BNI Yorkshire West (Wakefield) Review

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As a new individual to the area I wanted to network as much as possible. My career as a freelancer is new and networking is not something I have done on the regular. Sure I’ve visited a number of conferences and have spoken with clients multiple times, however networking as an individual for my own company was alien to me.

Having followed BNI Wakefield on Twitter I was kindly invited as a guest by their member Martin Soroka, a local businessman and long serving member of the BNI in the Wakefield area. I must admit before arriving at the event I was unclear of the format other than it was £10 to come along (breakfast & parking included), you need to bring a heap of business cards & there will be approximately 30/40 other business men and women in attendance. I happily obliged with the above.

The setting for the event was the beautiful Yorkshire Sculpture Park which is somewhere I like to visit in my social time.

31st March 2016 Event:

I arrived blurry eyed at the event at 6:30am and was greeted with a room smelling of fresh coffee and a smart casual dress code. The atmosphere was good and everyone seemed comfortable. Before I arrived at the event I perhaps didn’t realise what BNI Yorkshire West was and was surprised to hear I was a ‘visitor’ for the day and was unable to immediately join.

As a guest of Martin he was fantastic in introducing me to people and generally working the room. After spending some time with him I grabbed some breakfast and took my seat for the start of an event. It was then explained to me that the core group of individuals come every week along with visitors who are invites to attend.


The BNI consists of a real mix bag of businesses; 33 in total ranging from independent consultant’s right through to SME’s.

For those who are thinking of attending a BNI event in the future – the format was something of a surprise to me – but as a member I certainly see the attraction. Each of the 33 businesses have a 60 second pitch where they tell the audience what type of ‘leads’ or ‘contacts’ they are looking for that week. Members write down information on a sheet provided so they can help their fellow members get the information they are looking for.

This ranged from formal introductions to contact details. Some were more generic and others focused around specific sectors of business.
Following this was the visitors turn. We only had 20/30 seconds to pitch where we talked about ourselves or our business. I focused on my personal successes of growing a network of educational websites of 1.5million and how I would like to help local businesses with the same success.

Having finished my pitch we were then given a 10 minute presentation from a member of BNI Wakefield. This is a weekly slot where the member gets to produce a longer pitch/explanation of their services to the room. I was extremely fortunate that Angus Ellis from W.H.P Architecture was presenting this week. Angus is an architect/interior designer and some of his work was fantastic. Seeing some of the beautiful properties he had renovated was worth my entrance fee alone.

As a visitor I was asked to sum up and state one thing I liked about the meeting today. I reserved a special mention to Angus here as I thought it was a brilliant presentation.

Lastly the meeting was finished with the members stating business they had been referred from other members of the group or testimonials from one member of the group about another. This was where I saw the real value of BNI Wakefield as there were multiple referrals of business between members. I also really liked how each referral was sealed with a handshake. This was a lovely touch.

The meeting was then rounded up. I spoke with Martin for a short while and then made my exit all ready for the work day ahead.


BNI Wakefield Rules/Information:

  • 1 member per category – if you work in Digital Marketing (like me) and there’s someone already in the group with a similar skills set then you cannot join.
  • The premise of the group is the principle of ‘Givers gain’; if someone finds business for you then you will want to find business for them.
  • Membership for the year was in and around the £1000 mark. There is a one of fee you pay to join the group.
  • BNI hold a number of training events around the country. BNI members can go along and participate.

BNI Yorkshire Claims:

  • Over 600 members
  • £23 million in referred business in 2014.
  • More than £38,000 average seat value.

Things I liked:

  • Close knit – The group seemed to get on and there was a real connection between the members. This was highlighted by the sheer number of referrals. Martin told me he’d made a strong ROI from the group and it’s clear to see how. People seemed to work together well.
  • Shaking of hands – Having referred business the members will stand up and shake hands to ‘seal the deal’ of sorts. I found this a nice touch.
  • 10 Minute presentation – Again I thought the presentation on interior design and architecture was excellent. You really got a feel of how architects value a building.


  • Formal – I personally thought as a visiting member the format was a tad ‘formal’. It was difficult to get a feel for the group on a whole and the personalities of those who are members. As a visitor you get two bites of the cherry to go to the event and then you either make a decision to join or not (if you are eligible).
  • One member per category – This was my biggest negative from the event. On the front of the membership leaflet it states ‘We only allow ONE business per category to join our group’. I think this is a real shame and perhaps the biggest negative associated with the BNI. I found out quite early into the event that one of the members (a core member) ran a Digital Marketing agency meaning it was highly unlikely I would be accepted into the group.

I think this limits the ability for members to knowledge share. Furthermore they may miss out on talented individuals/companies who could improve the group as a whole. Even though individuals have similar skills sets they may bring a completely different proposition. I think BNI are missing a trick here.

  • Highlights competition as a negative – On the front of the leaflet I received is the following quote ‘Make sure it’s YOUR company that receives our referrals and NOT one of your competitors’. Perhaps I’m not a competitive person but this just comes across as blocking any competition/growth and that all competition is a negative. Perhaps I’m the one lacking competitive edge?

Would I recommend?

Having visited the BNI event I certainly see the attraction for business owners. There are some well connected individuals with years of business experience. For those with an offering which is unique/niche then I believe the BNI group could work for you however if your business is closely aligned to an existing member then you may struggle to receive acceptance. I do however highly recommend you go along and give it a try.

BNI Wakefield Website
BNI Wakefield Twitter

1 thought on “BNI Yorkshire West (Wakefield) Review”

  1. Hi Ryan

    It was great to meet you at Wakefield Wealthbuilders and to have to opportunity to find out about you, your business and the types of introductions you are looking for.

    Thank you for taking the time to summarise your thoughts – it is an interesting and well structure read and greatly appreciated (especially your recommendation to your readers to give it a try).

    I can see where you are coming from with your point on allowing just one person to join the group for a particular trade or profession. However this an important cornerstone of the group’s philosophy and which, despite your reservations, helps the group to work so well. I’ve experience the other side of the coin at networking events where I’ve met 4 or 5 people providing a very similar service to my own which I found a bit uncomfortable. I guess it’s a case of “different strokes for different folks”.

    However with this policy, all is not lost!

    – Often businesses have more than one string to their bow. For example, a business providing graphic design, web design and print services would be welcome to apply to join as a graphic designer even if the other categories are already represented in the group.

    – Sometimes businesses who appear to conflict actually turn out to complement each other and both can be accommodated. I’m my own case, I provide an social media service but I personally would have no issues if a social media trainer applied to join the group.

    – There are something in the region of 200 recognised categories of trades/professions. With only 33 currently filled in the Wealthbuilders group I can’t concur with the suggestion that the group is only likely to work “for those with an offering which is unique/niche”. To highlight this, here are just a few examples of the types of business we’d love to meet…

    Event organiser
    PR agency
    Business coach
    Windows & Doors
    Life coach
    Bathroom/kitchen fitter
    Office supplier
    Market Research
    Air conditioning
    Office furniture
    Landscape Gardner
    Document management
    Book keeper
    Utilities broker
    … plus lots more!

    (If you know anyone interested then please ask them to drop a note to or complete the form at

    Of course where necessary we will always be happy to help business find another local group if their trade/profession is already represented at Wealthbuilders.

    If hope this helps to clarify those points in your excellent article.

    Martin Soroka
    07584 415452
    01924 829393


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