Ivan Misner is the Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. BNI now has over 6,900 chapters throughout the world. In 2013 BNI generated 5.4 million referrals resulting in almost $6.5 billion dollars worth of business for its members.
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John Lee Dumas: “Entrepreneur on Fire 797.” What’s shaking, Fire Nation? John Lee Dumas here, and I am fired up to bring you our featured guest today, Dr. Ivan Misner. Ivan, are you prepared to ignite?
Ivan Misner: Absolutely.
John Lee Dumas: All right. Ivan is a founder and chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. BNI now has over 6,900 chapters throughout the world. In 2013 BNI generated 5.4 million referrals resulting in almost $6.5 billion dollars’ worth of business for its members.
Ivan, I’ve given Fire Nation just a little insight. Share more about you personally, and expound upon the biz.
Ivan Misner: Listen, I’ve been doing this now for 30 years. I’m on my 38th year for BNI. BNI is a referral organization with groups all around the world. We have 6,900 networking group sin 58 countries around the world. It’s been a pretty amazing experience.
My doctorate work is in organizational behavior out of USC. Married. I have three kids and have been married to my wife for over 25 years now.
John Lee Dumas: Boom. Well, Dr. Ivan, I’ll tell you a couple of things real quick. I know that you don’t know this, and I’m pretty sure that most of Fire Nation, my audience, despite even those who’ve listened for 797 episodes might not know this either, but my last career prior to becoming the podcast host of “Entrepreneur on Fire” was in commercial real estate.
For the entire time I was in commercial real estate, I was in a BNI chapter in Portland, Maine. It was an absolutely amazing experience. A lot of referrals took place. We met at an IHOP every single Thursday morning, bright and early. Got the weekend off, so to speak, to a great start, and met some amazing people. I want to thank you for the organization you started. I was a very big part of it for a significant amount of time, and definitely have nothing but fond memories.
Ivan Misner: John, I really appreciate you saying that. I’ve been to Portland, Maine. It’s a beautiful place, and we’ve got some really good groups there now. I don’t know how long ago you remember, but over the last eight years or so, the organization there has really grown.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah. I was a member up until 2012, so it was thriving. I actually went to a number in the area to see which one I fit in the best with as a commercial real estate broker. It’s an amazing organization. Actually, I was a mentor for one of your regional reps who created a great podcast called “Success Through Referrals” that I think you’ve been on as well.
Ivan Misner: Who’s that?
John Lee Dumas: I’m trying to think of his name. I’ll come up with it. I’ll actually pull it up at some point. I think he will come to mind when I say it because he was a great regional director for you for BNI and a really cool guy.
Ivan Misner: I know I did something for Tim Roberts.
John Lee Dumas: That’s it! It’s Tim Roberts.
Ivan Misner: Tim is a good man. He’s still very active in BNI, a great BNI executive director.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome. Great to hear. It was fun seeing him grow his podcast, and really do some really great things with what he’s doing within BNI.
Ivan, this is about you, my friend. A lot of what you created, which is what we’re talking about, BNI, but even more so, your journey. We’re going to talk about your journey as an entrepreneur all the way up to where you are right now. Before we get into all of that, we always start with a success quote, so share that quote, and why you chose to share it.
Ivan Misner: There are so many I could share. I wrote an entire book called Masters of Success. In honor of your show, with the title of your show, this is one that I love and use all the time when I’m talking to people. That is “Ignorance on Fire is better than knowledge on ice.”
John Lee Dumas: “Ignorance on Fire is better than knowledge on ice.” That definitely fits the “Entrepreneur on Fire” vibe. I’d love to hear why you chose it.
Ivan Misner: I find a lot of people are very smart, really intelligent, and they just aren’t passionate about what they’re doing, and they don’t achieve the level of success they want.
I just did a book this year, a BNI edition of the book. I’m going to be doing a public edition called Who’s In Your Room? It’s about surrounding yourself with people that will make a difference in your life. For me, those people are people who have great attitudes. They’re on fire in their profession, in their personal life. They’re the kind of people you want around.
