Founded in the United States in 1985 by Ivan Misner, who stands out as the creator of the concept of business networking, in other words, the marketing through reference, Business Networking International (BNI) operates in 73 countries around the world, with 847 franchisees, 7.850 groups and 213.000 active members. There is no competition within the group, because there is only one person represented in each occupational category in each group. This increases network synergy. I talked with Ayşe Aslan, the country director of BNI Turkey, which has been operating in Turkey since 2012, on the advantages of having the right network in the business world.

A different business model
The process that directed founder of BNI Ivan Misner to marketing through reference is extremely interesting. Since the beginning of the 80s, he has been working as a business development consultant for the companies in the computer sector, which has been growing at a great pace from the very beginning. Misner lost one of his most important clients in 1984. The lost of this company was devastating because it brought him the 60 percent of his work. In lieu of this loss, Ivan Misner calls many ways to find new business links, from publishing ads in newspapers and magazines to distributing brochures and participating in various association meetings. But he cannot get any results. Ivan Misner, who started to think about getting all the customers by reference, shares his ideas with a few close friends around him. They then begin to coordinate meetings about how they can help each other on a regular basis. Therefore, the first step of the global management methodology of BNI, in other words the formation of a different network by bringing business circles together, was taken. Regular meetings starting with a few people were getting crowded after a while. Competitors begin to form rivalries among participants. Misner, who led the competitors to different groups, has thus created a different business model.

Who manages the network right wins
The director of BNI Turkey is Ayşe Aslan, who has a very entrepreneurial spirit. Graduating from Westminster University’s Media, Arts and Design Department in London, Aslan met for the first time with the BNI organization while doing real estate / investment consulting in London in 2007. Ayşe Aslan, who was aiming towards bringing BNI to Turkey, came to Istanbul in 2012 for the establishment process, leaving 15 years of London adventure and ‘Management’ training at City University, Cass Business School. BNI Turkey Director Ayşe Aslan, who was awarded the “Most Promising Country Director of the Year” award at the BNI International Conference organized by the BNI American Headquarters every year in November in California, said, “The basic philosophy of BNI is ‘Givers Gain’. Our mission is to ensure that our members establish business relationships with qualified business owners and professionals based on long-term, meaningful, trust-based, ethical values. BNI is advancing by investing in business networking method. For example, if you are a business owner, you get to know about 1000 people in your business life for an average of 5 years. However, you cannot set a strategy on how to manage this network. Through this method, BNI teaches its members how to use their network more effectively.”

Continuity and trust issues
Expressing that they established the first BNI group in Turkey ‘BNI Orion’ on September 4, 2012, Ayşe Aslan then stated that BNI Anatolia and BNI Bosporus groups are starting their foundation works. The BNI Orion group, with more than 70 business owners, meets every Tuesday from 06.30 to 08.30 in the morning. Expressing that they have reached more than 400 members at the end of two years, Aslan tells the problems that Turkish administrators experience when establishing a network connection: “Continuity is lacking. Relationship is not formed by meeting. The most important factor that determines the difference between having a relationship and building a business relationship is ‘creating trust’. For this, it is necessary to devote time and effort to that relationship. Being visible is the first condition of creating trust. If you are ignorant, it is not possible to provide awareness. No one trusts the unknown. The awareness we create as BNI begins with regular meetings where we bring business owners together. If you think of creating a network as something separate from your work, and you break the link, the people you meet will continue to be just the people you meet. However, a business relationship must be meaningful, long-term and deep… We call it 3G rule. Be visible, build trust, and earn income.”

Prime target: small businesses
Ayşe Aslan summarizes BNI’s 2017 projection as follows: “First, we want to open offices in big cities like Ankara, Izmir, and Bursa, with a population of over 2 million. Our goal for 2017 is to reach 1000 members. We plan to create synergy between the regions by giving more than one franchise in the nearby regions. Another goal is to start operating our activities with 16 franchises in 8 cities until September 2018. We are progressing with members who have achieved a certain success in business life, have vision, are entrepreneurs, can coach, are skilled in leadership, and are willing to add collective value. We see that business owners who create a sustainable business network soon find out that they acquire 100% of their business through their BNI connections. We have already observed that a reference has progressed to the fortieth link. Of course, with the entrepreneurial perspective, many new initiatives and projects are emerging. The feeling of trust triggers creativity. Different steps that are free and fast are being taken in the short term and the result is achieved much more quickly. Business owners are mentoring each other at the same time. We aim to reach more small businesses in medium and long term.”