Building Business Relationships with Ivan Misner

Reading Time: 21 Minutes

Get the best tips on networking from the founder of the world’s largest business networking organization! In this interview, Ivan Misner covers how to build relationships (including socially distanced relationships) that result in strong business referrals.

After the Interview

About Ivan Misner

Read the Transcript

Who Is Ivan Misner?

Allison: Hey, deliberate leaders! I am Allison Dunn, your host, and founder of the Deliberate Leaders podcast where each episode we feature inspiring interviews to help you on your leadership journey. Today it is my great pleasure to introduce our next guest, Dr. Ivan Misner.

Ivan is a New York Times best-selling author and the co-author of the book Networking Like a Pro. He is also the founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Business Networking International. It’s the world’s largest referral marketing and networking organization.

Ivan, thank you for joining us on Deliberate Leaders today.

Ivan: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Ivan’s #1 Leadership Tip: The Importance of Diplomacy

Allison: I always like to kick off each episode with a deliberate conversation around what would be your best leadership tip for our listeners.

Ivan: I think everyone has different needs. I’ll tell you what mine was as a young man. It was a great tip that was given to me.

I studied under Dr. Warren Bennis, who was in his day one of the world’s leading experts in leadership at the University of Southern California. So I can certainly share you some of the things I learned from him.

But the best leadership tip I got, I got when I was 14 years old from my mother. She said to me, “Son, I love you, but you’re a bull in a china shop. You just knock people over.” And she gave me this paperweight, which was given to me now 50 years ago, which tells you how old I am. It’s on my desk right here. It says:

“Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.”

And she said, “This is about collaboration, not manipulation. But if you want to be a leader, you have to learn how to work with people and not knock them over.”

It’s probably been one of the best bits of advice, and one that I have to constantly remind myself of throughout my career. But it’s been great advice in running a business and working with people.

How to Build Business Teams

Allison: That’s a fantastic tip. When do you have to realize you need to rein yourself back, like your natural tendency is coming through?

Ivan: Oh, yes, my natural tendencies are “the bull in the china shop.” You’ll learn to ask questions, rather than just launch into a position on something. Ask questions. Get engagement.

I find collaboration is really the most effective way of creating teams. Bringing people together and empowering them to do elements of projects – that’s the way you can scale a business.

I’ve scaled my business, literally from my garage to a global organization. I had an office, that was a spare room in my house, and we now are in 70 countries around the world.

Collaboration is key to scale any business.

What Is Business Network International (BNI)?

Allison: Absolutely, I love that. BNI is something that is used, where all my clients are members. That’s where my business started from. It’s the first organization that I joined. It was a networking organization when I was in my early 20s. But for those who may not have heard of BNI before, could you give us a high level overview?

Yes, BNI is a business and professional networking organization. We allow one person per profession to join one of the groups. We get together on a weekly basis. Because of COVID right now, it’s all online. They’re all Zoom meetings, but it’s a BNI-branded Zoom platform.

We get together every week and pass each other referrals. Last year, their organization passed 12.3 million referrals, $16.7 billion worth of business for our members all around the world.

Over the last two months, during the middle of the corona lockdown, BNI generated $2 billion worth of business for our members. That’s when everybody’s stuck at home and we’ve generated $2 billion in business for our members.

So it’s a great way of building your business through referrals. We have a very organized, systematic approach to meeting and generating those referrals.

How Many People Are in BNI?

Allison: That’s amazing. How many members do you have currently?

Ivan: 270,000 members worldwide in 70 countries.

Allison: That’s incredible. I think that you are the first guest on my podcast who might be able to share the pulse that you feel like our world is going through right now from the small business sector. What insights, what guidance, what suggestions, what hope can you give our listeners?

Framing Your Thinking With Hope

Allison: I’m a big believer in hope. I’ve been talking to people and I’ve been posting a lot of things about hope on the internet, and on my social media. I think hope is more powerful than fear.

Hope plus a plan, and taking action, leaves fear in the dust.

