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Paul Meyers interviews Lawrence Roberts, Executive Director/CEO at BNI Ontario Central North.

 

👇 Transcription listed below 👇

Paul Meyers 0:01
Hey everybody, I’m here we are with Lawrence Roberts, executive director and franchise owner of 25 BNI chapters. Lawrence, how are you?

Lawrence 0:11
I’m doing really well. How are you, Paul?

PAUL MEYERS 0:15
Excellent. Thank you. Listen, thanks so much for coming on. I greatly appreciate this. I, I’ve been, you know, drumming on the BNI bandwagon for so long that I thought it would be great if we can get you in here just to talk a little bit about, you know, BNI the benefits. What is BNI? So maybe we’ll start with that and just say, Lawrence, tell me a little bit about what BNI is?

Lawrence 0:42
Definitely? Well, a good place to start is what BNI actually stands for, I say BNI about a bazillion times a day. And I often forget that people don’t know what it means. It actually stands for Business Network International. So what we are is we are a global organization of business professionals, sales professionals passing referrals to one another, supporting one another, and really bridging the gaps between communities, cities, countries, nations all over the world.

And so we have about 280,000 to 290,000 members worldwide. And so what we do is say is we are a global network. And what we do is we build local chapters. And so within those local chapters, what we do is we help business professionals we teach, train, mentor support, do whatever we can to help those professionals to grow their business and support network, that is BNI. And so we grow our business through referrals, we grow our business through collaboration through peer to peer ideas, sharing and mentoring and just really helping one another, to be a bigger impact and to accomplish more in our lives and in our business.

PAUL MEYERS 1:55
That’s awesome. That’s probably the best explanation of BNI that I’ve ever heard. Well done. Thank you.

Lawrence 2:03
I practiced it, it’s something that I talk about quite a bit. So yeah, I, I get a chance to share. And you know, it’s interesting because, and, and, and jump in if you need to. But it’s interesting, I find that BNI is a little bit hard to explain to people unless you see it in real life. Yeah. And like, as I’ve been, I’ve been working with BNI now for a while. And I swear, I’m pretty sure my mother in law still doesn’t understand exactly what I do. Because, you know, if you’re, if you’re a business professional, if you’re a sales professional, you know that you have to always be on the hustle to find new clients all the time, you always have to be on the phone out in the community networking, you have to be having advertising, all these different things to help you.

But when you wrap your head around the idea of having an entire team to help you with that process, you have a whole support system out there. it’s sometimes hard for somebody who’s never been in especially for someone that works like a nine to five, you know, salary type of job. They don’t understand what that hustle is, they don’t understand that, you know, money doesn’t just come in normally, just because you do your job, you can work for months and months and not get paid anything. So when you have the opportunity to get involved with a support system, to get involved with additional training and mentoring and some accountability to kick your butt every now and then. It’s really powerful in it. And it’s hard to understand unless you see it if you go to visit a BNI meeting and see what it looks like in real life.

PAUL MEYERS 3:30
Yeah, and that’s easier. done now, because of these zoom sessions that are happening. You know, we’re, we’re seeing a lot of visitors come to our BNI North Bay Nipissing chapter to sit in, and just see what’s going on, see what it’s all about. So definitely zoom has made it easier. But I can’t wait till we get back into you know, in-person meetings where we’re really that’s where you can form some great relationships and great business bonds. So tell me you’re coming from Saskatchewan, you own a handful of maybe eight or so franchises and Saskatchewan. And you’re new to Ontario. Tell me a little bit about that.

Lawrence 4:09
Yeah, so that’s interesting. So a lot of people ask me, you know, why Ontario? Why are you making this big change and taking over this region in Ontario? It really comes down to I love what I do. It’s my favorite thing to do. I used to be a BNI member in Alberta. I owned a roofing company and with that roofing company, I wanted to grow. And so I joined a BNI chapter there, got a lot of referrals really liked, it kind of fell in love with the system. And so when I started to figure out that I liked BNI way more than I liked roofing, I decided I needed to make this my career.

