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Businesses come together through BNI

By Staff | Jul 10, 2015

For these business owners, work starts early on Wednesday.

That’s when they go to the Palmetto Pine Country Club for a weekly 7 a.m. meeting and breakfast to meet with other business owners in hopes of getting and/or giving business leads or referrals.

This is BNI – Business Network International – an organization of mostly small business owners in Cape Coral that get together to form business bonds so they can not only help their business, but others as well.

Nearly two dozen business owners showed up bright and early to network, eat breakfast, learn about the other businesses in their chapter (named United Success) and drum up customers for them.

BNI is quite common in Southwest Florida, with more than 50 chapters, and 15 in Fort Myers and Cape Coral alone. This particular chapter formed in 2010.

Why not merge all these businesses into one? Because BNI allows only one person per profession in each chapter, making it as though you have salespeople working for you since your fellow members have your business cards.

If there are no openings in a particular field, those who cannot join that particular chapter can either join a BNI looking for that particular field or start their own chapter.

Mary Bullock, secretary of the chapter and owner of Sign and Design Depot,, said BNI was built on the premise of “givers gain.” They come together, learn about each other and learn to trust each other.

“We give them business by referrals from our customers and they give us business back,” Bullock said. “It’s all about a marketing tool to build your business. It gives you a leg up on the competition.”

Members are allowed to refer outside the chapter, provided there isn’t that type of business in that chapter. Also, members must be trustworthy, have no major complaints against them and be properly licensed.

“It’s small, but there are national chains within the group. Jim Schaeffer, our president, works for Regions Bank, and his branch manager also belong to BNI chapters,” said Kelly Glass, BNI growth coordinator and a Realtor for Coldwell Banker who is in the group.

A recent meeting featured guest speaker Steve Howe of AB Lawns, and everybody had a chance to do a short presentation about their company, including the guests.

Most important, members brainstormed professions the chapter can use. Among those listed were property manager, trust attorney, chiropractor, electrician, general contractor, auto body shops, restaurants and printers. The more businesses, the more referrals.

“Because we’re category exclusive, you work on knowing, liking and trusting each other, and as you do that you share referrals with your members. It’s all about relationships,” said Dorothy Saviste, BNI’s area director. “When you give away a referral, you give away part of your reputation. There’s a lot of accountability in BNI.”

BNI United Success is seeking new members. Its goal is to have 40 members by the end of the year.

To learn more about BNI, call them at 800-825-8286.