Chris and Orrin on a yacht trip.
Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward met in college when they were eighteen years old. Both were engineering students at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, participating in the same work-study program.
After earning their B.S., they continued working for the same corporation, but soon they went off to graduate schools in different states. When Orrin discovered network marketing, he got back in touch with Chris and invited him to join his vision of becoming a leader and building a networking community.
Today, fourteen years later, Chris and Orrin head up a multimillion-dollar business focusing on leadership development and Internet commerce. Together, they authored a Wall Street Journal bestseller, Launching a Leadership Revolution, teaching timeless principles inspired by historic figures such as Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Queen Elizabeth and the Apostle Paul.
Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward’s organization has been recognized as one of the fastest growing in the history of network marketing. Their goal for the near future is to reach at least a million people and teach them the formula to “have fun, make money and make a difference.”
One day, Orrin’s wife Laurie wanted to get new windows for their 1958 home. Orrin was an engineer and Laurie was an accountant at the time. She set up an appointment for a window salesman to come by. Orrin couldn’t do it that night, because he was going to school—he was getting his Master’s at the University of Michigan. They had to reschedule, and finally a fellow came over and showed them the windows.
“We looked at the cheapest set,” Orrin remembers, “and told him we couldn’t afford it. As he was leaving, he said ‘That’s okay. I’ve got other businesses I’m doing.’ ”
Orrin was looking for something, because Laurie was pregnant with their first child and he had promised her she could be a stay-at-home mom once they started having kids. As he was walking the salesman to the door, Orrin said, “What other businesses do you have?” He answered, “I sell baseball cards.” Orrin stopped him and said, “Don’t leave quite yet!”
Orrin sat him back down at the table, ran downstairs and brought out 10,000 baseball cards.
“I showed him my collection and he ended up leaving with $5,000 to $10,000 worth of cards, which he said he could sell for me. I was all fired up because I thought perhaps I could sell baseball cards long enough to figure out how to get a raise at work.
“But after he left, I realized I had just let a stranger walk away with my card collection without knowing if I would ever see him again. When he contacted me about his network marketing business a few days later, I immediately showed interest because I figured if I didn’t, he might disappear with my cards. I agreed to sign up for $200 so I could insure my $5,000 worth of cards, and that’s how I got into the business.
“After I wrote him a check, he left me a shoebox full of tapes and a few weeks later, he called me and asked me for his tapes back. I thought I’d better listen to a couple of them as he had asked me. I picked out two tapes on leadership: Economic Paradigms by Paul Zane Pilzer and a talk by football player Tim Foley.”
Orrin got excited and was surprised to find out people were making money in network marketing. It actually was a much bigger business than he had imagined. He could see himself becoming a leader and building his own community.
“I decided to listen to all the tapes and learn as much as I could about leadership,” Orrin recalls. “I didn’t know much—I was a no-people-skills engineer.”
Vacationing together on a Mediterranean Cruise, Chris and Terri Brady.
Orrin and Laurie Woodward with their children and Brady children.
Chris and Terri Brady
Orrin and Laurie Woodward
Building a Team
In 1994, almost a year after Orrin joined the business, he sponsored another engineer, which reminded him of Chris.
“Nah … Chris wouldn’t be interested,” Orrin thought. “He graduated number two in his class from GMI and got a Master’s and did his thesis over in Japan. He’s probably on the corporate fast track.”
Orrin didn’t contact Chris, but a friend on his team did, and soon the two old college mates sat down to talk.
Chris remembers, “I had charged into the corporate world as hard as I could. I wanted to prosper financially and I thought that was the way to go. But my mentor, who was the head of our division, died of a heart attack on a Saturday, at work, at age fifty-three. I realized something wasn’t right.”
Up till then, Orrin and Chris had never taken the time to strike up a friendship. They’d see each other a couple of times a year, and each assumed that the other was trying hard to make it through the corporate ranks. When Chris was introduced to Orrin’s business through their common friend, Orrin was surprised to discover how ready Chris was for a change.