We always hear about finding your passion doing what you love, and for once in my life, I finally figured that this is something that I could do and I was volunteering to help I was volunteering to lead I was volunteering, and eventually I was like man, I got to figure out a way to make a living doing this because I was doing it for free. And I absolutely would if somehow magically all my mortgage and bills and all that stuff was paid.

But unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. So. So the only way to make BNI a career to make any money getting paid for this kind of thing is, is to buy a franchise. So that’s what took me from Alberta to Saskatchewan. And when I got there, there was only one chapter. And we’ve now grown it over the last three years to eight chapters, we’ve, we’re passing about three, three and a half million dollars worth of referral, referred business every year. And I felt like I had the capacity to do more.

I wasn’t, I didn’t feel like I was maxed out, I honestly didn’t even feel like I was doing a lot. It was just, I liked it. And any chance I had, I would try to do more. But then I heard that there was an opportunity to work to get involved with an additional region. And so I thought to myself, is that something I could do? I talked to my wife and she, she actually was just like, I think you should like you really love what you do. We had won franchise of the year back to back times in Saskatchewan. So we were doing a lot of great things here.

Membership was all that and so I thought, Man if I had that ability to take the greatness that we were doing here and apply it in another region, I think we could do amazing things. And so the opportunity was there to work with the Ontario Central North region. So your region, the previous franchise owner was retiring from BNI and so I started the conversation. And so when people ask me, Well, why Ontario? Well, because BNI franchises don’t come available for sale very often. Your franchise owner had been there for 12 years, the franchise owner in the region, just south of you has been there for 22 years.

So it’s like they don’t come available very often. So when one came, I couldn’t let one pass it by, I knew that there were amazing people out there, I knew that what we were doing could impact a lot of businesses a lot of lives and, and jumped, jumped in with both feet. So even though I’m the franchise owner here in Saskatchewan and I live here, we just took over Ontario Central North in the summer. And now we will be moving to that to Ontario. As soon as we’re paused as soon as COVID really allows us to get over there.

Yeah. And make that move. And so we came to Ontario because of BNI and BNI has changed our lives not only because yeah, I grew our business, and that’s our life and everything, but the connections, the people that I get to meet the learning that I get to do. I mean, I was a roofer four years ago right now. And now I’m doing national training and global appearance, like just all kinds of things. So it’s, it’s really been awesome.

PAUL MEYERS 8:03
So I speak to a lot of people, a lot of business owners about being BNI, and the only, the only point that I ever get back to me is you know, it’s an hour and a half a week, 90 minutes a week. And I’m like, yeah, that’s the part where you get to meet with your marketing team. That’s the part where you get to work on your business as opposed to in your business. But what do you say to a business owner that says, you know, Laurence, I’d love to join, but you know, that 90 minutes? Ah, how do I, what do I say? How do you handle that?

Lawrence 8:37
Agree with them? Business professionals are the busiest people on the planet? I would say, right, we’re trying to juggle so many things at the same time. And so when people come and say, I don’t have time for that, and I’m like, Yeah, you’re right. It is a challenge, absolutely, and hard to carve out that time out of your life. But what I find that BNI members do, and what people start to realize is that BNI doesn’t have to be a separate thing that you add to your plate.

BNI is something that you should incorporate with what you do every day. You know, when you think of a business, you think of operations, you think of sales, cash flow, accounting, you think of hiring, firing, all that kind of stuff, those are all part of what a business is. You don’t think of Oh, now I have to go do sales, or Oh, now I got to go do operations. That’s all part of what we got to do, right? That’s a business as a whole. And BNI can be one of those cogs in that. And so instead of saying, on 90 minutes, how am I going to get to that? Think of great, I have an opportunity now to work on my marketing part of my business, or I have an opportunity or this is the time where I’ve decided to focus on growing my business or this is the time where I have to collaborate with other business professionals to hopefully make my business better.

