Don’t Stop Networking, Just Do It Differently
Interview with Dr. Ivan Misner

Dr. Ivan MisenerDr. Ivan Misner is the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization.  Founded in 1985 the organization now has over 9,400 chapters throughout every populated continent of the world.  Last year alone, BNI generated almost 12.3 million referrals resulting in $16.7 billion dollars worth of business for its members.

Dr. Misner’s Ph.D. is from the University of Southern California.  He is a New York Times Bestselling author who has written 24 books including one of his latest books – Who’s in Your Room? He is also a columnist for and has been a university professor as well as a member of the Board of Trustees for the University of La Verne.

Called the “Father of Modern Networking” by CNN and one of the “Top Networking Experts” by Forbes, Dr. Misner is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on business networking and has been a keynote speaker for major corporations and associations throughout the world.  He has been featured in the L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, and New York. Times, as well as numerous TV and radio shows including CNN, the BBC and The Today Show on NBC.

Among his many awards, he has been named “Humanitarian of the Year” by the Red Cross and was recently the recipient of the John C. Maxwell Leadership Award.  He is also proud to be the Co-Founder of the BNI Charitable Foundation.  He and his wife, Elisabeth, are now “empty nesters” with three adult children. Oh, and in his spare time, he is also an amateur magician and a black belt in karate.

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Read the Interview

Hugh Ballou: Greetings everyone. This is Hugh Ballou. Welcome back to a new episode of The Nonprofit Exchange, where we talk to leaders and get their secrets to success, what they found that’s worked, what didn’t work, what’s their wisdom. Each week is a different person from a different place with a different experience, but they have a passion for excellence.

Today’s guest is the founder of a really neat networking group called BNI. I will let him tell you a little bit about BNI. I have been a member over the years, and I have done networking as a nonprofit leader, as a church professional, and as a business professional. I find out that networking is as misunderstood as leadership is. There are a whole lot more varieties of what people call networking, but Ivan Misner stands alone as a person who has developed a whole new system for networking. Ivan, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange today.

Ivan Misner: Hugh, thank you very much for having me here. You’re right. I am the founder of BNI. We have now 9,500 groups in more than 70 countries around the world. But what you may not know about me is I have spent some time in the nonprofit world. My second management job was as an assistant to the president of a nonprofit transportation business in Los Angeles called Commuter Transportation Services, Inc., which was rideshare before there was Uber. It was computers bigger than this room to set up rideshares. It was funded mostly by the government and private corporations. I worked there for a while. I have been on the boards of nonprofit organizations for more than 30 years. Lot of experience in the nonprofit world.

Hugh: You know some of the challenges that nonprofits are facing. Today, even more challenges. I like to say that, in the words of my co-publisher of our magazine and friend Jeff Magee, we suck at networking. Suck is halfway to success.

Ivan: I like it.

Hugh: I stole that from him, but I give him attribution. We go into a crowded room and say, “Hey, it looks like the stock market. We are trying to bid higher than the next person.” But I found my experience in BNI to be relationship-building and also the people I met there, I still know. I’m not active in that anymore. Life has taken me different places. I moved; I didn’t get out purposefully. I found it is multi-dimensional.

Let’s go back. When did you found BNI, and why?

Ivan: I started BNI in January of 1985. I was a management consultant. I helped companies with hiring, training, and evaluating employees. I got most of my business through referrals. I was looking for referrals. I went to a lot of networking groups, and the groups I went to were just playing mercenary. I’d go to these meetings, and I felt like I’d been slimed, and I needed to go home and get a shower. Everyone was trying to sell to me. Everyone was trying to sell. I didn’t like that. I went to these other groups that were totally social; it was happy hour and hors d’oeuvres. Nobody was doing business. I didn’t like either of those groups. I wanted the business, but I didn’t want it to be mercenary. I wanted the social, but I wanted it to be relational. What I did was merge this concept of business and relational, and the glue that would hold it together is our principal core value of Givers Gain. This idea of that if I help you, you’ll help me, and we’ll all do better.

Hugh, I’d like to tell you that I had this vision of an international organization, but I just wanted some referrals for my consulting practice. I wanted to help my friends. One thing led to another, and it turned into two, to 10, to 20 groups. By the time it hit 20 groups, I realized, and it happened in less than a year, that I had struck a chord in the business community. We don’t teach this in colleges and universities, even in business.

