While the rest of us are still crawling out of bed, businesspeople are holding exclusive networking meetings over their corn flakes. Debbie Jamieson attended a BNI meeting in the hope of learning a secret handshake.
It's 7am on Tuesday morning and Remarkables Park is pretty quiet. But in Hamills Restaurant and Bar a growing group of smartly dressed men and women is enjoying a quick catchup before a hotel-style buffet breakfast. A short time later they are seated, welcomed and the meeting has begun.
This group is one of two Business Networking International (BNI) branches in Queenstown. Another operates in Wanaka. BNI describes itself as the largest business networking organisation in the world. It has 145,870 members in 6232 chapters in 49 countries. In New Zealand there are 129 chapters with 2650 members.
The idea is not just to have a nice breakfast with 30 mates each week but to be actively networking; looking for business opportunities for yourself and each other.
After a short opening everyone in the room is invited to speak for a (timed) minute on their business. This is an opportunity to sell yourself and your services. Even the visiting editor is given an unexpected minute in the spotlight.
The insight is fascinating - a technology company boss desperate for staff, an update on the property market, a building company boss lauding the high quality of job applicants and tradespeople developing new products and reaching new clients.
A strict mantra of the BNI model is that within each chapter every individual profession or trade is represented only once, making every slot valuable.
Next is a 10-minute presentation from one member then a collection for charity and finally referrals and testimonials where everyone gives a list of opportunities they have forwarded to other businesses or testimonials, having used someone's services.
This is the sharp end of BNI membership - a loyal network of colleagues supporting your work and helping you to grow your business.
President Andrew MacKenzie said as a Wanaka-based financial adviser, being a member of BNI has opened opportunities and contacts for him in Queenstown.
The Mirror was pleased to learn there was no secret handshake, just a sense of camaraderie and a desire to work together for the benefit of everyone's business. More information about BNI and the individual chapters is available on the website: bni.co.nz
- The Mirror