BNI Bonehead Networker Inconceivable!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a good rant. (Man, I love living in Austin instead of Bryan/”Closet Station”!)


OK, so I’ve been networking and doing all I can to grow AYW in Austin.

When we lived in B/CS, I was part of BNI (Business Networking International). It’s an expensive group to join and has strict membership requirements. For “house” businesses (contractors, roofers, mortgage lenders, exterminators, etc.) it seemed to work pretty well. I broke even on my costs for the group, but I was one of only two wedding vendors and it just didn’t work for me for the time and expense I invested. Also, as a sole-proprietor, it was tough to make every meeting every week. I didn’t have an assistant or other staff member to send like so many of the other businesses in the group. The kicker to the whole thing was how cliquish that group was. I don’t know if I didn’t dress well enough for them or what, but a couple of the members physically looked down their noses at me. Really! Of course one of them completely buttered up to me at a ball game one night when I was the photographer and her kids got to do a fun thing with the mascot. I’m sure she thought I’d just give her the prints of her cutest-kid-EVer™! right….

So, when my friend Alex asked me to visit his BNI chapter with him, I agreed with the above disclaimer and an “I’m not joining” statement. He understood and thought they would wow me. His chapter is great. They were a far more organized and professional group than the one I belonged to before and I made a couple of nice contacts. I can’t join, though. I can’t justify the time and expense. …and then I learned that they aren’t that different, after all. I guess every group has at least one of these.

First Little Thing

The guy I sat next to was planning a wedding. He asked me about photography, we chatted, and I followed up with him by email. I never heard back from him. So, I mentioned it to Alex who told me they already had a photographer and that he forgot to tell me. Ok, great, but the guy couldn’t write me back and let me know? This was not a quick conversation we had; we got into details. So, I chalked it up to being a wedding and him being the guy. When the bride does most of the planning, often guys don’t know the details….and wedding planning is a busy time. So, I didn’t really give it a second thought.

OMG, Are You Effin’ Kidding Me?

Weeks later, another guy from the group emailed me to schedule a one-on-one meeting…and this is the order of screw ups he managed:

    1. There’s ~nothing in it for me, so I tell him to go to my online calendar and pick something out. He can’t manage to do that and I have to participate in a series of emails to accommodate him.
    2. He wanted a day weeks into the future. Ok, fine. That’s weird, but whatever. Technically, it’s even rude. This isn’t a wedding. It’s not “save the date” worthy. But, calendars book up. Again, fine.
    3. He wanted 9am. I already don’t care about what he does and I won’t be able to feign interest that early.
    4. He wanted coffee, which I don’t drink.
    5. He suggested a place on the other side of town, but we both live/work “over here”.

At this point, I really should have said “three strikes; you’re out!” Ah, if only I could see into the future! But he agreed to 10am on this side of town, so I allowed things to proceed.

  1. Thursday morning, I confirm with him by email. No response.
  2. Thursday afternoon, his assistant (clearly unaware of my email) confirms via voicemail.
  3. Thursday afternoon, he calls my number and doesn’t leave a message. (BIG pet peeve). I don’t recognize the number, but try to call it back. His partner doesn’t know why I’m calling and tells me that either *I’m* mistaken–yeah, buddy, I can’t hit effin’ redial–or that whomever it was will call me, again.
  4. Thursday evening at ~7:30pm, I get a voicemail from the guy that he needs to move our meeting to 9am the next morning. I’m at an event and don’t get the message until I get home after midnight.
  5. Friday morning at ~1am, I email a reply to his voicemail (I get voicemail transcripts and sound files in my inbox): “Our meeting was at your request, and both your assistant and I confirmed our 10am meeting for (now) this morning over the last 2 days. Thus, I can no longer shift from 10am to 9am on such short notice. I wish you the best of success with your business.” I copy Alex so he knows that his co-networker is being slimy.
  6. Friday morning at 9:13am (Was he going to be late to our meeting? Did he assume that his, ahem, request would be honored?), I get this email from him: “Thanks for the follow up.  I am sure you understand as a business owner the need to serve clients when things inevitable come up.  Sorry for needing to move the appointment.  Based on your email it sounds like you don’t want to meet at all – even in the future?  If so sorry you feel that way. I feel like I could be a valuable resource for you in both referrals for my clients as they need your services as well as building a relationship.  Let me know your feelings and if that is the case.
    Regards, [no name, he didn’t even sign the email] P.S.  I specialize in financial planning for small business.  Refer me to others at[redacted] [and then the rest of his very long and full-of-crap signature]”

Here’s what I wish I could say to him: “Yes, I understand that you got a real client in between, but this was at YOUR request. I’ve bent over backwards so you can give me your sales pitch (and vice versa), and you’ve dropped the ball at least half a dozen times. NO, I’m not interested in meeting with you. And, if the referrals you would give are anything like you I’m NOT interested. *I* accommodated *YOU* every step of the way and you have the gall to act offended? jerk.”

