How a Simple Idea Sparked an International Business

Over thirty years ago, Dr. Ivan Misner, the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI®, was a business consultant looking for referrals. He approached a few trusted friends for the favor and suggested that he in turn could help them. The group of professional colleagues began to meet and share business referrals, augmenting each others’ marketing efforts by introducing their clients and friends to other trusted professionals.

The seed for BNI® had been sown.

Dr. Misner’s small group picked up steam. Soon, Ivan was being asked if he could help others establish their own groups. Initially, he was wary of straying from his career path as a business consultant. Then, it dawned on him that running referral networks was itself a powerful kind of business consulting.

Upon reflection, Dr. Misner realized he had something of value on his hands — a way of driving sales that wasn’t routinely taught at schools. BNI® was officially formed.

With that start thirty years ago, growth has been organic and global. Today, BNI® serves over 228,000 members in over 70 countries around the world. In 2016 alone, BNI registered 9.5 million referrals worldwide and generated $11.7 billion in business.

What’s Next?

BNI’s goal is to increase membership to over half a million by 2020. BNI®’s vision is to keep looking forward and changing the way the world does business on a much larger scale. The possibility of even doubling the membership is real, says Meaghan Chitwood, Executive Director of the Northern Alabama region, “and that opens a world of possibilities for the future through a positive, wonderful process.”

“BNI® is a wonderful model that works and provides members with new business opportunities and professional development and relationships and my vision is to take BNI® to a different level in terms of global significance, significantly expand the organization and increase the value proposition for each and every member,” says Dr. Misner.