A network of Staffordshire businesses successfully switched almost 250 members to online video meetings when the coronavirus lockdown hit the UK and has unveiled growth plans, even though face to face meetings are unlikely to return for several months.
BNI Staffordshire hosts a mix of breakfast and mid-morning network meetings each week with chapters across the county.
Executive Director Tony Altham said: “The nature of BNI means lockdown was a major challenge for my team and our chapters across the regions. We had some teething problems, but almost every member has adapted to online meetings and, most importantly, we’re continuing to generate business, supporting the economy of Staffordshire in what are undoubtedly tough times.”
BNI switched all meetings to its own dedicated Zoom platform. This allowed chapters to continue to meet weekly and has even been a bonus for some members who have decided to commit more time to developing their network by Zooming in to meetings throughout the UK and even further afield.
Tony added: “We understand that the culture and vibe of a meeting is different and the ideal for most people is still face to face weekly get togethers. However, Zoom has proved to be a viable alternative and there’s members who have arranged to join meetings as far afield as California and also used Zoom to create opportunities in neighbouring counties to Staffordshire, such as Cheshire and Derbyshire. Of course, there’s further bonuses in saving travelling time and taking traffic off the roads.”
BNI Staffordshire has established groups in Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford Borough and the Staffordshire Moorlands and Tony has plans to establish BNI groups in Uttoxeter, Burton, Tamworth, Wombourne, Lichfield and Cannock.
“In recent months, we have been able to establish a network of ambassadors and director consultants from within our current membership and this allows us to spread our wings further than ever before,” explained Tony. “Traditionally BNI meetings were held at breakfast time, in the last few years, we have added mid-morning meetings and some of our new groups will be at lunchtime with a 12 noon start time. Visitors are very welcome at our meetings and the online meetings are currently free to attend. The idea is to make the BNI referral marketing system accessible to more businesses than ever before. Whatever time of day people want to meet, the philosophy of givers gain remains constant – if you work with other people to find business opportunities for them, similar opportunities will be generated for you. Our chapters form strong bonds and, while out at work, members will look out for business opportunities for everyone else in the network.”
2019 was a record year for BNI in Staffordshire with almost £10 million of revenue generated by members. BNI Staffordshire has expanded year on year since it was taken on by Newcastle-under-Lyme entrepreneurs Tony and Stephenie Altham in 2015, growing revenue for its members by over £6m and doubling membership to around 250 business people.
To find out more about the existing and forming chapters in Staffordshire, please contact email@example.com