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My husband, Ivan, the founder of BNI, has said for as many years as I have known him, “You have to treat loyalty like royalty.” And I have watched him do just that. He has used this phrase mostly in light of our staff. If a staff member is particularly loyal to the company, he does anything he can to be sure they always have a place at BNI, even if that means creating a role for them as the need may arise.

 

More often lately, I’ve viewed this phrase in the light of how it applies to our wonderful BNI members. When a chapter forms, the various members are essentially entering into a code of loyalty with each other. They operate with an unwritten agreement that they will use and refer each other first, before the competition.

 

Sometimes it is not convenient to use a BNI member for something, especially if they are located somewhat out of the way, or even if their prices are not the best ones in the county. But we really see, time and time again, that it pays off to use the members anyway!

 

Ivan and I believe personally that it is important for us to “walk the talk” with regard to treating loyalty like royalty. You see, BNI members are doing business with us by joining our company, BNI. It is the least we can do to use their products and services. And it’s not always a rational decision by other people’s measure of what makes good, common sense.

 

Take, for example, the case of the eye doctor we chose when we moved to Austin, Texas. We moved to a condo in downtown Austin. When I did a Google search, I found that there is an optometrist seven and a half blocks from my new home – literally walking distance. But I chose our BNI member, Dr. Kevin Reynolds of Westlake Hills Vision Center, as my new eye doctor. His offices are 11.8 miles from my home. That’s a 20-minute drive (if there is no traffic – yeah, right) each way!

 

You may wonder why I would ADD at least an hour of travel time to what is already a chunk of time out of my day just to have my eyes checked and get my glasses. I do it because I want to treat loyalty like royalty. I do it because I understand the value of doing business with others who do business with me and who promote my business to others.

 

A profession in which I personally find it very hard to change professionals is hair care. Now ladies, you probably understand what I mean when I say that just because there is a stylist in BNI doesn’t mean I am going to go to him. Most of us find someone who does our hair just how we like it and stick with that person for years. I even followed one stylist from one salon to another through six moves!

 

Finally, I realized I needed to practice this concept of treating loyalty like royalty, and I made my first appointment with our local BNI hair salon owner, Lisa D. Crane of Platform Color Style Salon. She has been wonderful. My previous hair stylist didn’t come in on her day off to cut and color my hair, if I was traveling and could not get in on the day I needed to. But Lisa did! My previous hair stylist didn’t give me her cell phone number so I could text her when I needed to connect with her. But Lisa did! For months after we moved to Austin, I booked an appointment with Lisa every time we were back in Southern California.

 

Sometimes the prices charged by your fellow BNI members are not the best value for the money if you are looking at a purely transactional evaluation. But I would encourage you to look deeper than that. Your BNI chapter member is usually much more motivated to keep your business and cultivate your referral partnership. The BNI members we have used who were not the lowest priced of the bids, always went so far above and beyond with their service, that it made it all worthwhile.

 

After moving to Austin, we needed to use a stone supplier to replace the kitchen counters in our condo. Cristy Hernandez of National Tile and Stone was referred. So was someone NOT in BNI who had crazy, rock-bottom prices. We chose Cristy. Treat loyalty like royalty, right?

 

Let me tell you how far above and beyond Cristy went. When there was a small problem with part of the slab used in our kitchen, she came in, surveyed the situation, and immediately called her crew in to pull the entire slab out and replaced it with a pristine piece of quartz. I’m 100% sure that the low-cost, non-BNI member would have had quite a different reaction to the same situation, had it occurred.

 

Sometimes I see things with BNI chapters that I just do not get. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the chapter who voted to move locations from a BNI-member restaurant to a competitor of their member’s across town! They were paying “too much” they felt, for a morning breakfast from the member – who did not even open for breakfast, but who was personally providing a breakfast to them himself, with no assistance from his staff! This chapter would have done well to understand the nuances of treating loyalty like royalty, I believe.

 

Ivan and I did a video blog about this topic, where we share more about our feelings on this subject. You may find it interesting.

 

By the way, in a private message in response to our video blog, Loyalty Like Royalty, a BNI member shares the following with me:

 

BNI Member: “How do you and Ivan live up to what you are speaking about in this video? . . . It struck me a bit artificial for the two of you to say, by implication, that you are supporting my business! While I would love to have the opportunity to count you as one of my customers . . . I know that would be an impossible task for you and Ivan to be customers of everyone in BNI. At the same time, I feel bold tonight and decided to seek you out, make an unreasonable request and ask if you have a [insert name of business here] consultant! . . . If you are interested in hearing more or trying out some things, you can connect with me! Hope to hear from you!! :)”

 

Beth: “To be honest, I view establishing and maintaining the BNI System as our greatest contribution to your business. You would not have any chapter to attend on a weekly basis, nor would you enjoy the referrals and business from your chapter’s members, if we had not invested our lives and our resources into creating BNI and managing it so that it works as it does. In that way, saying that we are very personally and intentionally supporting your business is in no way artificial.”

 

How have you seen treating loyalty like royalty bringing greater value to your referral partnerships? Have you chosen a member over a competitor when they were not the closest, or the cheapest? Were you ultimately gratified that you had done so? I’d love to hear your experiences. Please post your comments below.