Networking organization BNI seeks to elevate Park City businesses | ParkRecord.com

Networking organization BNI seeks to elevate Park City businesses

Local chapter hopes to grow membership, value

Rick Morris, who owns an internet marketing company called Barking Frog SEO, is the president of the local chapter of the business networking organization BNI. He says membership in the chapter -- called Business Elevated -- can yield a return of thousands of dollars through referrals from other members.

The Park City-area chapter of the business networking organization BNI has existed for several years, but the group's president, Rick Morris, admits not everyone in the business community knows about it.

That's always been surprising to Morris because of the value the chapter — called Business Elevated — delivers to its 35 members. He said the chapter provides an average annual value of about $45,000 per member through referrals from the other participants, a number that will only grow as the membership expands.

Morris added that offering that value is possible because of the nature of BNI. Members become strong advocates for the other companies in the chapter, essentially selling the other businesses to interested potential customers.

"This is not about finding how many business cards you can collect in that room," said Morris, who has been a BNI member for more than three years. "Although certainly sales get made in that room between a member and a member, the most important thing that's going on in that room is educating the other members about who we are, what we do and how they can refer us to someone that they know. We basically make them our extended sales force."

The model has worked well for the business Morris owns, an internet marketing company called Barking Frog SEO, which has drawn more than half of its recurring customers through BNI connections. He said businesses in other fields where word-of-mouth recommendations are critical, such as trades or skilled labor like house painting, also thrive.

But Business Elevated is choosy about the businesses it allows to become members. First off, the chapter allows only one member per business category, and prospective members must go through a strict screening process and adhere to a code of ethics to ensure they'll add value to the organization.

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"If you're referring a business to a neighbor or a friend, you want to make sure that business is reputable," Morris said. "You don't want to be blindsided by something later that you could have seen before. So we check the businesses out, and that works really well. That makes us different from most businesses networking groups."

Additionally, joining Business Elevated requires a substantial time commitment.

"If you join, you agree to certain standards," he said, adding that the chapter doesn't have strict physical boundaries and accepts members from all over Summit County and Wasatch County. "In order to develop trust and reputation amongst the chapter, we require the business owner — the chapter member — to be there every week unless there's something extenuating. They're required to be there to develop those relationships."

While many businesses still don't know about BNI, Morris said he's trying to change that. By getting the word out about the organization, he's hoping to grow participation to about 50 members by the end of the chapter's fiscal year in September — and thus increase the value for members.

He said being a member has boosted his business, and he's eager for others to have a similar experience.

"I'm in the marketing business, so I'm able to get myself out there and get my phone ringing — that's what I do for a living," he said. "But beyond that, making those connections with people has been very successful for my business. And most every member that joins finds the same thing."

For more information about BNI and Business Elevated, visit the chapter's website, utahbni.com/ut-northern-business-elevated/ or contact Morris at rick@barkingfrogseo.com.