Going Out of Business Sale: No Returnsstring(38) "Going Out of Business Sale: No Returns"

Guest Blog
Dr. Mark Goulston is a longtime friend and 
podcast and blog post contributor to BNI and an even closer personal friend to me. He thought you and I might find this contribution interesting and helpful. I know I have.

Dear Ivan and BNI Friends,

I thought the above title was more upbeat and would grab your attention more than the other one I’ve been doing many interviews about, namely, “I’m dying to tell you.”

That’s because I have a serious and potentially terminal illness that is daily teaching me more important lessons about everything, from life to business and back, than living ever did. I have an urgency to share them because my treatments – chemotherapy followed by a Bone Marrow Transplant – might result in some long term cognitive impairment – which I had a taste of today. If that happens, my creativity and language skills may take a hit and if so, I will try to be a good sport and be the doting parent, grandparent and husband that I am doing my best to be already.

BTW don’t feel sorry for me, I am the most content and at peace I have ever been in my life. When people try to pump me up with well-intentioned (and because they don’t know what else to say) statements like, “You gotta have a positive attitude,” I reply with, “I am positive and optimistic (hey, if Ivan can pull through everything he’s been through, so can I) and I’ll trade you the utter peace of mind I have now that I have been chasing for 70 years for positive attitude any day.” I think accepting that I might die – although I’m not being passive about my treatment – has enabled me to let go of having to live which is more peaceful than not accepting I might die and not letting go of having to live and becoming consumed with that.

Here are a few lessons I have learned that I will try to make relevant to you and your life and business.

  1. A matter of life and death for me and you. Have the best team and partners you can have in business, in marriage and in life where you have each others’ back, can fully depend and rely on, be optimistic and yet fully honest with. I don’t think I would be at such peace if I didn’t have the best doctor I have ever known or had (the guy has 260+ 5 star patient reviews – that’s a unicorn among unicorns). If I had gone with the brilliant, but arrogant MD I saw before who I would be afraid to ask questions or share my deepest concerns with, I wouldn’t be nearly at so much peace. Don’t settle for anyone less in your business and in your life.
  2. Michelangelo Dying. Michelangelo famously said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set it free.” Well I saw what was the most important inside all the unimportant stuff (and there was a bunch). And when I carved away what was unimportant, what became important completely shined through. And one of those was friendships with people like Ivan, so we have made a commitment to catch up at least every two months.
  3. Visionary Dying. For a year and half I did a one man show (written, produced, directed and starring me) called “Steve Jobs Returns,” where I played Jobs from 1996 when he returned to Apple to 2007 when he introduced the iPhone (here is an animated excerpted video clip from one performance). At any rate when I played him I discovered 3 D’s of Visionary Thinking:
    a. Define Reality beyond what’s possible and beyond what’s even imaginable, such as a Macintosh computer with a mouse and graphical user interface that would put a personal computer on everyone’s desk.
    b. Declare Intention to make it happen where Jobs reinforced that with his famous Reality Distortion Field that he got everyone else to believe because he did.
    c. Decide Strategy on how to make it happen with the participation of people like his partner Steve Wozniak and later on designers such as Jony Ive (here’s my favorite video clip of what Jobs taught Jony that still rings true).

For me, my Visionary Dying involves:
a. Defining Reality of what a good death is and I hit all the criteria from my late mentor Dr. Edwin Shneidman except living until 90 and being as little a pain in the rear to your family as possible (I guess you’ll have to ask them).

b. Declaring Intention to make it so.

c. Deciding Strategy which is living the criteria of A Good Death, assembling the best medical team around me, helping my family adjust to this chapter in my life.

Thank you my dear friend Ivan, and my BNI friends, if you have taken the time to read this. And if you have, I hope you will check out my “I’m dying to tell you” YouTube and TikTok video series and if you find them helpful, I hope you will give me the gift of sharing them with people you think might also feel the same.

Until we meet again (and rumors of my demise which I may have started may hopefully be exaggerated), take good care of yourself and the people you love.

Finally, perhaps what gives me the most peace of mind is knowing that everyone who has ever lived has died and if they can do it, so can I.

Toxic Competition Can Destroy Your Business. Here’s How to Build a Culture of Co-Creation.string(96) "Toxic Competition Can Destroy Your Business. Here’s How to Build a Culture of Co-Creation."

“The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Success” is the new book I co-wrote with Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto and Dawa Tarchin Phillips that shows the evolution from mere cooperation to the emergence of co-creation to achieve organizational goals.

Our book uses data from a survey of thousands of people, interviews with many experts, research from scholars, the coauthors’ personal experiences, and a case study to help shape the concept of co-creation in the future. As the book hit the shelves, Entrepreneur Media spoke with us to further explain the concept and delve deeper into how co-creation can impact entrepreneurship and the world. Here are some highlights from that conversation:

Entrepreneur: What inspired you to write this book?

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: When Ivan and I first started talking about the idea for this book, I was involved in several major co-creative projects and experienced both the benefits and challenges of working co-creatively first-hand. These are challenging times for a lot of people, and the approaches of the 1st and 2nd Paradigms of competition and cooperation, while proven to yield certain outcomes, simply do not solve many of the major challenges that we are currently facing and that require new, innovative, and disruptive solutions, whether in the United States or around the world.

