and format for the meeting. You can ask: What is the intention for the meeting? What are we looking to accomplish? Utilizing the G.A.I.N.S. exchange is a very powerful format for a first time one-to-one with a networking partner.
  • Stack multiple one-to-one meetings on the same day at the same location. This saves you time traveling to multiple locations on different days. You can also schedule virtual meetings back-to-back. Pick one or two days a week and block off time for meetings with your referral partners.
  • When someone asks you for a meeting, it’s okay to ask what they want to talk about and how long they think it will take. Having an agenda can help you decide how soon you want to schedule the meeting, and whether you need a one-to-one or just a quick conversation.

Business networking is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships.  Investing the time and effort into getting to know your networking members through productive, referral generating one-to-one meetings is the key to networking success.

Advanced Networking Skill: Edify Your Referral Sourcestring(54) "Advanced Networking Skill: Edify Your Referral Source"

I think this is a crucial concept in business networking that is rarely discussed. When you get a referral and you meet with the prospect, it is very important that you edify your referral source. This is a great technique to use because you begin the discussion with the potential customer by talking about an area of overlapping interest and knowledge – your mutual acquaintance

Before you start talking about your business, or even asking them some questions, it is important that you edify your referral source. Tell them how much you respect the person that referred you; talk a little bit about your relationship with that networking partner and why it is important to you that you provide great service to everyone that they refer to you. Spend some time talking about how you both know this individual. It is a fantastic way to warm up the referral and more importantly, it is a great opportunity to make your referral source look good for having made the referral.

Remember, the number one rule for referrals is to make your referral source look GREAT. You need to demonstrate that you know how to sell to the prospect in a way that doesn’t embarrass the source of your referral. Your networking partner must have confidence that you are going to consult with the prospective client, discover their needs, offer solutions based on those needs, give them some options, and not push for a sale if you know you can’t provide a good solution.

Alternatively, if your technique is to hold the prospect hostage at their kitchen table or office desk until they break down and buy something from you, your referral source will not be pleased that you’ve abused your relationship with them and damaged their own relationship with that client. You may get the deal, but you’ve shut yourself off from further deals with that client—and from any future referrals from your source.

Always edify your referral source and act in a way that would make that person want to refer more people to you.

How to Start

So, you might say, “Ivan, that sounds like a good idea, but how do I do that?”
Here’s an example.
If my networking partner, Tom, refers me to someone, the first thing I would do is ask Tom some questions about the potential customer.

  •  How do you know them? 
  •  How long have you known them?
  •  What is the situation that they need help with?
  •  How did it come about?
  •  Are they expecting my call?

These questions help me get background information about the person and why they were referred to me. I can do all of that in one to two minutes at the most.

Now that I am prepared with information, I am ready to call the referral. Unless Tom tells me to wait until a certain day, I am calling the same day that I received the referral. Don’t sit on it; don’t wait a few hours, or a few days to call.

When I call the prospect, the first thing I say is, “Hi, I understand that you have been a friend of Tom’s for a long time.”  Then I would edify Tom by saying that I have known him for years, he’s been my electrician for a long time, I admire how he always thinks about ways to help others, etc. 

Why? When you give me a referral, it’s important that the first thing I do with that referral is tell them how great it is working with you. The reason I do that is because a third-party testimonial is incredibly powerful. Tom is my third-party testimonial. Instead of me calling the referral and talking and bragging about myself, what I want to do is brag about Tom because the one thing that potential client has in common with me is him. If I am talking about Tom, that helps warm up the relationship a little bit before I start launching into how I can provide whatever services that I need to do.

The person who gave you the referral already has a relationship of trust with the prospect and is lending you their credibility by referring you to them. This is why it is important to make them look good by edifying them and effectively fulfilling that referral, so they get great feedback about working with you and want to refer to you again.

Have you experienced this with your networking partners? Share your comments below.

Seeking Engagement is Critical for Networking Groupsstring(52) "Seeking Engagement is Critical for Networking Groups"

Engagement involves a promise and an action. To achieve success in your business networking relationships, you and your networking partners must promise to support one another and then take the actions necessary to fulfill that promise.

There are several ways to engage in this process and they all begin with a culture of learning – learning effective networking strategies, and learning about the members of the group. 

Get to Know Your Fellow Members

First, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you taken the time to regularly meet with the people in your network? 
  • Have you invested time to educate them on the key benefits of your business so that your products or services will be top of mind when they meet someone with a need for what you offer? 
  • Likewise, have you taken the time to become educated about your networking partners’ businesses so that you can do the same for them?

The more people in your networking group who are engaged in these activities, the more likely it is that the entire group will be generating more referrals for each other. The reason for this is a shared vision of success and a shared implementation of that vision.

Another way to be actively engaged and continuously educated about your fellow members’ businesses is to do regular and consistent individual meetings. I have seen this over and over – business professionals who have regular one-to-one meetings with their business networking relationships tend to both give AND get more referrals.

Lastly, are you focusing on your Unique Selling Proposition?
The best way to ensure your referral sources are going to remember what you do is to focus on communicating your business to them in laser-specific elements. In each of your regular one-to-one meetings, talk about a single key element, product, or benefit of what you do, including how your clients feel AFTER they work with you.

There is research behind my recommendation of reciprocal engagement between you and your referral partners. According to Psychology Today, research has found that people who are “actively engaged” in a business environment are “43% more productive” than those who are not. They state that engagement includes “regular dialogue, quality of working relationships, perceptions of ethos and values of the organization, and recognition.” 

I believe the types of activities I’ve shared in this blog are critical to the long-term success of networking groups and their members. I encourage you to implement and practice these strategies to promote engagement within the membership of your group.

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