I get it. You’re a nonprofit. You feel like you aren’t prepared. But business isn’t prepared either. We don’t teach this in school. That’s when it hit me that we needed to teach this and provide a platform for businesspeople. We now have 9,500 groups in more than 70 countries.

Hugh: 9,500 groups. We have people from a couple countries here, Algeria and Texas.

Ivan: Texas is its own country.

Hugh: We are in the south. We think California is another country, but we are confused about Texas.

Ivan: I grew up in California. It is another country.

Hugh: It will fall off in the ocean someday. What my mission is is to help nonprofit leaders think out of their box to learn some really good business principles. Sometimes, in networking, we do the inverse. We don’t want to ask anybody for anything. Or we come from a position of need. “Oh, I need this. Help us.” Tell me about the framing that nonprofit leaders, we have clergy, we have executive directors, we have board chairs, we have people in what we like to call the for-purpose, not for-profit, community. What is the mindset we need to have as we approach networking?

Ivan: I think the first mindset, and it’s something I teach everyone and I think applies in the nonprofit world just as much as in the for-profit, is the foundation of networking is something I call the VCP process: Visibility, Credibility, Profitability. You first have to be visible. People have to know who you are and what you do. Then you move from visibility to credibility. People know who you are, what you do, and that you’re good at it. That takes a long time to go from visibility to credibility. But when you get to credibility, then you can move to profitability, where people know who you are, what you do, that you’re good at it, and they are willing to refer people to you. They are willing to bring people to you, whether it be a for-profit enterprise or a nonprofit enterprise. They are willing to refer you, support you, help you. That takes time. Networking is much more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships with other business professionals. I think this fits the nonprofit world well, but I don’t think the nonprofit world knows that. They keep thinking they’re different. The VCP process applies to both.

Hugh: Absolutely. We have this brilliance we can offer. We feed people, we clothe people, we help people get jobs. We do all this philanthropic work. That is our mental capital. Over here, we want financial capital. There is a space in between where you do what you’re talking about. It’s relationship capital.

Ivan: It’s social capital, yeah.

Hugh: We build that. It’s relationship. It’s trust. It’s being social.  I don’t care if you’re an introvert or not, and it takes energy away from you. It’s still important for the leader and the board. Tell us about your board experience. Did you help them think about networking?

Ivan: Let’s talk for a moment about, before you asked about the board, you were talking about- The gray hair, things are slipping my mind. Yeah, I have been on a number of boards. I am an emeritus member of the board of directors for the Leroy Haynes Children’s Center in the Los Angeles area. I was on their board for almost 20 years. I have been on the board of trustees for the University of La Verne. I am presently sitting on the board of directors for the Austin Boys and Girls Club. I started my own foundation, so obviously I am on the board of my own foundation. I have had a lot of work in the nonprofit world for a long time. The nonprofit world does a lot of really good work.

Hugh: Yeah, I was talking about trust and having a conversation. It’s a process to go from what we got to offer to people writing a check.

Ivan: Yeah. Thank you. When you have that, there are a number of things that one can- You talked about introvert and extrovert. That is the thing I wanted to touch on. A lot of people assume you have to be an extrovert to be good at networking. That’s not true. What’s really funny- This is absolutely a true story, and I wrote about this about eight years ago on my blog at I have more than 1,000 posts, and I have been blogging there for more than 13 years.

One day, I was talking to my wife. We weren’t quite empty nesters; our kids were in high school. They were at practice. It’s just my wife and me. It was great. This is what it was going to be like. I said something to her, “You know me, honey, I’m an extrovert.” She was like, “No, you’re not.” I said, “What do you mean I’m not? Of course I’m an extrovert. I run the world’s largest business networking organization. I can’t be an introvert.” I have been married 32 years. I don’t know if you’re married or not, but this is so husband/wife relationship. She’s like, “Okay, honey, that’s what you think. That’s fine. You can be an extrovert.” “No, it’s not what I think. I am a keynote speaker. You can’t be an introvert.” “Whatever you think.” “Why do you think I’m an introvert?” She had been reading this book and telling me the differences between them. Then she said something that hit me, “Extroverts love to go out to recharge their batteries. Introverts want to hide and get away from everybody.“ “Okay, that definitely sounds like me.”

