Smitten with the Company
The success and prestige of an international company, its philosophy, seemingly high integrity, unique product line and the understanding that its business plan would make it possible for us to earn a very lucrative income, was attractive to us. We were smitten.
By becoming independent distributors with this company, regardless of how impressed we were with its credentials, our work was going to entail sales and we were becoming network marketers. Waking up to that reality was difficult for me. I hadn’t really envisioned that I would go from being a graduate of a very prestigious university, then a freelance journalist, research consultant, university instructor and artist to becoming a sales woman in the network marketing industry (see https://businessintegrity.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/my-first-encounter-with-network-marketing)
By keeping my eye on the company’s high profile, I wasn’t aware that I was about to compensate for what felt like a drop in career status. I became driven to be successful, to earn the impressive awards that the company’s business plan offered, and the recognition that accompany them, including trips, cars, high achievement levels, exclusive club membership and a good income. This achievement and status oriented lifestyle presented by the network marketing industry, and that we became part of, was familar to me. It was similar to the lifestyle in which I grew up.
However, even with all the perks, I became increasingly uncomfortable with being involved in a line of work and an industry that was devalued by society. There were too many negative connotations associated with them. My enthusiam eventually began to run out as a result of constantly being confronted by people’s scepticism. Trying to convince people was never my style and pursuing materialistic goals was never my true values. My writing and art were of primary importance to me and I had looked to this business to fund those interests.
It took a head on car crash, which occurred 16 years after we began our network marketing journey, along with drastic changes made by the company to its business plan and way of doing business that I began to face the music.
The Learning Curve
The network marketing company, that my life partner and I were introduced to, greatly impressed and intrigued us. We were inspired by its’ philosophy, which appeared in alignment with our values. The company was already an international success. Although unfamiliar with the technologies of the product line, we were eager to learn more about them, integrate them into our lives and experience their benefits. We did our due diligence and the company passed.
Having been raised in the film industry, I was aware of the residual income available to actors, directors and writers when their work appears again, especially on television. Although unfamiliar, the idea of residual income that was available through network marketing was attractive. We were toold that in terms of income, the sky’s the limit and that network marketing was a ticket to “financial freedom.” Was this true? We decided to find out and joined the company as independent distributors, when it opened in Canada. As two of its Western Canadian pioneers, we felt excited and we wanted to reap the benefits.
Our learning curve was steep and required a great deal of personal development as a result. I began by confronting the negative images that we had internalized from society that get projected onto sales people. I did not want people to project any of those qualities onto us of being sleazy, pushy, dishonest, unethical, fast talking and insincere. Fortunately that hasn’t happened.
Next, we needed to have a better understanding of the network marketing business model. Here’s a good and clear explanation as we had come to understand it as well:
“Peterson and Wotruba (1996) define direct selling as “face-to-face selling away from a fixed retail location” (p. 6). Direct selling refers to the way a firm contacts and executes business with their customers. Not all direct selling is multilevel marketing. However, within the direct selling industry, there is a common type of compensation plan that is used by many of the leading companies. Sellers are compensated not just for the sales they personally generate but for the sales generated by the people they recruit. Because those involved are compensated down through multiple levels of recruits (i.e., those they recruit, those their recruits recruit, etc.), this type of direct selling is often called multilevel marketing. The recruiting is usually done through personal networking; thus, multilevel marketing is also sometimes referred to as “network marketing.””
We have found that addressing the stigma that surrounds the network marketing industry to be the most challenging, just as it is confronting any prejudice.
But I’m not a Saleswoman
Carol 6 and Susan 3 1/2
Selling was not new to me. I started at age six. My parents set-up a table with two chairs on the sidewalk in front of our house where I sat with my little sister Susan colouring rocks, which we had picked from our garden, and were now hoping to sell. One man stopped by to look at our art work and asked if we had change for $5. Unfortunately we didn’t, so we lost the sale.
When I was a little older I went door to door in our neighborhood selling magazine subscriptions and greeting cards until a boy a lot bigger and older than me threw them on the ground and discouraged, I ran home crying.
A few years later I was back knocking on doors, this time selling ads at a penny a word for the monthly neighborhood newspaper which my girl friend Andrea and I had started. Camera sales were next, which I pursued while in university and during my 20’s, so that I could stay closely involved with my interest in photography.
During all of these early life experiences, I never thought of myself as a salesgirl, just someone following her interests in an effort to earn some money.
When I graduated from university, confronted with the question of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, my interests lead me out of the sales field. Photographer, journalist, instructor and artist were the identities I began to proudly wear.
It wasn’t until more than 20 years later when I was at a crossroad in my life, looking at career options, that I came smack up against a societal stigma surrounding sales, that I didn’t know I had internalized. When Jim and I were contemplating becoming network marketers for the first time, all these monster images of sleazy, pushy, dishonest, unethical, fast talking and insincere people began to surface. Big internal conflict presented itself in me.
We had just been introduced to a very impressive company with an inspiring philosophy, remarkable and effective wellness product line, and an opportunity to earn a good income while maintaining the freedom I so valued. The fact that this company had chosen the network marketing business model, which offered residual income, is what made this all possible. It seemed like a dream come true. I learned pretty quickly however, that the sales stigma and the stigma that surrounded network marketing were part of the package and I was going to have to deal with it if I wanted the rewards.
My first encounter with Network Marketing
I had been juggling projects in my various roles as freelance writer, research consultant, university instructor and artist for a number of years. As a result, I was overworking and I began to burn out. I turned to a career counsellor for help in sorting out my career path. I knew that since I love my freedom, I therefore do not do well as an employee and was exploring options as to how I could continue to work for myself, while at the same time live a more balanced life and make a good living. I truly believed that it must be possible. I just didn’t know how.
Interestingly, at that time, we were introduced by my mother and her partner to an international company that developed products using advanced wellness technologies. They thought, given my life partner Jim’s and my passion for alternative and complementary wellness approaches and our desire to find other sources of income, we might be interested. They were right. This company marketed these products through a network marketing business model, which meant there was a business offering available. However, when I realized that the business obviously involved marketing, I resisted. Then I reminded myself that we were currently looking for options and that I probably shouldn’t be so quick to “look at gift horse in the mouth,” as my mother always told me as a child. So I decided to take a closer look.
I flew down to the company headquarters in Southern California to do my due diligence. I took in a business training, began to have some experiences with the products, met people involved with the company as well as those who are marketing the product. I came away impressed, inspired and eager to start our journey. That was 23 ½ years ago.