Ok, so this debate may never end in a WWE style fight between Brad and Ivan (yes, that image is now burnt into my brain too) but whether BNI or 4N has the best business networking membership is a question that pops up on a regular basis.
As I have had experience with both I thought I would share my views. You never know, it may help.
BNI the best bits
For the business owner who works 9 – 5 at the office and needs a regular event to attend, the BNI routine seems to work a treat. It also helps set you up for the day, I was more productive following the BNI meetings, I was energised and ready for the day. Unsurprisingly I also went to bed earlier that evening too. Guess it is about balance.
2. Close business relationships
You get to know the other members really well. For better, and for worse. You are in the same room with the same people every week. You quickly get to know who knows their stuff, who can be relied upon and who cannot.
3. Closed groups, referral based
BNI is a lockout network. You can rest assured that you will be the only person in the room who is selling whatever it is you are selling (most of the time). This means that providing you are doing a good job during and following the meeting, building trust, educating your fellow members about what you do and more importantly how to spot a referral .. you should be quid’s in.
4. Opportunities to present to the room
Every meeting has an educational slot from an appointed person that helps you get the best from your BNI experience. I still remember one delivered by Cassie Footman who bought in a football and talked about teamwork. This was not just a beneficial insight, but also showed off Cassie’s skills as a business coach as she was able to hold the attention of the room, deliver a clear message and make us smile (all before 7.30am!). I was a member 3 years ago; this 5 min slot still lives on today. That is quite a powerful thing.
There is also a member presentation each week, where you can help the team get to know you a little better and once again, how to spot a good referral for you
I have two words. Phil. Berg. There are others, but to be honest, when I think about BNI training I think of Phil. He is the most genuine man ever, he is passionate about helping people and he is passionate about how BNI can help people. Phil is also a wonderful motivational speaker and I was proud to introduce him and grateful that he accepted the offer to speak at the Milton Keynes Entrepreneurial Spark awards in 2017.
Overall, not a bad effort from the contender in the red corner.
BNI was established in 1985 so something is working. Will it work or you?
4N the best bits
1. Local and National Events
4N has 127 meetings all over the UK and guess what, the 4N passport means you can go to all of them, as many times as you like under your very cost-effective membership. Have you organised a meeting in Liverpool? You could go to Liverpool, Heswall, Chester, Warrington or Runcorn to name a few. Milton Keynes now has 3 meetings … yes, that’s right 3! Breakfast, Lunch and Wine. (Opps, I mean dinner)
2. Speaking opportunities
Just like BNI, each meeting has a speaking slot for members. But what is unique, is with 4N you have the chance to deliver these 20 min slots all over the country. If you are concentrating on your local presence you will most likely have a choice of a few meetings to work your way around. If you are looking for national referrals/business opportunities or simply opportunities to deliver talks you have 127 (and growing) opportunities. In my opinion, 4sighting is one of the most valuable features of the 4N membership, they really are a remarkable addition to the networking scene.
But … warning … They are not supposed to be a sales pitch. The 4Sights should be educational, interesting and valuable. They are there to help share your knowledge and skills. There is nothing worse than sitting through a 20 mins sales pitch so 4N are quite strict about this and rightly so.
I 100% recommend being part of a team for many reasons. Not only does it help get you noticed but it also gives you another reason to network outside of the meeting that isn’t all about your business. But, when I talk of the team, it is not just about the team who manage and set up the event or even the 4N HQ team who are all lovely and supportive. It is about the team you start to build as a result of getting to know many people. I am not kidding when I say that over the past year I have built up a wider and stronger network due to meeting at people through 4N than I had in the 3 years previous. I attribute it to 4N being about the bigger picture and the members and community members knowing that the power of networking is in the long game and not just instant wins. I am still a fledgeling when it comes to being a 4N member but if the last year is anything to go by I am really looking forward to what the next few years will bring.
4. Facebook Community
In a crowd of 25,000 people, you might think that you would get lost in a sea of voices. I would say this would be true in most large communities (especially if those communities are on LinkedIn, am I right!?) Yet the 4N Facebook community, for all its faults, is by far the most active and supportive Facebook group I have had the pleasure of being a part of. It is not moderated like other groups. There isn’t a totalitarian leader telling you that you can or cannot post your page link on a Wednesday or on Tuesday you must use the #TopTuesday hashtag and woe betide you if you break the rules. No, 4N has built a community of contributors and try to allow the community to moderate itself. This can be off-putting to some as it is not always sweetness and light due to people being allowed the freedom to .. not agree with each other .. please don’t be shocked, it does happen. But the other side of this is 4N is the most honest group who overall just want to help you succeed. I would also like to put out that there is a certain level of moderation from 4N HQ, as this is the internet after all, and dear me there are some crazies out there!
Ok, hands up. Occasionally I have found it hard to commit to morning events. Sometimes it has been due to having children especially when they were younger with sickness and school commitments etc. Other times I am big enough to admit, I just don’t like getting out of the house for 6am. Whatever the reason, 4N offers choice. As a member, otherwise known as ‘passporter’, and as an adult, it is your choice if you go or not. Your membership is with 4N and not your local meeting. If you can’t make it one week because you are watching your kids nativity, no worries, go to another one instead or miss it completely. It is your membership.
If you want to network before you start your day, 4N has you covered with breakfast which is always 8am-10m, if it is easier popping out for a long lunch .. yep, you are covered too 12pm – 2pm. Like a beer, friendly smile and a chance to wind down after a long day .. well you are probably better off at one of the evening events 6pm – 8pm.
Another great effort there from 4N!
4N has only been running for 12 years. But I would say mostly due to the phenomenal use of social media and flexible approach 4N has built a community that other events could only dream of.
To summarise, they are both great in their own way. Asking someone what their thoughts and experiences are is a valid question but asking someone which one would be better for you isn’t. If you get a good BNI group you could fly! If you get a bad group that make no effort, you won’t. If you join 4N but make no effort to work your membership you will lose, if you put in the time and effort you will reap the reward.
- Both offer 2 visits before you are asked to become a member
- Both want you to join so expect to be sold to at the end
- Both are expensive if you do not use your membership to its fullest
- Both are cheap if you maximise your membership to its fullest
Right here, right now, it is 4N that fits my life, business and objectives. That is why I have chosen to start my own group with the help of my trusted team Alison, Dawn and Sarah.
If you would like to give 4N a go, take this as your invite to the Milton Keynes Evening Group which launches on Wednesday 7th March. Our maiden 4sight is from Taz Thornton – Turn your cant’s into cans
If you have any questions about if 4N would work for you just give me a shout, I won’t bite.
p.s. I know other people who are members of both BNI and 4N …. I have not yet heard of any of them being hung drawn and quartered either.