I started my IT business 16 years ago in 2004. At the time I really didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew I liked tinkering with electronics.
As a teenager and as a young adult, I always loved messing around with and learning about stereos, speakers, TVs, video game consoles, and other consumer electronics. It wasn’t until about 2002 that I started taking an interest in computers as well.
In the summer of 2004, I really needed a job so I humbled myself and took an entry-level job selling computers at a big-box electronics store. At the time, I was a little ashamed because here I was a college graduate making nine dollars an hour working at a retail store. Little did I know at the time that taking that humble job would set my life on a trajectory that would change and enhance my life still to this day. Besides learning more about computers and technology in general, I was also able to hone my people and sales skills.
Two chance encounters there led directly to the successful business that I run today some 16 years later.
A woman named Cheryl purchased a WiFi antenna for her laptop from me. And, a man and Richard bought a computer from me. Both of them asked me if I could come to their home and install the item for them. I smiled and told them that Best Buy policy does not allow for that, but that I like to make new friends. So, I gave them my number and subsequently broke store policy by going to their homes and helping them.
I only worked there for a total of three months before I got fed up with being micromanaged and resigned. However, my time there was enough to give me what I needed to start my business. Even though I didn’t look at it like that at the time, I just simply enjoyed messing with and learning about computers and was unknowingly starting a business.
I then took a full-time 9-to-5 job at an insurance company and proceeded to fix computers on nights and weekends, getting paid by my customers and often doing it for friends and family for free simply because I just enjoyed it. After I was fortunate enough to get fired from my full-time job after three years there, I decided to take my part-time hobby/small business to the next level and try to turn it into my sole source of income.
That was 2007 and I haven’t looked back since.
In 2010, I met a guy named Sean at a networking event and he invited me to something called BNI. I had never heard of it but at the time I was trying to meet as many people as I could so I agreed to attend his meeting as his guest. Once in the room, I was surrounded by other professionals and small business owners and it just felt like home. So, I joined shortly thereafter and I’ve been a member for going on 10 years now.
In that time, I’ve learned how to communicate to my clients and my network of resources. I’ve learned how to identify what are good leads and sources of referrals. I’ve built a network of people that I can wholeheartedly recommend to my clients, friends, and family. And most importantly, I’ve met a lot of people.
As of today, there are over 2200 contacts in my phone. Almost every person I meet I make it a point to build a contact for them and to share my contact with them. Between the members that come and go, visitors who come to our weekly meetings, the other chapters I’ve visited, and the many referrals and subsequent people that I meet from them, I estimate that BNI is directly responsible for me meeting 1000 people I otherwise would likely not have.
As I stated in the title, I believe you have to meet a lot of people if you want to be successful. BNI means a lot of things to a lot of people and also a lot of things to me, but the one thing that stands out is the 1000 or so people I’ve met as a result of my membership in my BNI chapter. My membership does and always has paid for itself by the end of the first month leaving the other 11 months of the year as pure profit.
The policies and standards put forth by BNI all but ensures the success of every member that shows up and puts in the necessary time and effort into their membership. The ongoing enhancements and improvements to the BNI system are easily comparable to some of the best-run organizations in the world. The continuing education alone is worth the price of a membership in my opinion. And in closing, after mentioning the many aspects of BNI that benefit me professionally, perhaps the most important benefit of BNI are the lifelong friendships that I’ve created.