BNI “Best-Practice” is for members who can’t make their weekly meeting to organise a substitute (sub) to attend in their place. More so than that, it’s a requirement of our membership in the Chapter. We agreed to it when we made our membership commitment, and the strength of the BNI system is built largely on the relationships that members forge through weekly association. Absences without a sub should only ever occur in the case of genuine emergencies or last-minute occurrences that can’t reasonably be planned for.
There’s a bit more to this topic though.
It can be a little perplexing sometimes when someone does a second-rate job of organising their sub. These people who are standing in for us are representing us and our businesses. So surely we would go to great lengths to ensure we have someone in place who will represent us in a manner we find acceptable. Plus, wouldn’t we also make sure they’re prepared with as much information and assistance as we can supply them?
If you need to utilise a sub, make sure you prepare them with your weekly presentation and your input for the “Referrals and Testimonials” section. Ideally, your sub will have attended as your visitor previously, so they know what to expect. If not, give them a good run down of what happens before they attend.
But what about the other side of the coin? Perhaps you’re the sub?
It’s not uncommon for BNI members to sub for members of other Chapters. It’s not recommended though, as a non-BNI member virtually always adds more value to that Chapter than a member from a different Chapter. But, if you do organise a member of another Chapter to sub for you, be picky. Don’t be tempted to select someone who you know is happy to sub for anyone at the drop of a hat.
These “serial substitutes” are probably keen to sub for everyone for their own reasons. Of course, if someone is going to sub for you, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t receive some benefit. However, “serial substitutes” usually enter the meeting room with the wrong mindset. They are there for themselves. Their focus is not to represent you well, as a good sub should aim to do. It’s all about them and their business.
“Serial substitutes” are also often frowned upon by Chapter members, they’re seen as trying to get all the benefits of being a member of the Chapter, without actually being one.
I’m reminded of one such member here in Adelaide who attends the same two weekly Chapter meetings with stunning regularity. His own, and another Chapter where he seems to be subbing for a different member nearly every week. To the point where he always sits in the same spot and has fostered close friendships with the people he sits with during those meetings.
Now there’s nothing wrong with forming those close relationships, but if he were subbing for you in this scenario, you’d be wise to ask yourself what his intentions are. Does he have your best interests in mind, or is he just there for himself?
Going back further, I can recall the wife of an electrician we had in one of our Chapters. By serial-subbing, she managed to attend nearly every meeting of her husband’s Chapter for almost 18 months straight, without ever being a member. Always representing a different member, her continual attendance became something that most members found negative.
This eventually led to both her and her electrician husband leaving BNI. His credibility was damaged in the eyes of many of the high contributing members in the Chapter, as was the credibility of the leaders at the time, for allowing it to happen.
Abuse of substitutes has recently been proven to devalue what should be the best business networking experience, not only in Adelaide, but globally which is why the International Board of Advisors (IBoA) is currently reviewing whether the policy needs to be updated, to better protect members’ seat value. Dr. Ivan Misner recently recorded a great podcast on this topic that you can listen to here.
So if you can’t avoid the need to organise a sub at any stage, remember that your Chapter accepted you as a member, not your substitute. Make sure your sub will turn up on time, stay for the whole meeting, and represent you effectively.