Episode 013 - Dr. Ivan Misner
In this episode of the Carl Gould Collective podcast, Carl Gould interviews Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI, the largest business networking organization in the world. Misner discusses the thought process behind starting BNI and his vision for creating a networking group that was both relational and focused on business without being mercenary. He merged these two ideas to create the core value of “givers gain,” which emphasizes helping others as a means of receiving help in return.
Misner also talks about the challenges he faced when starting BNI and how he created systems and processes to scale the business. He read “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber and followed his advice to work on the business, not in the business, and create an org chart as if he were going to franchise the business. Misner explains that BNI operates as a licensing model, where individuals can pay a fee to use the BNI name and system, and the organization also generates revenue through training, events, and other services.
Throughout the interview, Misner emphasizes the importance of accountability in networking and how BNI encourages members to be active participants and contribute to the group. He also shares tips for effective networking, such as building relationships with others, being specific about the referrals you’re seeking, and following up consistently.
Overall, the interview provides valuable insights into the founding and growth of BNI, as well as the principles of effective networking that can benefit any business leader or entrepreneur.
The top three takeaways from the interview are:
- Accountability is key to success in networking groups, and BNI has an attendance requirement and encourages members to bring referrals regularly.
- Dr. Misner’s plan to scale the business involved creating systems and processes, writing everything down, and creating an org chart as if he were going to franchise the business.
- The success of BNI is due to its focus on relationships and helping others, as well as its consistent adherence to its core values.
Carl Gould Collective – Dr Ivan Misner, Father of Modern Networking – YouTube
(00:00) welcome to the Carl Gould Collective the podcast that offers you the top subject matter experts every episode we bring you guests who will help you reach your next level as a business leader I’m your host Carl Gould and today we have Dr Ivan Meisner so Ivan welcome to the the collective thank you Carl I appreciate the invitation well uh so um you know you’ve started one of the most well-known uh organizations in the world everyone who has gone through a networking event considers going to a networking event or
(00:33) is a networker has heard of BNI uh walk us through the thought process how did you start that and what we what were you hoping to achieve that was different than other networking groups yeah so you know I’d like to tell you I had this vision of an international organization with chapters all over the world but the truth is I I was just looking for some referrals for my Consulting uh practice I was a Management Consultant and I put I I went to a lot of networks and I didn’t like what I went to uh some of
(01:02) them were just mercenary you know everybody would be trying to sell to me I I’d leave those meetings and I felt like I’d been slimed and I needed to go home and get a shower and then I went to these other groups that were just totally social it’s happy hour and hors d’oeuvres nobody nobody was doing business and I didn’t like either of those what I wanted was to do business but not be mercenary and I wanted to be relational but not totally social and so um I merged those two ideas in the glue that would hold it together as
(01:29) our principal core value which I I think you want to talk about later as well which is givers game this idea that if I help you you’ll help me and we had one group just one and we’d take only one person per profession someone came to that first group and said this is incredible I could get a ton of business out of it but I can’t join because my professional category is represented would you help me open a second group and Carl I actually said no at first like is that right yeah way to play hard to guess I’m a consultant and
(02:00) she’s like come on this is sort of Consulting you’re helping me build my business I’m like that’s a stretch but okay and at the end of the year I had 20 groups without trying and that’s when it hit me that we don’t teach this in colleges and universities anywhere in the world and that people need referrals they don’t know how to get them they need the system they need the structure in the process and it was at the end of that year that I sat down and and wrote up my plan to scale the business
(02:30) um and and we’re actually I’m working on a book right now called garage to Global it’s probably a couple years from being ready but you know it’s all about how do you take your business literally out of my garage it was in my garage and above the garage and and turn it into a global Enterprise we now have over 10 000 groups in more than 70 countries which is incredible and and B and I um I know that there are some people that I’ve met that shied away from a group uh because of the accountability
(02:56) of the group meaning you can’t just be a static member you have to you have to be active you have to bring a referral each time um and and I think some people who are uncomfortable with the accountability measure which probably May which probably means they wouldn’t have been a great member that is probably true but let me just clarify you don’t have to bring a referral every time um I mean you just don’t when I was a member I couldn’t have a referral every week I tried uh you have to be willing