“I didn’t buy into the company,” says Chris, “I bought into Orrin. My wife Terri and I met with Orrin and Laurie, and we liked each other. We became friends for the first time after all these years of knowing each other. We could tell Orrin had integrity and that he was going places. He had total belief in himself, and he made me feel like I could do it, too. He kept painting a vision of how he thought I could be one of his biggest leaders, and I knew he wasn’t just flattering me.”
Chris joined Orrin’s business and they started working together. Orrin made a few presentations to Chris’s contacts to help him get started, then Chris started building his own team, staying in touch with Orrin on a daily and often hourly basis for the next years.
“We built up our organizations to a size where we each had about a hundred people showing up for weekly meetings,” says Orrin. “For several years, we tried to figure out how to build bigger, but we didn’t seem to be able to get past that.”
At one point, after Orrin’s team had lost a contest called the Top Gun, which would recognize the leaders who had brought the most people to the meeting, about thirty people of Orrin’s team gathered into a hotel conference room and made a commitment to each other that they would go out and build some big numbers.
“Chris and I started discussing different ways of tackling this goal and came up with a concept called Team Approach,’” says Orrin, “where you’re in business for yourself but not by yourself. The idea was to focus on helping new people in the business get results very quickly.”
Before developing Team Approach, the highest number of people Chris or Orrin ever sponsored in a month was twenty-five. Within sixty days after starting this new program, Orrin sponsored 248 people and Chris sponsored over one hundred. Both their businesses exploded.
“The night we met in that conference room,” says Chris, “we moved from being an individual business to joining a team. We chose a team name and branded ourselves as a team, thus creating team identity and team pride. Another shift was that we decided to build depth into our organizations, in line with the way the binary models work today. We created systems and training materials that reinforced what we were teaching, and our group started growing exponentially. Soon hundreds of people were hitting new levels and getting recognized for their achievement, and the excitement and belief at our meetings caused the group to expand even more.”
While Orrin’s and Chris’s businesses were thriving, their company’s philosophy of networking was shifting. Over the years, the corporation took away more and more freedom from its field force. For example, they added a confidential arbitration clause and a non-compete rule to the membership agreement without any warning—these changes simply showed up in the yearly membership renewals. The company’s approach changed from “you own your line of sponsorship” to qualifying the names in anyone’s downline as “proprietary information and trade secrets.”
Orrin’s and Chris’s position was, “How can you own our people’s names, especially since we are all independent business owners?” As the company continued to restrict the associates’ rights, things eventually got to the point where Team Approach could no longer function.
Orrin and Chris realized they had reached an impasse. On August 9, 2007, they met with the corporate officers to give their resignation. Instead of accepting, the company responded by saying, “You’re fired.”
“We left,” says Orrin, “and the company’s officers somehow thought that our 70,000-some people would stay with them. They didn’t understand leadership: if you fire a co-pastor of a popular church, the people aren’t likely to stick around. Sure enough, about 90 percent of our people followed us, even though we couldn’t start another business for six months, according to the non-compete clause that had been one of our points of contention.”
In the summer of 2005, Chris and Orrin finished writing their book, for which Time-Warner had picked up the rights. While the authors felt the book was ready for publication, Time-Warner postponed its release until fall 2007.
“Talk about perfect timing,” says Orrin. “We lost our business in August, but in November 2007 our book ended up number one on The Wall Street Journal business bestseller list for several weeks in a row, number one in Money magazine and at the top of a whole bunch of other lists. The media buzz and word-of-mouth excitement over our leadership book carried us through that period of time.”
Looking for a New Home
Chris adds another explanation as to why almost everyone in their whole organization stuck together for over six months, even though no one was receiving a check:
“Back in 1999, when we introduced Team Approach and our business exploded, we didn’t fully understand all the dynamics behind why it was exploding. A few years later, when we saw Michael Dell speak at a luncheon in Detroit, we got it. Dell laid out what we’ve ever since called the 3 C’s: Content, Commerce and Community. He said there are three important facets to building a business today: Content, or the product offering; Commerce or the business side, where money changes hands through a website interface, shipping, guarantees and customer service; and Community, where the stickiness of the customer comes in, creating brand loyalty and repeat business.
