This is a guest blog post by Noel Farrelly who one of the few successful and honest financial advisors around. His firm is called Index Wealth Managers and can be found here.
The word networking can mean different things to different people, but most would agree that it includes the art of meeting people in a favourable environment, who might need your services themselves, or who can influence people who might need your services, now or at some point in the future. I have attended many networking events over the years and looking back, it is apparent to me that many were a complete waste of time. I am no fan of “open” networking events, but prefer to network “on purpose”.
Over 10 years ago, an American networking group, BNI, made a strong and successful push into the UK. One of the earliest groups in the Midlands was formed in Little Aston and I went along to an initial meeting, at the request of a friend of mine, who is also a client. Those of you familiar with BNI will know that the object of the exercise is to meet very early in the morning, every week with the object of exchanging referrals with each other; it is run to a system, which includes documenting and tracking all referrals given and received, starting promptly at 7 AM and finishing promptly at 8:30 AM. Only one representative of every business is allowed to be a member, so competition is limited and all meetings are run to an agenda which does not change.
I was invited to be Chairman of the group, a position I accepted, but with misgivings. BNI has a reputation for being more suited to those businesses which find it relatively straightforward to pick up referrals, such as printing, insurance broking and stationery. As Chairman, running each meeting every week, I was very visible and, as a member, I had to stand up every week and spend 1 minute (and no longer) telling 30 other people about my business and my ideal client. Although Chairman is a 6 month stint I spent three years doing the job and, as I expected, I did not acquire many new clients. There were a few however and I also established some excellent supplier relationships which thrive to this day.
This is not a testimonial for BNI, although I believe the discipline and structure they impose are extremely useful. The benefits to me were that I became very practised in describing my business and my ideal client in a short space of time. Last week I received a phone call from a member I hadn’t seen for seven years; he’s selling an asset and will have a considerable sum of money to invest and he wants to see me. The regularity of my stating my case had lodged my name in his mind and even all these years later he remembered me.
BNI is by no means the only way to network on purpose, but it is continuing to work for me.
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