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Breaking (and Making) Bread Together

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“Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.” ~~Albert Einstein

One of the most valuable times in every networker’s week is meal time. This is a wonderful part of every day when we can relax with someone over food and really get deeper into a relationship or strategy. If you stop and think about how many meals we enjoy every year, the opportunity to maximize this is incredible.

Let’s look at the numbers.

We eat three meals a day every day for 365 days each year. That is more than 1,000. Let’s back that down to weekdays only (5 days per week and go with 50 weeks for simplicity’s sake) leaving 750. I recommend cutting that into thirds where one third is for your family, one third for yourself and non-business friends, and one-third for purposeful food encounters. Let’s simplify the math once more and convert 250 to 20 per month. That is basically one meal per working day. These can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I personally prefer one dinner per week and four breakfasts and lunches. That is, four dinners and sixteen others mixed. Some months it is twelve breakfasts and four lunches. Some months it is the reverse.

What is a purposeful food encounter? It is a planned event with just a few select people. They typically include 2-4 people and fall into one of these patterns: one-to-one, one-to-two, or two-to-two.

One-to-one sessions are level one gatherings with one other person to set strategy and further existing relationships. I find it most powerful to select a single target market or single aspect of your business offer and focus on just that. Talk about the problems your target prospects experience, what phrases or comments would indicate their experience with these issues, what solutions you can provide, what common objections they might have, and how to move the introduction along. You should also discuss strategic alliances, good and bad referrals, and the typical cycle you encounter in this arena. In the beginning of the process, this may be the only type of session you do and twenty or even forty of these purposeful meetings carry strong results. As well as setting the stage for the next level up.

Level two meetings are when the actual introductions are done. These are usually three or four people together and put either the strategic alliance partners together or the problem holders and problem solvers. This is to establish a new relationship by bridging the gap between these two parties using an existing relationship to introduce a new one.

Think of this as a triangle. Let’s set the stage. We have Matt Plastic who represents a credit card company that works very well with the restaurant industry. As you may recall we considered that in Week Three Find the Perfect Customer. Matt has a very good friend named Mary Shields, who is a Commercial Insurance Agent. Mary’s friend, Wolf Davis, runs a restaurant and is a client. Matt and Mary got together in an earlier meal meeting and Matt talked about how he helped restaurant owners. Mary looked through her client list and arranged a meeting with Wolf.

As you can see, this can become a very productive meal meeting. The parties that already know each other (Matt-Mary and Mary-Wolf) strengthen their relationships regardless of whether or not Matt-Wolf clicks or not.

Your action item this week is to start having these powerful meal sessions.

  • Look over your schedule and carve out twenty slots
  • Create a short list of potential partners
  • Rank by most valuable
  • Start inviting, start meeting


© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.


Written by bniguy

June 4, 2017 at 4:57 am

Make it so

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“The civil rights movement would experience many important victories, but Rosa Parks will always be remembered as its catalyst.” ~~Jim Costa

You have probably heard the expression about swimming out to your ship rather than simply waiting for it to arrive. This action-taking is catalytic.

How do you apply this concept in business? You can use catalyst events to foster introductions and establish relationships. These are especially useful for the more difficult introductions.

We have a National Hockey League team in town and they play more than three dozen home games. There are two Real Estate professionals that are fans and hold a few season tickets. They don’t sit together but are in the same general section. If one has a guest the other should meet they simply arrange to buy beer from the same kiosk at the end of the first period. What could be simpler?

You can do this with any activity you enjoy from golf to opera. I have a friend who teaches poker to small groups and this is a great way for the Mortgage Broker to meet more Realtors. It is also a good way for Realtors to meet more builders or for builders to meet more investors.

Bring people to something they would like to do and put them together with others they would like to meet. This is not a selling event or a training event or anything other than a social event. However, in this setting relationships have the opportunity to be established. That may or may not happen. If it doesn’t at least you enjoyed a good time and were able to thank someone important to you.

I have a Realtor friend that invites people over for frittatas every Easter Sunday. Over the past twenty-three years these have become signature events and many people look forward to this every spring.

This week’s action is to start the process in your life. Think of an event you enjoy, invite a few others, and start adding this to your occasional activities.


© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

May 28, 2017 at 5:14 am

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

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“Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?” ~~Walt Whitman

Networking is all about fostering relationships, sharing resources, and improving someone else’s life. Based on that is there ever a time when networking is not appropriate? If you stay true to the spirit then the short answer is no. Certainly different situations demand different degrees but the opportunity to meet others and help them is always available.

Let’s consider the numbers.

If you attend an event each day and meet one new person that is 365 new people. On average, everyone knows 250 others on a first-name basis. That is more than 90,000 people. Powerful access.

It is unlikely you will connect solidly with all 365 so let’s consider one solid connection per month. 12 by the time the year is out. These people yield nearly 5,000 contacts.

I only point those numbers out to emphasize how much opportunity exists in meeting others. Therefore, you never have to “sell” to anyone of them. Rather, focus on helping them. If you meet thirty the first month, help five, and solidly connect with one everyone benefits. You never have to worry or wonder about who will be most helpful to you since it doesn’t matter. Help them. End of story.

