Bijay Shah

Bijay Shah

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BNI is more than a Referral Network

I recently received a linked-in message from an ex-member which was very touching. Here is the message:

Hi Bijay,

I hope you and the family are doing well. I recently moved to the US - Buffalo NY to be exact. The move came due to family reasons so on arrival Erika and I did not have employment, network or anything.... a clean slate in a brand new country. It is funny how life can take you in so many different directions!

I recently attended an advertising club networking night, by the end of the night I had gotten nowhere. They are a very tight community, a really tough egg to crack and by the end of the evening I left with no real contacts at all to help me in the job search.

Before I left Dubai for the US I contacted someone at BNI in Buffalo. The regional director has been outstanding so far I have visited two chapters and will be attending a third chapter next Friday. Every single person I have been introduced to at BNI has been more than helpful. I am sure that once I have a job I will return to BNI - as a paying member rather than a guest, unfortunately BNI does not have a category for "unemployed" yet.

Anyway, I would like to thank you for the introduction to the BNI concept, I might meet someone who can help in my job search but most of all it has allowed me to access a number of people that I am sure I will need to contact in the near future - the car salesman to sell me a car, the mechanic to keep it running, the insurance man...... and the list goes on as you know!

Many thanks again,
Alan Drummond 

Alan's message came to me after I sent some of my selected Linked-In connections a 'how are you' message. I'm very confident Alan will find something soon. This just reiterates that the 'Givers Gain' philosophy of BNI is so powerful, not only does it change the way we do business but it can also change people's lives....and livelihoods!

I welcome any comments from those of you who may have other similar experiences other than business referrals through BNI which has made a great impact to you life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How much would you invest in 3D communication?

In days before telephones existed, I would imagine communication would have been primarily in the form of face-to-face or through letters. Surely important discussions would have taken place face-to-face as letters would take far too much time. The purpose of letters would probably have been to make announcements, communicate decisions and basically express non-urgent matters.

Then came the telephone. You can imagine the breakthrough this would have created. No need for certain travel. What could be done face-to-face could be now be done on telephone.

Today, we have emails. Some people find it far more easier to communicate by electronic mail instead of talking on the phone or even talking face-to-face. Granted, emails are cost effective and not as time consuming. You control your own time. No need to have appointments or time commitments. You decide you need to communicate something to someone, be it 2.47am in the morning, 8.02pm in the evening or 3.58pm in the afternoon, you just send an email not having to worry what time it would be when the receiver receives it and/or reads it.

Unfortunately, advancement of technology brings its share of challenges. The users of this technology all have different expectations and I’ve come to learn that far too many of us are being let down by this – not really understanding what the underlying cause is – easily blaming the ‘other’ party. Allow me to share a few observations:

·      Choice of sending emails instead of picking up the phone or calling up a meeting – Emails have their place. However, if you require instant replies, just because you choose to drop everything at the bling of your blackberry (ignoring everyone you’re present with) does not mean that everyone else does.

·      Engaging into heated debate or arguments via email – it all starts with one email. You receive a reply within a few minutes. You get agitated. You choose to reply instantaneously with a feeling of resentment or anger. The other party perceives your email in the wrong context. They send another email and before you know it, there is a long chain of emails. This can be made worse if more than one party is copied in. Group emails flying all over the place with no respect or regard of each other. How about picking up the phone and talking it out?

In my role as National Director for BNI, I frequently come across many such situations. Eventually I’m called in to mediate and resolve. When suggestions are made that face-to-face or phone is sometimes better than email the defence for use of emails is that everything is recorded! My take is this is just an excuse. People would much rather prefer to hide behind a screen and express what they feel in words instead of speaking out. Does this really solve the issues at hand?

·      Preference for use of email or phone instead of face-to-face. The case I frequently hear is this saves time and money. My question is :- when communicating via these media, are you 100% focused on the conversation at hand? I can recall many occasions when I’ve been on phone with someone but I can sense they are not fully connected with me. They might be in front of their computer, driving or with someone else.

I agree and understand, emails and phones have their place. We should utilize them fully but only for the purpose they serve. The reason BNI is so successful is because of the value it puts on face-to-face relationship building.

I have come to the conclusion that when communicating, emails are One-Dimensional – you express your thoughts and send them out via electronic mail. Phone calls are Two-Dimensional – at least there is 2-way instantaneous communication. Face-to-Face is truly Multi-Dimensional – not only is there 2-way instantaneous interaction but you also get to see the other person, their body language, their focus and attention and their expressions.

Next time you choose to send an email or make a phone call – ask yourself, what will you achieve in the long-term if you were to try the ‘long-cut’ instead?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Green BNI?