Ivan Misner: I experienced firsthand the three paradigms while running my global organization. I knew early on in my career that the Competition Paradigm led, at best, to a win-lose outcome. At worst, everyone is lost under that paradigm. Cooperation was the paradigm that I trained under in graduate school. The idea of people working together as a team to solve problems was more effective and certainly provided a better work environment. However, during my career, I saw that something was missing from this approach. There needed to be more buy-in on really challenging problems in the organization. I discovered that the stakeholders were an incredible resource to co-create a solution to challenging problems. In 1986, I formed my first co-creative body in my company (BNI). This group was called the “board of advisors,” but the truth is they were more than advisors. I gave them almost complete authority to design, redesign, eliminate, or create new organizational policies that directly related to the clients (aka members) of the organization. It was crowdsourcing before the internet. It was a game changer for my company. Without them, I could not have scaled BNI into a global enterprise with more than 11,000 groups across the globe.

How have you engaged in co-creation?

Heidi Scott Giusto: As a writer and editor, I’ve learned that book writing is almost always a co-creative process because many people are involved. Take this book, for example. We had more than 4,000 people contribute to it by responding to our survey. That is above and beyond the work of the authors and publishing team. By offering their perspectives, the survey respondents contributed immensely to creating this book.

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: As a business and community leader, I have discovered that co-creation is at the heart of strong, values-driven, and highly entrepreneurial business cultures and communities. Today, my company is involved in several entrepreneurial and philanthropic undertakings that are powered by a co-creative approach. We have also focused specifically on following a co-creative process to writing this book, which we believe will further expose the reader to the diversity of ideas and solutions generated by a co-creative process.

Ivan Misner: Wouldn’t the world be a truly amazing place if people focused on solutions and not problems? Wouldn’t it be amazing if people could disagree without being totally disagreeable? Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could create together rather than tear things down? That’s what co-creation is all about. It gets people together for the singular purpose of holding a vision and not obsessing about the obstacles. It is possible to do these things. I’ve seen it, and I’ve been a party to it. We must start by having the desire and the will to do so. My greatest desire is for business to introduce this process to the world. Then maybe governments and bureaucracies might start to co-create solutions to the world’s problems as well.

How can or does co-creation shape successful entrepreneurship?

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: In many industries it has become best practice to operate leaner and closer to the customer and other stakeholders when creating products and services, shaping the value proposition, and building the company. This can lead to fewer products and services being launched that have no customer demand, which just wastes the company’s and investors’ time and money. Co-creation also tends to express less as just a strategy and more as an actual culture, and a culture of co-creation can be highly resilient, as more stakeholders have a sense of ownership, impact, and belonging. As Peter Drucker used to say, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Heidi Scott Giusto: Especially for small businesses where the owner wears numerous hats, co-creation can help distribute the intellectual demands for innovation and process improvement. By bringing in stakeholders to solve a problem or improve a process, small-business owners can engage in co-creation and give their business a competitive edge.

Ivan Misner: We opened this book by saying that “we live in an age of sweeping conflict, widespread skepticism, and intense anxiety.” That is true today. I don’t believe it is a statement of where we must go. I believe that “What’s in the way, becomes the way.” Conflict, skepticism, and anxiety can be the motivation to find a different way to communicate and create a better world. Co-creation can be that catalyst.

How do you recommend people get started?

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: The key to co-creation is involving other people. Our book provides a practical model and sequential process anyone can use to achieve results with co-creation, but the first thing is to talk to the people you want to engage in the process. The emphasis in co-creation is on “co.” So open up about your plans and start to include important stakeholders in your considerations. That is the biggest shift and most important transformation. You have to begin to see other people not as part of the problem but as a critical part of the solution.

Heidi Scott Giusto: Identify the problem you want to solve, and then use the Co-Creation Model we presented in the book to get started. The clock’s ticking!

Ivan Misner: There is a proverb that says: “When is the best time to plant an oak tree? Answer: 20 years ago. When is the second best time? Answer: today.” Start finding ways to implement co-creation within your organization. It won’t be easy. Most great things are difficult to achieve. If you look for excuses, you’ll find them. But if you look for solutions, you’ll find those instead. Start today and hold the vision not the obstacles.

I invite you to learn more in “The Third Paradigm”.

Does Networking Work for Employees?string(35) "Does Networking Work for Employees?"

Yes, it does. Business networking is an important aspect of professional growth and success. Whether you are self-employed or you are a professional working within a larger organization as an employee, I believe it is worth the time and effort to find networking groups that can refer new business to you. If you currently work for someone, I suggest you take steps to persuade your employer that you will get business by working with these groups. The following story demonstrates the ways that networking can be beneficial to you.