Some of the people you meet are shy. Draw them out and introduce them to the people you know. Some are looking for contacts you might have. If it is appropriate, make the introduction. The more of this you do the more help you are able to be. What a wonderful combination!

The key, of course, is to be engaged and available at all times. Be willing to start conversation. Be willing to listen. Be willing to help. These three skills will carry you a long way. They are fun to develop and rewarding to experience.

Action Plan for this week.

Take another look at your calendar—starting with last week. How many events did you attend? How many contacts did you make? How much value were you able to add to each of them?

Now, take a look at next week. How many events are you scheduled for? Is this enough? Who is likely to attend? How can you help them?

This is a good time to create a follow-up system. Whatever system you use is best. Here is a simple three-column example:

  1. Event name – list each event. Include whatever detail cements this in your mind.
  2. Contacts made – list each new (and familiar) person you spoke with. Again, provide as much detail as needed to jog your memory, when required.
  3. Follow up – this is where the rubber meets the road and you deliver on your promises to help. If they need an introduction, log that here. If they will benefit from an article, remark on that here, as well.

In time this activity will become second-nature. It all starts now, though, so go out and make some new friends.


© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.


Written by bniguy

May 21, 2017 at 7:38 am

The Fortune is in the Follow-Up

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“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” ~~ Mark Twain

We have all heard the title. How many have considered the impact and developed systems to assure compliance with this simple—yet key—concept?

If you recall Week Seven’s Take Inventory we found that the number one trait of successful networkers is to follow up. In some cases this alone separates you from the competition. Have you ever called trades people and never gotten return calls? When someone finally gets back to you they have a tremendous edge over the others. In fact, you would never willingly refer the others in order to protect your own credibility.

Some of your referral partners will test you in this area—and rightly so. Simply doing what you say you will carries tremendous benefit while failure to do the same carries an equal (or even heavier) damage-factor.

Regular follow-up after the initial event is also a differentiator. Everyone’s situation is unique (so tailor this to yours) but let’s consider a ninety-day follow-up plan over the first year of a relationship. If you work with someone this week—mid-May—then look for follow-up moments in early August, November, February, and May next year. If you consider this, the process is not difficult. All you need is a method you will actually use. Accordion files, hanging files, envelopes, electronic reminders…there are many ways to do this. The key, of course, is to actually pick one and follow it.

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

May 14, 2017 at 9:53 am

Posted in HowTo, planning

Let us give thanks

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Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” ~~ Brian Tracy

Mother’s Day is next week and an appropriate moment to consider the simple thank you card. In the fast-paced business world we inhabit, the handwritten thank you card is a dinosaur…and that is a fantastic opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd of emailers and Facebook-posters.

Let’s consider a few key points:

First, do you appreciate it when someone does a little something extra for you? Don’t you think you should thank them? Do you think that they would appreciate your note, too? I can’t imagine any answer but “yes” to these questions.

Second, how long do you think it would take to write, hand-address, hand-stamp, and drop off the note in the mail? Likely, it is far less than you think. A simple, three-sentence note may take two minutes to write, two minutes to address (if you need to look the address up online,) and two minutes to stamp and walk out to the mailbox. How the heck can you possibly find all that time?

Let’s start with the last step first. I imagine you receive your mail now and can probably post outgoing mail in the same trip. Therefore, if you mail everything once a day this is not an added step at all.

Addressing a card is pretty easy. Many business cards and websites include a mailing address. If not, the research using Google™ is not very complicated. Sometimes these options are not available or successful. In these cases making a simple phone call will solve it.

This brings us to the first part—actually writing the note itself. There are a few things to consider here.

First, who do you want to send a note to? You will probably find that there are more people you should send a note to than you do. If you take a moment and consider this I think you will agree.

Once you know who to thank (and by extension what to thank them for) then the actual words may be difficult to select. The easiest way to solve this is to go back to the moment and re-experience the feeling you had. “I was amazed. Your thoughtfulness made me feel very grateful. I was lost until you stepped in.” These words are easy and sincere.

Typically I buy 100 cards at a time and place a little “pull ticket” in when I am down to 25 to remind myself to replenish them. I used to just get them in twenty-packs at the office supply or department store. Now, I go online to and am able to create my own for a very reasonable price. Leave a little delivery time, though (that is why I start when I have twenty-five to go.)

Another good option is I like this since it creates a “slicker” card and lets me replace my pathetic handwriting with something infinitely more legible. I created a personal font but it still looks like a ransom note so I prefer to use the “envelope” font (which is generic handwriting.)

I personally use Send Out Cards when sending a lot of the same type (often with different personal messages) to multiple people, like holidays or big events. I send out at the more unusual holidays, though, like St. Patrick’s Day, Groundhog’s Day, and so on. This represents about ten percent of my mailing effort.

The handwritten notes are for individual events. If you have some blank cards handy you will be surprised how often the time opens up. Bring them along to the next doctor’s waiting room. Have some ready while waiting to pick up the kids, the car from the repair shop, the ATM machine to open up, etc.