(03:24) you have to try to bring referrals on a regular basis but you might bring a visitor you know if you’re if you bring somebody else who becomes a member that’s worth a lot of referrals and so there’s a lot of ways that someone can contribute but accountability is key um for example we have an attendance requirement it’s reasonably I think easy to hit but we have an attendance requirement and you’re right about accountability um it’s one of our core values by the way accountability you know um
(03:50) hockey without rules would be boxing on ice there has to be rules you just need to apply the rules more like Mandela than Attila and if you do that then I think it it serves members to have a system and process and to have some rules right so so I I love the fact that you put together a business a scale uh sorry a plan to scale the business and our audience would be very interesting to hear hey how what was your plan to scale and what is the business model like how does the organization make money and what is
(04:26) it a licensing feel a franchise is it a you know a distributorship a certification how does that work yeah so um one of the first things I did at the time was I read the e-myth by Michael Gerber the entrepreneurial myth by Michael Gerber and I really just did a lot of things that he talked about in the book learn how to work on the business not in the business um one of the things that I did that he suggested in in I know is one of his early editions was to create an org chart as though you plan um uh on franchising your business write
(04:59) down systems and processes and create an org chart as though you were going to franchise your business even if you have no intention of ever franchising your business so that’s what I did I created systems I wrote everything down I wrote what worked I wrote down what didn’t work so that people knew not to do something I created an org chart chart there were there was basically two part-time employees who worked for me um and uh and so one effectively one full-time person and myself and I created an org chart with 15 different
(05:29) positions on it then I wanted to hit within five years and what I did was every time and this was you know a hand drawn this is before you know we’re talking in 1985 so it’s before the technology that can you know do these really cool graphs I hand drew it and I put in my name and all the roles that I was doing this stuff for and the the two women who worked for me I put their name in about four boxes because they were doing kind of two different roles and I was doing like 11 rolls so it’s Ivan Meisner CEO Ivan
(06:00) Meisner marketing director Ivan Meisner uh complaint department Ivan Meisner janitor I took the trash out so you know I didn’t want to do that as we got bigger and so I wanted somebody else and it was powerful to scratch my name off and write the name in the Box of the person that took on that role the one mistake I made Carl was when I was done I was excited and I drew another org chart for the next five years and I threw that one out if any of you do this don’t throw that out I would have it framed and it would
(06:37) be on my wall today because now B and I uh and and I’ll answer your question about what kind of model it is it is a franchise we decided to franchise it so it’s locally owned and operated in many many places we now have over oh probably over ten thousand people who work for the company including franchises employees and whatnot we have offices all around the world and uh it started with that one plan no kidding so it’s a franchise model just in the United States no worldwide worldwide and so um so if I wanted to open a franchise
(07:14) and let’s just assume for a second there was one open I would pay a friend I would pay a franchise fee yes and what would my royalties be uh anyone that is qualified can get the offerings the appropriate offering circular and get all of that information oh gosh so it’s all in there so to close this yeah you have to have an offering circular in virtually every country now and and all of that information is outlined in fantastic fantastic if you put something different now uh I’m using a term that goes way back I I’m no
(07:45) longer I no longer run the business I’m sort of the Colonel Sanders of BNI so I think it is called the youth the ufoc right the universal franchise offerings that’s it thank you that is I I knew it was a different name well I I’m not so sure this is the reason why it was changed but I’m pretty sure it’s always changed the the um the acronym is you and it was just way too close too close to the wrong word so they it’s now the franchise Disclosure document or FDD that’s more politically correct yeah
(08:21) yeah yeah yeah they fixed that that acronym so so terrific so um do you are you still a member yeah I do go to meetings uh I do go to some meetings uh but with 10 100 chapters once you start going to meetings everybody and their mother wants you to come to the meetings which is kind of a challenge yeah yeah I go I mostly do Regional events now we pivoted very quickly from in person I mean we literally had in the in the beginning of covid on 9700 in-person weekly meetings and we pivoted starting in January last year we pivoted
(08:59) China then in February we pivoted Italy and the rest of Europe and then we started pivoting the entire world so right now most of our groups are meeting online you’re listening to the Carl Gould Collective podcast when was the last time you took a deep dive into your business get a free business analysis and find out how you can accelerate and sustain your business growth never miss another episode subscribe at coralwood.