The Bank Manager’s Triumph: A Networking Success Story

Several years ago, I met a bank manager who was diligently attempting to persuade his supervisor that participation in a BNI® chapter would yield substantial results for his branch. The supervisor reluctantly agreed to let him become a member on a trial basis. The bank manager began getting referrals soon after joining the group. After several months, a fellow member gave him a particularly good referral; it was a man who was disgruntled with the level of service at his current bank. The manager decided to visit the man at his company. The man told the bank manager that he felt he was not getting personal service from his bank. The manager assured him that his bank prided itself on service. He gave the man his personal mobile and his home phone number and told him that if there were ever a problem, he could be reached any time of day, at home or at work. The man thanked him for coming to his office and told him he would get back to him.  

Two days later, at exactly 9:00 a.m., the man was standing at the bank door with several savings and checkbooks in hand. The branch manager met him at the door and thanked him for coming to his branch. The man said he was impressed with the way he was handled by the manager and that he had decided to transfer his accounts to the manager’s bank. To the astonishment of the bank manager, the new customer handed over checking, savings, and money-market accounts totaling over $950,000! After everything was completed, the man told the manager how glad he was to be referred to him by their mutual friend.

News of the Referral Got Around

I first heard this story when my office, BNI Headquarters, started getting phone calls from every branch manager in Southern California, USA, who worked for that particular bank. Each of them wanted information about a local BNI chapter in their area. When the bank manager who got the $950,000 referral told his supervisor where he got the referral from, the supervisor (Remember him? He was the reluctant one.) called all his other branch managers and told them to join a local BNI chapter within the next two weeks. The transformative power of effective networking had not only boosted individual success, it had also become a catalyst for organizational change.

Lessons for Employees: Persuasion and Initiative

For those of you working as employees, the bank manager’s triumph offers valuable lessons – the biggest one is persuade your supervisor. Convincing supervisors of the merits of business networking is often the first hurdle. I spoke to an individual who was eager to join a networking group but faced continued resistance from his boss, who cited budget constraints and said the company would not pay for it. Undeterred, the savvy salesman proposed a compelling deal: he would personally fund the membership, and if he secured two referrals resulting in sales within the thirty days, the company would reimburse him. The boss said, “Sure, if you come in with two sales, I’ll see to it that the company pays for the membership.”

Highly motivated by the potential for success, the salesman closed three sales and was working on four more by the end of the first month. True to their agreement, the boss covered the initial membership cost and then paid for the renewal, acknowledging the tangible benefits derived from the salesman’s networking efforts. This story underscores the transformative impact that personal initiative and persuasive communication can have in creating a supportive environment within a company for networking.

Networking – A Cultural Shift

The bank manager’s success and the subsequent organizational response highlight the opportunity for a cultural shift within companies. The reluctance of the supervisor who was initially hesitant about the networking idea, transformed into proactive encouragement for all branch managers to join local BNI chapters. This shift reflects the recognition that networking is more than an individual pursuit; it can be a strategic advantage for the entire organization.

Creating a culture that values and promotes networking involves leadership buy-in, consistent communication, and the showcasing of tangible results. The success stories that emerge from individual networking efforts can serve as powerful tools to persuade employers of the broader benefits. Organizations that actively support and facilitate business networking initiatives are more likely to foster innovation, collaboration, and a heightened sense of community among employees.

Virtual Platforms and Global Reach

In today’s digital age, the landscape of networking has expanded beyond traditional face-to-face interactions. Virtual platforms and online communities provide avenues for connecting with professionals globally, transcending geographical boundaries. While in-person networking remains invaluable, the digital realm offers unique opportunities for expanding one’s network and accessing a diverse range of perspectives. Embracing this digital shift allows individuals and organizations to tap into global networking and business opportunities.

The Enduring Impact of Networking

The bank manager’s triumph serves as a testament to the enduring impact of strategic business networking. Whether you’re a self-employed professional seeking to carve your niche or an employee within a larger organization aiming to create a culture of collaboration, networking is an invaluable asset.

The lessons learned from the stories in this blog extend beyond individual success to encompass organizational growth and cultural transformation. By recognizing the potential of business networking, and actively pursuing professional relationships, individuals and companies alike can unlock doors to new referral opportunities. Whether you are self-employed or you work for someone else, I recommend that you start looking for networking groups that can refer new business to you.

Businesses Need an Edge for Successstring(35) "Businesses Need an Edge for Success"

As we go through economic cycles, businesses face constant challenges. Statistics indicate that more than 50 percent of all ventures close their doors within seven years, and during recessions, the rate of failure rises dramatically. To thrive in such an environment, successful businesses need an edge over their competition.

While many rely on advertising to gain an advantage, simply offering the same products or services in the same way as competitors rarely leads to differentiation. The key to success lies in creativity, especially in marketing strategies. Today’s thriving companies and professional practices understand that creativity is a fundamental pillar in standing out from the crowd.

A story exemplifying creative ingenuity features three store owners with adjacent storefronts in the same building. Faced with tough times, the first store owner put up a sign proclaiming, “YEAR-END CLEARANCE!!!” in hopes of attracting sales. The second owner, attempting to compete, countered with his own sign, “ANNUAL CLOSE-OUT.” However, it was the third store owner, situated in the middle, who realized the importance of a swift response. He placed a larger sign over his front door that said, “MAIN ENTRANCE.”

