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They left us…

by Richard Foulkes

When a long standing and valued member leaves a BNI chapter, what does it mean for the chapter?

One of our BNI core values is Building Relationships. Networking is more about forming connections with new contacts than hunting for them. Real friendships and business partnerships are formed at BNI. When a longstanding and valued member leaves a chapter, especially when they stay in their business, it can feel like a loss to the remaining chapter members. It’s real emotion and can have a significant impact.

What should we do?

As they are still friends and have existing business relationships, nothing will necessarily change immediately. However, over time their visibility will drop by not being at the meetings and doing 121’s and new members who join will not know them.

The real change comes when a new member takes their category. Should we be expected to immediately form a new friendship and business relationship with the new member and forget the ex-member? The answer is NO, you can and should remain friends with the ex-member and in some cases, you may never change the referral relationship to the new member.

However, for the good of the group, the remaining members must be prepared to give the new member a chance to prove they are at least as good as the member that left. Over time the new member will establish their visibility and credibility so at some point, the continuing members of the group should be prepared to consider transferring their referrals from the old member and refer to the new member. Otherwise the new member cannot expect to refer to the group and eventually they will leave. 


Q. Can we record referrals to ex-members? 

A. No, they are no longer members of the group.

Q. Can we record Thank You for Closed Business from ex-members?

A. Yes, any business you have received as a result of being a BNI member can, and must, be recorded. There is a BNI ex-member option in the app.

Q. Should we encourage ex-members to become substitutes?
A. No, “permanent” or “professional” substitutes are discouraged in BNI for a range of reasons. Most importantly, ex members becoming substitutes, can prevent the chapter filling their category with a new member. Or, if that category has been filled it impinges on the relationships the new member is establishing within the chapter.


When a member leaves a BNI chapter they have chosen to leave us, we didn’t choose to leave them. They can’t expect to have the benefits of membership without being in the chapter.

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