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Simon Johnson – BNI Master Networker (and thoroughly nice bloke!)

October 11, 2010 1 comment

I wrote a blog post yesterday about Simon Johnson. Simon has just won the accolade of being BNI’s (Business Network International) most successful networker in the UK – with £634,233 of business after creating 102 money-making referrals in 12 months. I said in the blog that I would try to track Simon down – and get his thoughts on networking (and what he thought about my blog).

Simon gave me a call this afternoon – after contacting him via email. He’s a thoroughly likeable chap – and you can understand why

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his contacts want to spend time with him (and trust his referrals). He’s definitely a master networker – and says that “from networking as a whole I get 50% of my business – and BNI probably accounts for 10-20%.”

He has a great philosophy on networking: “Anyone can create a network – but you have to look after that network and keep in contact.” He’s got quite a reputation for knowing people – and his recommendation is obviously trusted. He quips: “people locally ring and use me as their Yellow Pages!”

He’s a big fan of BNI – and he talked me through how things work. He explained that the main principle BNI (and himself) is “Giver’s Gain”. They seem a very efficient organisation and monitor everything using “referral slips” and “thank you” notes. He did say it is “very American” – but once you cut through the jargon and adapt to a British audience it works well.

As an outsider to BNI, I’d certainly been confused (and probably misunderstood the model). BNI forms local “chapters” and in these, there can only be one representative of each trade. Simon explained that they operate a system of “Power Circles” – so for example he would spend most of his time with say Architects, Plumbers, Electricians, etc to make referrals. He estimates that involvement in BNI this year has brought his own business £60k. The Chapter meet weekly – early in the morning. All members start the session with a personal 60-seconds update – finishing with a catchy tagline (his is “For all your furniture and flooring – it’s simply Simon!”)

What I found refreshing was that the BNI model does not work on a commission/kick-back basis. As Simon told me: “No – you’d probably get drummed out of BNI if that went on.” The system works on having a network of professionals devoted to “Giver’s Gain”. Good stuff – if you are in a professional trade with a local client base, BNI must be worth a try. As you know if you have read previous posts, I am a big fan of Tom Peters – one of his mantras is “what gets measured, gets done!” … so I approve the measurement principle too.

Finally, we had a good chat about on-line vs. off-line marketing. I had done a bit of research on Simon’s on-line presence … and at this point it’s not prolific.

LinkedIn – Simon has 15 contacts currently
Twitter – Simon is currently not active – but is considering this
Website – currently “under construction” (news of the BNI award came in the middle of a redesign of the site)
Facebook – Personal – 401 Friends – and he says has had “a few jobs” through. Looks a fun guy to be around – describes employment as “Same shit I’ve been doing since I was 12” and lists activities as “Hockey, Alcoholism”.
Facebook – Business. 145 Members.

However, as we finished our call he told me he was off to a Round Table meeting. Another networking opportunity. I think that Simon is a great networker – and he’s doing a brilliant job “off-line”. With BNI, Round Table and his general network circle I am sure that he’ll be a better networker than any twitterer! All people interested in Personal Networks can learn from Simon – it’s so important to be generous and gain people’s trust. He obviously is excellent at both.

Nice bloke – and if you need furniture or flooring in East Anglia, Cambridgeshire or Lincolnshire, you should give him a call! 01945-476517.

Keeping Score?

October 10, 2010 2 comments

There’s a small news story in today’s FT Weekend about BNI (Business Network International) making an award to the UK’s most successful networker. Step forward 36-year-old Simon Johnson, who is a flooring specialist from East Anglia. The story is on the FT website – but you will need to register to get access.

The story says that over the past 12 months, Simon has generated his contacts £634,233 of business after creating 102 money-making

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referrals for his colleagues in the King’s Lynn BNI Chapter. It certainly shows the value of Personal Networks that are well managed – Simon seems an expert.

I am not sure whether Personal Networking is just about referrals (especially the measured and recorded type). In previous blog posts I have supported the view of people like Keith Ferrazzi (author of “Never Eat Alone”) that networking is not about keeping score. Also, one of my favourite quotes on networking is from Mick Cope (who wrote the FT’s book “Personal Networking”) – he puts forward the view that a network is about having contacts who support you, NOT that you sell to.

I find the BNI model interesting – but it does challenge my views on networking. The BNI’s “Handbook” – “Networking like a PRO” by Dr. Ivan Misner – makes a strong point about being a “Farmer” not a “Hunter”. I struggle to see how you are a “Farmer” when you keep score on a day-to-day basis. Does BNI – or Simon – get a “cut” of the referrals? Is this a “sale” to friends – or just the generosity of a good networker (with a small “thank you” attached).

I’m going to track down Simon in King’s Lynn – and ask him for his comments/thoughts. It would be good to meet an excellent personal networker – and I’d like to get his views on “keeping score”.

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