West Midlands business network expanding again

A business network that has pumped millions of pounds into the West Midlands economy since new owners took over is set for further expansion.

Penny and Pete Higgs
Penny and Pete Higgs

Pete and Penny Higgs have just taken over the Business Network International franchise for Worcestershire and Warwickshire, after taking on Birmingham and Coventry in 2013, followed by the Black Country in 2017.

In the 12 years before they bought it, their Birmingham and Coventry members shared over £31 million in business, but since the purchase this has risen to £170m. The Black Country passed £12m worth of business in the 16 years before the purchase, compared with £20m since.

Pete and Penny, based in Albrighton, now hope to see similar growth with Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

The number of members across the region has risen from 463 to over 780 in 39 groups, and Penny said she was proud of the change in culture since she and Pete had taken over.

“Where previously the organisation was seen as very rules and system-focused, we are now seen as a supportive and people-focused network that provides a structured approach to support better results from your networking,” she said.

“During that time the regions have embraced one another to become a combined region and thus benefit from a larger network to be able to help and support one another.

“We are extremely proud of how our members have moved away from being in isolated chapters and benefited from being part of the UK’s biggest franchise in the UK’s biggest network.”

Pete said the growth of the BNI franchises was good news for the local economy too. He said people who gain work through a contact in BNI are likely to then ‘pay it forward’ by investing in someone else’s product or service in the region – a process known as the Velocity of Money theory.

“The Velocity of Money theory means when local businesses generate income, they are more likely to spend that money with other local businesses in their business and personal network, and that means money is kept in the local economy between four and seven times more than when spent elsewhere,” he said.

“That means the £200m-plus we are generating in BNI since taking over the regions translates to over £1 billion in our local economy.”

Pete and Penny are also linking smaller local businesses to larger national businesses through Corporate Connections in the UK, which is also owned by them, and is a related network for businesses with a turnover of over £3 million.

Pete added: "We see the addition of Corporate Connections in the UK as a huge opportunity for BNI members and have already passed over £100,000 in business to BNI members from the connections made. Opportunities to connect more people at every level is exciting to us and we are passionate about helping good people to do good things.

“We are also passionate about supporting local charities and have a policy of paying for the charity seat in each new group we launch, both in BNI and Corporate Connections as a small way of giving back. Thereafter we hope the group will rally round and continue to support and give generously, plus they benefit from the generous giving from the charities too.”

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