You want to be selective about who’s in your room, and I would rather have people with a great attitude more than great experience because I can teach people how to do something. Let’s take networking, like BNI. I can teach someone how to network in BNI. I can’t teach them to have a good attitude, and I don’t have time to send them back to Mom for retraining.
John Lee Dumas: What I love about this is we talk so often and powerfully about masterminds, about mentors, about that great Jim Rohn quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” That’s exactly what you’re all about too with this great new book that’s coming up, and everything you have created with BNI.
We’re really going to do a focus on that in a little bit, but before that, I want to talk about a time that maybe even you, Ivan, didn’t realize the power of it. Maybe it led you to some struggles, some obstacles, some failures. That’s the first story I really want to touch upon, a failure that you, Ivan, have experienced at some point in your journey. Tell us that story. Take us to that moment.
Ivan Misner: I’m happy to. First, I need to tell your listeners if you have not achieved the level of success you want in life, you’ve got to understand that we all go through failures. People look at me and go, “Wow. You’re really lucky.” Let me tell you. I’ve had a lot of failures throughout my career. I think the harder you work, the luckier you get.
John Lee Dumas: Yes.
Ivan Misner: At least, that’s my attitude. I’ve had a lot of failures. There’s another company I also own called The Referral Institute, which is a training company. In there, we talk about our emotionally charged connection, the thing in our life that really determines the direction we take our lives in.
My emotionally charged connection involves a failure as a young man. A lot of our emotionally charged connections we can take back to childhood, or young adulthood. Mine was actually in high school and junior high school.
I ran for student council two years in a row for every position that was available. I lost every single election. It wasn’t that I just kind of lost. It was a landslide decimation. I was dead last, laughed at. It was a joke at the school.
I was feeling pretty bad at that point. I was a freshman in high school, and in my high school history class, they picked the freshman student council, and the teacher said, “We’re going to do elections. Who would like to nominate someone or be the student council representative?” Nobody volunteered. There was even a girl who stood and said, “Oh, Mr. Ramirez, I’m so busy. I would do it.” She was a cheerleader in the school. “I would do it, Mr. Ramirez, but I’m just so busy. I just don’t have the time for this.” It was like, “Okay, thanks. I didn’t ask.” Nobody volunteered.
He said, “I’ll tell you what. If you don’t elect someone, I get to select someone. Do you have any nominations?” They said, “No, you pick. We don’t care.” He looked at me, and he said, “Ivan, I’ll bet you would like to do this, wouldn’t you?” I looked at him, and I was shocked. I had no idea that he knew this was something I really wanted to do. He didn’t know me before. I said, “Yeah, Mr. Ramirez. I would actually like to.”
John, I’m not kidding you. The entire class, in unison, said, “Oh, not Ivan. Anybody but Ivan. No.” The girl who said she was too busy actually stood up and said, “Well, Mr. Ramirez, if you’re going to pick Ivan, then I’ll do it.”
John Lee Dumas: I’ll make time.
Ivan Misner: I was like, “Excuse me, guys. You know I’m here, right?” God bless him. He looked at me and said, “No, I asked you. You said no. He’s it. I pick him.”
What I’m saying is I went through two years of failure. Every time I ran for office, it was a failure. All I wanted was one opportunity. I had a guy in my life, a teacher, who saw something in me – I don’t know what – and gave me that opportunity. When I had that opportunity, I ran with it. I really put my all into it. I never lost an election after that. I ended up in my senior year as student body president.
It really started with him giving me a chance. That’s my emotionally charged connection. Everything I do professionally is about trying to help give people a chance. If they have an opportunity to succeed – I can’t make you succeed, but if I can give you an opportunity, and if I can teach you how, then you have that chance, and you can run with it.
I don’t think I really understood that until a few years ago when I connected the dots for me on my real failure and how that converted very much to the person I became.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, sometimes all that we need in life is just that chance. Ivan, I love that story taking us way back through the memory banks to share with that us. Sometimes that’s just so true, that we just see crop up time and time again in these interviews – we’re approaching No. 800 – and that’s perseverance. The successful entrepreneurs, Fire Nation, are those that persevere through the failures, the struggles, the obstacles to get to those good times.
