‘A business family’ ­— The Nevada County chapter of the Business Network International help businesses through referrals | TheUnion.com

‘A business family’ ­— The Nevada County chapter of the Business Network International help businesses through referrals

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

The group lives — and prospers — by the philosophy "Givers Gain."

And members of Nevada County Business Network International Business Builders swear that core belief works wonders.

"'Givers Gain' means if you give business to me, I will give business to you," said Rachael Pfadt, President of the local Business Network International group and Office Manager/Project Administrator at Cedar Ridge's Precision Electric. "The sole purpose of our group is to give members more business."

Business Network International is a professional networking organization whose members meet weekly to discuss business and support each other by sharing referrals. Only one representative from any one of the several hundred Business Network International professional specialties can join any one chapter.

Building relationships

The Nevada County group meets every Thursday for a luncheon meeting. Each week, members take a few moments to highlight the services or products they offer, and explain what type of clients they're currently focusing on. "A good referral for me this week would be…" or similar phrasing begins many of the introductions. It's essentially a live, 40-second infomercial, and pleasant bell chimes alert speakers when their time is up.

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Also at each meeting, two members' businesses are highlighted with longer, more detailed presentations. Other members are singled out for special contributions to the chapter, such as inviting the most guests in the previous month. Annual membership dues are $499, plus $5 per week.

The key to success, explained Pfadt, is building personal relationships within the group.

"Members can look at each other as a sort of outside sales team," said Pfadt. "We are all looking for opportunities to promote each other. BNI focuses heavily on fostering an environment of getting to know, like, and trust each other, so that we are more likely to work together and refer each other's services to others. Members gain personal and professional confidence by presenting, networking, and interacting with each other."

Finance of America's local Mortgage Advisor Suzanne Voter concurs that her fellow Business Network International members know enough about her business to serve as her "outside marketing team."

"As we all know and especially in small communities, people do business with people they know and trust and this has proven to be an excellent way to develop relationships with other business partners that I may not have had the opportunity to in any other ways," said Voter, a founding member of the group. "The chapter has been a great benefit to my business and over the past eight years, I have seen many businesses grow and prosper through BNI."

The beginning of the network

Business Network International began in 1985 in Southern California as an organization called The Network. By the end of the year, there were 20 local chapters. More chapters formed every year as the concept was embraced across the United States. By 1991, The Network's founder had his eye on international expansion and rebranded the business as Business Network International. The organization spread to Canada in 1993 and Europe in 1995.

Today, there are approximately 227,000 members in 8,211 local chapters worldwide. According to its website, "The mission of BNI is to help members increase their business through a structured, positive and professional referral marketing program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals."

Business Network International marketing claims its members increase their business bottom line an average of 20 percent in their first year of membership. The company reports member referrals generated $13.6 billion in revenue for its international members' businesses last year.

A prosperous county

Members of the Nevada County chapter say the value of their referrals has surpassed $5.2 million since the chapter's inception eight years ago, and topped $1.4 million in just the past 12 months.

Mary Margaretich is one of the founders of the local Business Network International chapter. In early 2009, she and her husband Kebby (Back to Health Chiropractic) invited a small group of business friends to an informal meeting.

"We were looking for a way to connect with local business owners who we could synergize with and refer our clients to with confidence," said Margaretich. "By June, we had enough members to start a formal BNI group. After that, we continued to grow and now have 33 members. Our chapter is very dynamic. We are a very happy and welcoming group."

For Pfadt, Precision Electric's sole administrator who said she spends most days alone in the office, networking with fellow Business Network International members pulls her from the daily grind of working in her business and allows her to work on her business.

"I joined in March of 2016 as the representative for the Electrical Contractor classification," said Pfadt. "I often refer to the group as my 'business support group.' I've been able to develop a more robust marketing strategy, improve our work flow, and increase our bottom line an average of 10 percent each year."

"It's an incredible way to refer business and receive referral business," said Andrew Boland, chapter treasurer President/CEO of Out of Sight Cleaning of Grass Valley. "The BNI chapter becomes like a 'business family.'"

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

BUSINESS BASICS

WHO: Nevada County Business Network International Business Builders

WHAT: Meetings are at noon on Thursdays

WHERE: Holbrooke Hotel, 212 W. Main Street, Grass Valley

INFO: bninorthernca.com/nevada-county-business-builders