When you’re starting to build your own business, a critical but sometimes overlooked skill is the ability to network with those around you.
It’s important that you’re able to articulate what you do well, but it’s even more important that you’re able to turn a conversation into a client and therefore start building your network.
Express Lawn Mowing franchisee Malcolm McKenzie has been in the corporate world for over 16 years and understands the importance of networking and connecting with local businesses. In fact, he attributes the success of his lawn mowing business to his membership and commitment to his local BNI group.
What’s a BNI group? BNI is the world’s largest networking and referral organisation and there are chapters literally all over Australia. BNI meetings provide a positive, supportive and structured environment for business owners to develop relationships and exchange referrals.
When Malcolm started his business in September 2014, he was lucky enough to be invited to his local BNI group by a customer. His business had been growing steadily but he knew this was the boost he needed to make it sustainable.
“I joined my local chapter over two years ago now and I’ve never looked back. From BNI referrals alone, I’ve brought in over $18,000 since starting my business,” Malcolm said.
“Keep in mind I did pay a membership fee when I joined and there is also a monthly fee to attend the meetings, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better return for your investment in terms of marketing.”
One of the most appealing aspects of a BNI group is that they only allow one business owner per industry, per chapter. Knowing that ongoing business is the goal, this means that attendees are more engaged and interested to find out how they can help each other.
“Every business owner knows it can be a little nerve wracking approaching other businesses. At networking groups and events, they break down the barriers and get you straight past the ‘gate keepers’ such as receptionists or assistants,” Malcolm said.
“From my BNI group I’ve managed to connect with 10 real estate agents, both commercial and residential. I believe that the longer you are committed to a BNI the more you will benefit, as people move on, new members join and there are always new opportunities.”
When it comes to making a great first impression, Malcolm’s best advice is to present yourself well!
“I always make an effort and only wear a business shirt to meetings. I would never go straight from mowing a lawn because I’m not just a lawn mower, I’m also a business owner and that’s how I want to present myself,” Malcolm said.
“Let your personality speak for you when you first meet someone, and let your work speak for you when you land your first job. It’s important you build trust with your fellow BNI members and remember that quality is paramount. If they’re impressed with your work, they’re going to refer you. Simple as that.”