So I’m in BNI – Business Networks International – a marketing forum based on the “Givers Gain” philosophy which is to reward a referral leading to closed business with another referral leading to closed business. No commissions, no gifts, no bribes. Just give business to get business. It’s the best illustration of word-of-mouth marketing since… EVER! And I have read online that guys think we’re a cult or some funky “club members only” exclusive snobs, but you’ll be surprised once you attend a meeting – which is open to anyone around the world.
My BNI Chapter (we call ourselves Legacy) meets every Wednesday at the time all other BNI Chapters all around the world meet, which is 6:30 a.m. And there’s little to no room for delay. Easy for Germans and kids like us who have learnt from Germans that keeping time is not a courtesy. Anyway, I had trouble sleeping last night and wound up drafting ideas for my other blog’s short stories (or excerpts, as one of my best critics likes to call them). Then I had a mug of warm coffee to ease my cramps. Then I wrote some more. Then I wished I had checked for my novel in my bag before leaving the office instead of in the mini-bus on my way home. Then I slept.
My alarm was set for 4 a.m. Life lesson: never press “dismiss” on your alarm. You can play around with the “snooze” tab/button, but not with “dismiss”. I woke up from a light dreamy slumber at 5:30 a.m. Then I boarded a vehicle taking me closer to my destination, even though I wasn’t sure how close “close” close would be. I boarded TWO more vehicles, having walked almost 10 minutes to get the next one and waiting almost 5 minutes for it to fill up. I got to my meeting a cool 45 minutes late. It’s the first time since I joined the chapter and I was so ashamed.
The day made up for my initial troubles when Legacy members asked after my health and gave some warm advice on how badly I need to slow down. You see, Legacy has become a sort of home for me. Once a business forum allows you to know more about a person – interests and hobbies, family information, what their goals in life are, their burning desires, anyone in their network, etc – then you cease to be just a bunch of early birds out to strike it rich. You become friends. Our chapter has what we call a “buddy system” where people are randomly paired and asked to check up on each other on the regular, meet up, talk and know each others’ businesses inside and out. My buddy, Dominic Ndolo, was the first to reach out and ask how I was feeling. He promised to check in soon. I have received quite some great advice and positive business referrals from him. He runs Royal Hometown Limousines – a company which provides luxury vehicles for any private, national or corporate event that you can think of. My former buddy, David Macharia, is one of the leading photographers in the country as far as I can see – he has been featured in two top magazines in Kenya and Eastern Africa, has been featured on a popular bridal show on national television and was selected to do the first Victorian Wedding shoot in Nairobi (and likely Kenya). I booked him for a photo shoot on the 11th of May and I can’t wait to have fun! I’m told by everyone that his studio is a fun place to be especially during a shoot.
Mercy Kang’ethe of Camara International, a new member to our chapter, brought along two great businessmen to my office after our meeting. She has talked to them about the business centre I manage and we are looking forward to doing business together soon. My first supporter in business at BNI is Jackson Wande of Makini Training and Consultancy. He was the first to work at a hot desk at my office and has booked our meeting room for a meeting later in the month.
After a great day, I took time to speak with a guard at our office building who has been consistent in sending me potential clients and being ever so helpful with my guests. Recently, he had mentioned how troublesome a potential client had been with him. Troublesome is to put it politely because the said lady cursed at him after having parked in someone’s slot. I don’t mean to sound prejudiced, but there is something rather hurtful about a visitor in your country insulting you at your place of work. For that reason, I intentionally failed to follow up on her and let go of any potential business I may have gained from her company. Why? Because one of the key networking questions somewhere in the past 3 weeks or less addressed rewarding my best marketers. It came to me like a bright light right after he had come to see me, his name is Charles, and I thought to spare him the humiliation of having to deal with her as a permanent tenant at our office premises.
There’s a lesson in this for myself and anyone who cares to think about and act on it: treat people well. This comes from a fairly sharp tongued, often cynical, often strung type A who is not used to being wrong. I am, however, starting to learn how to step back and listen. That I don’t always have to be right or heard or acknowledged. That it’s not just about the pillars – the cleaners and guards and tea girl – because I am often nicer to them than I care to be with some of my own friends and work associates. Another lesson I picked from a prickly conversation I had with a colleague who had quickly slipped from “friendly associate” to |”muse for angry poetry/art/stories”. Imagine having to be a sieve or strainer through whom someone decides to channel their frustrations. I’m glad to report that we’ve made piece and that more is finally getting done faster with the air between us thawed.
So before I start sounding like Dr. Phil or some of your mothers,
Cheers to the wondrous Wednesday this has turned out to be!