But I am not an introvert. So I walk into my office at home in California, and I got on the Internet and found a test to take. I was going to show her that I am not an introvert. So I take this test. True story. I take this test, and it comes back with “Congratulations, Ivan. You are an introvert who is a situational extrovert.” I looked further, and it said, “When you are talking about something that you are very knowledgeable about, when you are in your wheelhouse, when you are with close friends, you come across as an extrovert. Otherwise, you are an introvert. So go apologize to your wife.” It didn’t say that last part, but I did. I said, “Hey, I can’t believe this, but you’re right. I am an introvert.”

Even before I discovered that, I told people introverts can be great at networking. The reason why they can be is that they’re much more likely to listen than to speak. A good networker is like a good host, an interviewer. Hugh, you’re asking me questions and letting me answer. That’s what a good networker is. A good networker asks questions and lets the person speak. Extroverts love talking. What is their favorite subject? Themselves. So people assume that an extrovert is a great networker. That’s not true. They are a great networker if they have learned to slow down and be an interviewer. Ask questions just like you are.

Hugh: Take a note. Don’t use your personality type as an excuse.

Ivan: That’s exactly right.

Hugh: Sometimes, Myers-Briggs and many of those instruments, I am way over on E. When I am in a group where I am not the subject matter expert, I can flip over, and I am quiet. I am a situational introvert. That is a good term. It really is about our processing and our energy. I gain energy. I am a conductor. I finish a two-hour rehearsal, and I am raring to go. I have adrenaline. Other people have to go to bed after a social event. You’re so true. When an introvert speaks, they have thought it out, and then, boom, it comes out as a complete thought. Extroverts just blurt it out. It’s in process. Our assumption is we are going to have a conversation.

The important thing that rose in your conversation to my attention was that we are talking to potential donors. The scenario you just described, we are networking. We want to listen to them. What are they interested in? We want to go up to the ATM, put in a card, and get some cash. Guess what? They don’t want to be an ATM. They want to find out what they’re interested in. That is a form of networking, isn’t it?

Ivan: It is. And sometimes you find out it’s not a good fit, but you want to find people who it’s a good fit. Their values and vision on the impact that they want to make in their community is congruent, resonant with yours. Where you can find those levers that you can pull that are resonant with their goals in life, the things they want to make a difference in, then you have the right person. You have to find out. You have to learn about that individual before you can start trying to pull money out of them.

Hugh: Yes. In the social benefit world of churches and nonprofits, we receive money because we provide value.

Ivan: Yes. But isn’t that the same in business?

Hugh: It’s all the same. People buy from us because we give them value. There is a trust level there. There is a monetary exchange. It’s an exchange of energy, trust. There is lots of ways to think of it. Having conversations, you’re so right. It’s 10% talking. When I studied coaching, they said, “Coaching is 90% listening. Most of the other 10% is listening.” I have had clients who solved great problems that they have given me credit for when I was a listener.

Ivan: And asking questions as a coach.

Hugh: Yes. Absolutely. Listening actively. We might already be nervous when approaching a donor or in front of a group or a new network of people. What is your advice to nonprofit leaders? We do have a mix of people on here. Some people have a nonprofit and a business. Some people have a church or synagogue and a business. Some people have only one or the other. What is your advice for people as they are approaching, let’s say, a new group opportunity to network with other professionals? We have some anxiety or apprehension or concern about that. What is your advice to get the right mindset as we go into an opportunity to meet new people?

Ivan: The right mindset is about building relationships with people. It’s not as you said about transaction. It’s about the relationship. In one of my books, I wrote something you might find interesting. In a book I wrote called Truth of Delusion, where I ask questions, I say, “Is this statement true, or is it false? Is it a delusion?” One of the statements we made in the book, “You can network anywhere, any time, any place, even at a funeral.” Is that truth or delusion? Of course, the overwhelming majority say, “No, you cannot network at a funeral.”

Here is our answer. The answer is it’s a truth. But here is the key. This is important. If you hear that answer, you have to hear this first sentence after that answer. You must always honor the event. You don’t go to a funeral passing out your business card. That’s completely inappropriate. But if networking, as I believe it is, is about building relationships with people, then there is no place that is inappropriate to build a relationship.

Let me give you an example. I was at a church function years ago, one of those potluck things in the afternoon. Everybody brings in meals. Lot of fellowship. People are talking. I saw a business guy who I wanted to get to know. He was very successful in the area. I struck up a conversation with him. One of the questions that I suggest people ask, after you say, “Tell me about your business. Who are you? What kind of clients are you looking for?” all the normal stuff. A question I like to ask, but you can’t start with this, is, “What are some of the challenges you run into in this business?” He gave me an answer I’d never heard before.