(09:23) com we do plan on going back to us either a hybrid or a full-on in-person program in the future I I yeah when it’s when it’s safe when the regulatory requirements and the safety guidelines allow then you’ll go back to that so what you know people are talking about Zoom fatigue and I get that I get it but networking events are considered to be written about by Health experts as super spreader events and so to the people who say look I’ve got I’ve got Zoom fatigue it’s like okay Zoom fatigue
(09:56) go to a meeting in person someone catches coveted and dies I you know it’s pretty obvious you got to be an easy easy decision to make yeah well right and and networking by their very nature someone who’s a networker is around a lot of people that’s the point um they’re constantly circulating through various spheres of influence which in a pandemic probably not probably not the best idea so very good so setting aside the pandemic for a second because the you know networking is a sort of business that lends itself
(10:27) well to going online to going hybrid to going Zoom so you have that ability there other than covid what are some of the challenges that you’re seeing um in growing your organization well um you know I think it’s about teaching the biggest challenge is teaching people to uh run the program the way it’s supposed to be run and one of the things that we have recently come up with is what we call BNI University you can go you can only go to BNI University if you’re if you’re a member so it’s it’s that’s not open to the
(11:01) public but what’s on there is a step-by-step Universal standard for how to run a meeting well we didn’t have that before being at University and so and and that was you know just within the last few years maybe two three years so what that’s done is it’s created a baseline performance standard and what you know what people tend to do franchise is included is they they start making stuff up you know and this is okay but you know I can make it better let me tweak it here and then they end up doing things that I
(11:35) I did 20 years ago 30 years ago and it’s like why are you doing that but by having everything online so every member can see the way it’s supposed to be run it’s helped to resolve that really difficult um process of consistency yeah that’s great so it’s the biggest complaint I hear from franchisors over time is if they would only follow the system yeah they would only follow the system yeah right but no question about it that’s what happens you know they just get off they chase bright shiny
(12:07) objects and and many of those bright shiny objects I chased 30 years ago so you know don’t do that right right enter trial and error you’ve worked through on how to do that so um so you’re an empty nester now or have been I am yeah how long um well um it’s not new it’s not new oh okay so what is what is one what is an empty nester I’m I’m 10 years away from that so coach me what what will I be doing with my life or what are you doing with your life as an empty nester well you know my wife passed away last year and
(12:45) so you know we had a lot of opportunities to spend time together um where we really didn’t in our first years of marriage because um I had a daughter from a previous marriage and so Elizabeth you know adopted this daughter so she had a ready-made family and then we had two two more and so it was it was really wonderful um just being with my spouse for we were married 31 years and so I’m kind of living a trying to figure out navigate a new world for me because I haven’t been single and 31 years and I find myself
(13:22) um single because she passed away and um it’s so sorry to hear that I’m so sorry to hear that yeah yeah you didn’t know I I get it and and um and so I’m I don’t really have a good answer to your question I’m trying to figure it out this whole idea of dating is like wow you know it’s been I was with the same woman for decades so well for at least the time you were married if not more yeah sure yeah correct well I am told books that I’ve read is that networking is kind of like dating
(13:54) so I have a feeling you may have some prior experience or expertise that you might have to dust off I get it but you might have to uh you might be able to put into practice well ironically I met my wife in BNI is that right yeah it was the best referral I ever got and um she was she was a member of a chapter and I did a leadership team training and um and she was there and and we met there and um the Restless history it might be time to go back to another meeting yes well you’ve certainly made a global impact Ivan I want to thank you for for
(14:34) coming on so tell us about your latest books well the latest book is called the connector effect and it’s about how do you become a master connector what are the things that you need to do and and listen I’ll be candid it talks a lot about BNI so if somebody picks up that book you got to know it’s talking a lot about BNI but it also gives many other ideas on how someone uh can be a master connector you know you know the phrase Carl it’s not what you know it’s who you know yeah I don’t believe it’s either
