This month’s Spotlight falls on a “what” not a “who” – Business Networking International.

Tom Ivey knows that a great deal of his success has come as a result of the referral network he has built through involvement in Business Networking International (BNI).

As he will tell you, “BNI” can also stand for “Bigger Net Income” when members seriously use the principles set down by its founder, Dr. Ivan Misner.

BNI is the largest business networking organization in the world, offering members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts and most importantly, business referrals. In 2010 alone, BNI generated over $2.8 billion in business for its members.

Locally, BNI Northern Virginia is a very active and successful region with 50 local chapters and growing.

One local chapter member stated, on the BNI-NOVA website, “Joining a BNI chapter was the best business decision I made in 2009. Joining BNI has made all of my other networking more effective.

“Through the combination of my BNI contacts, and my professional organization contacts, I am able to leverage both with geometric results. And through the BNI training, I now stand out in my Chamber of Commerce meetings as someone who is listening and focusing on how to be a good referral partner.”

BNI began very simply. In 1985, Dr. Ivan Misner was a consultant who wanted to build contacts and increase his business. He gathered a group of businesspeople to collaborate, offer support to one another and establish lasting networking relationships. The original group was comprised of individuals from a variety of industries, but only one person per profession was allowed so that the members to speak more openly about their business.

“BNI is the classic example of necessity being the mother of invention,” he said in a recent BNI publication. “I was a business consultant [and] I was young. I thought that everybody had this referral thing figured out except for me.”

The first group began in Arcadia, California, but as others visited from professions already represented, groups started to spring up quickly with 20 locations were launched the first year.

Local chapters have since been established across the United States and around the world. In the past 15 years, BNI has grown from chapters in two to over 47 countries with over 133,000 members.

The philosophy of the organization is built upon the idea of “Givers Gain®” – the more business you give, the more business you will get.

While the national and international picture may seem quite impressive, the local chapter is at the heart of BNI. In the Northern Virginia area, chapters range in size from a small group beginning a new chapter to ones with 30-40 members. They meet in different geographic areas on different days and normally either early morning or lunchtime.

Despite differences in size, time and location, chapter meetings are virtually identical. This way regulars and visitors know what is to take place while members can initiate a cross-chapter visit and feel right at home.

For more information about BNI Northern Virginia, you can visit their website at www.bninova.com. From there you will be able to see what is taking place in the region and contact BNI NOVA leaders by email.

If you want a personal testimony or a description of what BNI is all about, during your next visit to Tysons Auto Specialties, why not ask Tom to tell you about it!

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