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Tim Paulin Shares What He Has Learned Overseeing 65 BNI® Chapters with About 1,500 Members

BNI® U.S. National Directors’ Conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Friday, April 22, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Tim Paulin, started out as a BNI® member in August 1999 and is now a BNI® Executive Director for the Louisiana and southern Mississippi region. Having been with BNI® for 18 years, his business has survived all kinds of ups and downs (including Hurricane Katrina) and continues to thrive. His region has 65 chapters with around 1,500 members.

What would you say is the value proposition of a BNI® franchise?

The value proposition really depends on what area and region you are buying. If you’re coming in brand new and there’s nothing developed, you can expect to work really hard for at least three to five years to build a small business and a foundation to get something going. It also depends on whether it’s an urban area versus a rural area. There are many factors that go into building a BNI® region.

BNI® helps start business partnerships and relationships. One of the many benefits is that most problems that life throws at you, you can generally resolve through a BNI® chapter.

The great thing is that the systems and processes are in place. The X-factor is the people. It’s important to create a vision, an awareness of where you want to take the region, and start moving towards that.

How does an Executive Director grow the region? Where do revenues come from?

There are annual fees associated with membership. The key to success is retaining members so you have strong chapters. Since BNI® chapters only allow one person to offer a service, to avoid competition for referrals, when one chapter doesn’t have availability for a member, you open a new chapter. New chapter growth is where you see steady revenue growth.

How would you describe what BNI® does?

BNI® provides business owners, salespeople and professionals the tools, skills, and structure to grow their business by referral. How do we do that? If you have three days, I can tell you how.

Share the basics.

We take new members through an orientation, which is designed to teach people how to get more referrals. This orientation covers core competencies for a member — things they must do to be successful, goal-setting, what’s a good return on investment, how to make an effective presentation, how to utilize our systems and resources, as well as tapping into the history of the organization. We also train chapter leadership teams to manage their groups to make sure members are held accountable and are successful. If you’re really good, you will do advanced training, and you will dig in deep.

What kind of difference does BNI® make for members?

BNI® changes lives. As a personal example, it helped me develop my presentation and public speaking skills. BNI® helps start business partnerships and relationships. One of the many benefits is that most problems that life throws at you, you can generally resolve through a BNI® chapter. You never know what connections exist in the world and what path you can take.

As a franchisee, what do you like about BNI®?

BNI® has opened up many opportunities for me. I get the opportunity to support our members and chapters as we continue to grow. I am investing in my own future and success. I am also a trainer the for global support team and so I have traveled to Sydney, Australia; Sacramento; Chicago; San Francisco and learned from fellow BNI® members. All this would not have come my way had I not been a part of this wonderful organization.

What advice would you give to a prospective BNI® franchisee?

You’ve got to be a people and process person. Most people are either one or the other, so find someone to work with that balances you out. For example, I am really good in front of the room, but I am not a details person, so I have an Operations Manager and a Managing Director who are phenomenal and help me with details.

Don’t compromise the system because you think you’ll gain a member. Stick to your guns, the system will work and it will work well.

Be patient and persistent. It’s a great organization to work with. If you hit a couple of speed bumps in a year or two, know there’s a support system in place to help you out. We have a mentoring program for Executive Directors so you can learn from someone who has been there before. If you have never experienced BNI® before, and you’re coming in cold, visit a dozen chapters. Familiarize yourself with the business of BNI®, as well. It’s not just about starting chapters. You have to book venues, do payroll and taxes.

We believe in Givers Gain®. You have to have a servant leader mindset, so serve members and make sure they have all the tools to be successful.

Become a BNI franchisee

To learn more about BNI®, and to see which territories are currently available, please email We look forward to meeting you!