I attended a visitor evening at the BNI chapter in Inverness. Nothing very surprising there, because we have been members for nearly 9 years.

The whole concept behind BNI, to my mind, is very simple. You meet 30 to 40 other local business owners every week. You chat and socialise and get to know them. We have breakfast together.

Then in a presentation by each member of less than a minute, you say what you do and what business you are looking for. That’s really all there is to it, except that we all track our contributions to the chapter, what work we have received and what work we have passed to other members.

I did a review of the work we have received in the last 9 years either directly from other members or from contacts that have been referred to us by other members. It was well over £300,000. I can identify about 15% of our turnover in our Inverness office as coming to us from our membership of BNI.

From what I can see, and listening to other members at the visitors’ evening, I think everyone has had a similar experience. That’s quite a return on investment for just getting up early one morning every week and going and having breakfast with a bunch of friends.

Over the years I have seen numerous people who are new to business and so join BNI. They then find themselves so busy, at least partly due to BNI, that they think they do not have time to go to BNI. I think that every week when the alarm goes off around 4am on a Tuesday morning. But where else do you just have to turn up to get handed warm introductions to potential clients?

Now, if you are like us, then you have several strings to your marketing bow. We rely heavily on referrals, but we also have our weekly newsletter, which you are currently reading, and we have BNI.  That combination seems to work for us.

There are no easy businesses these days. You occasionally come across someone who found themselves in the right place at the right time and with the right skills, but the rest of us just have to graft. And to get a business going well you have to put in the effort, which means long hours and working to deadlines under pressure. There is no other way.

But those early years of a business, when you wear so many different hats all at once, teach you so much, not just about the sector in which you operate, but about yourself, and just exactly what you can achieve with focus, determination and graft.

Every time we acquire another practice or open another office, we go through that early year cycle all over again. I reckon it takes 5 years to get a business established and we are 2 years into our latest acquisition. Why does it take so long? I don’t know, but that seems to be the way. By the time we have established processes, installed systems, trained, and recruited, if necessary, that all takes time to get done and bedded in.

So, if it is such a hard slog, why do we, you and anybody else do it? I have been in business virtually all of my working life. I would not now want it any other way. I was never very good at being an employee, so this suits me very well. Helen and I sink or swim by our own efforts, and we have a lot of fun along the way. Well, at least I think we do, but you will have to ask Helen what she thinks.

But these days we are geographically challenged with offices scattered around the North of Scotland so sometimes, Helen and I are like ships in the night. Our choice! We have complete control over what we do and when, so if we put in the effort that is because we choose to do just that. We have always had a choice, as do you.

So, we will be continuing with BNI. We are also now members in  Moray. It works so why would we choose to stop?

What choices will you make today?


Alan E Long

The Long Partnership

07770 738770



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