“When Dell emphasized the importance of building community, Orrin and I looked at each other and realized that that was our secret: for the past nine years, we have focused on building relationships through the leverage of providing worthwhile information, helping people create progress in their lives and helping them earn income.
“By focusing so strongly on building a community through which products and services could flow, we created an organization that stayed solid and hung together when the winds of change hit. That happened because people were loyal to the community, just as Michael Dell had said they would be.”
Chris and Orrin and their team typically put on over 5,000 live events a year across the continent, which translates into close to one hundred weekly meetings. On any given weekend, there may be as many as forty seminars going on. When they lost their business, they had to cancel their weekly meetings but continued to offer general leadership trainings.
“Our six months of non-compete got extended to seven and a half months,” says Orrin, “and I used that time to benchmark all kinds of different companies. We met with a lot of company owners and evaluated them based on what we call our ‘trilateral leadership ledger,’ which we wrote about in our leadership book. The three components of leadership are character, relationships and task, and everyone has a score from zero to ten in each category. Each score has a multiplying effect. The perfect leader would score a ten for character, a ten for relationship, and ten for task, and that would equal 1,000 points.
“Most people, when they embark upon their leadership journey, start from score zero. Even if they’re a two or three in character, they usually have a weakness. For example, I was terrible at relationships. Even though I was a good task-oriented person, being an engineer, my relationship side was so bad that my total leadership score was zero. I had no influence because people didn’t like me.
“We teach people to look for prospects who want to develop their character, their relationship potential and their task side. When you start mastering those three, there’s a multiplying effect. If you’re one/one/one in each area, your total score is one. But going from one to two in each of those categories, two times two times two is eight: you’re eight times more effective by just increasing each area by one.
“Similarly, when we were looking for a new company, we were looking for character, because that’s where leadership begins and ends. When we sat down with Dallin, the owner of our new company, we recognized his integrity and leadership qualities. It turned out the product and the compensation plan were just as outstanding, and we felt we had found a new home.”
Off to a Great Start
Chris and Orrin reached top levels in the compensation plan in a record time. Today they have one of the largest organizations in the company.
“People are amazed at what we were able to accomplish,” says Orrin, “but Laurie and I tell them, ‘We didn’t go presidential in two months, we went presidential in fourteen years.’ During those years, we built the leadership community. When we were waiting to transition to our new company, what kept us together was the character of the leadership team, the relationships we built, and the willingness to do the task. It comes back to trilateral leadership.”
When asked about their team training system and the way they build communities, Chris and Orrin say they focus on several objectives.
“First and foremost,” says Chris, “we have to impart value to people’s lives. People enter our community for different reasons: some people simply love associating with others in a positive environment; others like the specific training they receive on how to build their business; and some join for the universal success principles that help them not only in their networking businesses but in all areas of life. The relationships between community members are the glue that holds it all together. People develop deep friendships and true partnerships that last a lifetime.
“Recognition of achievement is another benefit most people don’t find anywhere else. Our community has a formalized and systematized way of recognizing people for their accomplishments.”
Chris and Orrin’s community approach embraces the whole person, including people’s social, emotional and financial needs. Even the members’ spiritual needs get addressed, as their leaders don’t shy away from mentioning God and their faith as their ultimate source and purpose.
“We don’t push any particular agenda, in terms of spirituality,” says Chris. “But we feel free to share our own personal beliefs, and the fact that God is the power behind everything we do and that Christ is our Lord and personal savior.”
“The purpose of our team is to lead people to truth,” says Orrin, “Our goal as leaders is to learn the truth, live the truth—apply it to our lives—and share the truth with others. We believe there’s truth in all areas of life: there’s relationship truth, spiritual truth, financial truth. An example of financial truth is, spend less than you make. A lot of Americans could benefit from learning this simple truth.
“The closer you live your life to truth, the more blessed you’re going to be. And when you are blessed, you have a responsibility to share the truth with others so that they can be blessed as well.”
Vision for the Future
Having reached an unprecedented level of success within their company, Chris and Orrin have even bigger dreams for the future. They recognize that while in certain circles networking is considered as a sound business model, in others it is still viewed as borderline legitimate.
