Braith Bamkin PortraitsBNI Melbourne West & Geelong

Braith Bamkin joined a local chapter of BNI,  a member-based organisation and he loved the system so much, he decided to become a franchisee, which took a further 18 months.

Here is what Braith shared about running his business:

Q. What did you do before you started this business?

I started out in Telco, having worked with Nokia, Telstra and 3 mobile. I wasn’t cut out to be a ‘corporate type’, but I got a lot of really amazing experience there and really appreciate the opportunity.

I got made redundant and then ended up as National Sales and Marketing Manager for a retail mattress business. This was the business I joined BNI as a member of – retail is tough and I needed an edge.

I loved BNI so much started supporting chapters and eventually became Area Director (General Manager) for BNI Melbourne for 18 months which I look at as an 18 month apprenticeship and really allowed me to step into my own region as a competent business owner.

Q. Who are your main customers and why do you enjoy working with them?

You hear about those people who get up and love their jobs and I’m one of those people. Every day I get to work with small and medium sized businesses and see over time the difference that structured networking makes in their business. I am lucky to be part of their business journey and never take it for granted.

Q. Did you have any business training before you started?

I have always believed that continued education and lifelong learning is the key to success. I have a Bachelors degree in Psychology which helps when working with people and a Masters in Marketing along with numerous vocational courses. I’m always looking for new educational opportunities be it seminars or short courses and I encourage everyone I work with to do the same.

Q. Describe your business and products/services you offer

Business Networking International (BNI) BNI is the words largest networking organisation. Often when I say that people think I’m in networking marketing or the like, but BNI is actually a structured weekly meeting where members teach each other what sort of referrals they are looking for. We only allow one member per category in a chapter, so members get to know each other well and build trust over time. This forms the cornerstone of their marketing strategy, which allows them to pass each other qualified referrals. It sounds simple, but there is a lot of effort that goes into this.

Q. How many hours a week do you work in your business?

I’d like to say 40, but I suspect it’s more like 50+, but I like what I do, so it never really feels arduous.

Q. What kind of online and offline marketing do you do and which is working for you?

BNI is a word of mouth business, so I practice what I preach and attend other networking events – word of mouth is ALWAYS the best form of marketing.

Q. Do you use social media as part of your marketing?

Often people ask whether in this era of social media and online marketing if there is space for an organisation like BNI, but I have come to realise that people are craving human connection even more. You simply can’t build a strong referral relationship online.

However, I use social media to engage with my current members and potential members, mainly Facebook and LinkedIn to a lesser degree. I often use Eventbrite for events – it’s a great tool

Q. What mistakes have you made in running your business and what lessons have you learnt from those?

I’m always making mistakes – anyone who says they don’t is someone I want to to meet! Running a small business is like flying a plane, it takes lots of micro adjustments to keep on course – if you pay attention and make the right adjustments, you’ll eventually get where you’re supposed to be going.

Being in a people business, my biggest mistakes are usually things I say that I wish I said in a more constructive or supportive way. But I think if you speak with honourable intent, most people see this and give you a free pass.

Q. What obstacles or challenges do your small business clients face most often?

Clarity on their businesses purpose or ideal type of business. It amazes me how few people can articulate this succinctly what they want and as a result, they are often frustrated with the results they get.

Q. Any other tips you would like to share about running a small business?

Get out and build a strong referral network. It takes a lot of time to build reliable referral sources, but the results are always more impressive than advertising.

There are plenty of places to start networking, but like anything else, there is skill involved. Learn from the experts, there is a lot of information to help you out there. Once you know what you’re doing, you can take your networking to the next level and get out and join some structured organisations.

Networking is about farming, not hunting, so plant your seeds today and nurture your network so one day you’ll have a bountiful harvest.

For more info please visit, the BNI Melbourne West & Geelong website