Business Network International (BNI®) Expands Within West Central Florida Region

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Referral-Based Marketing Organization BNI Now Has 41 Chapters and More Than 1,600 Members in West Central Florida

Last year, BNI members worldwide generated 6.5 million referrals resulting in $2.5 billion worth of business. BNI WCF chapters accounted for some 85,500 of those referrals and more than $57 million in business

Business Network International (BNI®) is currently the largest networking organization in the world, and professionals within the West Central Florida (WCF) region have contributed to its rapid growth. Last year, BNI members worldwide generated 6.5 million referrals resulting in $2.5 billion worth of business. BNI WCF chapters accounted for some 85,500 of those referrals and more than $57 million in business – an impressive accomplishment for a region that had only one chapter and 13 members less than 10 years ago.

The growth of BNI WCF can be largely attributed to Tom Fleming, who acquired the regional network from its previous owner in late 2002 and relocated from Boston to Tampa Bay in January 2003. During Fleming’s tenure as Executive Director of BNI WCF, the network has expanded to encompass more than 1,600 members across West Central Florida. His original two-person support staff has grown to a team of nearly 50 as new members and chapters have continued to swell the organization’s rosters. With the July 2011 launch of BNI Strategic Allies in Ocala, BNI WCF now comprises 41 separate chapters throughout the region.

“BNI WCF provides professionals with a great opportunity to build their business,” said Fleming. “Members have the opportunity to share ideas, contacts and – most importantly – business referrals. The benefits of membership serve as an ‘economic stimulus package’ for local professionals, offering a one-stop solution for them to grow their business by 20, 30 or 50% – even as much as 100%, in some cases. This is a valuable contribution to the Florida economy as it emerges from a difficult downturn.”

Fleming’s regional chapters follow the model established by BNI founder and Chairman Dr. Ivan Misner, a New York Times best-selling author of business networking books. Here, Fleming explains the process and advantages of securing BNI WCF membership:

  •     BNI allows only one individual from each industry to join a chapter, which eliminates competition within that chapter. Prospective members may join an existing chapter if there is a seat available for a professional within their field; otherwise, they are invited to start their own BNI WCF chapter.
  •     BNI teaches business professionals how to leverage the power of referral-based or word-of-mouth marketing to achieve higher visibility, credibility and profitability. Members network with one another and hold business cards on behalf of their fellow members. When they meet someone looking for a particular product or service, they recommend a professional within their network and offer a business card. This operates on a simple premise: what goes around comes around. Within BNI, Dr. Misner refers to this concept as “Givers Gain®.”
  •     Another important aspect of BNI membership is access to state-of-the-art training through the Referral Institute and local networking events. BNI WCF features seven different training programs that focus on the art of growing a business by referrals. Two of the programs are offered through the Referral Institute in Tampa, including a 12-week, college-level course that prepares students to develop and implement a referral-based marketing strategy their own business.

In addition to his role as Executive Director of BNI WCF, Fleming also serves as Director of Training at the Referral Institute in Tampa. He is proud of what his students have accomplished, and feels that the Referral Institute’s training programs offer the potential for a substantial return on investment: “When we surveyed graduates of our 12-week training program, they reported that the expect to generate an additional $10,000 to $50,000 in business over the next year as a direct result of what they have learned.”

For more information about BNI WCF and the Referral Institute in Tampa, contact Tom Fleming at 352-527-7755 or visit

About Business Network International West Central Florida (BNI® WCF) and Tom Fleming

BNI is the largest business networking organization in the world, and offers members and prospective members the opportunity to share business referrals or initiate a local chapter of BNI.

Tom Fleming is the Executive Director for BNI in West Central Florida and Director of Training for the Referral Institute in Tampa. When Tom acquired the region, BNI WCF had one chapter with 13 members. The region now has over 40 chapters with 1,600 members passing $50,000,000 in business to each other in the past year alone.

Tom is sought out as a local, national and international speaker on the subjects of marketing businesses by referral and organizational development. He is also a contributing author in two best-selling books on referral-based marketing and has been recorded on many educational CDs produced from his speaking engagements. Prior to beginning his career as an entrepreneur, Tom worked for various Fortune 500 firms. He earned an MBA from Babson College and a bachelor’s degree in business from Boston University.

Visit BNI West Central Florida at


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Karla Jo Helms
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