SHERIDAN — Members of the Business Network International Cloud Peak Chapter believe strongly in the adage, “What goes around, comes around.”
By referring clients to each other, they hope it comes around again and again, boosting business for members and keeping local dollars circulating in Sheridan County.
“Everyone understands that in order for Sheridan to thrive, money has to be spent and money has to be brought in,” Office Shop salesman Devin Peterson said.
The group is not bashful about the fact that it exists to increase clients and profit for members, BNI Cloud Peak Chapter President Bob Utter said. After all, business is business.
“There’s no stronger marketing than a referral from a friend,” Utter said. “Having Jessica tell me about Gary was far more effective than having Gary tell me about Gary.”
Utter was referring to how he got involved with BNI.
When a friend of his at a Rotary meeting was looking for a reliable contractor, he wasn’t sure who to recommend. Weaver Insurance Agency owner and BNI member Jessica Weaver overheard the conversation and said she knew just the person. Her referral of Gary Magelky with Magelky Custom Carpentry impressed Utter so much that he decided to get involved with the networking organization himself.
Magelky — who is acting vice president and credits BNI with improving his public speaking and overall business skills — eventually gave Utter a referral that was his highest ever commercial real estate sale.
While dollars are appreciated, the organization seeks to build business sustainably through trust and good reputations.
The philosophy of the organization is based on “Givers Gain,” or the idea that giving business to others will bring business back to you. Members must abide by a code of ethics that includes sticking to price quotes, providing high quality services, being positive and truthful, and following through with received referrals. Each BNI chapter can have only one representative from each business classification. This eliminates competition within the chapter. If more than one person from a given classification, such as residential real estate, wants to join, another chapter must be formed. Several cities in Wyoming have more than one chapter, Utter said.
Each meeting includes time for members to give a 60-second presentation about their business as well as one 10-minute presentation by one member. Members are assigned to complete weekly one-to-ones with each other to deepen relationships so that referrals are made based on knowledge and trust.
“It’s self-policing,” Utter said. “You can’t afford to pass a bad referral.”
Referrals and the income generated by those referrals are tracked as best as possible. Year-to-date, chapter members have made 447 referrals to each other that have generated a total of $264,166 in collective income for the businesses represented. That translates to more than $2,500 per member per month.
The average annual income increase per member in the BNI Heartland Region is $28,391.
Membership costs $445 per year with a one-time application fee of $150.
There are three kinds of referrals used by members of BNI. Inside referrals occur when members use each other’s businesses. Outside referrals occur when members refer people they know to another member’s business. Third party referrals happen when outside referrals refer people they know, which is word of mouth at work.
“The positive thing about an outside referral is that now his friend knows me who then knows another 200 people,” said Travis Williamson, owner and mechanic at DuAll Service and Repair. “Stuff just grows and grows and grows.”
In addition to growing business profits, the networking organization offers support to members who often stick around after the weekly meeting to share ideas and advice with each other.
“It’s like having a family away from home,” owner of Rocky Mountain Sign, Design and Print Tammy Klasinski said.
Klasinski moved to Sheridan and opened her business in January. She said BNI has been invaluable to helping her get to know people and get her name out.
Business Network International is looking for more members. Email Bob Utter at email@example.com for more information.