Lessons learned from a trip to California

About two years ago, I attended the International BNI® Conference in Long Beach California.  I spent a week there in director's training and several other breakout sessions and keynotes.  While I learned a lot about how to grow BNI®, and to do BNI® better, I also jotted down some other lessons I wanted to share with you.

- All highly successful people read... a lot.  Quite a few books were mentioned during the week by my trainers, proving the concept that to be successful in business and in life, you must never stop learning.

Lessons learned from a trip to California

- Surround yourself with like minded people.  Imagine being in the same place as 600 other people committed to giving and to helping each other.  It is quite an experience. I spent my week surrounded by others with the same vision, on their way to the same goal.  It was very awe inspiring.

- Build a team of people to help you build your business.  None of us can go it alone.  We all need help. In Jim Collins' book Good To Great, he talks about two related things that drive this point home. First, you need to get the right people on the bus, in the right seats.  Second is the hedgehog theory. You take the one thing that you do better than anyone else, and do that.  Let the other things be handled by the people that do those things better than anyone else.

- Engage the people around you.  Discuss business and life.  I can't tell you how many hours I spend during the week in the hotel lobby talking to the other directors in town from all around the world.  We talked about our BNI® regions, our businesses, and our lives. Though we all came from different areas and different backgrounds, we faced similar challenges.  We were able to share ideas with each other on how we can overcome them.

- Invest in your education.  Does the phrase "The more you learn, the more you earn" sound familiar?  It's true.

- Take time away to think, evaluate, and plan.  While I was away, I wasn't really working in my business at all.  I returned calls, and replied to emails, but I couldn't really get into the nitty gritty of balancing my Quickbooks or working on artwork.  However, that forced me to work on my business, if only in my mind. Things I learned during my classes did not only apply to BNI®, but also applied to my own business.  I know I am not alone in this thought.  I talked to a mortgage broker from San Diego that said "I just realized I need to change so much I'm doing in my own business.  Look, I started a list of the things I'm going to start doing and the things I'm going to stop doing right away".  I had similar thoughts along the way.  The time away from your business forces you to think about what you're doing and what you need to change in order to help it grow.

- Be approachable and accessible.  It was very noticeable that the upper echelon of BNI® is open to conversing with any of its members.  This is an organization with 140,000 people in it, yet any one of them can walk up to the founder or the CEO at any time and have a conversation.  This generates a great deal of respect from everyone else in the organization.  It also fosters idea sharing uphill.  Some of the best ideas BNI® has implemented came from regular members.  Without the open door policy, these things may have never come to pass, and the organization is stronger as a result.

- Care about your employees, your customers, and everyone else around you.  There is a saying that "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care".  I feel this is very true.  Nobody wants to listen to someone talking for the sake of talking.  If people understand that what they are saying really is for their benefit, not your own, they will listen.

- Give without expectation.  There are a number of phrases to convey the reason.  Karma, goodwill,  Givers Gain ®.  The thought that if you give your time, knowledge, help to someone else it will come back to you tenfold.  This is an absolute truism.  You may feel overwhelmed at times, but keep giving.  Others will give back.

- Create a system for everything.  This helps your business in a number of ways.  When you standardize your processes, you make it repeatable, teachable, trackable, and eliminate any grey area in how to handle any situation.  By having a system in place for every part of your business, it's much much easier to scale it up as your company grows larger.  You don't want to be one of those companies that grows to a point than collapses on itself when it suddenly has to write down and standardize on how they function.  Do it right from the beginning.

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