I don’t know if I’ll write him back or not. I might just say something like “we had a really hard time connecting and some mis-communications” and “it’s a very busy time of year for me.” Or I might do what I know E would suggest and just not email him at all, again, ever.


But Wait, There’s More: Side Rants

Why do morning people try to make the rest of us be like them? I don’t care that they can “do more before 9am”. I’m happy to let them do it if they’ll just let me sleep and/or take the time I need to shake the cobwebs from my brain. I don’t bug them with late-night phone calls or schedule meetings for 8pm. The expression is “GIVE and take” not, “TAKE and take”. Oh, and the motto of BNI: “Givers gain.” Clearly Mr. Ameriprise missed that memo.

Similarly, why do coffee drinkers assume that everyone drinks coffee? There is ~nothing in a coffee shop for me. I don’t like coffee. I don’t like tea that much. I don’t drink hot things unless I’m sick or VERY cold. I’m not supposed to have much sugar, so that lets out all the pastries, hot cocoa, etc. I didn’t object because I like coffee shops just fine, but it’s always makes them feel funny that I have my bottle of water or a diet coke I had to sneak in.

4 thoughts on “BNI Bonehead Networker Inconceivable!

  1. Totally agree with you/E – ignore him. He sounds useless and like he would lead you to a lot of other useless people. Good riddance. (although it sounds like a long way to get to that ending. bleh.)

    I agree that meetings should be convenient for both groups. What alternatives do you usually suggest for coffee shops? Now that I’m mostly caffeine free – and because good decaf* is hard to find – I find myself having a hard time coming up with an alternative.

    *Side note rant: WHY is Starbucks (for god’s sake) the only place that makes tasty drinks with decaf coffee? Every other damn place I try will make tasty something with decaf, but the coffee is so awful it’s not worth even trying.

  2. Honestly, the best alternative to coffee shops is bars and cafes. They don’t have to be get-drunk worthy, so it’s easy to keep a meeting (if you know the person well enough to suggest such a place) professional. And, it’s nice to share a conversation over a beer or nice glass of wine.

    Cafes are easy (more professional than a bar) and as long as you don’t hold a table during their biggest rush, they ~never mind you being there. Basically, if they have WiFi, they are welcoming. [The one place that I asked them to get WiFi, the owner told me “no”, “Margaritas are more important and that’s what I’m focusing on”, and “I don’t want people sitting here all day and not ordering.” His loss. At #CentralAustinJelly (at Galaxy Cafe) and #RoundRockJelly (at StarCo) we all sit there all day from ~10am to ~2pm. We even use their electricity! The love us. …and we order a lot of food and coffee and snacks…and even the occasional beer on Fridays. 😉 I really like the food at his place, but I hardly ever go there because I can’t get online.

    Try these coffee places:
    Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
    Houndstooth (near Central Market),+Guadalupe+St,+Austin,+TX&mapsize=small

    Oh, and try restaurants where coffee is part of the culture: Cuban, Venezuelan, French… maybe you’ll get better coffee, there.

    • I lurve Star Co – even thought their decaf is so-so. At least it’s drinkable. That’s been my go-to for meeting the Study Group all semester, the only problem being how sloooooow they are on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes, they close earlier than posted hours if there’s only a few of us in there.

      And last time, they gave us all free samples of some fancy concoction. I think it was an apology for closing early. But I can’t have caffeine, another girl doesn’t drink coffee at all and the third doesn’t do fancy concoctions. So we were appreciative, but just left them on the table.

  3. Yeppers. I’ve had that problem at StarCo, too, on occasion. I know they have a business to run and need to minimize costs like electricity and staff when there aren’t enough customers. The problem I had was when I checked the hours ahead of time, got there, and ordered only to be told they were closing early. Um, I just plunked down $10 for a wrap. I think you can stay until I finish and my clients, who are meeting me HERE, get here. I had to wait outside. It was not cool.

    So, I no longer tell Round Rock clients to meet me there. Again, their loss. 🙁

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