My phone rings and it is a BNI Member named Tom. He is mad because he received a letter from his chapter opening his position in the chapter and he felt strongly that it was unfair. I asked him why he believed that it was unfair.
The membership committee sent him a letter opening his position in the chapter and this is what precipitated the phone call to me. He was angry. Angry that the membership committee did not understand that he missed because of an emergency out of his control and for that reason he wanted to be immediately reinstated in the chapter.
Tom missed a meeting on a day he was working with his son, David. Being less experienced than his father, David became unsteady on the ladder. He toppled the ladder and hit his head on the ground. His father rushed him to the hospital to be checked (as he absolutely should). It was his 4th missed meeting in six months.
I listen with interest and wait for him to finish. At the end I ask a few questions:
Me: Tom can you tell me about the other three meetings that you missed?
Tom: I missed two meetings because my wife and I took a long-anticipated vacation and a third meeting because I had a job to complete.
Me: Did you know or try to get a substitute to cover for you when you went on vacation or had to complete your job?
Tom: Yes, I was aware, but I did not have time to find someone when I was trying to finish the job. Business must come first. I cannot just walk away from business.
Me: What about the 2 week vacation?
Tom: It was vacation. I was taking time off.
Me: Tom, the purpose of the 3 days’ worth of absences is for emergencies. In fact it was intended for exactly what you had to do with your son. The substitute policy was intended for things like your vacation. If you had sent someone to just one meeting you would not have been counted as absent and you would have had a day to spare.
Me: Let me ask you this, when you applied for BNI were you aware that we had an attendance policy and was the importance of attendance explained to you in the Member Success Program (MSP)?
Tom: Yes, I was aware and I do remember the trainer explaining it. But I did not realize that they were going to be so strict about it! This was my son, I did not have a choice.
Me: You are correct, you did not have a choice on that instance. But you did have a choice the other 3 times, it was not the 4th meeting that cost you your position in the chapter. It was the three avoidable absences when you did not take the time to arrange your sub. Those were the times that you had total control of your membership attendance and you chose not bother to find your sub.
Tom: Yea, I guess you are right but I still think it was wrong.
I get these types of calls on a regular basis. People who are upset and want to push back on the attendance policy. In fact some members have gone off and started their own versions of “BNI LITE” and the first thing they change is the attendance policy.
How many of you have ever belonged to a group that had no policy at all around attendance? I have and I would see that we have 100 members but every time I showed up there were only 30 or us and never the same 30! How can you get anything done, build any relationships, or get any business done?
What if your business had no attendance policy? Your employees only showed up when they felt like it, or they sent a substitute to work to represent them? How would that work? While a sub is better than no one at all, they cannot do what the trained employee does. They would not be as productive. In fact you probably would not get any work done.
BNI members are in the room together to grow their businesses, they accepted you into their group because they wanted you to be part their word-of-mouth marketing team. We put the need to be there weekly on the application so that you would know in advance what you are getting into.
Anybody can buy a seat at the table, but it takes commitment to be at the weekly meetings, on time, in the room every week! There is a reason that the mentor coordinator goes over it and it is covered again in the Member Success Program (MSP). Because it is important—if you are going to get referrals or give referrals—you must show up. If we did not have a policy, people would come and go as they pleased and very little business would ever get done.
I am sorry that Tom lost his position and even sorrier that he chose not to reapply and give it a second shot. Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes we learn from our mistakes and become all the better for it.
Keep It Simple
There are few women better at building a global network than Hazel Walker . Renowned for her straight talk and no-holds-barred approach, Hazel is a globally sought after speaker.