I recently received an email from a fellow BNI member which got me thinking….’How ‘Green’ or ‘Eco Friendly’ is BNI? First let me share with you the email I received from the ‘King of the World’ as he is known – BNI Member from the Early Bird Chapter in Dubai – Prithviraj:

After a health issue I had in Nov 2010, I was told to limit my car driving. Hence I requested some BNI colleagues (for whom my home was on the way - almost!) to kindly pick me up and drop me back. Many did that and I realized that we both got to know each other so much more, professionally & personally - it was better than a sit-down 1 to 1 because we were driving, discussing work, personal issues, and so many business opportunities arose that we both felt great. I think many BNI Members would benefit by doing so consciously since it gives them quality time to spend together and also it saves petrol, saves emissions from 2 cars etc. I would like to thank: Tambi, Aman, Ryan, & Kapil who were very gracious in driving me mad, oops, I mean driving me to BNI !!!’

A great idea I think. Thank you to Prithviraj. So, how else can BNI be regarded is Eco Friendly? Being a word-of-mouth or referral organization, our members do just that….spread the word on behalf of their fellow business. Let’s look at what other ways of advertising there are and their impact on Eco-Friendliness:

  • Newspapers – use of paper – BNI can certainly help in curtailing the use of paper. How many trees are we saving?
  • Radio/TV advertising – use of electricity or other forms of power – How much power are we saving?
  • Bill Boards & Outdoor Media – the lighting I see used to illuminate these especially at night must be using vast amounts of power.
  • Exhibitions/Trade Shows – what’s the size of the carbon footprint being created here?

This is just my personal opinion. The first question is: Is BNI Eco-Friendly? And if it is…’What impact does it have?’ If not, what can we do to make it Eco-Friendly like Prithviraj’s suggestion above? What else can you think of?

I can already see some of you shouting – Online Networking!! But we also know the power of Face-to-Face networking in building strong relationships. That surely is the strength of BNI and it’s members success.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Let's FACE it, Facebook WORKS!

Today, I'd like to feature a good friend, business partner and master networker, Phil Bedford, also known as the 'rebelnetworker'. Phil has had some recent business success with facebook which demonstrates the power of facebook and social media. This is Phil's blog (which can also be found at

I often hear people saying they are not on Facebook because it’s not serious. Business should be done on Linked IN. They even say Facebook and social media as a whole, is a waste of time.

I would argue they are very different, both applicable, and both can generate business. I do not want to go down the route of training people which to use and when. I would leave this to social media experts such as or or the other social media experts in your network. 

What I am willing to comment on is my own experiences. I am active on Facebook, I spend about 20 minutes a Day Maximum (my wife won’t let me spend more ;-) )
I mix my posts between what is going on in my life, some bits social; some bits business; some bits just fun. After all when we do business don’t “people buy people?”
If I were to go on Facebook and only sell I would soon have everyone deleting my contact. If all I did was make comments like” off shopping” or “shampooing the dog” people will soon get bored.

It is variety that is key. I also have a number of pages for each of my networks and I blog regularly. Anyway, this week I had 2 connections from Facebook attend my chapter both have applied to join. Both will be great additions to the chapter.

James Hartnell was introduced by his wife Priya, after I commented on her post for assistance. I referred her to a colleague. She checked out what my profile and the result was her husband attending our chapter.

The other Tayyeb Sheraz, is an old work colleague who has been a connection for over a year and now his business is in a position to free him up to network He contacted me and asked to attend.

A third contact Vanita Kapoor attended and she has joined  "The  Referrals for Life Community" and will join BNI soon as part of her strategy.

Facebook gives you touches, it helps your visibility marketing and lets people now what’s happening. It’s up to you to build credibility and then progress them to Profitable Referral Relationships.

Social media is not a total solution, is part of your referral marketing plan or at least it should be.

Ladies and Gents, it works if you work it.

Phil Bedford is the Managing Director at the Referral Institute and can be reached at

Friday, December 10, 2010

Total Networking

7 down, 4 to go. Over the last 2 weeks, John McGrann ( and I have been visiting BNI Chapters in Dubai & Abu Dhabi to present our ‘Total Networking’ strategy. With online social media tools such as Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and many more, we’re finding that BNI members and chapters all over the world are embracing this technology to grow their chapters and generate more referrals.

With over 130,000 BNI members in over 50 countries, only a small fraction are using social media tools effectively. A large number of members do not have a social media presence at all. As of December 2010, there are less than 8,000 members on the International BNI Linkedin Group and less than 12,000 members on the Official BNI Facebook Fan Page. Not all of these are BNI members, but then again not all BNI members having a presence on Linkedin and/or Facebook may be following the BNI group or fan page.

Either way, the figures indicate that only less than 10% of our membership is embracing social media. Why? I would attribute this to 2 main reasons: 1) Many of our members do not know how to use these tools effectively and are apprehensive in using them; or 2) Many members simply are not aware of the power of social media.

With our ‘Total Networking’ strategy, our purpose is to create awareness on the power of social media and educate our members on effective use of these tools. In our visits so far, the main question our members are asking is: ‘Will online networking replace face-to-face networking’? I encourage all of you to listen or read Episodes 103, 117 & 118 of the BNI Podcast ( where Dr. Ivan Misner shares his insights.   