Ivan, you said a variation of this quote that I love so much, which is luck is where effort meets opportunity. Fire Nation, are you putting in the effort? Are you putting in enough effort to get the opportunity to actually be lucky in life? The reality is that a lot of you probably aren’t if you’re not seeing that success that you so badly desire. Those of you that are, keep doing it because that’s where the opportunity, the luck, will be living right around that corner.
Ivan Misner: If I can add to that, I could not possibly agree with you more. I think the secret to successes without hard work is still a secret. You’ve got to work your butt off if you want to be successful. I think it’s really about doing six things 1,000 times, not 1,000 things six times. That’s what my career has been about, trying to pick the right six things and do them consistently over and over again, and eventually achieve success.
John Lee Dumas: Love that. We’re going to start to have a quote off, Ivan, because one of my favorite quotes is, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks one time but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Ivan, what I want to do now is just have you in one sentence – I’m going to challenge you to this because we have a lot more to cover. What’s the one thing you want our listeners to absorb from those struggles in your life, in just one sentence?
Ivan Misner: Oh, I don’t know if it’s possible to do in one sentence, but let me try it. I think that success is the uncommon application of common knowledge.
John Lee Dumas: That’s it. You nailed it. I love it.
Ivan, let’s shift now. Let’s go in another direction. We’re still going to be telling that story, just like I was in that classroom with you when that cheerleader stood up, and stood up for a second time. I want you to do this with us again. Take Fire Nation to an epiphany, an ah-ha moment, a lightbulb that you’ve had. Tell us that story.
Ivan Misner: It’s got to be BNI. BNI is now the world’s largest networking organization. I’d like to tell you that the ah-ha moment came at the very beginning, and it didn’t. The good news for your entrepreneurs is that it may take a little time for them to realize what they have in front of them. That’s what it took for me.
I was a management consultant in 1984. I lost a big client, put together a group of people who I trusted, they trusted me, and we wanted to pass referrals to each other. When I started the group, we allowed only one person per profession from the very beginning. Someone came who couldn’t join because of a conflict with somebody else in the group. She said, “Would you help me open up my own group because I can’t join this one?” John, I said no. I told her no. “I don’t do this. I’m not a networking guy. I’m a consultant.”
I actually said no to the first person. She said, “This is sort of consulting. If you help me out in getting this started, you’re advising and consulting to help me achieve some success.” I said, “Okay. That’s a good argument. Sure.”
I opened a second group, and in the second group, we had two people come who couldn’t join it. Both of them said, “Would you help me open up my own group?” I said, “No, this isn’t what I do. I’m not a networking guy.” I turned two people down. The second ones said the same thing to me. “It’s kind of consulting.” I said, “Okay.” We opened them.
At the end of one year, John, I had 20 groups by accident. The ah-ha moment came then, which is crazy because you’d think I’d have got it before then. It came then. Between Christmas and New Year’s every year, for decades, I’ve taken as much time as I could to reflect. If I can take the whole week off, I do. I usually go someplace. I’ve got a lake house in the mountains.
I go to my lake house up in the mountains, and I reflect. I take a look at what happened last year, and where am I headed next year, and where am I for the next five or 10 years? I do my vision making at that point personally and professionally.
When I went up to the mountains that year, I looked back and said, “What the heck just happened? I’m a business consultant, yet we opened 20 of these groups in one year. The ah-ha moment for me was that week. It was 1985, December. I said to myself, “Boy, I struck a chord here that I didn’t expect.”
I knew I needed referrals, but I thought everybody else had this figured out. The truth is we don’t teach this in colleges and universities anywhere in the world. Clearly, we’re not teaching this to business professionals, and they need help. This is actually something I think I can do to really make a difference in a lot of people’s lives. That was the ah-ha moment for me. That’s when I decided to really focus on building a business plan and a strategy for BNI.