The tale underscores a crucial lesson: businesses cannot control the economy or the actions of competitors, but they can control their own responses to these challenges. Embracing creativity enables them to navigate turbulent times and carve out a unique position in the market.

The Significance of Creativity in Marketing

In the competitive modern landscape, relying solely on traditional marketing methods may not suffice. Because consumers are bombarded by advertisements from a variety of sources, creativity is the key to capturing attention and making a lasting impression. Creative marketing campaigns can leverage humor, emotional appeal, storytelling, and/or innovative visuals to engage audiences and foster brand loyalty.

Understanding Customer Needs

Creativity in business involves a deep understanding of customer needs. By conducting thorough market research and listening to customer feedback, businesses can identify pain points and tailor their offerings accordingly. Addressing unique client needs creates a competitive advantage that sets a business apart from others in the industry.

Niche Marketing and Targeted Strategies

Rather than trying to appeal to a broad audience, many successful businesses embrace niche marketing. Identifying a specific target audience and catering to their preferences allows for more focused and impactful marketing efforts. Targeted strategies ensure that the message resonates with the right people, increasing the likelihood of conversion and customer loyalty.

Innovation and Adaptability

Innovation goes hand in hand with creativity, as businesses need to continuously explore new ideas and adapt to changing market demands. Stagnation can lead to obsolescence. Forward-thinking companies that embrace change are more likely to thrive in any economic environment.

Building a Unique Brand Identity

A well-crafted brand identity plays a crucial role in standing out from competitors. Creativity in branding involves defining a compelling brand story, designing eye-catching visuals, and establishing a consistent brand voice. A strong brand identity instills trust, fosters client loyalty, and creates a lasting impression in the minds of consumers.

Embracing Digital Marketing

With the digital revolution, businesses have a plethora of creative tools and platforms at their disposal. Social media, content marketing, influencer partnerships, and interactive experiences provide innovative ways to connect with audiences and create a memorable brand presence.

Networking and Collaboration

Creativity also extends beyond marketing strategies to business partnerships and collaborations. Networking with other professionals and businesses can lead to mutually beneficial opportunities, expanding reach and resources in unique ways.

Creativity is the driving force behind gaining a competitive edge in the ever-changing business landscape. Successful professionals recognize the importance of creativity in all aspects of their business. By embracing creativity and responding creatively to challenges, businesses can position themselves for sustained success and weather economic fluctuations with resilience.

In a world where constant adaptation is essential, creativity emerges as the key differentiator that allows businesses to leave an indelible mark in their industries. It gives them an edge that can significantly impact their success.

Create an Identity for Your Businessstring(36) "Create an Identity for Your Business"

Creating a strong and distinct identity for your business is of paramount importance in today’s competitive landscape.
Your business identity goes beyond your logo and brand colors; it’s about the image you project, how you position yourself, and the lasting impression you leave on your target audience. Jeff Davidson, the author of “Marketing on a Shoestring,” aptly notes that we are living in the age of the image, and the impact of your business’s image is undeniable. Your success, regardless of the size of your business, heavily depends on how you position yourself and what you project.

The concept of positioning was popularized in the early 1980s by Al Ries and Jack Trout. They astutely pointed out that in today’s over-communicated society, very little communication actually takes place. To break through the noise and create a lasting impression, a company must create a unique position in the minds of their target audience, recognizing that the most effective communication occurs when optimally placed and timed.

Being the “first” is one of the most effective ways to establish a position in someone’s mind. Think about Neil Armstrong – he was the first person to walk on the moon, a fact that is universally recognized. However, try naming any of the astronauts who walked on the moon during subsequent NASA missions, and you’ll likely draw a blank. This demonstrates the power of being the first – it’s memorable and enduring.

When you effectively position your business, you save time and resources because your message is clear and others quickly understand what your company represents and offers. Every networking encounter, advertisement, message, employee, and every square inch of your office space should contribute to delivering a consistent and memorable theme to your target market.

The identity you develop for your business should be unique and tailored to your specific goals and values. You might aim to become a leader in a burgeoning industry or a compelling alternative to the established giants. Your business might be known for being open 24/7, or it could be an exclusive, by-appointment-only establishment. In today’s fast-paced, swiftly changing, and highly competitive environment, creating a distinctive identity isn’t just a choice; it is a necessity for survival and growth.
Positioning can help you create an identity and maintain a secure spot in the minds of those you wish to serve.

Start by Answering Three Fundamental Questions

  1. What You’re Going to Be
    Define your core purpose and values. What is your business all about? What do you stand for, and what are your long-term goals?
  2. What You’re Going to Offer
    Be clear about the products or services you provide. What makes them unique or better than the competition? What problems do they solve for your customers?
  3. To Whom You’re Going to Offer It
    Identify your target audience. Who are the people or organizations that will benefit the most from what you offer? What are their needs, preferences, and pain points?

Once you have a clear vision of these aspects, you can begin crafting your business’s identity. This identity should permeate every facet of your business, from your marketing materials and website to your interactions with customers and employees. Consistency is key.

