Christian Strong, 23, formerly of Minnesota, has only been a Colorado Springs resident for about 100 days. But the chapter development director for Business Network International of Colorado already has his sights set on building up to 20 BNI chapters in the Denver and Colorado Springs areas.
Described as a professional referral marketing program, BNI succeeds, according to Strong, because members work together to keep profits local while sustaining and growing business.
“Usually a BNI chapter will keep between $1 million to $5 million a year in the local economy,” Strong said. “For me, I find it important to keep local money local. BNI does that by getting to know business owners in the area and using their services.”
As a young professional, Strong said Colorado Springs is a good place to start a career.
“The world is your oyster here. There really is no … ceiling as to where you can go. It’s a great launching pad,” he said.
What is your role with BNI?
I develop BNI chapters. … Basically, I’m a public speaker for BNI. The mission of BNI is to change the way the world does business. We believe in [doing business] face-to-face and building relationships. We believe in loyalty, integrity and commitment to people and business owners.
How did you become involved with this business?
I’ve been a director in BNI for 5½ years now. I’ve done everything from manage, run, shut down, build, grow, troubleshoot and develop BNI chapters. I was excited when BNI decided to reach out to me when I first got here.
What led you to getting involved with BNI in the first place?
I was a member 6½ years ago and I was doing well as a member, so the regional team took note and they said, ‘Hey, we want to bring you on to help us do what we do.’ The rest is history. I started managing chapters and things went well.
Did you always want to work in a position like this?
I’m a fan of public speaking. Public speaking is one of my absolute favorite things. I talk about building relationships and building loyalty and trust among people. … Growing a chapter is a very hard process. I have done it and I’m not sure I’d ever do it again, so I’m glad to be the presenter instead of the ones sitting in the chairs.
I talk about how business and sales really works. A long time ago I thought sales was just straight numbers and then I learned that sales is actually about who you knew, not what you knew. As soon as you value building relationships with people and have a list of people you have built relationships with, life and sales take care of themselves.
What is BNI like in this region compared to Minnesota?
Both are very successful. BNI Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin is considered the most successful region in the world with about 3,500 members. BNI Colorado is absolutely in the ranks of most successful regions because of its size, volume and concentration.
What would you say has been your biggest success with the company?
I have helped give over a quarter of a million dollars in business to other business owners. In my line of work, it’s about how much business you give to someone else and the fact that you make a difference in their business at the end of the year.
What advice would you give to other young professionals?
Your skills will reflect how willing you are to listen to people. Have a mentor and learn from them. The second thing you need is to be willing to do things that are uncomfortable, extremely uncomfortable.
There are people that, every single day … are trying to help you, or give you their business, give you their time or give you advice. Find a way to appreciate them for that. If you can find a way to appreciate the things people do for you in life, then you will build relationships that will take you far.