John Lee Dumas: I love so many things about that, Ivan. First and foremost, how rare is it, Fire Nation, for us to actually take a deep breath, step back, and just think. If Ivan had never taken that time to go up into the mountains and reflect upon life, he might have just been hard charged, and BNI may never have been created. But do you know what? He pulled a little Thoreau. He went up to the mountains and lake, and let his mind just be free for a second. He let it breathe. Look at the results.
My question to you, Fire Nation, is what is that one thing you’re doing right now that you might be resisting a little bit that maybe you shouldn’t be? Think about the thing you are uncommonly good at that maybe people are knocking at your door for something you’re resisting, and maybe you should be resisting it, by the way, but maybe you shouldn’t be. Are you giving yourself the time to actually think things through?
That’s my biggest takeaway, Ivan. Just like you did with the ah-ha moments, and just like you did with the failure story, share with us in one sentence your takeaway from this ah-ha moment.
Ivan Misner: I’ve been doing interviews for years and years, John. That’s the first time anybody has ever asked me that question. My take away from that would be – oh, John.
John Lee Dumas: Take your time. Just launch into it like you answered it right away. Splicing is going to be super easy to do.
Ivan Misner: All right. I would have to say follow your passion because I ended up being really passionate about what I had done with BNI. As much as I loved the consulting, I was really passionate about what I was able to accomplish with BNI. I would have to say if you do what you love, and you love what you do. It actually cost me money to start BNI because I was making really good money as a managing consultant. To start BNI, I took a pretty substantial cut in pay to start BNI.
John Lee Dumas: The question is was all of your revenue you were generating, was that a trading of time for dollars, or did you have some scalable parts to that business too?
Ivan Misner: Yes, but it took years. I tell people I’m a 20-year overnight success.
John Lee Dumas: That’s really powerful.
Ivan Misner: I think a lot of entrepreneurs don’t get that. They think for some reason, because they’re not successful in three, four, or five years that they’re failing. I’m here to tell you that making a business truly scalable takes time.
No kidding, it took me – I would say – 19 years to achieve a level of success that I think people thought I had many, many years before then.
John Lee Dumas: I’ve been challenging you throughout this interview, and I’m going to keep doing this specifically because we have a lot that I really want to get to. We are limited on our time, so in just about 60 seconds, right around there, tell us a story of what you would consider your proudest entrepreneurial moment in time.
Ivan Misner: I think the proudest entrepreneurial time would be one most people wouldn’t recognize and don’t really know. One of the projects I’ve been working on for years is a project called BNI Connect, which is an online database system to bring our members globally connected in one place, so you can be a local business and have a global network.
Having put that together and have success in putting on this walled garden community, this online system, was the single biggest project in the history of the company, and the toughest project that I’ve personally dealt with. To be able to put that together recently has been an amazing experience and a real cherry on the top of my career.
John Lee Dumas: Ivan, you’re full of energy. You’re full of passion. You’re still rocking and rolling. You’re doing a lot of amazing things right now, present day, as we speak. Share with Fire Nation the one thing that has you most fired up right now.
Ivan Misner: The more I’m working on my business rather than in my business, the happier I am. I believe an entrepreneur is either working in their flame, or working in their wax, which also fits your show really well.
John Lee Dumas: I was going to say this is amazing. I’m taking so many notes.
Ivan Misner: If they’re working in their flame, they’re on fire. They’re excited. They love what they do. They’re passionate about it. If they’re working in their wax, it drains their energy. It just sucks them of their energy.
What excites me about my business right now is doing the very thing I’m doing with you, John. That is to be talking about BNI. My role in the organization more and more is becoming the spokesperson for what I do, to do strategic planning, to be the visionary for the organization. I’ve been doing this for a long time.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah.
Ivan Misner: So I’ve done all the other stuff. I’ve dealt with the lawyers enough. I’ve dealt with accountants enough. I’ve dealt with them. I want to do this stuff. I want to talk about networking. I want to talk about success. These are the things I get really excited about. I feel like I am totally in my flame doing this kind of thing and not in my wax dealing with accountants.