What I have found right now, as in any crisis…

(The COVID crisis has been the worst I’ve seen in 35 years, worse than any recession we’ve been through. And it’s put us in a recession. So it’s a double head.)

I’ve seen people who either get frozen in fear or they get focused by fear. I am communicating to people, particularly BNI members:

Let this fear focus you, not freeze you. Get focused on the things that you need to be doing so that when we are released from what I like to call “the great pause“…

(I think the way we think about things makes a difference. We’re calling it “quarantine”, we’re calling it “lockdown”. I like to call it “the great pause.” Pretty soon, the “play” button is going to be hit and we’ll be let out of this pause. And we’re starting to be let out of this pause….)

Those people who are focused and have a plan and are ready to execute that plan, as the pause is released… I think they’re going to be way more successful.

I think hope is hearing that little voice inside you talk about “what can be” while everyone around you is yelling about “what can’t be.”

I think businesses can pull through this and be successful by creating a plan now and starting to execute that plan as you’re being released.

“Physically Distance” But Don’t “Socially Distance”

Allison: Such wise advice. We’re in Boise, Idaho, and in my client community that I work with, there’s been so much amazing focus, to create a plan of action that takes people out of fear. But I do believe there’s a lot of people very afraid still.

One of the struggles that I recognize is that normal sense of business is gone. BNI promotes this referral type of networking, and you’ve been able to just shift right to online and support members.

If someone doesn’t belong to a BNI group, so they don’t have this automatic platform, what are some of the things (other than checking out their local chapters) what else could they be doing so that they’re still building relationships, even though we can’t be in person?

Ivan: Yes, it goes to another expression that I’m not a fond of – “social distancing.” I think we’ve been more social than ever. We have to be physically distancing, but not socially distancing.

One of the biggest complaints I used to get from people about networking was, “I don’t have time to network.” And I used to address that by saying,

“You need to make the time to network because that’s the way most businesses build their business.”

However, you can’t even use that as an excuse right now.

Most people have time. This is the best time. You need to build your network now more than ever. I urge people to be spend a lot of time doing Zoom one-to-ones where you’re talking to people.

Find Overlapping Interests

Ivan: I have a system that we use in BNI called the Gains Exchange. It stands for goals, accomplishments, interests, networks and skills. When you do a one-to-one, you sit down and you say—

“Let me tell you what my professional goals are, maybe some of my personal goals, then you tell me yours. I’ll tell you some of my accomplishments, then you tell me yours.”

You go through all 5 of these as a way of getting to know the other person better, to go deeper in building a professional relationship. When you find overlapping areas of interest with somebody else, that’s when you start to build a relationship, and networking is all about relationship building.

I saw this when I tested it 25 years ago. I tested the Gains Exchange in a chapter and I had two members who’ve been in for 9 or 10 months. I gave them this to try out in the chapter. The two guys said to me, they raised their hand I went over. They said, “We don’t want to do this.”

And I said, “Why?”

One of them actually said, “Because it’s weenie.”

I said, “It’s what?”

He said, “It’s silly. It’s goofy. I don’t want to do it.”

I said, “Okay, well, look, if you don’t mind, please do it. And I’m going to give you a survey afterwards, and you can say, ‘look, it was weeny. I didn’t like it.’ But try it.”

So they tried it. And you know, Allison, they never got past interests.

When they got to interests, they both found out they were soccer coaches for their sons’ soccer teams. They were talking about soccer for the rest of the session and sharing coaching techniques.

They agreed to scout for each other. One would go scout a team and videotape and come back and give the other the tape, back and forth.

All of a sudden, they built a relationship quickly, and within a month, they passed referrals to each other. They had never given each other a referral in the previous 10 months. But within a month, they had referred business to each other because they built a relationship.

So now’s the time to do one-to-ones. Use something like the Gains Exchange to help you in the process of getting to know the other person. Anybody can do that at any time.

Allison: It’s a great method to dig past just that pleasantry  type of conversation to understand what’s important to the other person. It’s particularly a good skill for men to foster and create relationships. I think women naturally do this.