(15:04) it’s not what you know or who you know it’s how well you know each other right how many friends do you have sure yeah I mean the question the question you got to ask yourself I mean you may have great contacts in your database super emails but the question is can you pick up the phone and call them yeah would they answer your call and if you ask them for a favor would they be willing to do you the favor and that’s um you know when when you have a connection as a verse versus a contact and you become a connector between your
(15:38) connections then you become a master networker and that’s we talk about how do you actually do that and by the way last year BNI passed during covid the craziest year I’ve ever experienced being I passed 16 billion US dollars worth of uh what we call thank you for closed business that’s the business between members 16 billion dollars in business for our members during that’s crazy I’ve ever seen that is impressive yeah so and that’s over 36 years no no that was last year just last year alone last year alone
(16:18) 16.1 billion dollars wow that’s incredible because so I mean and that’s the power of the of the process and proof that it works you know it is absolutely uh and and it’s in its state accountability issue and you know understanding core values you know I think culture each strategy for breakfast and so having a healthy organizational culture is really important this philosophy of givers gain is critical and when you do all of those things and you have that accountability you do business people do business with people they know
(16:52) like and Trust right absolutely absolutely and more importantly they refer people they know like and Trust right yeah I I love the idea and you’re absolutely right what I find when I go to networking groups that are part of Mastermind groups or any other Association uh groups that I’m part of it once I if I show the commitment and I see that somebody else show the commitment I think they go from that connection to your contact to connection or connector and once we’re on that level we’re looking to see how we can
(17:23) create opportunities for each other yeah I call that the vcp process BCP tell us credibility profitability so you first have to be visible people have to know who you are and what you do then you have to move to credibility where people know who you are they know what you do they know you’re good at it because they’ve seen you operate or maybe they’ve heard about you you have a positive reputation and then and only then can you get to profitability where people know who you are they know what you do they know you’re good at it and
(17:49) they’re willing to refer business to you where networking goes wrong is when you know you meet somebody and you say hey Carl my name’s Ivan here’s three copies of my business card maybe you can give two copies to somebody you know and it’s like I’m sorry what when someone does that to me it’s like I’m sorry what was your name we call that by the way in one of my books we call that premature solicitation which you don’t want to say fast three times it’ll get you in trouble I like that I’ll be careful in how I
(18:17) articulate that when I say but yeah it’s a you know someone shows up and they and they are looking for a deal on the first you know uh on the first time in they’re not the giver yeah or certainly have improving themselves to be such so but certainly B and I as as an organization has proven its system over time it’s I mean you know it’s such a well-known Global brand um so um so tell us how can anyone get in touch with you personally or learn more about you I mean or people know how to get in touch with BNI but how do they
(18:50) learn to hear more about you the things you’ve written and and and what’s coming up for you next yeah sure be on isbni.com but my blog is Ivan meisner.com I’ve been writing twice a week either a video or writing since 2007 twice a week wow tons of content free content up on ivanizen.com you can see most of my books and of course virtually all my books are available and I even uh at Amazon just type in Ivan Meisner you’ll see most all of my books fantastic so thanks everybody thank you well so Ivan thanks for coming on being
(19:24) part of the collective um this is another episode where we bring you the uh top CEOs thought leaders and inspirational uh inspirational leaders uh Ivan Meisner is certainly one of those he’s grown a franchise with uh 10 000 member 10 000 uh franchises worldwide transacted over 16 billion dollars uh among members in just a year during covet so that’s pretty impressive thank you thank you once again for coming on and being so candid during our interview I really do appreciate it thanks girl thanks for joining us it’s been another great
(19:57) episode of the Carl wool Collective where we bring you the best in subject matter experts see CEOs celebrities and newsmakers sharing real life stories and expertise to help you succeed make sure you visit Coral ghoul.com where you can subscribe listen to past episodes and find out more about growing your business if you’re interested in personal business coaching send me a message join us next time for the coral Gould Collective podcast