Partners in Success
Kevin Marino and Bob Doran: Leaving Our Mark on the Universe
By Dr. Josephine Gross
Kevin Marino and Bob Doran are business partners building one and the same distributorship. They don’t recommend this to anyone else, but love to share their story of how it worked so well for them. Their success is due to a shared entrepreneurial spirit, matching work ethic, complementary skill sets, and alignment in purpose.
An entrepreneur all his life, Kevin Marino built numerous businesses, including four bars and restaurants, as well as a jewelry manufacturing and wholesale business. In 2008, his world collapsed with the real estate meltdown and an emotionally and financially draining divorce. Kevin was refereeing three high school sports teams when he found his current company and teamed up with Bob.
Bob Doran enjoyed starting and working his magazine business, but the daily grind, financial concerns, and responsibility for employees took their toll. Crushed under the heavy overhead and risky nature of owning a publishing company, he decided to look at other income opportunities, like energy deregulation.
Today Kevin and Bob lead a team of over 70,000 customers and distributors in all fifty states. Kevin lives in Connecticut with his wife Diana. Bob lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Lisa, son Bob Jr., and daughter Kayla. Working the business with their families is one of their greatest joys, along with greening the planet and helping others achieve their dreams.—J.G.
What was your earliest introduction to network marketing?
Kevin: In 1990 when I was twenty-five a gentleman brought me to a local meeting where a presenter talked about satellite dishes. As I listened, I thought how cool it would be if we could have these little satellite dishes on our houses and get all the sports stations. I also thought, “This is something people would really like,” so I joined the company. I bought a satellite dish and never installed it on my roof, because I was living in a condo and couldn’t put it up.
Bob: My first experience was when I was seventeen. I was invited to a “party.” I’ve always been business oriented since a very young age: had a paper route, sold cable TV when I was fifteen for my uncle’s cable company. Since I seemed entrepreneurial, someone thought it’d be a good idea to invite me to a network marketing meeting under the disguise that it was a party. When I got there, the whiteboard popped out from behind the curtain.
At that point I was too young to participate, but I liked the leverage concept. Combined with residual income, I thought it was brilliant. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I dipped my toe in again, and that’s where I met Kevin in the satellite company.
Kevin: Bob, the funny part is, now that you mention it, when I was nineteen my roommate in college held a network marketing meeting at our house. I looked at it and said, “That’s really cool,” but I was in school at the time.
I met Bob up here in Connecticut as he was traveling up from Philly. We both got involved with the satellite company because one of the founders was a big gun who had been featured in SUCCESS magazine in an article titled “We Create Millionaires.” But the company never got off the ground.
Subsequently I got involved in different telecommunications companies, and when I finally started to make some money, the company I was building sold out and I got discouraged. I swore I would never do network marketing again.
What happened between then and finding your current opportunity?
Kevin: Bob and I went our separate ways for a while. We always remained friends, but being 150 miles apart we didn’t hang out too much. We always kept in contact: I would let him know what was going on with telecom, and he started a magazine publishing business.
Around 2008-2009 my world basically imploded with the real estate crash and going through a divorce. I ended up completely broke. I was trying to figure out what to do when somebody asked me to “take a look at something.” I went to a meeting and ended up joining another network marketing company. I made some money with it, but after I was in it for a while, I realized they were headed for a major crash. The numbers didn’t add up. If you’re paying out more than you’re taking in, I don’t care how much volume you do, you can’t make that up.
I started looking for other opportunities while refereeing sports and making a little money with the company I was in, even though I wasn’t building it.
Through the company I had met a gentleman named Kerry Breitbart, the cofounder of my current company. He had retired and sold off his energy brokerage company for multiple tens of millions of dollars. He was bored and got involved in the network marketing company I was in because he liked the social aspect of it. He also had realized the company wasn’t going anywhere, but another distributor approached him and said, “You need to take a look at retail energy. There might be some good synergy there for you coming out of the energy industry.”
After Kerry and some other leaders got together and decided they were going to form a company, I was one of the people he called. He knew I liked network marketing, but that I wasn’t happy with where I was. He knew I really needed to make money, so he said, “I’m getting together with my best friend Carey Turnbull, and we’re going to form a new company that will sell retail energy. Are you interested?” Before he finished his sentence, I said, “I’m in.”