Immerse yourself in learning about creating a business identity, brand, and image. Carve out time each day to explore this topic further. There is a wealth of valuable information available online – articles and blog posts, books and courses. The more you educate yourself on the subject, the more equipped you’ll be to define and communicate your business’s identity effectively.

Creating a strong and memorable identity for your business is a crucial element in your journey to success. Your identity sets you apart, communicates your value, and leaves a lasting impression. Take the challenge to delve into the process of identity creation for your business. Start by answering the three foundational questions and dedicating time to research and learning. Within a week, you’ll likely find yourself equipped with a clear answer about your business’s identity that you can confidently share with others.

Give ONE Good Reason Someone Should Do Business with Youstring(56) "Give ONE Good Reason Someone Should Do Business with You"

Several years ago, I started watching episodes of the television show “Shark Tank” and I got hooked! The business reality series shows entrepreneurs making business presentations to a panel of five venture capitalists (called Sharks), who decide whether to invest in their companies. I found that there are some serious business lessons that can be learned by viewing the show and I saw one episode that really struck me.

There was an entrepreneur on that episode, Raven Thomas, who had started a food business called, The Painted Pretzel, which specialized in pretzels covered with chocolate and other confectionaries. Raven had a pretty good business and, according to the panelists, a product that was delicious. After a fair amount of discussion, one of the Sharks, Lori Greiner, got to the end of the conversation and asked, “Why should we invest in you?”

I realized at that moment that this was the big question, and I knew Raven’s answer could make or break the deal. Raven replied to Lori with… “The main reason is that I have two little kids and blah, blah, blah. . . (she went on about being a mom).”  I immediately paused the show, looked at my (now late) wife Beth, and practically screamed “She just blew it!  She totally gave a relational answer to a bunch of transactional SHARKS!  They don’t care about blah, blah, blah; they want something closer to ‘show me the money’ than ‘I love what I do!’” 

Know Your Audience

Beth replied, “You have to know your audience when you are talking about your business.” Her statement was spot on. Before I started to play the episode again, we talked about how crucial it was for Raven to speak the language that the Sharks speak if she wanted them to invest in her. She needed to speak a language focused on opportunity, growth, return on investment, and cold hard cash. Instead, Raven talked about how she felt about her business and how it related to her children. Her answer failed to include anything at all that the Sharks would relate to as serious, analytical business investors looking for reasons to convince them that Raven’s business would be a wise financial investment.

I realize that some people may be thinking, “That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not this or that…”  Well, I’m not talking about what is fair. What I’m saying is it was totally predictable. The moment she started to give that answer, I knew she most likely lost all chances of getting funded because she was giving a relational answer to transactional professionals.

I resumed watching the episode, sure that I would witness the train wreck which was about to ensue. To my astonishment, one of the Sharks, Robert Herjavec, gave Raven a “do-over” (I really like this Shark – if I am ever a panelist on a business show, I’d like to think my style would be similar to his). Robert looked at Raven and gave her a chance to give a better answer when he said to her, “Let’s do that again.

She took a moment and said, “A good reason to invest in me is that I had to walk away from a $2 million deal because I did not have the capital to fill the order. . . and that door is still open.” This answer was a showstopper—it completely captured the Sharks’ attention. Within a few moments, Mark Cuban (one of the Sharks who also owned the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team) offered Raven the $100,000 cash investment she was asking for. He also offered distribution of her products at his sports stadium and at each location of the movie theater chain he owns! Of course, she said yes to his offer. As a result, she expected her company’s sales to exceed $1.2 million dollars the next year!

The lesson to be learned is that it is absolutely imperative to know your audience and tailor your comments to suit the people you’re talking to. This is an extremely important lesson in both the business arena and the networking arena.

I’m not saying to tell them what they want to hear.
I am saying tell them in a way that they will best be able to hear it; a way that’s most relevant to them, addressing the talking points that they are most interested in.

This is one of the main reasons why I recommend that when you first meet people, you begin by asking them questions about themselves prior to speaking in length about yourself. The more you know about the people you’re talking to, the better able you will be to craft your own message in a way that effectively resonates with them.

I’d love to hear your story about people “knowing” or “not knowing” their audience in the comment forum below. Thanks!

Richard Branson: Virgin Voyagesstring(31) "Richard Branson: Virgin Voyages"

I recently visited Necker Island (which I think is the best island in the Caribbean) and talked with Richard Branson about one of his newest businesses, Virgin Voyages.
In this video, he shares how Virgin Voyages is different from other cruise lines.

By the way, BNI members who are travel agents can represent this business if they are interested.




When “Networking Up” (networking with someone more successful than you are), always try to talk about something that is new and interesting to them.
This is what was new and interesting to Richard, and I was happy to discuss it.

Ten Commandments for Business Networking

Ten Commandments for Business Networkingstring(40) "Ten Commandments for Business Networking"

It amazes me the number of people I meet who are at the top of their game in the business world, and yet they struggle with confidence when it comes to networking meetings. I wonder how they find networking so difficult when they are remarkably impressive performers in other areas of business.

The truth is, there are a lot of reasons people struggle with networking. Sometimes it is just confidence, and sometimes it is a lack of experience, organization, or time management.