He said, “Business is awesome right now. My biggest challenge is I want to give back to the community. But sometimes my years are up, and some years are not up as much. I am having good years one after another, but some are incredible. I don’t want to give away all that money. But I am not big enough to create my own foundation. I don’t know how to deal with that.” I said, “Have you ever heard of a community foundation?” He said, “No. What are those?” I said, “There are a lot in Southern California. There is the world’s largest called the California Community Foundation. You can create a fund under the community foundation under your own name. John Doe Foundation. It’s part of the California Community Foundation. There are restrictions on the kinds of things you can do, but they are pretty reasonable.” Back then, it only took $10,000 to open a fund. It may be more now. He said, “Oh my goodness. I have never heard of one of those. Hang on. Here’s my card. Would you mind? Do you know anybody there?” “Yeah, I know the VP of Development.” “Would you introduce me?” “I’d love to introduce you.”

That’s what networking is. You can network anywhere, any time, any place, even in church, if you honor the event. To me, honoring the event is about making connections with people. If you can help someone in some way, then that’s what networking is. He was in a business that wasn’t relevant to BNI. If I had wanted to call him, if I had called him next week and said, “Hey, it was great talking to you.” By the way, I introduced him to the VP, and he opened up an account like that. If I had called him a week later and asked him to get together to learn more about what he did, do you think he would have taken my call and met with me? Yeah. Why? Because I made the beginning of a relationship. We stayed connected through church. We never did business together. That’s what networking is. It’s about helping people. It comes back around to you.

Hugh: That is a great story. Givers Gain. What is that? That summarizes BNI. How did you arrive at that? We tend to use too many words. It’s brilliant in its simplicity.

Ivan: It’s predicated on a theory in social capital called the law of reciprocity. The law of reciprocity basically is what goes around comes around. If you put things out to the world, it will come back to you. To me, that phrase was the simplest way of explaining what could be a somewhat complex concept. The concept of giving is actually more complicated than it sounds because when you really get to it, people start asking, “When do you know that you’re giving too much and not getting anything in return? How do you ask? Do you give, give, give and never ask?” There are subtleties and complexities to the concept of Givers Gain. The bottom line is you have to give to people before you expect them to give you anything. Giving might be a referral to someone else, not selling your business, but giving them ideas, connections.

Hugh: Law of reciprocity. Thank you, Napoleon Hill. The problem with common sense is it’s not very common.

Ivan: It’s not commonly applied.

Hugh: No. I’ve been doing this kind of work in the church for 40 years as a music director. People thought I was smart, so I served a 12,000-member church, so they asked me to come do board development and leadership development with them. I developed my third career out of that. I really struggle with how things have changed so dramatically. The work has gotten more and more important over those last 32 years I have been doing this work. It’s more important now than ever before in history. In this changed world, in this new normal, it’s up to us as leaders to set the bar for the new culture and the new engagement. What are your thoughts about how things have changed, and how networking is important in this new time?

Ivan: Listen, networking has always been important. What I have done is codify it and organize it and structure it and explain it in a way that I think is useful. But it’s always been important. In terms of leadership, there are a couple of concepts that I was taught by- I did my doctoral work at USC under Dr. Warren Bennis, which was in his day the world’s leading expert on leadership. That mantle has been handed over to John C. Maxwell, who is an amazing man. I have had the opportunity to meet him on a number of occasions. Truly holds the crown of the expert on leadership today. But one of the things I learned from Warren when I studied with him was something that I think applies today and will apply 100 years from now in leadership.

Two concepts. One is contextual intelligence. The second is adaptive capacity. Contextual intelligence. This is something I don’t hear talked about much in leadership other than Warren. You really need to understand the context of the challenge. The context and the players will determine elements of how you address a particular challenge. So you really have to understand the context of this particular problem because the same problem in a different place might not have the same context. It might not play out exactly the same.

I will give you an example. The second thing is adaptive capacity. One must have the ability to adapt to the changing contextual intelligence that you are confronted with. We talked about these concepts, and I understood them. I saw it come out and play out in the real world at the university where I was on the board. Warren was speaking. He did an event. I invited him to speak at an event at the University of La Verne. He spoke. It was right before the new president had taken office. He sat there in front of a big audience and said, “What do you guys think of the new president? She’s amazing, isn’t she?” Everyone thought she was fantastic. She hadn’t started yet, but she had been on the campus off and on for more than a month. He said, “Is she prepared, or what?” “Yeah, she’s completely prepared.” He said, “From day one, everything will come into place.” “Yeah!” He leaned into the microphone and said, “You’re all crazy.” We were shocked. He said, “She’s prepared, yeah. But the minute she walks in, there are going to be changes to the environment that nobody predicted. And so her ability to adapt will be critical in the success in her role in this university.”