I jumped so fast because I knew the success track record of the two gentlemen who formed the company. They had sold their previous energy companies for a combined $200 million. They were going back into the same industry they knew, loved, and understood. The first year we were a direct selling company with teams of door knockers. It was a painful build.
In the second year we turned into a full-fledged network marketing or referral-based company with no fees. It was something I had always dreamed of. There was nothing in the way to ever hold you back from any way of building. Nobody could ever say, “I can’t afford it.” It’s free. You didn’t have to convince anybody to use the product. It’s electricity. Product demonstration? Simple: you turn on a light switch. I was in a position where I didn’t have any money, but I knew this would build magnificently if we could do it the right way.
During that time I had been reaching out to Bob Doran, so I invited him to make the trip up to meet Kerry. Bob wanted to wait for it to expand a little. I remember telling him one day, “I’ve been working. I’ve been building. You have money. Together we could do this. I can have the funds to do what I need to do, and I can give you the jumpstart at this. If we become partners, nothing can stop us in this business.”
Bob Doran, Kerry Breitbart (company founder), Greg Breitbart (company CMO), and Cherea Bonds in California.
Kevin and Bob at the 2014 ANMP Convention in Dallas, TX.
Bob, what was going on for you at the time?
Bob: After graduating from high school, being the oldest in an Italian household, I started working right away. I didn’t have wealthy parents. My father died when I was a year old. My mom had one in the oven, and we had a four-year-old sister. I felt compelled to make money and got into the real estate business. I quickly got into the fixing up, flipping, and selling cycle. That market was doing really well in the eighties. I had about thirty-six units under my belt when the crash of 1989 hit. Interest rates shot up near 20 percent, so that kind of chopped me up and spit me out of that business. We had to downsize. I know my wife loves me, because she stuck with me through a pretty bad time. No fault of my own; it was the economy.
That led me into revisiting the home-based business market, which I had dabbled in while building my real estate business but I’d never experienced any success. Because I needed to make money, my friend got me into the advertising sales business, and while I didn’t love it, it was paying the bills.
That led me to a discovery of what I felt was a niche in the marketplace in the Philadelphia region—a need for a local home resource magazine, like an Architectural Digest. I launched that in 1999, put all my chips in, and bet the farm on it. My wife and I said, “This is our chance,” and we got lucky. It took off and we rode it up to 2008 when the Lehman Brothers had their meltdown.
If it wasn’t for our two main competitors going out of business before us, that’s where we were headed. We recovered because of that, but I never forgot the sleepless nights I had, thinking, “What am I going to do? I’m almost fifty, no college education. How am I going to replace the income we were blessed with because we hit a niche? No one’s remodeling their kitchen for $100,000 or putting a new basement in or landscaping.” It was a scary time.
As the economy got stronger and we bounced back, I knew I had to create a safety net. I looked at franchising, but couldn’t afford the financial investment. I also couldn’t carve out the time from running the magazine and managing all those employees. I kept looking.
Thank God, Kevin Marino called me, “We can make money every time someone flips on a light switch.” I said, “That sounds too good to be true.”
Network marketing just hadn’t clicked for me based on my past experiences. I wanted to stay in traditional business, and every time someone approached me I turned them off. I’d known Kevin for over twenty years at that point. His proposal intrigued me, so we started working together.
I don’t recommend partnerships for most people, because most of them end up parting. But the way it worked for us was perfect. The accountability is what I liked the most. We knew each other’s work ethic. We’re not all about the money. It’s about making your dent in the universe. Today we’re at a point where we could just stop and it would keep growing every month, but that’s just not us. I knew that about Kevin.
How did you get started?
Kevin: I basically spent three months at Bob’s house when we started the business because Pennsylvania was getting ready to open. I would drive down from Connecticut and sleep in Bob’s basement for three or four nights a week. The cats would jump on me in the middle of the night.
I told Bob, “If we really focus, if we spend the next few months doing a couple of meetings a week and building this area, as soon as Pennsylvania goes live we’ll own the whole area, and we’ll never look back.”