Some of my best friends are big golfers. When they come back from the golf course, I’ll say, “What did you learn about your golf partner today?”

They say, “Nothing.”

“Is he married?”

“I don’t know.”

Ivan: You bring up a good point. I wrote a book called Business Networking and Sex: Not What You Think.

Allison: Let’s talk about this.

Ivan: It’s about the difference between men and women and how they network. What you just described is right on the money.

Men Tend to Be Transactional, Women Tend to Be Relational

Ivan: Men naturally tend to be more transactional in the way they behave and in the way they communicate.

Women tend to be more relational in the way they network and in the way they communicate.

Sometimes I get somebody who says, “No, I’m not like that.”

Well, it was based on a survey of 12,000 people. It’s not about you. It’s about the average we saw in surveying 12,000 people. We found that women were much more likely to be relational, and men were more likely to be transactional.

I was talking to my wife about doing my first presentation on this book. I said, “I’m going to have everybody take a little vote.”

She said, “Okay.”

I said, “I’m going to ask the men, how many of you have a relationship with your dry cleaner?”

One of the people I interviewed said, “I’m friends with my dry cleaners.”

I said, “What’s that look like? I mean, really, a friend?”

“Yes, they had been invited to their birthday parties, and you know, they’ve invited me and we share recipes. She was Jewish, the dry cleaner was Malaysian. So it’s Malaysian dishes and Jewish dishes…”

And I said, “Okay, well, that sounds like a friendship”.

So I said, “I’m going to ask them, ‘how many of you are friends with your dry cleaner?’ And I’m going to ask the women, ‘How many of you are friends with your dry cleaner?'”

And I said, “I think the women are going to say way more, about 2 or 3 times more.”

And my wife says to me, “Oh, honey, I’m not sure I’d do that.”

I said, “Really? Why?”

She said, “Well, I don’t know if I’m friends with Richard and Annette.”

And I said, “Okay.”

She said, “Well, I know they want to go traveling, but Richard’s afraid of flying. And Annette was walking over here because they deliver the clothes. She was walking, she tripped, and she really hurt her knee badly… And they’ve got these two little cute dogs…”

And then she stopped and she goes, “Oh, wait a minute. Maybe I am friends with them.”

And I say, “What were their names?” I didn’t even know their names.

She knew their names. She knew the kind of dogs they had. She knew about their travel….

Sometimes our gender gets in the way of being a better networker. We found that women got more business through networking than men did because they were more relational in the way they network than men are.

Act Like You’re the Host, Not a Guest

Allison: Yes. I saw you speak at a conference, and you gave some great tips on how to network well, how to get comfortable in a networking setting. I think BNI does a fantastic job at getting us good at that because we practice it every single week.

I often get asked, “How can you be so comfortable when you walk into a room and you don’t even know anyone?”

And I say, “Well, I imagine that I am the host.”

My responsibility is to make sure that I know everyone’s name, that I’ve met anyone in my immediate presence, and to include anyone who’s not comfortable and engaged.

Is that a tip I got from you?

Ivan: Yes, it’s from one of the first things I wrote: “The 10 Commandments of Working a Mixer.” One of the 10 commandments is “act like a host, not a guest.”

If you act like the host and not a guest at a networking event… People say, “Well, how can I do that?”

Well, I mean, if you throw a party, and somebody knocks on your door, and you have no idea who they are, do you feel uncomfortable? Saying “Hi, welcome. I’m so-and-so. What’s your name?”

Of course not, because it’s your party!

So one of the ways you can actually be the host, is…

When you participate in something like a chamber of commerce, volunteer to be an ambassador. Now it’s your role. It’s your job to be the host.

So you stand by the door. You welcome people: “Hi! my name’s so-and-so. I’m an ambassador for the Chamber. Welcome to this evening’s event. If you want, I’d be glad to introduce you to some people. If you’re looking for any particular business that you want to introduce too, I’d be happy to connect you.”

So become a connector.

