WHAT IS BOC NETWORKING?
The BOC (Breakfast of Champions) is a Chicagoland-based networking group, started in 2003, dedicated to building valuable business relationships. The BOC meets the fourth Friday of each month at Max & Benny’s restaurant in Northbrook.
BOC meetings are packed with energy. Attendees have a lot of fun and several big laughs each month. They are also very serious about building and maintaining strong B2B relationships.
The BOC meetings are led by Larry Bloom, President of ATI Graphics, Inc. Bloom is a North Shore based entrepreneur, an active networker and dedicated connector of people. Through 2015, he was the Vice President of the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce and member of their Board of Directors, and the co-founder of the BizNetExpo event series held in 2009 and 2010. Bloom has also taught the workshop, The Art of Branding and Marketing Your Business at The Art Center of Highland Park.
Bloom also runs Funnier By The Lake Comedy, which produces and hosts stand-up comedy shows in the north shore suburbs of Chicago and Lake County, Illinois, and provides emcee/host and stand-up comedy for private and corporate events.
WHO ATTENDS THE BOC?
The BOC has been around for more than a decade, and it has a number of dedicated members. However, each meeting attracts a wide variety of business people, some long-time attendees and many newcomers. The people that attend the BOC and find it valuable are those that can be defined as “connectors” that understand that networking is not about sales, it is about creating connections and long-term, trusted relationships.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND THE BOC?
Experienced Networkers – A big factor in the BOC’s longevity are the great connectors that regularly attend the group meetings. If you have your networking/connecting game down, you will fit in well with the BOC. You will establish many long-term, B2B, referral-generating relationships with other attendees, which will become an advantage to all of your current and future endeavors.
People who want to improve their networking skills – You don’t need to be a master communicator or connector with an established network, but if you attend the BOC, that should be your goal. BOC attendees will help you get there. We always want new attendees that will add value to the group.
A great way to get some extra value from attending is to arrive early and talk with the veteran members who will gladly share advice.
WHO SHOULD NOT ATTEND THE BOC?
Takers – If you are looking for sales leads to add to your cold-calling schedule, the BOC is not your group.
People who attend the BOC want to grow their businesses and improve their referrals—in quality as much as quantity. However, BOC attendees understand that networking is as much—if not more—about helping others and establishing quality relationships as it is about furthering personal success. The savvy BOC attendee knows that by entering with the goal of helping others, others will help him/her in turn, and ultimately, everybody succeeds.
Collecting business cards and badgering other attendees with aggressive sales tactics is not acceptable, and attendees who cross that line may be asked to discontinue their participation in the group.
MLM Good | Pyramid Schemes Bad – Many MLM businesses are legitimate and the BOC welcomes professionals who can benefit from building relationships with great connectors. If you are just looking to create levels below yourself on the “pyramid,” the BOC is not the group for you.
Job-Seekers (sort of) – If you are in transition, there is nothing wrong with attending the BOC. We’ve all been there. However, the BOC is not a job-fair. So, please feel free to attend. But, do so to network, connect, and grow solid, trusting, B2B relationships. When you introduce yourself to each person, and when you do your 30-second pitch, everyone will know what you are looking for, and will definitely help you with introductions or opportunities that may help you land the next job.
Though you may be in job search mode, the appropriate handout for the BOC is a business card, not a resume.
IF I AM NOT GOING TO EAT, DO I HAVE TO PAY?
Yes. The BOC is either “breakfast and free networking,” or “networking and free breakfast.” A lot of effort is put into coordinating the meeting, marketing it and attracting a good group of people that will benefit everybody’s respective businesses. The room fills up, and there is a value to being there beyond the breakfast. That being said, whether you have only a glass of water, a cup of coffee or you take three trips to the buffet, the nominal fee must be paid if you attend the meeting.
WHAT IS THE FORMAT OF EACH MEETING?