Within 30-60 days after she came in, the university lost its preliminary or interim accreditation for the bar association’s law school. Yeah. She had nothing to do with it. She’d been there for only a month, less than two. There was an interim accreditation, and there was one more step to get to fully accredited. Lost it. Completely lost it. She had one year to regain interim accreditation, or it would be lost permanently. Well, you know that requires incredible adaptive capacity. It also requires contextual intelligence. The law school was on a track. It was doing fine. She had to understand the whole board. She had to see the entire chessboard of the university and see where things were going and what she thought was going to be okay actually wasn’t. Understanding that a lot of resources had to go to that. A lot of adapting had to take place. That was all part of the leadership process that I think is something that 100 years from now will still be just as important, no matter what the technology or situation. Understanding the context and being able to adapt are key elements of a successful leader. By the way, the university is fully accredited as a law school now.

Hugh: Three Feet from Gold, Greg Reid writes about how we don’t give up. You’re right there. Edison said, “Most people give up just before they succeed.”

You and I were talking a bit as we were launching the live feed. We haven’t been on airplanes in a while. One person said we’re finding out now which meetings could really be held by email instead of having to be there. I haven’t been too sad about cancelling some of my trips. It’s a whole new world of working from home. I miss the interaction and the chemistry of being present, but I am just as busy as when I was traveling, maybe more. How do we network from home? How do we work from home? We are in the business, and we need to have positive cash flow to do our work. How do we function at home, especially now?

Ivan: First of all, I think that we will go back to meeting people in person. That’s not going to completely disappear. The genie is out of the bottle a little bit. What I foresee is some kind of hybrid where you will see a lot more done online and a lot done in person.

As you know, with BNI, we are talking about 9,500 in-person meetings every week. We had to turn on a dime. We flipped within weeks to 9,500 online meetings. We now run online meetings. When we are out of this great pause (I like to call it that), I think there will be still some groups who may want to continue to meet online. But I think we will end up with some kind of hybrid system.

In the meantime, while we are working at home, there are a number of things that are important to know. First of all, I started BNI out of my house. I have worked from home for most of the last 37 years. When I had the consulting business, I remember going to the city to get a business license. This was in 1983. They were like, “Where’s your office?” I said, “I work from home.” “Yeah, you can’t get a business license.” 1983, you could not get a business license. “That’s not a business.” “Yeah, I’m a consultant. I don’t need an office space.” “You can’t have a license.” I could not get a business license from the city because I was working from home. Things have changed a lot since then.

A couple years later, by the way, you were able to get a business license. I started BNI in my home, and I have been working off and on for the last 37 years. Now my office is in Charlotte, North Carolina, but I work here in Austin, Texas. This is my home office I am talking to you from.

There are a number of things I could recommend. I hate the phrase “social distancing.”

Hugh: Thank you.

Ivan: I do. We need to be more social than ever. It’s physical distancing. It’s not social distancing. I believe we need to be more social than ever. You start with that. Then some of the things I talk about in working from home is you should have a dedicated workspace. I have a nice office. I didn’t always have a separate office. Sometimes it was in the corner of the dining room or in a basement. I remember when I got kicked out of one bedroom because we were about to have a child, and I got kicked out of the second bedroom because we were going to have a second child, so I had to move out into an office. As we grew, then I had office space in my homes. I have worked from home most of the last 35 years. Have a dedicated workspace, even if it is a corner of the room. Were you going to say something?

Hugh: No. I was just wondering how long it took you to figure out why you kept having children.

Ivan: Yeah. I figured that out. It was planned. My wife was the most amazing woman to deal with the pregnancy. She loved being pregnant. It was quite an experience with her.

