Entrepreneurs offer business to each other in Olhão

They start at dawn very early, strive to find business for others, without waiting for financial compensation and still have time […]

Mário Neto and Orlando Caixeirinho

They start at dawn very early, strive to find business for others, without expecting financial compensation and still have time to socialize and even laugh a little. All before office hours. Business Network International (BNI) has a new section in Olhão since last Tuesday, the third launched in the region, after Faro and Loulé.

The network of entrepreneurs, which was born in the United States of America in 1985 and has already spread to 48 countries, reached the Algarve region in May, but is expanding rapidly. After Olhão, BNI sections in Tavira and Portimão are already under way. Vila Real de Santo António is also in the pipeline.

Last Tuesday, at 6:45 am, a record number of businessmen gathered at the Real Marina Hotel in Olhão to kick off yet another BNI hub in the Algarve, the «Atitude» group. Among them, the 24 entrepreneurs who represent the group's hard core, which many interested in joining have joined. O Sul Informação was there.

BNI is a network based on a "givers game" logic, that is, its members can and should exchange referrals, ie contacts and business opportunities, but without receiving commissions in return.

«It is prohibited any kind of commission, the only exchange currency is business. Networking is not about selling, it's about creating connections that allow us to do business in the future», illustrated the director of BNI for the South of the country, Orlando Caixeirinho, at the launch of the new group.

Basically, everything is based on passing on information and spreading it by word of mouth. Or were it not the technical name for this method «structured word-of-mouth marketing program».

To avoid conflicts of interest, in each BNI group there is only one businessman per activity sector. If there is more than one candidate in the same area, those who are not chosen are guided to other groups that have an open position or are in the process of being created.

«At BNI, groups of entrepreneurs are created with the basic aim of sharing and creating businesses, opportunities. Basically, we organize a group of local entrepreneurs, one for each sector of activity and from there we create routines and provide training», revealed Orlando Caixeirinho.

The network is governed by some basic principles, among which, in addition to the prohibition of commissions, the focus on ethics and the dedication of its members stand out. Meetings at 6:45 am are held weekly and there is a limit on absences. Members can be absent three times a semester and be represented as many times as possible. The idea is to maintain a strong connection between the elements of the group, because in each session there are presentations, which require teamwork.

Another premise is that each of the entrepreneurs has a role within the section, which can range from manager to host at events.

«BNI has been in Portugal for five years, but had a very significant expansion in 2010, which can be said to have been the turning point. The network was created 20 years ago and has since expanded to 48 countries and has over 6100 active groups and 142 entrepreneurs,” said Orlando Caixeirinho.

This is another advantage of belonging to BNI, especially for small and medium-sized companies. The network of contacts is not limited to the group, as there is an online platform where all members are listed internationally.

From this site, it is possible to get in touch with entrepreneurs from any group, which can help smaller companies to internationalize. During the presentation of the Attitude group, a businessman from another group told how he has already managed to get contacts and potential business in the United Arab Emirates through the platform.

The head of the BNI nucleus in Olhão is Mário Neto, who, like his counterparts in Faro and Loulé, was one of the drivers of the network in the Algarve. "The group meets in Olhão, but it doesn't only have businessmen from the municipality", he explained.

“The challenge is quite big, especially when starting something new at a time of crisis. There are many people who think that we have to be quiet, waiting for it to pass. And we come to propose a challenge, when there are still no tangible results in the region, it is always risky», he said.

Taking into account that, in Olhão, the European record for the number of entrepreneurs in the same room was broken at a meeting held at 6:45 am, the enthusiasm of the 24 founders of «Atitude», who had the task of mobilizing candidates, bore fruit.

“This is certainly a way of kicking off the crisis. There are ways that each of the entrepreneurs will have to find in their activity and in their company to overcome obstacles. This network is another way of doing it, it won't be the only one. But perhaps, with this BNI method, we managed to empower people and companies on a large scale», considered Mário Neto.