The format of the BOC is similar to many other networking events. There is plenty of open networking. A full buffet breakfast is served. The facilitator introduces the meeting and allows each attendee a chance to do a 20-30 second introduction. Following any formalities, there is ample time to continue open networking and to schedule one-on-one meetings.
WHY IS THE BOC DIFFERENT THAN OTHER GROUPS?
The BOC is all about making good connections. Not sales. The people who attend each monthly meeting become advocates for each other. Group members get to know what others are looking for, be it referrals, resources or information. Like other high-quality networking groups, the value comes from relationship building.
“When I started networking, the BOC was the first meeting that I attended at which the other participants were there to help me and my company, not see me as a new ‘lead’,” says BOC leader, Larry Bloom.
“The experience wasn’t meeting somebody at the BOC on a Friday and the next Monday or Tuesday, they’re calling me up, trying to close me as a customer.”
Many groups include a structured, lead-generating component. For example, a member may be required to bring a certain number of referrals or leads to other members. The value of leads and referrals is not lost on the BOC and its attendees. The BOC creates an atmosphere that encourages the exchange of leads and referrals. It is a more organic process that has proven very successful.
IS THERE AN EXCLUSIVITY POLICY AT THE BOC?
Since the BOC is not a formal referral- or lead-generating group, there is no exclusivity policy. Sometimes the best contact you can make is someone in your industry.
CAN I GET A LIST OF ATTENDEES AND THEIR EMAIL ADDRESSES?
No. This question is asked once or twice after each monthly BOC event. The goal of the BOC is to encourage people to connect directly with one another and to form professional relationships. Sending a follow-up email to every person in attendance—including those whom you did not personally meet and exchange contact info—is contrary to the goal.
Members should feel confident that after attending a BOC event, they will not receive solicitations or communications from people they did not meet.
Attend, take a few laps around the room and be sure to shake every hand and collect every business card, so your follow-up efforts will be better received and more effective.
I THOUGHT I PAID BUT WAS TOLD I DID NOT.
Technology is our friend. USUALLY. Occasionally, online payments do not fully process. This is the nature of the beast. You may click through the registration and payment screens, but due to system error, Internet connectivity or various user distractions, the transaction will not complete. The BOC administrator almost always catches these incomplete transactions and will notify you and suggest that you go through the process again, or pay at the door with cash or check, whichever option is most convenient for you.
Worst case scenario, you may be asked to pay at the door with cash or check. The issue will still be investigated and if it is found that you have paid twice, you will receive the appropriate refund.
It is helpful to print the payment confirmation email and/or keep the email handy on your smartphone, to show the facilitator.
IF I PRE-PAY WHEN REGISTERING AND THEN DO NOT ATTEND, CAN I GET A REFUND OR CARRY THE PAYMENT OVER TO ANOTHER MONTH?
No. The head count is submitted to the venue just prior the each event and the BOC is billed accordingly. It would also become a logistical nightmare to keep track of past pre-payments in order to apply them to subsequent events.
WHAT IF I HAVE AN ISSUE WITH THE BOC OR ANOTHER ATTENDEE?
The BOC and the group’s attendees are very professional business owners and/or decision makers. They are educated, experienced and mature, and are extremely considerate of each other. These are experienced business people, networkers and CONNECTORS.
However, at the BOC, as in life, occasionally, people have bad days and may behave less than optimally, or misunderstandings may arise due to miscommunication or inadvertent “stepping on toes.” It happens.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
If while attending a BOC event, you feel that another member(s) has been rude, unprofessional or inappropriate to you, in any way, and you feel this cannot be worked out privately, please communicate this in person to the facilitator once the meeting adjourns or via phone or email at a later time.
WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO
Resorting to slander, rumors or any off-line or on-line negative campaigns against a member(s) or the group as a whole is unprofessional and not an acceptable way to resolve issues. If an attendee employs such tactics, he or she may be asked to no longer attend BOC events. If everybody behaves like professionals, most issues can be quickly resolved and all parties can move forward and focus on growing their respective businesses. Let’s keep it clean, people!