"I was in a BNI group in the Quad Cities and was referred to Jeff Ensinger, who is the executive director for this area, to find a new group to join," Shannan said.
Jeff Ensinger, executive director of BNI, said he manages the various chapters from Interstate 80 to Effingham.
There are four chapters in Peoria, six in Bloomington, six in Springfield, four in Champaign and one in Decatur.
is not a Peoria or East Peoria chapter because members are from all over the place.
said are very structured.
"It's no willy-nilly.
There are no wallflowers," Ensinger
said, adding that each chapter has a president, vice-president and treasurer.
members are screened from an application they fill out.
At the meetings, which are in the morning or afternoon, depending on what chapter someone is in; time is spent on education and business referrals.
"Every week someone gets to talk about one specific product they offer for 10 minutes," Ensinger
members do a lot of "one on one" visits to each other's businesses.
"If I help you, you're going to help me back," he
A success story
Eight years ago, Ensinger
was selling insurance.
method of selling was mostly to call people at home to try to sell his
That all changed after he joined BNI.
began meeting people and getting referrals.
got enough referrals that he
changed the way he
In fact, he
went into business for himself.
"It kind of gave me the courage to go out on my own," Ensinger
said about BNI
"Now I don't make any of those calls.
Instead of pounding on doors and trying to sell something, it's about getting referrals ... it takes some of the pressure off."
However, there is still pressure within the BNI
group to come through with referrals.
said because people see each other weekly, they are not "out of sight, out of mind," and people can follow up on potential business prospects.
Although, in the past four years, every piece of business Ensinger
, has written has been from a referral, he
said it still takes work.
"It's still networking.
The magic word there is work.
It's a lot better than calling people at 7 o' clock at night interrupting their dinner."
has met 2,000 people he
otherwise would not have met.
If a member is approved for BNI
goes through a four-hour training session.
They also receive a new members kit, which has the business cards of chapter members inside.
"Most new members come from other members," Ensinger
"When I have those five, I can usually start a chapter," Ensinger
Occupations that are more rare to find, Ensinger
said, are travel agents, cell phone wireless representatives, CPAs and family attorneys.
said the BNI
group that formed in March and was meeting in East Peoria until two weeks ago, outgrew its location at the Hampton Inn where they met for free.
is like a gold fish.
It's only going to get as big as the room and the parking," Ensinger
For more information about BNI
, call Ensinger
at 453-2463, or visit www.bni-il.com.