Here’s another one. Don’t get distracted by bright, shiny objects. I keep this here by my desk because I am always talking to entrepreneurs, and they are always chasing bright, shiny objects. You want to be successful at whatever you’re doing, whether it’s for nonprofit or for-profit? Here’s an important key. Do six things a thousand times, not a thousand things six times. It doesn’t have to be six. It could be five or seven. Do six things a thousand times, not a thousand things six times. What I see businesspeople do is they constantly chase new things rather than really have a program and work it and work it and work it and work it until it becomes successful. If I have any superpower at all as a businessperson, it is that I am a dog with a bone. I am very persistent. I am good doing six things a thousand times. I think people who do that are much more likely to be successful.

Here are a couple of other suggestions. No social media. Now, if it’s business, if it’s for your nonprofit organization, that’s fine. But no cat videos during the middle of the day. They are forbidden. Something happens to the space/time continuum when you get on Facebook, and you end up on some YouTube video an hour later. How did I get here? Stay off of social media unless it’s related to your organization.

Right now, more than ever, micro-dose the news. Micro-dose the news. I see people who are overdosing on the news. Don’t do that. It’s so easy to do from home. Don’t do it. All you see is doom and gloom and the end of the world.

Don’t get frozen by fear. Let fear focus you, not put you in a state of fear. Get focused by fear. Don’t get frozen by fear.

Hugh: As a performer, I had to learn that. When you get on stage, you have all of these people staring at you. You turn around with a baton and 75 musicians and 200 singers. It’s like, Ooh. They are all looking at me.

I have to tell you, when Berny had me speak on stage, it’s a whole lot easier than conducting. But people are staring at you, so you have to have a whole different mindset. There is believing in self that is important, no matter what we are doing here. We have our core values and our guiding principles of how we use those values. We have something worthy, but working, like Jim Rohn used to say, work on yourself harder than you work on your business. I can’t tell you how perfectly aligned everything you have talked about today is with what we teach at SynerVision. I have come to call what we are doing now anti-social distancing. I don’t know what brilliant person came up with the term, but it is physical distancing. We are more social than we have been before.

Ivan: Yeah, I think so.

Hugh: I have a blog on that. I am in central western Virginia in the Appalachians. It’s lovely this time of year. Ivan is in Austin, Texas. He has given us lots of bites of wisdom today. You could be listening to this during the isolation we have, semi-quarantine, whatever we call this.

Ivan: The great pause.

Hugh: It’s like a music, you have a GP, a grand pause. I teach my leadership principles. One of them is value the rests, which makes everything else work. There are rests in music for a purpose. It’s not absence of sound; it’s a clarity place. I am finding this is a great time for clarity. You have that shiny thing. What is it? It’s a jewel.

Ivan: I don’t remember where I got it. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it.

Hugh: You’re under my control. Watch this. Nonprofit leaders are social entrepreneurs. We all ought to be social entrepreneurs because we have the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. People ask me, “Do all you entrepreneurs suffer from insanity?” I say, “Heck no. We enjoy it.” There is this certain possibility mindset that we have. We have this vision. It’s important, and the stuff you talk about leadership, I quote John Maxwell and Bennis in my writings and books and online courses.

Working at home is the new normal, and the new normal going forward is going to be a hybrid. Many of our for-purpose social benefit communities have to be out there feeding people. I am in Lynchburg, Virginia. We have the highest per-capita poverty in Virginia, like 25%, with 28 agencies who feed people. It’s important for them to network amongst themselves, which they are not really doing. There is a space for us to learn about networking that is critical. It comes from leadership. Nothing happens without leadership. I quote John Maxwell a lot.

There is network, a verb and a noun. Bob has a question. Let me let Bob talk. Bob Hopkins from Dallas, Texas. Why don’t you ask your question in person?

Bob Hopkins: Okay. Hi, Ivan. Bob Hopkins here. By the way, that picture you see was 40 years ago. I am an old man like you. I have white hair.

Ivan: I’m just glad I have hair. I don’t care that it’s white. I’m just glad I still have it.

Bob: I have lots of it, too. Thank you. I am a college professor. I teach in Dallas. I taught at UTA for about 10 years, and now I am teaching junior colleges. I teach speech communications, and I teach networking.

Ivan: Let me clarify my statement. It’s usually not full-time professors on these webinars. Let me clarify my statement. I only know of one university in the United States that has a core curriculum university course on business networking. That is the University of Michigan, taught by Dr. Wayne Baker. That is the only university in the United States. Do teachers talk about networking during class? I think they teach mostly the wrong stuff, not necessarily the right stuff. There are no courses on networking to speak of in the world.

