Building a Better Business with Charlie Lawson

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    Charlie Lawson, Co-National Director of BNI UK & Ireland

    Charlie Lawson, Co-National Director of BNI UK & Ireland

    Charlie Lawson is the Co-National Director of BNI in the UK and Ireland, and the 10th July 2012 saw Charlie round up his tour of Yorkshire with a talk at the Aston Hotel, Sheffield. As a word of mouth marketing expert, Charlie has worked with thousands of BNI members since joining the business in 2004.

    Charlie’s passion is seeing BNI members get success through their BNI membership, and he believes there is nothing more inspiring than helping a BNI member and then seeing them hit their goals.

    And what is Charlie’s key to success? “Working hard and keeping a smile on my face,” he says cheerfully.

    Charlie’s Build your Business Workshop in Sheffield began with a familiar phrase. When faced with an obstacle in life, ‘go back to the basics.’ But Charlie’s advice is this: “Go forward to the basics!” He explains that re-evaluating the basics is not going backward; it’s revisiting in order to move forward positively.

    Charlie’s second piece of advice is based on a similarly familiar phrase; “When the going gets tough, it’s how you THINK that makes all the difference.” Charlie goes on to explain the reasoning behind his take on this phrase by launching into a story about the Polar explorer Earnest Shackleton, whose ship ‘The Endurance’ became trapped in ice on an expedition. After abandoning the ship, Shackleton’s crew finally set foot on solid ground 497 days after the voyage began.

    “And how do you think he coped with this?” Charlie asks the room. He nods enthusiastically as people from the audience pipe up with, “He never gave up”, “Willpower”, until a voice from the back of the room says simply, “A positive attitude”.

    “Exactly,” says Charlie, grinning as he addresses the room. “He stayed positive. Earnest Shackleton was able to instil a sense of optimism in his crew. His positive attitude and his leadership skills essentially kept his crew alive. Every one of them survived.”

    “When times are tough, you can do one of two things,” says Charlie thoughtfully. “You can either bury your head in the sand, or you can face up to the situation and do something about it.”

    Charlie goes on to make a comparison between BNI and McDonalds. There are some interested faces scattered around, obviously wondering where he is going with this. “If I buy a Big Mac from McDonald’s in Sheffield, and one from a McDonald’s restaurant on the other side of the world, what’s the difference between them?” After we have established that they ought to be pretty much the same, Charlie makes his point. “There are BNI chapters all over the world, with people following the same guidelines and getting the same results. But the people themselves, they are individuals, and that’s what makes each BNI member and each BNI chapter so special. They all have their own personalities.”

    Charlie insists that by sticking to the BNI system, you get results. “Apply these 4 things to your networking, and you will see return on investment from your BNI membership,” he says.

    1.       Members success programme training

    Charlie’s advice is simple, “Go to them! They WILL make a difference to your business.”

    2.       Tell as story in your 60 seconds

    Charlie insists that the key to a successful 60 Seconds is telling a story. “By sharing stories about your business, it makes people more likely to refer you,” says Charlie. As the audience are encouraged to share their stories, we hear about a life coach from Sheffield who has helped a 9 year old boy gain so much confidence at school that he has progressed 4 levels in one year.  And an estate agent from Doncaster who picked up her client from a phone box and her found accommodation after she was left homeless.

    “Would you be happy to refer these people after hearing their stories?” asks Charlie with satisfaction. Unsurprisingly, there is a resounding “YES” from the people in the room. “Facts tell, stories sell,” Charlie continues.



    3.       Be specific in your referral requests.

    “Asking for a specific person that you think you would benefit from speaking to in your 60 seconds is key,” explains Charlie. “Think of the industry you want to work in, think of a company, think of a department and then do some research into finding their name – whether it be a phone call or a LinkedIn search.  Your request then becomes as specific as it can be.”

    Charlie also addresses the difference between business to business referrals and business to consumer referrals. “With B2B it’s easier to request an end user, with B2C, it may be better to request a referral partner.”


    4.       Invite eligible visitors to meetings every week.

    “There are endless advantages to bringing visitors to meetings,” Charlie explains. At this point, the audience are encouraged to shout out their ideas, as Charlie nods encouragement and scribbles them down for the room to see. Among the suggestions given are;

    • Visitors can increase your network
    • They bring enthusiasm and energy to the group
    • The chapter performs better in the presence of a visitor
    • The member feels good about bringing that visitor

    There is one thing that Charlie insists mustn’t be a motivation when inviting visitors. “If you invite a visitor to the group with the intention of making them join, you are setting yourselves up for failure,” warns Charlie. “Don’t ask ‘who do I know that wants to join BNI’, ask ‘Who do I know that wants more business’ instead. And then let the meeting speak for itself.”

    Charlie ends his talk by asking members what they get from BNI, and what makes it worthwhile for them. As cries of “Confidence,” “Partnerships” and “Money” fill the room; BNI Yorkshire Director Niri Patel thanks Charlie for his time and tells the room a short story about the recent success of a particular BNI member. The member in question has established a thriving cake-making business through word of mouth marketing.

    It is a very inspiring story, and the audience are visibly captivated. As the cake maker himself makes his way to the front of the room to present Charlie within his very own BNI cake, it’s clear to the audience that Charlie is moved by the gesture. Laughter follows as a voice from the crowd shouts, “Now would be a good time for ‘givers gain’, Charlie!”

    As the evening draws to a close, the atmosphere in the room has changed. Glancing from face to face, there is determination and enthusiasm etched onto people’s faces. The room is no longer filled with anticipation, but ambition and excitement about what the next day holds for their businesses.

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