That was my game plan. I would drive down to Bob’s on Tuesday. We would do a hotel meeting Tuesday night in King of Prussia at the Radisson. The next couple of days I stayed in his basement making phone calls. We would fill up the next meeting, which was in Philly on Thursday night, and I’d stay over Thursday night and drive home on Friday.
We called everybody we knew in the area. I would go onto Craigslist and look for people who were advertising. At one point we were calling realtors. We stuck to the warm market as long as we could, then expanded out to whoever would speak with us. We put ten to fifteen guests in every meeting twice a week. You have to speak to a lot of people in order to have that many guests per week showing up. Once we brought people in, we called their warm markets.
The beauty with our company is that it’s all about the opportunity, because the product is something everybody already uses. We teach people how to get their energy for free. No one has to pay to get involved, whether they want to build a business or get their energy bill free. All they have to do is share.
As the company started to get its act together, our confidence grew even more. Today we have over 70,000 customers/reps on our team, and they’re in five lines. We push everything downline. We secure foundations with people. We help them to gain rank. We help them make money, knowing that the more money they make, the more engaged they will be. We show people how to make money the first week in the business.
Sometimes people object, “If they don’t pay to get in, they have no skin in the game, and therefore they won’t stay with you.” My answer is, “If they don’t make money, I don’t care how much they put in, they won’t stay with you.”
Lisa & Bob Doran and Diana & Kevin Marino at Leadership Getaway in Barbados.
Bob & Lisa Doran at the Boatyard Restaurant in Barbados.
Kevin & Diana Marino at beach restaurant in the Caribbean.
What do you attribute your success to?
Bob: The fact that we don’t have an upfront fee is really effective. We basically show people how our unique customer referral program can wipe out the supply portion of their utility bill each month. We say, “To come on board with us, all you need to do is enroll your electricity bill. If you want to take it further, we can start knocking off other bills. You can treat this as a side project, and eventually your Plan B can turn into your Plan A, as it did for me.”
It liberated me from a career in the publishing business that was sucking the life out of me. I didn’t really see a way out, until I was able to start this business on the side—15 minutes here, 45 minutes there. I couldn’t carve out an hour, but I put these little nuggets in and was able to grow it.
We don’t ask people for money—on the contrary, we give them money. One of the lines I use when teaching people how to invite others to a home party is, “Leave your wallet at home, we don’t need any money from you. Bring your electricity bill, because we will show you how much free energy you qualify for.” It totally changes the conversation.
When people show up with their bill in hand, we say, “Sit down, in 15 minutes you’ll understand.” We don’t give a long presentation. Our meetings are more social. We go through the information, sign up the customers, set the person who’s having the party up to get their free electricity, and then parlay that into, “Joan had a party tonight. She had a whole bunch of people sign up. She now qualifies to get her electricity supply free. Who would like to do this next week at their house?”
How do you turn Joan into a professional network marketer?
Kevin: The gentlemen who became our VP of Sales and Training is a network marketing professional who has been a trainer for over twenty years. His name is John Costino. He is excellent at the nuts-and-bolts and mindset training. He really helped to build our corporate culture and image. He teaches people how to get past the employee mentality.
We currently have only a couple of hundred people doing the business full time, but for many people that’s the goal. The recommended reading we give everybody is Eric Worre’s Go Pro book. Bob and I have given out over 400 of them personally.
Bob: A quick story to show what can happen: I involved my neighbor Lucy across the street who’s a mother of four. She got fired up when she got her free energy. Everybody started asking her “How?” and her business took off. The family is now getting their energy free, and she’s starting to make a nice residual income that’s growing. Feeling like the CEO of her household, she’s getting more engaged every day.
Kevin: So far, few seasoned network marketers have joined our company. They didn’t believe in it and kept saying, “There’s no money in free.” Now that a couple of us have earned in excess of $1 million in earnings in just three years, network marketers are starting to pay attention. This year alone we’ll eclipse seven figures and we are only in our third year.
We regularly see you at generic network marketing training events.