Now if it’s your job, most people can do that, because that’s the role they’re playing. In BNI, it would be the visitor host. If you’re in BNI, volunteer to be the visitor host. That puts you in connection with everyone.

Some people think they’re very good at it. (I’m changing subjects here… switching lanes without signaling.)

Listen More Than You Speak and Be a Good Interviewer

I think people who think they’re really good, may not be as good as they think they are. I think they are extroverts and they love to talk, and extroverts always love to talk, and what’s their favorite subject?


A good networker has two ears and one mouth, and uses them both proportionately.

A good networker is like an interviewer. You’re asking me questions, and you’re allowing me to elaborate.

They ask questions. They get people to elaborate.

And that’s why I think an introvert can actually be better at networking than an extrovert. An extrovert has to learn how to shut up, and that’s hard!

The introvert just has to learn how to introduce themselves, and there are techniques like volunteering to be a host that makes that easier, and then they’re great listeners.

What Makes a Good 60-Second Introduction

Allison: Let’s talk about listening in that first introduction. So one of the things that BNI does a really good job with its members is creating it’s 60-second message.

What should a great introduction message consist of?

Ivan: “Specific is terrific” for weekly presentations. If you’re presenting… be laser specific.

People tend to be generalists in the way they answer what they do. “I’m a full service printer, whatever printing you need…” That is almost of no value to your audience. Instead, what you want to do is get laser specific.

This is counterintuitive, because if you’re speaking on a regular basis in your networking group about what you do, if you give them something different every week, it makes it easier for them when they’re out talking to people to go, “I know somebody that does that.”

They remember it because they have said something that has pierced your reticular activating system.

The Best Way to Get Referrals

Ivan: Now the reticular activating system is that filter in the brain that screens stuff you don’t need to hear or see.

If you can teach people, phrases and things about your business, that will pierce their reticular activating system, that’s the best way to get referrals.

Here are 4 phrases that will help you do that.

  • I can’t.
  • I need.
  • I want.
  • I don’t know.

So if I were doing a weekly presentation on my business, I would come up with a phrase that includes “I can’t.”

If I were selling computers, I would say to the room, if you ever hear someone say, “I can’t get this computer to work,” that’s a referral for me.

“If they ever say, ‘I need a computer that’s fast’ or ‘it keeps locking up on me,’ that’s a referral for me.”

In each week, talk about one. Don’t go into two or three. Get granular and talk about one thing.

That’s the secret to doing great weekly presentations. “Specific is terrific.”

Allison: Excellent tips. I did the MSP training for our local area, and it is amazing how many people have not been able to articulate what they do in under a minute, and going through the practice of standing up and actually delivering those presentations and improving them… What a powerful part of the training that we did.

Yes, that’s one of the things I hear often that it’s a benefit that people say, “Wow, I am so much better at presenting not just who I am and what I do, but in general, and it was not a skill that I anticipated when I started BNI that people would say, “Wow, it’s made me a better speaker.” But it’s one I hear all the time. When you do something 50 weeks in a row, you get better and better at it.

How to Be Referable

Allison: Absolutely. One of the things that I’d like to dive into a little bit is about referability.

Occasionally you have someone who you maybe feel isn’t referable. So how can we as business owners and collaborative members in our community, make sure we’re referable?

Ivan: To be referrable, you need to under-promise and over-deliver. Sometimes we get caught up in over-promising and under-delivering, and that’s a mistake.

When you’re dealing with a network, you’ve got to do your best work for the people in your network. Otherwise, you’re not going to get referrals.

To Get Referrals, You Need to Look the Part

You also need to look the part. If you’re in BNI, you know I have a podcast called BNI Podcast. I have an episode on this very topic, Episode 577. It’s called “I Wasn’t Referable.”

I had a guest on my podcast, Meaghan Chitwood.

Meaghan was very candid in what happened to her. She’s now a director but at the time she was a member. She came from the construction industry, and she had done Six Sigma work, which is quality control. She ended up going into coaching business but from the construction industry. So she went to meetings dressed like a construction worker because she was used to going on site.

