With other $13.9 billion dollars of business executed through referrals and networking last year alone among Business Network International, BNI members globally, the international organisation chapter in Nigeria says creating local and international business opportunities through focussed networking and business matching activities is a critical element in building successful businesses.
The mission of the organisation, established in USA in 1985 and has presence in over 80 countries is to help its members increase their business through structured, positive and professional referral marketing strategy that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals.
Last week, the Nigerian members of the global organisation converged on Lagos to exchange ideas on building successful business referrals. “Every year, BNI celebrates International Networking week. It is a week set aside to help people in government, business to realise the important role that networking and relationship building plays in the success and development of business and communities”, Chimaobi James Agwu, National Director of BNI Nigeria told BusinessDay in Lagos.
This year, various business executives, entrepreneurs and NGOs assembled at Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Alausa, Lagos to learn the importance of networking and how to network effectively and build long lasting relationships.
Assessing lack of networking in business in Nigeria, Agwu described most entrepreneurs as short-sighted and short runners. “They are what BNI calls hunters, people who want immediate benefits. They are not interested in building relationships. But they forgot that most businessmen and women like doing businesses with clients they trust and those they have established relationship with.
“This is why organisations would spend money for their managers to belong to professional associations and clubs for socialising and networking. This is because they have realised that the big ticket deals are struck not in the offices but over networking. They come to put finishing touches in the offices”, Agwu said.
Emphasising that professionals like lawyers, doctors, architects needs networking more because some of them are not allowed to advertise themselves, Agwu said membership of the organisation are individuals but it also accepts corporate members but a member must be a business owner, professionals or business executive. “We don’t accept retirees, job applicants and students and if you are representing a company, it must be on executive capacity”. The organisation is self-funded.
Also speaking on the importance of building relationships, Chima Ezeife, Communication coordinator Lagos chapter of BNI reiterated that the objective of the conference was to show people the practical ways of networking. According to him, if a business executive is diligent in building relationship, he or she will not be indigent when it comes to closing business deals.
“We try to show people the right way to network, build relationships and build businesses. It is often said that 90 per cent of prisoners are there not because they are guilty as charged but because they did not have quality relationships who would actually stand up and speak on their behalf. Most businesses need to move forward but this will be based on the importance of talking to the right people. Your network is actually your net- worth”, Chima said.
Looking at the use of social media in building relationship, Chima commended the emergence of social media but said that people must know the language because a single tweet will either move someone’s business forward or put it backward. “You must know the difference between private and public conversations”.
Among those who exchanged relationship building ideas at the forum were Balogun Ishmail, President of Nigeria-Indonesia chamber of Commerce, Ijeoma Rita Ogbu of Clement Ashley Consulting and Oluwaseun Aduwa. Ijeoma said relationship for her company starts from respecting job applicants during interview sections while Oluwaseun talked about setting realistic goals and measuring successes.