This led me to create my Ten Commandments of Successful Networking. These are  step-by-step practical guidelines covering everything one needs to do to be a highly confident and successful business networker.

 Ten Commandments of Successful Networking

  1. Do Not Sell to Me. If we are trying to help one another get more business, you tell me your target market, I tell you my target market and when we are out in the world, we speak well of one another and refer one another. Do not try to sell to me – I’m your referral resource; you can sell through me to get to the people that I know. If I need your product or service, I will certainly call upon you. Don’t sell to me; build a relationship with me.
  2. Understand the Law of Reciprocity. If I am sending business to you, please keep me top of mind. Giving me a new client is the best thank you I can receive, and I will continue working to find referrals for you when I know you appreciate me. The Law of Reciprocity is part of social capital theory and in BNI® it is our principle core value – Givers Gain. If you help me, I’ll help you, and we’ll all do better as a result.
  3. Do Not Abuse Our Relationship. Sending me a bogus referral just to use me, my expertise, or my resources for free without asking permission first is the fastest way to lose my respect. Mutually beneficial referral partnerships are built on trust.
  4. Always Be on Time. If we have arranged a meeting to get to know one another and strategize how we can refer business to each other, don’t be late. I dedicated this time in my schedule FOR YOU, and I respect you enough to be on time. I expect the same. Don’t reschedule our appointment unless it is absolutely critical.
  5. Be Specific. Specific Is Terrific! Tell your referral partners, in a laser sharp way, how to refer to you. If you tell me your target market is “anybody” or “everybody,” that means nobody to me. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for me to find referrals for your business.
  6. Take Your Business Seriously. As your networking partner, I need to know your intentions. If your company is a hobby business, it will be difficult for me to assist you. If it is a part-time business, you are limited in the time you spend working on your business, and also in the time you have working to find referrals for me. However, if you’re working your business part-time with a goal of making it full-time, I am there for you,100%. You must be 100% in your business in order for your networking group to feel comfortable referring you.
  7. Follow Up on Referrals. When I send you a referral for potential business, please follow up with that prospect in a timely fashion– ideally within 24 hours. If you’re going out of town or will not be available for some time, a quick call, text, or e-mail to the person to let them know when you will be available will preserve your credibility AND protect my reputation in recommending you to someone I know and care about.
  1. Communicate. If I do something that upsets you, inadvertently send you a “bad” referral, or cause you to have ill feelings toward me, please communicate with me as soon as possible. I may not be aware that I have caused a problem for you. If you tell me, I can try to fix it. Referral networking is about relationships. Clear, open, honest, and direct communication is the best way to build effective relationships with referral partners.
  1. Protect My Reputation. Most people would rather die than risk their reputations. If I receive disparaging or derogatory feedback from a referral that I sent to you, it is as though you cut me off at the knees. Please do what you say you will do and live up to the ethical standards of your profession. Protect my reputation (and yours) by doing a good job.
  2. Prepare for Success. If you really want to grow your business, then prepare to receive more business. Does your current business plan include the next steps for your company’s growth? I will move mountains for my networking partners to ensure they get referrals on a consistent basis. 

Understanding and following these recommendations as a regular part of your business networking practices can help new and seasoned professionals network successfully. I’d love to hear your thoughts.




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For a business organization to be successful, there must be accountability. If there must be accountability, then it follows that some systems and rules have to be in place.
This is also true for business networking groups such as BNI®.

I have found that one of the strengths of a network is that most of the members are friends, and one of the weaknesses of a network is that most of the members are friends. And friends don’t like to hold friends accountable.


Think about it like this: Ice hockey without rules would be boxing on ice. Without rules, your networking group would be chaos.

BNI chapters without rules and guidelines would be a coffee klatch of socializing around a table or a social club chit-chatting in a video meeting. You have to have rules, you have to have a system. The rules are important for long-term success.


Applying the Rules

Quality leadership is about having a positive attitude while maintaining accountability with diplomacy. It is about coaching people by guiding and helping them. Good leaders apply the policies and rules like Mandela, not Atilla. They use tough love, they show people that they care, and they make sure that the members of their team or of the group understand the why behind the accountability.

Remember: People don’t care HOW until they understand WHY. Accountability is critical for business success. Effectively maintaining accountability in a business or networking group leads to long-term success for the organization and its members.

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I’m often asked, “Who has been an inspiration to you during your life?”
My answer is that there are a handful of people who have influenced me in terms of business and personal development. I’d like to tell you about four who have impacted my life both professionally and personally.

Michael E. Gerber

The first is Michael Gerber. Michael is an icon in the field of management. He wrote the book “The E-Myth” (entrepreneurial myth). I did not know Michael when I read the book, which I first picked up when I started BNI®. One of the things that really resonated with me was that he talked about systems, systems, systems. You have to write everything down and create systems. Make it replicable and sustainable. AND you have to learn how to work on the business, not just in the business. There are so many things that Michael wrote that I applied to BNI. I truly believe that BNI, as an organization today, exists the way it does because of the influence that “The E-Myth” had on me.