Finally one of the group of women sat down with her and said, “Megan, we love you. But you’re not referable.”

And she’s like, “What do you mean? I’m really good at what I do.”

“Yes, but not everybody is a construction company, and so you have to present yourself in a way that makes people feel confident in referring you.

You have to dress professionally. Boots and khakis isn’t going to get you into a corporate setting.

You may think, oh, that’s horrible. But it’s just the way the world works.

What she did was amazing. They were about to leave, and she’s like, “No, no, no, no, you don’t get to say that to me, and then leave. You need to help me be referable.”

And these wonderful women who were in her chapter took her to their homes and showed their wardrobes. They said, “Look! Take this outfit… Until you buy your own, borrow these.”

They worked on helping her present herself as a woman professional, and it made all the difference in the world. She became much more referable immediately.

Allison: That is an important tip for both men and women, and ever more important in today’s world. People won’t give you the time of day if you don’t look the part.

Dressing Casually Can Adversely Impact Your Sales

Ivan: Here’s another one with a man. I knew this guy. He called himself the casual accountant. He always wore Hawaiian shirts, oftentimes shorts and sandals.

He said, “I want to make people feel comfortable with their CPA.” So that’s what he did. OK, that’s a great pitch. I love that.

But one day he stood up and said, “I’m really looking to get into some corporate clients, I really want to work with more corporations.”

We had to pull him aside afterwards and say, “I’m not going to refer you to a corporate client. Because honestly, you can’t go in like that. You can’t go in with shorts and a Hawaiian shirt and be taken seriously in a corporate setting.”

Is it fair?


Is it right?

I don’t know.

But it is. It is what it is.

So understood that. He said that in the future, at one of his next meetings, he came dressed like an accountant, like what you might think. He said, “If you refer me to one of your corporate clients, this is how I’ll show up.”

Allison: I know a local member here who wore his suit every single week, and then in visiting another chapter, instead he went very casual, and he specifically said, when he goes in a suit, he gets almost like 10 to 20 one-to-ones. But he went casual, he didn’t get any requests of people to meet with him, because it was in conflict.

In my younger years, I would go to Chamber events, and I would be networking, and the goal was to get business cards. I would get back and my manager would be like, “How many did you collect?”

I’d be like, “I got 15.”

He’d be like, “Oh, good job, but a business card is not networking.”

Ivan: No, not at all. We talk about that in the book Networking Like a Pro. My coauthor Brian, he’s got this great story.

He says, “I have got a dog. It’s a golden retriever. Her name’s Brandy. Everybody loves Brandy. She’s just so friendly.” And he said, “I could put a little saddle on Brandy. And I could put my business cards in one pouch with a notice that says ‘please take one’, and on the other pouch on the other side, put a note that says, ‘Put your card here.’ I could send Brandy into the room and have her come back in 30 minutes, and she would show up with a stack of business cards.”

And he said, “Is that really networking?”

No, that’s card collecting. That’s not networking.

Networking is about making connections with people. Simply collecting business cards is only a small piece of that process.

There’s much more that you need to do. If you want, I’d be happy to talk about a couple of things you need to do when you collect those cards.

Allison: That is my very next question. Let’s say we have folks who are listening, and that is what they’ve been guilty of. So now, what do I need to do? “All I have are cards.”

What to Do With People’s Business Cards

Ivan: When you get those cards, make a note on the back of the cards about something that the person said to remind you.

Now, disclaimer: In some cultures, that is completely inappropriate, particularly Asian cultures. You don’t want to write on a card ever. Don’t even ask for permission, take a notepad with you.

But in North America, people, they’ll toss a business card, it’s no big deal. I deal if I do it in front of them, I will say, “Do you mind if I write a note about what you just said on your card?”

And they say “Absolutely, it’s not a problem.”

I always write a note on the card. So start with that.

Now, everyone always asks, “how do you follow up?”

So I’m going to give you a technique to follow up. It’s called a 24/7/30 follow-up system.

Within 24 hours, reach out and thank them for having an opportunity to meet. Just connect with them. I think the best thing to do is to send a real letter or card.

