BNI (Business Network International)





(Member List* / General Information* / About)

Thursdays, 11:15-1:00
at Parizade*
220 W. Main St., Durham. (MAP*)
Parking Info

Application (right click to download)
NOTE: The restaurant charges $8 per person, which they will waive if you purchase lunch

(throughout this document, an asterisk (*) indicates that a link will open in a new tab or window).

About BNI

Finding a Sub When You Are Going to be Absent (members only)

Tips for Visitors / Subs

Schedule a 1-2-1 with Randy


What is BNI?

BNI Stands for Business Network International. With over 240,000 members in 8000+ chapters worldwide, BNI is the largest business networking organization in the world. In the past 12 months, BNI members have generated over 11 million referrals resulting in $15 billion dollars worth of closed business, in the past year alone. BNI offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts and most importantly, business referrals.

Visit* for worldwide BNI information,* for chapters in the central North Carolina area, from Orange County to Wake County and south to Fayetteville, and* for eastern North Carolina chapters in Wilmington and Jacksonville, NC.

How does BNI work?

Each BNI chapter is made up of members who each hold one exclusive “seat” in the chapter. These members learn about each other and work to find business to refer to the other members of the chapter.

There is a phrase in BNI called “Givers Gain”. The essence of this is that the more you give to other people, they more they are going to want to give to you. Referrals are NOT given with the expectation that a referral will be given back to you. Rather, the mindset of the people to whom you give referrals will be that they want to reciprocate and they will try harder to find some referrals for you.

Why is each “seat” restricted to 1 person?

Each business role (seat) within a BNI chapter may be filled by one person. Imagine if you had 2 plumbers in your group – which one would you choose for a referral? Allowing only 1 person per role, ensures that the person holding that seat is the “go to” person for that type of business.

Does the company or the person hold the seat?

All seats are held by specific people, even if the company pays for the seat. If a person decides to leave the chapter, someone else from that company may apply, but they are given the same consideration as someone from a different company who is applying.

Also, if a person changes professions (such as a plumber who becomes an electrician), that person would need to resign from the chapter and reapply for the new seat. A person who changes their role within the company, but still represents the same seat, would not need to reapply. For example, a plumber might become a master plumber or even move to a management or marketing position. That person would not have to reapply, since he/she is still representing the plumbing company.

How many times may I visit a BNI chapter?

You may visit each BNI chapter twice within each 6 month leadership term, which runs April 1 to September 30 and October 1 to March 31. After that, you are asked to apply to join the chapter or wait until the next 6 month period.

What does it cost to join?

To join, there is a 1-time application fee of $150 and an annual rate of either $495 for 1 year or $765 for 2 years – these are only incurred if your application is approved. Some BNI chapters charge an additional fee for the facility and some chapters only allow a 1-year membership term before needing to renew. NOTE: Bull City BNI only allows 1-year membership terms.

How does the application process work?

Once you submit your application to join a BNI chapter, the membership team will review it. If everything seems to be in order (meaning that you filled it out correctly), they will inform the chapter members that you have applied and ask them for feedback. They will also contact your references for input. This stage usually takes 2-3 weeks (time may vary, depending on number of applications being processed, holidays, etc.)

Chapter members should contact you to schedule 1-to-1’s so you can get to know each other and they can provide adequate feedback. Feel free to reach out to the chapter members yourself – no need to wait for them to get in touch.

When the deadline for feedback is reached, the membership committee will meet with you for their own interview.

The membership committee will then make a decision regarding your application status and you will be notified by either the chapter president or secretary/treasurer regarding the outcome.

If you have been accepted, you will be sworn in at the next meeting.

Should I attend meetings while my application is pending?

Absolutely! The 2-visit rule no longer applies while your application is in process. It is not required that you send a substitute if you will miss a meeting during your application process, but is makes a good statement to the chapter if you begin following the guidelines even during this period.

What is a 1-to-1?

A 1-to-1 (or 1-2-1) is where 2 people get together to learn about each other’s businesses and how they can refer business to each other. There is not a formal structure for this nor a requirement of how much time this should take. Once members get to know each other, they may have frequent, short 1-to-1’s to focus strictly on specific referrals.

What are the attendance requirements?

You are allowed 3 absences (without a substitute) within each 6 month leadership term, which runs April 1 to September 30 and October 1 to March 31. You may also send a substitute in your place 3 times during the leadership term. If you exceed the number of absences, you will be dropped from the chapter and will have to reapply.

Substitutes are restricted to the same 2-visit rule as any other visitor. If someone has visited on their own, then substitutes for you at another meeting, that counts as the 2 visits. If you have someone sub for you who has already visited twice during the term, you will not be credited for having a sub and will be given an absence for the meeting.

