Kuching saw its first BNI trade show with up to 2,500 invited attendees during the 3-day function.
THE FOUNDATION OF TRUST: defining Kuching’s local businesses
It is tricky to maintain a business in a compact city like Kuching, but a business is a business no matter how small – whether it be a roadside chendol stall ranging to a real estate agency for high rise condominiums. Unfortunately, while Kuching has a lot to offer with its gradual, generous bloom of businesses throughout the streets, it makes it challenging to maintain the stability of a business due to a variety of factors: immigration, lack of consumers, and lack of tourist arrivals.
To help seal this gap, an organisation called BNI extends its hand to fellow Kuchingites who are keen and committed to expand their businesses within the local realm. BNI stands for Business Networking International, and it serves as the world’s largest business networking, referrals and word of mouth marketing organisation. With nearly 30 years of market presence since it was founded by Dr. Ivan Misner, known as "The Father of Modern Networking" by CNN, it pushes the evolution of genuine, long lasting relationships between various industry professionals. Through this, BNI helps members grow their individual businesses with its proven long standing support structure and system. Since BNI was founded in 1985, there are now approximately over 195,000 members worldwide and counting. Although Kuching only formed its first BNI chapter three years ago, it has since then expanded into five chapters, each housing from thirty to over fifty BNI members.
Trust is what stabilises the bonds between these local BNI members, which mostly range from long-time owners of small to medium businesses, to young start-ups of fresh businesses. Although the local companies are striving to persevere, BNI members learn to trust each other when exchanging business referrals. “Giver’s Gain” is what it is called – exchanging quality referrals and helping another professional with what they have, and acquiring the same quality in return. With these ever-increasing businesses in Kuching, one’s professional exposure is increased no matter what products or services a business provides. However, BNI limits itself to one professional per industry for each of their chapters in order to give exclusivity to the member.
One who is familiar with this process is Lee Khee Chuan, a member of BNI for three years. Graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and psychology from National University of Singapore (NUS), Lee is now a chartered financial consultant and a newspaper columnist who has written over 200 articles for publications including the Borneo Post, the Star and Smart Investor. One with high interest in books and absorbing knowledge, he enjoys expanding his horizons and has taken on BNI to offer his line of work.
According to Lee, VCP is a highly regarded acronym in BNI - standing for visibility, credibility and profility. With BNI meetings held weekly, one’s visibility is tested with weekly attendance which helps gain other members’ credibility and trust. However, credibility and trust is also secured by the quality of products or services a member’s business provides. Therefore, new members are regularly trained on these factors.
Through these techniques, the concept of “Giver’s Gain” impacts more than just relationships between industry professionals, but also Kuching’s livability as a city with great potential to flourish. As networks expand and local businesses rise, Kuching will have more to offer and more opportunities to explore.
Shannon is a second year journalism and media communications student in Brisbane, Australia. During semester breaks, she returns to her hometown Kuching to explore the old and new, and is extending her work experience at KINO magazine. Her first BNI meeting gave her an insight into the working world she has yet to immerse in and broadened her young mind by meeting a variety of established professionals from different industries.