So or when we think about what now I got to have to try to find referrals for people and all that stuff. Well, actually, if you just go About your regular business doing what you would normally do. And maybe just put in a question here or start to identify a situation that could help there. Now you’re doing the regular things that you’re doing. But you’re also providing a little bit of support and a little bit of help for other people that you are in a chapter with, plus what you think of, with our business, everybody’s businesses, we have to be meeting new people, we have to be connecting with new people.

In BNI you go to your meeting with these professionals, there are usually one or two or three or visitors there every week. So now you spend 90 minutes, and now you’re meeting new people, you’re opening up more referral opportunities, you’re building more sales, I actually took a bunch of professional coaching courses.

And they say, if you’re not spending 50% of your time on marketing, as well as 50% of your time on operations, your business will never expand to where you need it to be self-sustaining and to grow on its own. And so some of that needs to be allocated to meeting new people connecting with new people learning how to do your job better, supporting one another. And that’s going to come back to you so BNI doesn’t have to be this thing that hopefully you have time for some days, it’s something that you need to incorporate into your business, and then it’s going to help flourish and grow every other aspect of what you do.

PAUL MEYERS 11:12
Love it, Love it, And I’m coming from a father of five, I’m a father of three, you’re a father of five daughters is that somehow you managed to fit all this in?

Lawrence 11:24
Yeah, and that’s, that’s actually one of my goals is to live a balanced life to be able to, to work and put my heart and soul into what I do, but also to be there for my family to vacation to spend some time in my, my religion and my church and, and then to also, hopefully, have some time to do what I like to do ride motorcycles, play video games, like stuff like that.

PAUL MEYERS 11:45
That’s awesome. So our chapter, our local chapter is the BNI North Bay Nipissing chapter. And it’s flourishing because of leadership from yourself, and all the great team members that we have. So we really appreciate everything you’ve done for our group. I know our goal is to get to 30 members in 2020. So we have three weeks left we are only I think, 4 new members away from that goal, I know we’ll get it because 2021 is our target is 40. And right now, we’ve got some incredible business owners around the table that are doing some very big numbers, with the referrals. So I just want to thank you for everything you’re doing. For us. I know we just recently met. But I’m loving what I see so far from your leadership and the direction you’re taking our group. So I greatly appreciate that.

Lawrence 12:37
Thank you, I won’t take much of that credit, though, you guys were on a really good path before I came. And so I’d say I’m more supporting what you guys are doing. And so congratulations to you. And a lot of it has to do with your energy. You know, when you’re meeting with a group, another meeting, and boring and everybody’s all blah, blah, blah. But that’s not the experience with you guys. You come to a North Bay chapter meeting, and it refreshes you. It’s supercharged.

You like you to come away from that thinking you could change the world, because of the energy that you guys have in the room and seeing the relationships of everybody getting along. Working together. I think that’s where the magic is. So you guys are doing that on your own. And I just get to kind of fanned the flame a little bit here. Good job. Well, I

PAUL MEYERS 13:24
Well, I tell you, our president, our current president, Laurel Myers is doing an incredible job. She’s backed by Vice President, Leanne Miners and then there’s Tara Buttinau who is Secretary-Treasurer, these ladies are doing an incredible job. They keep the energy up in the room, and they’re bringing an enormous amount of visitors to the table. And then these visitors see the potential and they start to join.

So I love BNI I’ve been in now for two years, two and a half years, we brought this chapter to North Bay because there was no chapter here previously. And if you’re a business owner, and you’re trying to grow, then inside BNI will give you that opportunity with referrals with training, coaching, mentorship, and every once in a while a swift kick in the backside just to get you motivated. So that’s awesome. Listen, Lawrence, thank you so much for hopping on. I greatly appreciate your time. And we’ll see you hopefully soon in person.

Lawrence 14:28
That’d be great. I’d love to. Thanks, Paul.

PAUL MEYERS 14:30
Appreciate it. Thank you. Bye Bye now.

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