If you are late to the meeting or leave early, that counts as a “late”. 3 lates = 1 absence.

Do I have to give referrals every week?

There are no requirements for referrals, 1-2-1’s, or anything else on a weekly basis. In fact, there are no specific requirements to have a certain number of 1-2-1’s or to give a certain number of referrals during any time period. However, 1-2-1’s are the best way to learn about the other members of the chapter and to have them learn about you, so that you can refer business to each other.

Do I have to give referrals to everyone in the chapter?

No. In fact, there may be people to whom you can never give a referral. You may have a relative or best friend who has the same job as somebody in the BNI chapter. If you were to give that referral to somebody in the chapter rather than the relative or best friend, there could be some hard feelings. That is not the intent of BNI and there will be plenty of other people in the chapter to whom you can give referrals.

How do I find referrals for the members of the chapter?

Start by having a 1-to-1 with the other members and learn about their business. Ask them what you should look or listen for that would trigger you to think of a referral for them. Also, ask them who would be a good referral partner for them. They might say that they are looking to meet realtors, CPA’s, attorneys, event planners, etc. Surely, you know some of these you could introduce.

Throughout each day, look and listen for opportunities to provide a referral. You might hear a neighbor complaining about doing yard work, cleaning their house, or having a leaky faucet. You may see someone on social media post a message that they are looking for a certain service. All of these are referral opportunities.

You should also let people know that you are a resource and well connected.

How much time does BNI take?

Following are the activities associated with BNI membership:

  • Weekly meetings (required) – the meetings are 1-1/2 hours (times may vary by chapter), but plan extra time for pre and post meeting networking.
  • Power Spheres (optional) are subsets of a larger chapter (real estate, personal services, business-2-business, and financial services) and each sphere generally meets once a month for 1 hour. These meetings are not required, but you will receive CEU (Continuing Education Unit) credit for attending. Not all chapters have power spheres.
  • 1-to-1’s (optional) – there are no specific requirements for 1-to-1’s, but you should commit yourself to finding time for these.
  • BNI Member Success Training (required) – after you join, you are required to attend this training session. Times and locations vary – check the events link on* for details and to register.
  • Leadership Training (required for officers) – only required for officers, when starting a new term. The class generally runs about 4 hours.

Is BNI right for me?

That’s a question you need to answer for yourself. Are you willing to make the commitment to attending the meetings or finding substitutes? Are you willing to commit the time to having 1-to-1’s to learn about other members and have them learn about you? Are you willing to look for opportunities to refer business to the other members?

If you answered YES to all of those, then BNI is probably the right solution for growing your business.


For some people, the attendance requirement is the scariest part of BNI – it really doesn’t have to be. It’s fairly easy to find a sub – you just need to give it a little thought.

Below are some suggestions for finding a sub. Following that list are some tips on making their experience a good one.

  1. The best subs are clients who can sing your praises.
    1. If their seat is not filled, this is a double bonus – they will help you out AND have the opportunity to make some great connections, maybe even leading to some business. Imagine how grateful your sub will be if they are helping YOU out, but end up getting some business themselves.
    2. If their seat is filled, that is still a good sub, because they will be telling everyone how great you are. And, even people with filled seats can make good connections that may lead to business.
  2. Competitors are fantastic subs – that’s right, competitors. Imagine the powerful message of getting praise from someone with whom you are in competition.
  3. People that know you well – especially if they know your work. Also look for people whose seats are open (see #1).
  4. People who may not know you, but whose seat we do not have filled in the chapter. This could be someone that you would like to become a client – after visiting, they will be grateful to YOU and want to return the favor.
  5. Finally, acquaintances and strangers whose seats are already filled in the chapter. They can meet the requirement of a sub, but don’t really do much for you when they are reading your business presentation from a piece of paper or their phone – nor do they do much for the chapter.


Be sure to let your visitors know what to expect.

  • Point your visitors/subs to the member list for your chapter – ask who they would like to meet and make introductions before the meeting.
  • Point them to this page for information – especially if they are not familiar with BNI.
  • Clue them in on the logistics of the meeting, so they know what to expect.
  • Make sure that they have your presentation. Even if they ad-lib because they know you so well, there may be certain things you want them to include, such as your tag line or who you want to meet.
  • Follow up with them after they have subbed for you. Ask about the connections they made and if there is anybody they didn’t meet with whom they would like you to connect them.
  • If they did make some good connections, talk to those chapter members and ask how it was for them – you might be able to nurture a relationship along.