One last point. There is (almost) never a time to include your business card. If I promised someone my contact information I will handwrite it. Email can be complicated (especially with my penmanship) so that is the lone exception. I write it first, though.

Your action item this week is to go buy some Thank You Cards and commit to send out three in the next week. Once you break the ice you will find this a valuable habit that moves your relationships forward, as well.

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

May 7, 2017 at 10:36 pm

Make a Difference While Making a Difference

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“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.” ~~Napoleon Bonaparte

Do you remember the VCP model? Visibility is the first component to networking success and gaining visibility is the theme of this week’s post.

One way to increase visibility in a non-sales way is to volunteer. Find a cause that resonates with you. The key is to get involved. That is, be prepared to apply some of your limited time helping the organization motivate its members and meet its mission.

People do business with those they know, like, and trust. Volunteering is a way to expand on that. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This week’s exercise—once begun—goes a long way towards demonstrating that.

Here is a five-action plan:

  1. Consider what matters to you. Answer these questions:
    1. What do you enjoy doing for yourself in your spare time?
    2. What hobbies do you enjoy?
    3. What sports do you know well enough to teach?
    4. What brings you joy, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment?
    5. What social, political, or health issue are you passionate about due to personal experience in you, your family, or friends?
  2. Find three organizations that address these areas and interest you. Choose the one that most appeals to you and research that group online.
  3. Once you find a crowd that aligns with your personal goals visit them in person.
  4. If that visit was unsatisfying, return to step 2 (maybe step 1) and find another candidate. If it was satisfying then consider if you want to commit your time and effort.
  5. If so, identify three members in the group to interview and assure you of the decision. I recommend three different tenures:
    1. Brand new: When you join you can get involved together
    2. Seasoned: Two or three years vested
    3. Mature: Someone with five or more years

 This process will, hopefully, be followed up by your involvement and leadership. The world can always use another pair of helping hands.

 © 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

April 30, 2017 at 10:50 am

Posted in HowTo, volunteer

The Man in the Mirror

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“When you want to win a game, you have to teach. When you lose a game, you have to learn.” ~~ Tom Landry

We have been together for sixteen weeks and are on the cusp of making excellence a habit. Most behaviorists consider seventeen weeks the yardstick for establishing a new habit. I imagine there are some of the past sixteen week exercises that have provided paradigm shifts and excited you. I am also sure that some of those same areas have not had any action applied.

This is human nature and stems from a few main reasons. Generally, strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the very same coin. The paradigm shifts were most significant to you because they are so far from what you already know and do. That very distance makes taking action so challenging. Set that against a backdrop of competing deadlines, uncertainty of where and how to start, and add fear of failure and success and it is no surprise that those actions we most want to take slip by.

My commitment to you is to lay out fifty two weekly strategies you can use. They each build on the other. Maybe not week-after-week since that only grows in one direction. They are designed to grow you from the inside out and expand all areas.

This is a good moment in the process for self-reflection and assessment. Sadly, some of the regular readers have already given up. Others take the perspective of being entertained by the material—even as they want more. Many are not adding any additional skills although they may apply some pieces here and there.

A few are keeping pace and are actively developing along. I read your emails and applaud you for that.

For the vast majority there is a missing ingredient to introduce this week and I ask you to consider that, as well.

Employees have bosses. They make sure otherwise unwilling people do what needs to be done. Students have teachers. Athletes have coaches. Many us are entrepreneurs and only have ourselves. I am asking you to find a workout partner.

Ideally, you should communicate briefly with this person at the end of every day. This is the most productive time. It can be as little as a five-minute conversation. Share your successes and listen to theirs. Share your frustrations, challenges, concerns, dreams, etc. Ideally this person should be someone you respect. At the very least you should communicate with this person weekly covering the same topics.

Why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option?

If you belong to a formal networking group the foundation for this relationship already exists. You may or may not be taking advantage of that aspect. Here are some questions to ask to identify the accountability partner for you:

  1. Who do you respect as a business colleague?
  2. Who would be willing to push you and not be afraid to challenge you?
  3. Who would you not want to disappoint?
  4. Who is also interested in networking their business so that you can be accountability partners for one another?
  5. Who knows your tendency to procrastinate?
  6. Who can you rely on to follow-through on their commitment to you?
  7. Who has the time and willingness to help you?

 Once you have identified someone here is a radical idea I am going to propose. Stop reading this blog for the weeks going forward. Find that partner and go back to the beginning. Work together entry by entry. If you catch up with me—great! I’ll still be here. If you are lagging behind—great! Move at a pace that works for you both. Use this blog as a guideline for success. You will likely find that some areas you can both breeze through while others may take two, three, or four weeks. I set the arbitrary pace of a weekly entry to keep you engaged. Now it is up to you to put that in gear at a pace you will actually use. I won’t mind if you start over. Get the most from the material by establishing success habits and the surest way to do that is with an accountability partner.

 © 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.


Written by bniguy

April 23, 2017 at 4:23 am