What really amazed me is that going forward almost 20 years, I finally had the opportunity to meet Michael and spend a fair amount of time with him. He visited me at my home, which reinforced my attitude about his knowledge and business acumen. He is amazing. I highly recommend that you read his book. He absolutely makes a difference in people’s business lives.

Jack Canfield

Number two is for personal development as much as business development, and that is Jack Canfield. You may know Jack from the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series which has sold over 500 million copies worldwide. I’ve gotten to know Jack really well and I think he is an amazing guy. He invited me into the Transformational Leadership Council (TLC), which I have been a member of now for a number of years, serving on their board and membership committee.

For somebody who has sold 500 million books and is as well-known as he is, oftentimes ego enters the room several minutes before they do. Not so with Jack. He is easy to talk to, very well-read, low ego, very intelligent, very personable, very driven, and very connectable.

Here is one of the things that I really love about him. He is highly engaged when he is at a seminar. He is up front, listening to everyone’s presentation and taking copious notes. I have learned a lot from Jack; he is a great guy. I urge people to read his books on success, such as “The Success Principles,” and read any of the Chicken Soup books – they are outstanding.

Stewart Emery

The third person is someone who may not have the name recognition as the first two, however he has really influenced me personally and has influenced BNI. It is Stewart Emery. Stewart has written a number of books including, “Success Built to Last.” I highly recommend that book. He has also written the book, “Do You Matter?” It’s about branding and design of a business, which is really good. I think Stewart is one of the great minds of our time. He has come up with some ideas that are really powerful, two of which I talk about often.

The first is culture eats strategy for breakfast. I love that concept. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you are part of an organization that has marginal culture and great strategy, you’re not going to do well as an organization. If you are part of an organization with great culture and a marginal strategy, you will probably do pretty well. If you are an organization that has great culture and a great strategy, you are going to beat the competition every day of the week.

The second thing that I learned from Stewart is the concept that became the basis for the book we co-authored together, “Who’s In Your Room?” The idea is that, assuming you let somebody into a metaphorical room that you create and you can’t ever let them out, would you think twice about who you let in? It’s a great concept and it is particularly relevant for BNI chapters and networking groups because if you bring people in, you realize that you are going to be with these people for a long time and can never get rid of them if you let them in. I appreciate Stewart for sharing this brilliant concept with me, and with all of us.

Sir Richard Branson

I got a chance to meet Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, several times through my visits to Necker Island. I’ve spent time with him there and got to know him reasonably well. He is gracious, kind and patient with people. He can connect to anyone at any level of an organization and make them feel empowered and good about themselves. He knows how to relax and have fun, and he’s a great host. I love that he has absolute laser focus on anyone he meets; he gives his undivided attention to them. He talks with that person as if they are the only one in the room, maintaining eye contact with them the whole time. I have gone to school on Richard and his ability to network effectively with all people at all levels of an organization, and I’ve learned a lot from him.

So those are people who have influenced me both personally and professionally.
Who has inspired you? I invite you to think about two or three people who have made a difference in your life and share why & how in the comments section.

I believe gratitude is a good thing. I suggest that if you know these people personally, or if you can connect with them somehow, let them know that they have influenced your life.


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Give Valuable Information to Get More Business

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We all want to do business with people we know and trust. So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at business networking events? One way is to offer value-added advice – solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

For instance, a real estate agent may be talking with someone at a networking event who is not ready to buy a home today, however they are considering it soon. The agent could say something like this:
“Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now. When you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town. Many of my clients have seen their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another high school in that area.”

This example shows that it is possible to offer relevant information that has something of value without being too salesy. A statement like this acknowledges that the person is not currently in the market, and yet it still demonstrates the real estate agent’s expertise, making them memorable when it’s time for the new contact to begin house hunting.

This model can be effective for consultants, accountants, financial planners, coaches, and for most professionals in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. 

Give a Little Test Drive

Some people are concerned about giving away their intellectual capital for free. I say look at it this way: very few people are going choose to work with you if they’re not sure you can do the job and provide what they need.

If your business does not have a tangible product, you only have your technical expertise to demonstrate your capability to help them solve their problem. Think about it – when you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to sign on the dotted line until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospective customers. Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you are a marketing consultant, give them a few ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business. Don’t go overboard; simply offer a technique you read about or tried with one of your clients. Just give them something they can try to see if it works for them.

This way of offering advice lead to a positive conversation with new contacts while you’re networking, and it also increases the likelihood of them contacting you when they have a future need for your type of service.  

Prospective Referral Sources

Remember that your networking group members are also your prospective referral sources. Consider the ways that you can give them valuable advice related to your specialty or profession. Perhaps you can tell them about an upcoming change in procedures that will affect them, give tips on how to initiate the changes they will need to make, or provide other pertinent information that can help your chapter members achieve success.

One of the goals of a master connector is to help your networking partners feel that you are a link to privileged and helpful information. The advice you give may lead prospective referral sources to seek you out for answers to their own questions, which is a great way to remind them of what you can do for others.  