Bob: I know that. Because I think networking is so important, I couldn’t have done what I have done or be where I am without who I knew. Of course, I tell my students, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Ivan: Wait. Let me add to that. I don’t think it’s what you know or who you know. It’s how well you know each other that counts because the question is, do I know that person well enough that I could pick up the phone and call them? Would they take my call? If I asked them for a favor, would they be willing to do the favor? It’s not just knowing somebody; it’s knowing them well. That’s the key. I’m sorry. I keep interrupting you. I’ll stop.

Bob: The rest of the story is I have them write 250 people that they know down, whittle it down to 25 who are in their circle of influence that they can rely on, and that they do know, and they consider their mentors and counselors and parents and grandparents, etc. They have to write them a letter. The letter is, “I love you so much. I want us to continue this. I want to have your back and you have mine, so I want you to know you are in my circle of influence.” What you said is true. I like what you said about how well do I know these people? That is the important thing.

My question is: Why not? Why are we not teaching this? Why is the academia? Is it because they have never been in business and don’t know the importance of it?

Ivan: That is my answer. Are you a full-time professor or adjunct?

Bob: I’m adjunct.

Ivan: So you know. I was an adjunct professor for 16 years. You know that it’s the full-time tenured professors who control the curriculum. Even the president of the university does not control it. When you are talking about business professors, it’s the full-time tenured professors who determine the classes. I really get hate mail when I say this. Most full-time tenured professors in business have never run a business.

Bob: I know.

Ivan: That’s why. You can get a Bachelor’s in marketing and not know how to sell. We don’t teach sales techniques. Most business professors, it’s like heaven forbid I should get my hands dirty and make a sale. They love social media. They will teach social media. They love advertising because you don’t have to get your hands dirty and sell. They don’t teach sales, closing sales, business networking. It’s because it’s taught mostly by full-time tenured professors. Wayne Baker is the only exception I have ever seen in the last 30 years in Michigan.

Bob: The reason I am here is because Hugh and I have connected because I ran nonprofit organizations for 35 years before I started teaching college. I have only been teaching for about 10 years. The nonprofit sector is something I also teach. I have a book called Philanthropy Misunderstood. I teach my students philanthropy. I was called by my dean at one of these universities who said to me, “Bob, nonprofits are not businesses. Why are you teaching nonprofits in your classroom?”

Hugh: Oh my. Ivan, I don’t know if you can see my screen. But this is Bob’s book. It’s a brilliant book. There are world-changing, life-changing nonprofits. He has had a long career.

Ivan: Bob, I agree with you. I think the lessons learned in business and in nonprofits are oftentimes, at the very least, overlapping, if not the same.

Bob: I was excited to know who you are and that you are the one who founded networking. Thank you.

Ivan: Well, I founded BNI. Networking has been around for a long time. I organized it.

Hugh: Bob, thank you for coming in. Let me prevail upon your secrecy there. Tell him the name of your horse before you leave.

Bob: That horse there is not the one that I have now, but the one I have now is named Philanthropy.

Ivan: I like it.

Hugh: He’s all in.

Ivan: Bob, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Bob: I’m in Dallas. Once this settles down and the traffic isn’t too bad, I will drive to Austin to meet you.

Ivan: All right. You got it. Be well.

Hugh: Bob is a peach of a guy. I went to Dallas. My wife is a clergy graduate of Perkins School of Theology. The week before the airlines quit taking us places. I had a guest who founded Barefoot Winery. They said, “You have to meet Bob,” and we have connected and have been doing amazing stuff since then.

Ivan: That’s networking.

Hugh: Yes. They accidentally founded a winery. They were marketing people. Great story. I have had some wonderful people in six years on this show. You’re giving us really useful, helpful nuggets. This is so good. To find out about BNI, go to And

Ivan: I have 13 years of content up there. It’s all free. Check it out.

Hugh: Love it. Ivan is the man. He has been such an influencer over those many years. Let’s talk about the difference between network as a verb and network as a noun.

Ivan: How would you define it?

Hugh: Having a network, those are people who you have done due diligence with. You know who they are. I spent 40 years in church ministry, music ministry. I never had lunch alone. I always met with somebody. I got the most useful information, and they got information because they asked me questions, “What do you do anyway? We see you an hour on Sunday. What do you do the rest of the week?” I realized the Ballou 10/90 rule. The 10% is what you see, and 90% is what you don’t see that makes that 10% possible. Networking is an activity to connect and meet people and to share and to provide value for people. A network is the people who you know. What do you think?

