Networking has changed, hasn’t it?
You feel it, as you’re getting back “out there” to spend time with people.
It seems to be less and less about the cocktail party, and more about a need to target.
Somehow, we all seem to have less time than we did before.
Might be the workforce issues, that there’s just not enough of us getting the job done.
Could be the ease-of-use of virtual meetings, taking up more time on our calendars because they’re just so convenient to schedule.
If you’re like me, it’s required a new strategy – one that focuses more on ROI for my time (and ticket costs) than possibly ever before.
And that’s been hard to find, in terms of events, at least.
An event or program where if I take time away from the office – or, worse, from my family – and plunk down $50 on a ticket, I KNOW I will get results out of that investment.
But I’ve found it.
It’s called Bx.
Bx is a reimagined networking system that’s become an institution in Australia and New Zealand, with more than a thousand Bx meetings being held each year.
That’s how popular it has become.
This spring, the first U.S. Bx program kicked off in Austin, TX, and has taken off!
The really cool thing? We’re next. Bx is coming to Western New York in September.
How Networking Got Me to Bx
Back in 2016/2017, some colleagues and I were looking to do something to help small businesses in Western New York.
We created a group called the Small Enterprise Alliance of Western NY (SEAWNY), and modelled it – with their permission and help – after the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) in Cleveland.
Our group got lots of support and participation from the community, with the exception of a specific kind of support that is essential to sustainability: funding.
So, we had about 18 months of aggressive activity, and had some 500 small business people engage with us during that time.
The hallmark of our efforts was our hosting Small Business Festival, a national program spearheaded by my good friend and author, Matthew Pollard.
I’d reached out to Matthew after reading an article about the great work he was doing in Austin, and asked if he’d come speak to our folks.
He offered me one better: for us to put on a Small Business Festival in Buffalo Niagara, and do it concurrently with Austin’s.
We agreed, and ended up running 32 events over five days during Small Business Week in May 2017.
We ran local sessions, but also shared content with Austin (and San Antonio and Sacramento, which signed on after we did).
It was a fantastic community event, and I’m so glad we did it.
The biggest takeaway for me, personally, though, was a relationship with Matthew, who has since gone on to write a second best-selling book (THE INTROVERT’S EDGE TO NETWORKING), and speaks all over the world on the topics of Rapid Growth and empowering introverts (my son, Joel, is a student of Matthew’s, and one of his biggest fans).
For me, Matthew has been a mentor, an inspiration, and a friend, and I hold him in incredibly high esteem.
So, when he came to me last year and said he wanted to introduce me to a new networking system that’s taking Australia by storm, I was in from the outset.
I was introduced to Matt Alderton, the Founder and designer of the Bx Reimagined system, and there was an instant connection.
Why Bx When There Are So Many Options for Networking?
It was about ten minutes into my first virtual Bx session when I knew that they’d done it.
In fact, that was my exact feedback at the end of that first meeting – “You’ve done it.”
In Bx, they’ve captured the true purpose of networking.
In the simplest terms – enabling you to build your professional network much faster than through “transactional” networking by harnessing the power of referral partnerships.
Here’s my biggest takeaway: It’s the system that Matt has developed that is the game changer.
In the work I do with chambers of commerce, I often spend a lot of time talking about networking… Especially referral networking, because I’m a huge believer in it – from long before I was introduced to Bx.
For our clients, when we spend some money on sponsorship with a chamber, often it’s not intended to get us in front of prospects, but in front of relationships that can get us in front of many more prospects.
We’ve been doing referral networking all along.
But we’ve been doing it in fits and starts. Looking for opportunities and jumping on them.
Bx automates the process, and I give Matt all the credit in the world for figuring it out.
Every two weeks (or, fortnightly, as the Bx originators in Australia will say), you are working on not just meeting new people in a single room for breakfast, but reaching into their networks.
And you’re doing it in a systematic way that guarantees results.
From capturing promising connections on the spot in the meeting (no, “What did I do with that business card?”), to offering processes for continued off-line communication, Bx keeps members engaged from start-to-finish.
I can attest – you don’t even know you’re doing it.
You’re expanding your network, creating leads, and focusing on growth, while you’re sitting there going through a process that has been so well laid out, all you need to do is follow it.
“Who Do You Need to Meet?” Becomes “Who Is a Great Referral Partner for You Right Now?”
If you’re a top networker, the question, “Who Do You Need to Meet?” must be in your repertoire.