Here are some tips to help you decide what to share with your network and how to share it with them:

  • Make a list of the topics that you feel comfortable and confident giving advice on.
  • Decide whether you will share information formally, such as in a newsletter or a presentation at your networking group, or informally, such as a personal note.
  • Determine how frequently you will provide updates on the topics.
  • Ask your sources to think of others who might benefit from your advice.
  • Periodically ask your network members if they find your information useful. You can ask them if they have other questions or topics that you can share, too.
  • Be sure that your network members know that they can tell you if they no longer wish to receive your updates.

Offering valuable information to your network will not only help them, it will also keep you on their minds and encourage them to refer you and speak highly of your professional knowledge to people they know.

A Giving Approach

I learned about the power of giving when I was in my first management position working for private industry. I went to each member of my team and asked, “How can I help you?” By offering to help people with this simple question, I built strong relationships with them and learned what it was that they needed most from me.

I later discovered that this approach worked very well in promoting my consulting services in my own business. I would find ways to help people – even if it meant not selling them my services. The attitude of helping with a ‘giving’ approach was a way to build my credibility and it brought people back to me later when they had a need.

When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, offering value-added advice is one of the best ways to do so. Everyone can benefit when you give valuable information to your business networking group and networking partners.

Have you found it beneficial to share some of your expertise with potential customers? I’d like to read about your experience in the Comment section.

Be a Motivational Speaker for Your Business

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When you watch or listen to a motivational speaker such as Jack Canfield, Brian Tracy or John Maxwell, can you feel the passion flowing through their words and actions? Think back to a speaker’s presentation at a convention or seminar you attended. Was there an energetic buzz in the room afterward? Were the other attendees excited about what they heard?  Usually the answer is YES. However, do you know why?

The hidden element behind a motivational speaker is passion. They have an uncanny ability to share passion through their words, which helps listeners remember their message.

When it comes to business networking success, our personal challenge is to have an extraordinary message that captures the essence of our business and highlights our unique selling proposition (USP). Our USP sets us apart from the competition and helps us get more referrals from our networking groups.

Tapping Into Your Business Passion

Are your referral partners excited about your business? If you’re not sure, ask yourself: Are YOU excited about what you do? Are you passionate about what you do? Hopefully, your answer is yes – you are excited and passionate about your business. You need to convey that feeling to your potential customers and clients, and to your networking partners.

Increasing the excitement about your business can be easy. You can capitalize on your passion and spotlight your uniqueness by answering these questions from your heart rather than your head.

  1. WHY are you excited about your business?
  2. As a professional, what do you do that makes you look forward to going to work each day?
  3. How does your work fulfill you?
  4. What element of your work do you enjoy the most ? Why?
  5. What can you say about yourself or your business that your competition cannot say?

Your answers will help you tap into your passion and incorporate it into your daily message about your work. I believe that successful people have passion about what they do, and it shows in how they describe their business. They are working in their flame and not in their wax.

Public Speaking Tips

After you identify your passion about what you do and develop your USP, it’s time to put them together for an effective business presentation. Whether it is a one-minute presentation, ten minutes, or more, these tips can help make it more comfortable and less stressful when speaking in public.

  1. Be prepared. Have reference notes about what you plan to say and review them ahead of time. Avoid reading them word-for-word.
  2. Be specific. Focus on just one or two parts of your business each time you speak on it. By being specific, you can talk about something you know well and will feel more at ease.
  3. Use visual aids. PowerPoint slides can help you stay on track. In-person handouts assure that your audience takes home important information.
  4. Remember that you are the expert. Nobody knows your business as well as you do. Speak confidently about your experience and your expertise.
  5. Be creative. If talking to a large group makes you uncomfortable, try starting with a Q&A session and share your information in response to the questions.
  6. Tell stories about your business. Make sure to relive the story, don’t just retell it. Relive the story as though you were experiencing it again; this will give you the same kind of excitement you had when it happened and will draw the audience in to the experience with you.

There is no right or wrong way to present to an audience. I recommend that you do what works best for you and for your business in a way that is comfortable for you.

Sharing Your Passion

Many business professionals offer to speak free of charge to service clubs or business organizations as a way of sharing their expertise while getting exposure for themselves and their business. If your product or service is conducive to this approach, tell the members of your personal network that you offer this service, and accept referrals for speaking engagements. Ask your referral partners to share your information with the program chairs of organizations to which they belong, such as chambers of commerce, Rotary, Kiwanis, or the local group of their industry professionals.

REMEMBER: These speaking engagements are NOT a sales pitch. You are there to provide expert information and education to the group and its members.

If you prepare well, incorporate the public speaking tips, and do a good job at these presentations by sharing your passion for your work, you may get many more speaking offers and a lot of new business. I know of a BNI member who took this advice and built her speaking resume by sharing information at chambers of commerce, professional organizations, civic and community groups, high schools, and with active-duty military personnel. Those connections led to being featured on local television, radio, and teaching a class at a community college, all of which helped her business grow.

Remember, nothing great in life has ever been accomplished without passion. When you are passionate about the solutions you provide for your customers and clients, and you share that excitement with your network and your referral partners, they become motivated to help you. When you become a motivational speaker for your business, great things can happen.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you share your passion for what you do?



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