Nobody does that anymore. Are you familiar with Send Out Cards?

Allison: I am. Yes.

How to Follow Up With a New Business Connection

Ivan: I love Send Out Cards. I’m not a representative. I make nothing by recommending them. I am a client. I love it.

You can get on your computer, type everything in, and send a card. They can even do it in your own hand printing. They will mail a card to the person.

So mail something. If you’re not going to do that, send an email at least.

Simply reach out and say, “Hey! Allison, it was real nice meeting you. I enjoyed our conversation on X, and I hope our paths cross again.”

Don’t sell to them.

“Oh, hey, by the way, I provide this product or this service and if you’re…” No! Don’t do that!

I call it a sales seizure. They just can’t stop themselves.

Within 24 hours reach out and say, “Hey! it was great meeting you.” Within 7 days, connect with them on social media.

If I want to follow up with someone, one of the things I might say is, “What social media platform do you use most?”

That’s one of the things I would write down. They might say Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever. Find out where they like to go.

Use the Platform Your Connection Prefers

Ivan: I learned this from my kids. My eldest, when she was 17 years old, she had a phone. I would call her. She would never answer.

But if I texted her… She’s now 33. So it’s been a long time. If I texted her, she’d respond immediately.

I remember talking to her once. I’m saying, “Honey, you know? This is a telephone. You can actually speak in these things.”

She’s like, “I know, Dad. I know.”

Now she gets the phone. But at that time, if I wanted to talk to my 17-year-old, I had to text her.

When my next daughter got to about 18 or 19, I would call her. Nothing. I would text her. Nothing.

I said to my wife, “What do I do? She’s not responding.”

She said, “Oh, you need to WhatsApp her.”

I said, “What’s WhatsApp?” I don’t know what that is.”

So I downloaded WhatsApp. I have like three contacts on WhatsApp and my daughter is one of them.

So if I call her, I get nothing. Text her, nothing. WhatsApp her, Boom! She responds immediately.

Then came my son. So when he moved out, I call him, nothing. Text him, nothing. He didn’t like WhatsApp.

He’s a gamer. I knew he was on a platform called Steam, which has instant messaging. I downloaded Steam and bought a game.

OK, I was in my 40s and 50s, and I bought a game so that I could be on the platform, and if I wanted to talk to him, I just instant messaged him on Steam. And he is like, “What’s up, Dad? What do you need?” He would respond.

So I learned from my kids that I can’t communicate with them the way I want to, especially at that age. If I want to have a relationship with them at that age, I need to communicate with them in the way they want to communicate.

That’s a lesson that I carried over to networking.

Don’t communicate with them on the social media platform you like. If you want to build a relationship with them, communicate with them on the social media platform they like.

Comment, “Hey, love that post. This was really interesting. Let me share another one with you…” And so you’re engaging with them a little bit.

Set Up a Meeting to Learn More About Each Other’s Businesses

So they see you. You sent them the card or an email, now they see you on social media. Then within 30 days (remember: 24/7/30)… within 30 days, you reach out to him, and you say:

“Allison, we met a month ago, it was great meeting you, I’ve been following some of the things that you’ve posted on your Facebook. I really love this post or that post. I’d love to get together for coffee, and really learn more about what you do, and hopefully you’re willing to learn a little bit about what I do. Just a simple professional one-to-one… so we can learn more about each other’s business.”

Then set up that one-to-one and meet with them.

And when you meet with them, don’t sell to them. If they need your product or service, they’ll tell you at that point. What you want to do is build the relationship.

It’s about social capital. You know, social capital is a lot like financial capital. Banks have this crazy idea that they want you to put money in before you write a check. Social capital is the same. You’ve got to invest, you’ve got to know them and build the relationship before you ask for something from them.

That’s the follow up system: 24/7/30. If you do that, you’re on the right track to networking effectively.

Allison: Great rule of thumb, and a good reminder for anyone who’s not sure what to do at any stage in their business: Just go build relationships using that formula.

