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‘Father Of Modern Networking’ Dr. Ivan Misner Visits India

On the occasion of Mumbai Members’ Day (MMD) 2019, Business Network International’s (BNI), Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder & Chief Visionary Officer visits India and addressed 1500 entrepreneurs sharing the vision carved for the growth of BNI in India and overseas. Present at the occasion was Ms. Beth Misner (wife of Dr. Misner) and Co-Chair of the BNI Foundation, the charitable arm of BNI, Mac Srinivasan- Global Markets President, BNI, Mr. Atul Joglekar- Head – Operations BNI India, Meena Srinivasan, ED of Chennai CBD-A and Mr. Hemu Suvarna- Area Director, BNI Mumbai.

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Misner, labelled as the ‘Father of Modern Networking’ by CNN, and the ‘Top Networking Experts’ by Forbes, is considered to be the leading experts on business networking. He has also been a keynote speaker for major corporations and associations throughout the world. As the Co-Founder of the BNI Charitable Foundation, Misner works towards educating disadvantaged children across the world. Amongst several awards and citations, he has received the ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ award by the Red Cross and was recently the recipient of the John C. Maxwell Leadership Award.

BNI has played a pivotal role in bringing together entrepreneurs across the world and generating business through referrals. As vital as India's MSMEs and SMEs are to the economy, BNI, founded in 1985, started with one chapter in the USA and now has grown to 2,59,206+ members in 74 countries. BNI members join chapters and only one member from a particular profession or trade is admitted in each chapter. There are currently over 607 chapters across India.

On his current visit to India, Misner speaks to BW Businessworld exclusively sharing his insights and perspective on the current structure of BNI that functions in India and other markets of Asia. He stated, “BNI has seen exponential growth over the last few years across the world and we look forward to even greater growth as we negotiate the fourth decade for the organisation. BNI has indeed changed the way the world does business, with its emphasis on collaboration and mutual support. India is the most exciting growth story for us and especially Mumbai. Not only has the region seen tremendous growth in terms of members and business generated over the last two years, we see Mumbai as leading the world in the innovations it has effected, which will directly impact the MSME sector in the country in the areas of collaboration and phenomenal business growth across geographies.”

The average business transacted per member in BNI India is Rs. 40 lacs per annum. BNI is dedicated to facilitating business between members, locally and globally, and this has resulted in a business of Rs. 11,568 crores done amongst BNI members in India over the last 12 months.

Continuing on BNI Philosophy, Misner stressed, “The core philosophy of BNI is ‘Givers Gain(R) ‘. Every member is urged and coached to give business first to their fellow members to ultimately gain business, by virtue of this philosophy. The structured agenda of BNI is designed to propel members to bond with each other, develop trust amongst themselves and support each other in their growth and development. “

Speaking further on referral marketing, he said, “Referral marketing works when an associate, friend, client or supplier has a need that can be met by someone you know and trust. You mention

to them that you know someone who can help them and you connect them. We teach people how to listen for referrals. For example, a friend is impressed with your brochure and mentions that he is looking for a good printer and you connect him with your printer— that is a referral. Business is more likely to happen in this manner, as there is a transfer of trust. A good referral enhances your reputation.”

However, according to him, networking goes wrong when people don’t understand the VCP—visibility, credibility, and profitability—process. He stated, “Firstly, you have to be visible. People have to know who you are. Then you have to establish credibility. Only after that can you get to profitability. It’s a chronological process and it takes time. People try to jump from visibility to profitability at light speed. Also, a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately. Often people go networking and forget to listen to others and find out how they can help them. Focusing on the other person and creating value to them can help forge long-term relationships.”

For a good networker, a good follow up is a must said, Misner. He mentioned, “The key part is to follow up well after you network with the respective person. So for instance if one has had a brief meet, it is important to connect with that somebody within 24 hours after your meet through a handwritten note or an email and then within seven days you should get on social media where they are and connect with them and start following the activities that they have and then within 30 days you reach out to them. However, in none of those steps should you sell to them. It's all about building the relationship. Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting right. It's about cultivating relationships with other business professionals.”

Being passionate about social media, he admits he is very active in social media as matter of fact on his public Facebook page, I have more followers from India than any other country in the world including the United States.

Explaining how the digital boom has positively affected BNI overall, he said, “I see social media as a benefit. I founded BNI in 1985. In the first eleven years of BNI, we went from one chapter to 500 chapters. It's commonly thought that the worldwide web really began to become active around 1996. So from 1997 to 2008, we opened more 5000 chapters. So the internet has definitely affected BNI in a positive way. Today the internet or digital power gives us a place to build the brand for people to understand a little bit about what BNI is all about. Saying that social media is a powerful tool but so is face to face networking. Both face to face and social networking are great tools to build a business today.”

Speaking on his latest book written, 'Who's in your room', Misner passionately mentioned that this book is dramatically different than anything he has written about. He explained that the room is the metaphor given to our mind stating that there is only one entry and exit to the door and people entering through this door live in our room metaphorically in our mind forever. Thus you have to be more selective about the people you bring into your life and in order to do one needs to know your personal values. Further one he stated, “But it has nothing to do with networking but in another way it has everything to do with networking because networking is about building relationships.”

When questioned out of all his 25 written books, which would he consider to be his favourite, he quipped, “All of them. The question asked is like picking one of my favourite children”.

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