John Lee Dumas: So well said. Ivan, we’re about to enter the lightning round. Before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors.
Ivan, welcome to the lightning round where you get to share incredible resources and mind-blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Ivan Misner: Sure. I’ll give it my best.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Ivan Misner: Absolutely nothing. I started when I was 14.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best advice you’ve ever received.
Ivan Misner: Somebody once told me if you’re worried about making mistakes in business, don’t. You will. Learn how to recognize them quickly, and fix the problem as soon as you recognize it.
John Lee Dumas: Beautiful. Share one of your personal habits that you believe contributes your success.
Ivan Misner: I mentioned it earlier. Do six things 1,000 times and not 1,000 things six times. I walk into a room. I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but I’m usually the most persistent. I’m a dog with a bone on things, and I do it over and over.
John Lee Dumas: I love that. Do you have an internet resource like Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Ivan Misner: I travel a lot. We’re in 58 countries. I find that it’s not a real glamorous website, but there’s a website that really helps in understanding some of the cultural difference in doing business in other countries. It’s called www.ExecutivePlanet.com.
John Lee Dumas: Ivan, if you could recommend one book for our listeners to go right next to Who’s In Your Room? on the show notes page, what would this book be and why?
Ivan Misner: There are so many books. If it was only one, it would probably be a book that’s been around a long time called E-Myth, the Entrepreneurial Myth, by Michael Gerber. I took his ideas and built BNI based on his book. BNI is the organization it is today in no small part by the suggestions he puts in the E-Myth, Michael Gerber. I’m really honored to say many years after I read the book, I met Michael, and we’re now good friends. We’ve spent a fair amount of time together. It’s a fantastic book. It’s been around a long time, but if you follow it, you’ll be setting the foundation for a successful business.
John Lee Dumas: Phenomenal book. Fire Nation, I know that you love audio, so if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book like this one for free at www.EOFireBook.com.
Ivan, this next question is the last of the lightning round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand-new world identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter are taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Ivan Misner: I’ll give you the answer in seven words. Put down the laptop and meet people.
John Lee Dumas: Put down the laptop and meet people. Fire Nation, how simple can building a business/relationship be? It’s so impossible sometimes to build something that’s worthwhile without first building the right relationships to go along with that. Ivan, you have shown that so eloquently with BNI and through the success that you’ve grown. How important are relationships to your life?
Ivan Misner: They’re absolutely critical to my success and to anyone’s success. I think one of the most important things I’ve learned in the last 30 years of running the world’s largest networking organization is that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships with other business professional. You get that right, and you’re going to be successful in building your business.
John Lee Dumas: Ivan, let’s end today on fire with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Ivan Misner: The best way to connect with me, of course, www.BNI.com is our website. You can connect with the organization worldwide. I also have a blog, www.IvanMisner.com. If you like some of the stuff I talked about, go to www.IvanMisner.com. We have a regular blog there. I read all the comments that are put there. I respond. That’s me responding to people. You can also connect with me on Facebook on my public page on Facebook, Ivan Misner.
John Lee Dumas: And a parting piece of guidance.
Ivan Misner: Do you know the expression that it’s not what you know. It’s who you know?
John Lee Dumas: Absolutely.
Ivan Misner: I disagree with that. To me, it’s not what you know or who you know. It’s how well you know each other that really counts because people want to do business with people they know, and trust. Different people, different places, different races, different religions, different countries, different cultures. We all speak the language of relationships. We all want to do business with people we know, and trust.
John Lee Dumas: Wow. Ivan, Fire Nation is so well aware that they are the average of the five people they spend the most time with. Fire Nation, you have been hanging out with Ivan and myself today, so keep up the heat and head over to www.EOFire.com. Type “Ivan” in the search bar. His show notes page will pop right up with all this great stuff. Of course, www.BNI.com and www.IvanMisner.com, that’s where you can find him.
Ivan, thank you, my friend, for sharing your journey with Fire Nation.
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