Tina and Elena, you have been with the chapter a long time now. What do you think has changed and what has evolved?
Tina : I think the chapter has evolved in the kind of businesses that we are getting into the chapter now. We were very focused on just women centric businesses earlier, but I think the quality of visitors we are bringing in now and the kind of women that are joining are agnostically businesses, you know you can’t put them in such a manner just because I think that’s really good for us.
Elena, do you think this is the same or you see something different?
Elena : No I don’t think so I think since we focus on opening up the chapter, we have more options and categories because that was difficult to fill certain categories, definitely limited to female entrepreneurs only because so many categories were not there. So, that will give us further possibility to develop the chapter.
Your team has been the first chapter which was open only for Ladies. You had set the trend keeping the ladies as the target audience. What’s next for your chapter? I know that you have now opened for male members / visitors as well. Any other changes and updates that you would like to inform all the BNI members in the UAE?
Tina : I think, you know, just by the nature of it we were limited in certain categories. Now, the hot categories are open. So, other BNI members if they want to send members from their companies to be part of our chapter, because we have some very hot categories open such as printing, travel inbound, social media, digital marketing and so on.
Elena : Also, in terms of society, we were limiting ourselves and the reason why the chapter was a female chapter didn’t really came true which was to involve more arab muslim and local women. We limited ourselves to over 50% of the population. I think this will now help us to grow.
Raakhi : So, Growth is what you guys ladies have as an update going forward. Is there a target number that you are hoping to reach?
Elena: In my personal opinion, a chapter size of 35 works well because exceeding this too fast, I don’t really enjoy the chapters, when I visited as a sub or seen it. I think they’re running through the script a lot and people cannot interact much; for them that’s a chapter that is existed very long but for a new chapter 35 is a good number where everybody can exchange and know each other.
So, is any of you continuing in the new term? For a target of 35, have you set aside a time for that?
Tina: Elena will continue in the LT and upgrade from VP to President which we are very happy about. For achieving our growth target, I think in the next six months, we should be able to do so as we are having three inductions next week.
Shikha: For us, one task is also to retain old members.
In terms of the chapter level, what is working in your chapter and what would you like to focus on as a leadership team?
Tina : I think member engagement is something we should really try to do more often get some of the older members to engage, because they have a lot of experience. And of course, retention is always important.
Shikha : And I think it’s also important that the quality of the people that we are serious. They understand that this is a commitment, that is something that we have to be reiterate with our members but I think it has to be an emphasis to the visitors as well, that way we get people who are the right mix of helping rather than just coming for quick leads.
Elena : What is important is including the new members as fast as possible, integrate them really fast, help them understand the system, get them to interact and get the other members to interact with them so that they really don’t waste a lot of time. They process and understand quickly, have the benefit from the membership and also can give back to the members.
Shikha : We have also pushed learning. In the last two or three months, we even had part sponsoring by the chapter so that members come in and attend the training. It’s important for the older members to attend so that the new members can follow.
Any learnings or experience that you would like to share?
Tina : I think both professional and personal, the learnings have been great in BNI. You think you’re going to run your business, you know how to get your leads, but you don’t; for me, one thing I’ve learned from BNI is “Specific is Terrific”. I’ve now learned after two years in BNI, that I need to make my ask specific, so it’s a learning process you refine your pitch every week. And I think also, being part of Leadership Team (LT) teaches you a lot. It teaches you how to manage people because everybody is different and it’s not a job, they’re not your subordinate. So, yet you have to lead them. So, I think it teaches you how to deal with all kinds of people.
Shikha: LT teaches you patience.
Elena : It’s also a combination of having a team to work with, and also to lead some of that combination is really good, because you know it’s not everything on your shoulder. If you work as a team, you have the support of other members in the LT or the MC.
Anything peculiar in the way that since now you have opened the chapter to men, are woman different in the way they network compared to men?
Tina : Yes definitely. Women network more on a social level. Men are bit more clinical about it not that women can be or not but I think with women, they have more empathy.
Shikha : I don’t want to sound more biased but lot of men have more bigger networks but I found that as a little bit of a barrier because there are women in our chapter who are very good in networking. But they’re not so many. It can be something we have to encourage them to get out of the comfort zone. That’s how you will get and give referrals also. The wider the network, the better it is for everyone. That’s what we are hoping, with men coming in, we will have access to those networks as well.
Your chapter starts open networking at 8am as supposed to other chapters here which start their open networking at 6.30am? Do you all see that as an advantage?
Elena : For some people, this is one of the main things they choose our chapter over the others. A lot of men also say that 7am is too early and they see us as an opportunity to join BNI at a later time.
Shikha : The way I look at it, I work for a company and when I go back to the office, ,there’s tons piled up for me and there are tons of mails but the good part is that this is work. If I look at BNI as my work schedule, then it doesn’t matter if it is an hour late.
Tina : Essentially, we started out as women’s only chapter and for a long time also, we will be predominantly more women and we have to cater to those needs. We are entrepreneurs but we still have kids so it works perfect after the school run.