International Networking Week: “A New World of Opportunity” stories from various international BNI leaders
Submitted by Graham Southwell
National Director – BNI New Zealand
International Networking Week has come around again. The theme this year is “A new world of opportunity’ and as I sit here thinking about the various activities we have planned this year, I find myself reflecting upon the changes that have taken place in BNI since we first got underway in New Zealand, some 20 years ago. To say a lot has changed since those days is an understatement! The business landscape back then would seem very strange to today’s Millennials. The internet was only starting to gain traction, business websites were still ‘cutting edge’ and communication tended to be by telephone, letter or fax. The opportunities to connect and network today compared to those times is astounding. Imagine a world in which there was no smart phone, google, text messaging, What’s App, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc! And yet, this is the world into which we launched BNI in NZ.
Since those times, not only has the world changed, but the organisation has evolved with it – truly embracing new opportunities as they presented themselves. BNI has transformed from what was essentially a family business into a national and then international organisation – and today is truly a Global Organisation. Just this week for example, I received an email from a member in Singapore, seeking an introduction into our dairy industry. In those early days, I remember entering member application forms onto an Access database – which I duly backed up every few days, storing the discs off site. Today of course we have a global database in BNI Connect – who would have thought that we would end up with the entire business being stored in the cloud! Dr Ivan Misner led the change and was always quick to embrace new opportunities. He held the vision of a single global dataset and at the same time was the first person I knew to start writing a weekly blog, to use social media for business and to start producing weekly podcasts. For the first time members had direct access to the founder of BNI and we had a solution to the problem of the proverbial ‘leaky bucket’. Last year, the app was added to the BNI stable – and more recently through the app, the opportunity to pass referrals to members anywhere in the world. BNI University has added a new level of opportunity in terms of training and upskilling and on it goes. I don’t see the pace of change slowing anytime soon!
If 20 years ago I had had a crystal ball and could have seen what was coming – I might have thought that BNI would have a very limited future. Who would have thought that today – with so many opportunities to network and pass business online – that there would still be a call for people to come together to meet over breakfast! In fact, BNI is growing faster now than at any time in our 34-year history, Changing the Way the World Does Business through our structured word of mouth marketing campaign, our core values to include Givers Gain and through engaging with the very communities in which we are doing business – through the Business Voices campaign. In New Zealand this takes the form of our support for hospice and our funding of Hospice New Zealand’s Palliative Care programme. In addition, the various chapter led fundraising activities have now raised close to NZ$2 million dollars for hospice. BNI truly is a remarkable organisation, the opportunities going forward are exciting and it is an absolute honour to head up BNI in this part of the world.
Wishing everyone a fantastic International Networking Week 2019!
Graham Southwell | National Director – BNI New Zealand