Networking is More Like Farming Than Hunting

Ivan: Yep, very true. And go into an understanding that…

Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships with other people. If you have that mindset, you’re going to be a lot more successful.

Allison: Ivan, I think one key you’ve driven home is that you shouldn’t ever have to sell until someone is asking you for what it is that you provide.

Right now the mass of volume of people just coming right at you. “Hi, I’m Allison, I’m an executive business coach. You know, let me coach you?” That’s not okay.

Ivan: I agree. A lot of people say, “What! come on. It never hurts to ask, right?”

“Wrong! Dead wrong. It absolutely hurts. Now, as a matter of fact, if you’re networking up, if you’re networking with somebody who you think’s above your weight class in terms of success, the last thing you want to do is pitch them when you meet them. And I know this too sounds counter intuitive, but really successful people are pitched all the time.

To Build a Relationship, Find a Way to Help

Ivan: Do you want to be like everyone else and pitch them too?

No. Instead, find a way to help them.

If you can find a way to help them, that is the way you start to build a relationship.

Let me give you a quick story if we have time. I’ve had an opportunity to meet Richard Branson on a number of occasions. On a couple of the occasions I met him I really wanted to do a video with Branson but I didn’t want to be one of those guys to go to Necker Island where he was and say, “Hey Richard, would you mind? Would you do a video with me?”

I didn’t want to do that.

So on the last two times I met him, I did a little research before I went there. I asked him, “Hey, what’s going on with the B team concept?”

He opened up. Then one time, which was just a few months ago, I was on Necker Island, and he had this concept called Circles. I said, “Richard, tell me about the Circles concept that you’ve got.”

He lit up. He’s like, “Oh, well, the circles…” and he explained what it was.

Then I asked him, “How can I help you with that? I think it’s a great concept. What can I do to help get that out?”

And he said, “Well, you’ve got a big network. Getting that out to your members, explaining it to your members, would be great.”

I said, “Well, that’s fantastic. Would it be of any value to you to do a video with you talking about it? And then I’ll share it with all the members?”

He’s like, “Yeah, that’d be great.”

Ok! So I found a way to help him, legitimately help him. And at the same time, I get to do a video with him. It’s a win-win.

I didn’t just go and ask him for something. I asked him how I can help him. That’s the key, especially if you’re networking up.

By the way, you can find that if you go to, you can find that video on February 13, 2020. It’s called “Richard Branson Shares His Circles of Support Concept” on my blog.

Givers Gain

Allison: Fantastic. I’ve got one more topic before we wrap up. I would love to leave people with a final message. I feel like it should be a “givers gain” message.

Ivan:Givers gain” is the principle core value of BNI. I think it’s really has set us aside as a networking organization, this whole idea that if I help you, you’ll help me and we’ll all do better.

I think that’s a very unique approach to the sales orientation, to this mercenary networking that I see take place.

You know the expression “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

I don’t think it’s either.

I don’t think it’s what you know, or who you know. It’s how well you know each other that really counts. Because you can have amazing contacts in your database. But the real question isn’t just “who’s in your database?” It’s “who could you call, and they would answer your call? And if you asked for a favor, they would say yes?”

That’s way more than just someone you know. That’s someone you have a relationship with. So it’s not just who you know, it’s how well you know each other, which means it always comes down to building relationships. That is what networking is about.

Allison: I’m going to use that as the title of this episode. I think that’s a brilliant conclusion and wrapping up, why networking is so important.

Where to Find Your Local BNI Chapter

Allison: Ivan, thank you for joining us here today and sharing such wonderful advice. We’ll include our local chapter in the show notes, because it’s such an important component for us as a local community to be part of a BNI chapter.

Ivan: And visit for anyone who might see this outside your region.

Allison: Oh, that’s what I was going to include so that people can figure out where a chapter is in their area. Go check it out. It’s open to anyone.

So, Ivan, thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure.

Ivan: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

Join our list for exclusive tips, content and a welcome gift – our ebook on how to engage your team and boost profits.