“Not so long ago,” says Chris, “franchising was within a handful of votes of being outlawed. Yet today, everybody knows it’s not only a legitimate form of business but also one of the most effective. One of our goals is to grow a team so big that the world recognizes the power of network marketing and that there’s no greater way to make a difference in people’s lives. Once we reach a million people, we will not only affect the lives of those million, but those people will go out and affect their families, their neighborhoods and their communities. Our goal is to make networking mainstream, just as franchising is today, by figuring out the right principles and teaching people how to apply them.”
“Since both of us are process engineers,” says Orrin, “we took a very systematic approach to this business. One of our favorite authors is Michael Gerber of The E-Myth. He said that the key to business success is to create a system where the average person can produce above-average results. Take a look at what McDonald’s did: they took a hamburger, a pretty average food, and created such a powerful system around it that they sold billions of hamburgers, even though most of us can probably make a better-tasting hamburger.
“Chris and I believe that if you provide the right training system and the right leadership, you can teach people who consider themselves average to produce above-average results through better thinking. Both of us are avid readers and we love the story of Sam Walton. He started with one little store in Bentonville, Arkansas. If someone would have taken a picture of his first Wal-Mart and written on the back, ‘Destined to be the largest retail corporation in the world,’ everyone would have laughed. Yet that man had enough vision to make Wal-Mart not just mainstream, but a household name. Somebody’s got to do this in networking.”
Questions from Art Jonak to Chris and Orrin
Art: In one of your blogs, you mention how the liberal media are biased against network marketing. I would add that the media are biased against people taking responsibility for their own success.
Chris: We do a little of both. We open our arms to everybody, because, as John Maxwell said, “Everybody is susceptible to influence, to leadership.” We believe anyone can grow and learn to think successfully. However, the shortcut is to find like-minded people who are already kicking against the goads, trying to accomplish something great in their lives—people who’ve some type of hard-wiring for success.
Art: How quickly are you seeing people progress in your community today, compared to when you first started? Are you seeing acceleration in the leadership development of people on your team?
Orrin: Yes, absolutely. The key to any system is to find patterns that work. At McDonald’s, the hamburgers cook on this side, for this long, then are flipped over, etc. Put all these small learning modalities together into a system where everything runs like clockwork, and you can produce a very predictable result. Some people have joined our business and achieved levels of success that took Chris and myself literally five times as long. The proof in any true leadership model is that the student should be able to get there faster than the teacher, because the system’s already created.
Art: The way your community stuck together through the transition to your current company is a remarkable story. I’ve seen top distributors who were fired and changed companies, hoping some of their leaders would follow them, but their leaders were more loyal to their checks than to their leader. How is it possible that 95 percent of your people left the company to follow you?
Chris: Orrin is an extremely big visionary, and we all bought into the vision of where we are heading together. For years, we’ve talked about reaching a million people and beyond, and as we’ve progressed towards that goal, people’s belief that we will reach it has gotten so strong that when the big fallout happened a year ago, we believed this was just another chapter in a great story.
Orrin: I can illustrate Chris’s point with an analogy. When we were kids, one of the games we’d play in the pool was, “Hey, let’s all run in the same direction.” We’d create a flow of water all running the same way and eventually, you got the flow going fast enough so you could all kind of lift up your knees and bob, and you’d still be going in that direction. Well, that flow in network marketing—or leadership in general—is your vision. If you create a vision that people buy into, it’s like a flow: they jump into the pool and they’re naturally drawn to success because of the flow the leaders have created.
Art: Many networkers today believe they can build this business without talking to their warm market and without doing meetings. What’s your take? Can it be done without the human touch, without people getting together belly-to-belly?
Orrin: This is a big controversy right now. People have gotten so high-tech that they forget about the high-touch. Chris and I both lead by going past the head into the heart. You don’t truly team up with a person until you reach their heart. This business is more than a way for people to make money. Chris and I made a million dollars a long time ago, and when things didn’t work out with our previous company, we could have simply retired.
Chris: With many companies trying to sell their product by simply emailing people, this leaves us in a huge open market!
Art: I spent the last couple of days with Frank Maguire, cofounder of Federal Express. He said, “People will forget what you say and they will forget what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” You guys are right on the money!