In the meantime, keep tuned here as I share insights on our Total Networking Strategy in the coming weeks. I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Bijay Shah - BNI National Director
The guiding philosophy of BNI is ‘Givers Gain’. All our members know that. But what really does ‘Givers Gain’ mean? We say it’s another way of saying ‘what goes around comes around’ and we’re applying it in a business sense. Another famous quote is ‘if you can help someone get what they want, you’ll get what you want’. I have met hundreds of members over the last 5 years and I’ve come across many members who perhaps don’t fully understand what really ‘Givers Gain’ means. Givers Gain is NOT about:

·        Being necessarily charitable - You don’t have to give everything away to everyone in the hope that you’ll get back more. Only give if it serves your purpose. Giving does not only have to be to those unfortunate or having less than you. It’s about helping someone – whoever it might be – with a sense of purpose. It could be to a fellow family member, friend, associate, colleague, your boss, business partner, stranger on the road – just about anyone who you feel you would like to help.
·        Keeping Score – some people give with the expectation of receiving. Others give only conditionally. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. I believe this is operating in a mindset of scarcity as opposed to a mindset of abundance. If the expectation is of a financial nature than this can also be referred to a 'coin operated networking'
·        BNI or referrals only – this can be a lifestyle. You don’t have to be in BNI to live ‘Givers Gain’. I know some members who operate in so called ‘Givers Gain’ mode in BNI and switch it off outside of BNI. These are the people who are in the mindset of ‘doing’ instead of ‘being’. Neither is this only about business or referrals. Giving can come in many forms other than just referrals: time, support, care, respect, accountability, dignity, commitment etc. Dr. Ivan Misner – founder and chairman of BNI says people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’.

Sometimes, you may feel that you’ve given enough and not getting back. Remember, the moment this thought occurs, you’re keeping score. I know it’s not easy – it’s the nature of humans. In my opinion, what you may be overlooking is that the ‘Gain’ does not necessarily come from the same source that you’re ‘Giving’ to. Analogous to BNI – the power of a chapter is that you may not necessarily receive referrals from the same person you give referrals to. In a very simple three party triangle, ‘A’ could give to ‘B’, ‘B’ to ‘C’ and ‘C’ to ‘A’ With more members in a chapter this gets complicated but it works! – only if everyone understands the power of this and works as a team. Within BNI you may be limited to the network, but how about outside of BNI? There is no formal team but I can assure you - living ‘Givers Gain’ is the true source of happiness and that’s ultimately what we’re ALL seeking in life.

Just ask yourself what’s your goal in life? Than ask your self ‘WHY?’ Keep on asking yourself ‘Why?’ We all have different goals and different ‘whys’ to begin with. As you unlayer those ‘whys’ it all comes down to ‘Happiness’.             

Monday, September 27, 2010

What is the purpose of weekly BNI Meetings?

Bijay Shah - BNI National Director
As I write my 1st blog - I thought I'd tackle this question first. It's something which EVERY BNI member should understand so that there's no doubt in what needs to be done and why.


BNI essentially happens (or should be at least) outside of the weekly 90 minute agenda. In the normal day-to-day course of a member's activity, he or she should be taking time out to meet with fellow members to get to know them and their business better, build relationships and identify how the member can be helped and supported. I recommend that you invest at least 2-3 hours each week and meet up with at least 1 member from your chapter for this purpose. In a chapter of 25 members, this alone will take you 6 months to get to know each member of your chapter. In addition to this, referrals are actualy generated in the course of the week as you meet new people, prospects, customers, clients, patients, suppliers,colleagues, associates, friends & family and you identify their needs which can be provided for by fellow members in the chapter.

So why then should you be meeting every week? I beleive there are only 2 reasons for this:

  1. AN EXCERCISE IN ACCOUNTABILITY AND COMMITMENT - The requirement to meet every week provides the opportunity for members to hold each other accountable. It also shows each other's commitment. Members get the opportunity to educate and update each other on the referrals they are seeking and the structure provides transparency for everyone to what and how each member is adding value and contributing towards the overall good of the chapter members and their businesses.
  2. TO SHOWCASE BNI / A RECRUITMENT DRIVE - Think of the time when you first got invited to a BNI meeting as a visitor by a member. You were told everything you needed to know about it perhaps but without experiencing a meeting first-hand, I can assure you did not sit there saying to yourself - "Yes, this is exactly how I anticipated this to be!". Until a visitor does not attend a meeting, no one, and I mean NO ONE (including myself in the position I'm in or even someone like our famous Founder and Chairman Dr. Misner) can fully explain exactly how BNI works. You got to be there in person to experience. Otherwise, it's a bit like asking for a haircut over the telephone. Without the meeting, visitors would not know what BNI is. Without visitors there would be no members. Without members there would be no referrals. And without referrals, there would be no business!
The BNI meeting agenda is designed towards a structure, accountability, commitment and most importantly showcase to visitors how it works. It's a performance for visitors. It's the result of the weekly efforts of members. Successful members are those who live BNI. It's part of their lifestyle. It constitutes as an integral part of their business strategy. For those who take it as merely another activity will find it a chore and burden. They may benefit in the short run but in the long term, this is not for them.