BNI’s (Business Network International) sole aim is to help businesses and individuals grow, and at no time during its 25 years in the UK and Ireland has this been more important. The COVID pandemic has meant a rollercoaster of furlough, cash flow issues, and in some cases forced closure for periods of time. All business owners have been affected; some are busier than ever but have recruitment issues, others have seen a complete slowdown. One thing all business owners agree on is the importance of a strong support network.
Over the past 25 years, BNI members have generated £5.78bn of business for each other. There are currently 13,000 BNI members in the UK and Ireland, and they are part of 500 groups that meet on a weekly basis and have continued to do so through lockdown. BNI quickly moved their face-to-face meetings online to allow continued networking, vital support and friendship during an uncertain time.
Barbara Powelec is a BNI member in Glasgow. The pandemic meant she could not work for several months, and as a new member, it would be easy to assume that being part of a business networking group was bad timing. This is far from the truth,
“I joined BNI in February 2020, my business at that time was as a mobile massage therapist. I got a couple of meetings under my belt, then COVID struck and my business completely shut down. Even though I couldn’t do any business, I was so grateful for the weekly meetings and learning opportunities. I spent time learning about everyone else’s business and also taking advantage of the BNI training courses, so I could improve both my English and my knowledge of business. When we went into lockdown again in November 2020, my business was in trouble again, but the support from everyone kept me going. I have tried my best to help and support members of the group, as they have helped me.
I am so happy to be a BNI member. Without this group of people, I wouldn’t be the business owner I am now. What makes this even more remarkable is that all these relationships have been built entirely online, as we have not yet met face-to-face as a group. It shows you what is possible via Zoom.”
There are several BNI members who have been with the UK and Ireland team for the whole of the past 25 years. Steve Pursey is one of those.
“I’ve been a member for 25 years now and started as a mortgage adviser and then an IFA. Since 2009, I have been an Estate Agent. When I first joined BNI, I was a sole trader and wanted to enlarge my contact sphere, and now it is an invaluable part of my business. The support, personal and professional development, and the friendships I have made over the years means I continue to love being part of the weekly meetings. BNI gives me a sense of worth and value.”
BNI has demonstrated over the past 25 years that the community it has created in the UK has become a reliable and essential support service for those in business. Especially during tough times.