Ivan: That’s a good definition. Both of them are really, if it’s done right, are about relationship-building. It’s about the relationships you create.

Hugh: Absolutely. Leadership is based on relationship. Communication is founded in relationship. The flow of money is based on relationship.

Ivan: Oftentimes.

Hugh: Let’s talk about something that is not money flow. Let’s talk about boards. I am going off being the president of the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra board. I was a guest conductor. They elected me when I wasn’t looking to be president. I am going off, and they are doing this board nominating process. This is networking also. We don’t know how to make the ask for money or for people. I love it when people ask, “Would you serve on this committee or this board? It’s not a lot of work.” You know they’re lying to you. How do we come forward? You’ve been on boards. It may be hard to get the right people on the board. How do we frame the conversation when we want to invite people to consider a board position?

Ivan: The first thing you do is you go to them with someone who knows them really well. If that’s you, that’s great. Otherwise, I think the third party testimonial is incredibly powerful, and when you have somebody who says- Let’s say Bob says to me, “Ivan, you really should be active in Hugh’s organization. Hugh has done an amazing job. He has created this organization that has done this thing. That should resonate with you because you’re interested-“ My emphasis in nonprofits tends to be children and education. I believe children represent about 20% of today’s population, but they represent 100% of the future. It’s about children and educating them. If he can make that linkage, then he has connected the two of us. Then we can have that dialogue about how I might be able to help you or you might be able to help me. The third-party endorsement process is the best way to get donors, board members, committee members. It’s easier for me to say no to somebody I don’t know, trust, or like, than it is to say no to someone I know, trust, or like.

Hugh: Ah. Point well taken. That’s sage advice. I can see why you’ve been very successful over the years. Starting a business, growing a business, and maintaining the viability of a business are three different things, aren’t they?

Ivan: Oh yeah. Very much so. An entrepreneur needs to figure out pretty quickly, or even in a nonprofit, when you’re in that nonprofit in whatever role, if you want to be happy with what you do, it’s very important that you work in your flame and not in your wax. Let me explain that. When you’re working in your flame, you’re excited, you’re on fire, people can hear it in the way you speak, they can see it in the way you act. When you’re working in your wax, it takes all your energy away, people can hear it in your voice, and they can see it in the way you act.

Over time, the things that are your flame- Let me speak for myself. The things that were my flame when I started BNI are no longer my flame. Many of those things, I don’t want to do them anymore. It’s very important to learn the skillset of how to delegate effectively, how to select the right people, delegate effectively, put them in charge of that area so that you can continue to work in your flame and not in your wax. 90% of my time is in my flame. This is the fourth interview I’ve done today. I’m sort of the Colonel Sanders of BNI now. I am the spokesman for networking.

Hugh: Love it. Tell us about your nonprofit that you founded.

Ivan: I started the Misner Family Foundation and the BNI Foundation. Two different foundations we have created. Both focus on children and education. Misner Family Foundation is a private foundation for my family, supporting children and education. The BNI Foundation primarily supports children and education, and it’s the charitable arm of what BNI does. We do both activities to help kids locally as well as funding grants and things like that locally., you can find the website for it.

Hugh: Think about a closing thought or a tip or challenge you’d like to give people who are listening to this. It could be years from now. We have been doing these interviews for six years, Ivan. We’ve had some incredible people.

*Sponsor message from EZCard*

Ivan Misner, I don’t know why you said yes to come on to my show today, but I’m glad you did. I wrote to you on LinkedIn, we had a short exchange, and you agreed. What thought or challenge or tip do you want to leave people with today?

Ivan: We are living through challenging times. I don’t know what our future holds, but I do know we can influence it. I do know we can make a difference in it. I also know that your mindset is so incredibly important. I think hope is much more powerful than fear. Fear paralyzes us. It freezes us. When we are afraid of what the future will hold or what will happen, we just freeze. What we need to do right now more than ever is focus, not freeze. That focus can come with hope. The only other thing you need to add to it is action. You have hope, and you take action. When you do those things, you can come out of times like this, and you can make it through times like this. Be creative. Be innovative. Think about what you can do. My nonprofit, the Austin Boys & Girls Club, that I am on the board of, they created something called Club on the Go, where you can come by and pick up food that they package so there is still that social distancing. Be creative. Have hope. And influence your future. That is my closing thought.

Hugh: Ivan Misner, you are a gift to all of us. Thank you for being on The Nonprofit Exchange today.

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