Because that’s what it’s all about, right?
How often do you run into someone randomly at a networking event, and it’s easily clear that you have the opportunity to do business together?
Honestly, when’s the last time that’s happened to you?
If you’re a student of referral networking, it’s not that person getting their gin-and-tonic that you’re looking to meet – it’s everyone they know.
Bx, though, takes it further.
See, there’s an assumption when you ask that question that the person is going to answer with some kind of prospect… Someone they can go sell their stuff to.
In Bx, that’s not what we’re after.
We’re expanding our referral network.
Not just to the people in the room, but to their networks.
Who in their networks need to know that you exist, so that you can be top of mind for them as a potential value add as they’re doing business?
You see how this works, and why it’s so brilliantly conceived?
So, the question, “Who Is a Great Referral Partner for You Right Now?” is at the center of the Bx system.
You’ll have 25-30 people in a room around a breakfast table, listening to you talk about what you do… And the pivotal piece of information you’re going to give them is who will best help you expand your network.
Once you do, there is a flurry of notetaking, as IMMEDIATELY, on the spot, right there, your fellow participants make a note of who they know that fits your criteria.
What’s really great is that doing this in front of a roomful of colleagues and hoping for results makes you more intentional as to what those criteria are, strengthening your own focus and strategy.
Meaning, you won’t be able to get away with saying, “I need to meet decision-makers” in a Bx meeting, because (1) it’s not helpful to those trying to help you; and (2) requesting a referral partner is infinitely more powerful.
You are compelled to fine-tune your requests to allow everyone else to jump in and help!
This information is disseminated later, but as you pass your speaking time on to the next person, there’s a flurry of activity making sure that everyone’s thoughts on your needs are captured.
And it’s all in the vein of who you need to connect with to grow your business.
Then, you turn around and make your network accessible to the next person.
Each speaker has 40 seconds to give their spiel.
It’s not a sales pitch.
It’s information. Education. Who are you, what do you do, why do you do it, and what does a great referral partner look like for you?
Yes, keeping it short is how you can get through a big group during a two-hour meeting.
Still, the limitations help you to keep it succinct, and pack the most into it that’s going to be useful to your fellow participants when they look to connect you to their network.
Then, once everyone’s had their say, the Bx team uses what they’ve heard to create worthwhile one-on-one opportunities for you, based on what you’ve said.
The system plays out, and you’re able to connect with far more people, more deeply, than doing it alone.
What’s Next for Bx in Buffalo Niagara?
I am ecstatic to have joined Bx as the regional leader for Western New York, and am looking to hit the ground running hard!
This September, we’ll be kicking off two Bx groups – one in the northtowns and one in the southtowns.
These groups will be open to 25-30 folks each, and will meet every two weeks (fortnightly, to maintain our Bx roots!).
They’re also interchangeable… If you’re a Bx member, you can attend any Bx meetings anywhere – including out-of-town and virtual events, which will become a really cool option as Bx continues to grow in the U.S.
I’ll share more on all of that later, but for now, I wanted to let you know how excited I am that Bx is coming to Western New York.
Over the summer, I’ll be sending out more formal invites for the meetings… Anyone who wants to expand their network is welcome to attend a session to see the Bx system in action.
We’re also looking for some folks who are acolytes of referral networking, and who want to get more involved.
You see, what Matt knew early on is that what makes the Bx system work is great people.
A strong system requires strong support, and we know it takes three people to successfully lead each group, and help in a few different capacities.
Members of the team get additional exposure within the system – it’s a great place to be, and a worthwhile use of your time. I promise.
If you’re hooked on the concept, and want to get more involved early on, please let me know right away.
When those first two groups fill up (as Bx’s first foray into the U.S. in Austin this spring demonstrated they will), we’ll launch more. Rochester. Finger Lakes. Chautauqua. Where there’s a demand, we’ll build it.
I had the chance to connect with Matt when he was in “the states” a couple of weeks back, and he’s as excited as I am to kick off in WNY… He’s arranged his busy schedule to be here in September for the launch. The founder, himself.
For now, though, I encourage you to take a look at the Bx website (www.bxnetworking.com), and then send me a note if you’re interested either in attending one of the September sessions – or possibly joining the team.
Want to learn more about Bx Buffalo Niagara? Set up a 15-minute Zoom call with me to discuss!
Looking forward to connecting with you!