Kevin: Yes, we’re always looking to develop ourselves—not only in network marketing, but in life in general. I’ve gone to see Robert Kiyosaki. We’ve studied Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar’s material. We just did a big training with Tom ‘Big Al’ Schreiter in Rhode Island for a couple of hundred people. I like trainers who have built the business, understand it, know it, and can distill it into its simplest form. I will go to any of their trainings anywhere any time because just picking up a few nuggets here and there can help me to expand my business.
Bob: For the same reason we encourage our team to join the Association of Network Marketing Professionals and attend the ANMP’s international convention. This year we had twenty team members there.
We spent a week with Eric Worre in Las Vegas with twelve other leaders. Some people say, “Why would you pay all that money?” I look at them and say, “Are you kidding? Did you read his book?” I make people read it three times: first, just read it through; second, read it with a highlighter; third, just skim the highlights.
I started out listening to Jim Rohn tapes when I was only seventeen. We believe network marketers need to read at least SUCCESS magazine, Networking Times, and maybe another more industry-specific publication.
Kevin: To come back to Costino, he has been doing a Sunday night leadership call that is 100 percent generic for eighteen years. I tell people, “I don’t care what you’re doing in life, whether you’re doing network marketing or you just want to be a better employee or boss or business owner, tune into it.”
John teaches based on movies. We call it “the movie call.” He gives you a movie to watch during the week and asks you to write a review of it. If you send the review in to him, he will most likely read it. It’s not mandatory, but if you really want to get the most out of it, you do this. When you first write the reviews, you do a Siskel-and-Ebert type review.
As you start to watch the movies and on Sunday night you hear his review of the movie, followed by the questions he gives people to answer as homework, you will never watch a movie the same way. You end up looking for leadership traits in the characters. You look for what you would do—and what you wouldn’t do. How would you handle that situation differently? How would you help that person? Not only does it change how you watch movies, it totally changes how you perceive people.
Bob: You learn to recognize leadership qualities. People ask, “Why do you spend so much time with that person?” It’s because I can see they’re going places—and you can recognize that right out of the gate sometimes.
Costino’s approach is, “There’s no way you’re going to read a book a week and get on a call each Sunday. I don’t have time; you don’t have time. But everybody has time to watch a two-hour movie.”
We watch inspirational movies such as Miracle on Ice, Return of the Titans, Men of Honor, or GI Jane—movies where people rise up whom you didn’t expect to rise up. What caused it? Who motivated them? How did they motivate? Costino’s call is not for beginning networkers, but for those who really want to do this as a profession, I highly recommend it.
Bob, Lisa & Bob Jr. enjoying family time on incentive trip.
You mentioned your desire to “make a dent in the world.”
Bob: I’ve done a lot of businesses over my career and had different partnerships. It’s one thing to make money, it’s another thing how you make it. If you can help people, you get much more satisfaction out of life. As we promote our business, we are greening the planet. We double the renewable, sustainable energy with every customer we add compared to the utilities they’re currently using. I feel I’m doing my part for humanity now. When you’re young, it’s all about the money. It’s all about you. Then you realize as you get a little older that you’re here to make things better for everybody.
Kevin: We’re really proud of our Mission to Millions program. The corporation donates a dollar on every customer’s behalf. They get to pick the charity they want to contribute to.
For example, Alex’s Lemonade Stand has always been something close to my heart. A six-year-old girl in Philadelphia started these lemonade stands when she had cancer, and now it’s this big foundation all across the country. I can’t wait for the day our team will donate a million a year just to that particular charity.
Bob: It’s pretty cool so far. Our team of 70,000 is responsible for donating over $70,000 per month to the different charities. As soon as we get up to about 85,000 customers, our team will be responsible for donating a million dollars a year to charity.
Our chief marketing officer, the cofounder’s son, set up this program as part of our compensation plan. In the beginning it was difficult, because we were a young company, so some of the big charities were skeptical and said, “$1 for every account?” The ones that took the chance are getting significant donations on a quarterly basis now. The ones that scoffed are coming back begging. We look at them and says, “Sorry, we’re full. Thank you for asking.”
Bob: Another achievement I’m most proud of was working with my son and involving my family in the business. They wanted nothing to do with my magazine. My son called it “running an adult daycare center.” He got involved in network marketing at age nineteen, as a Penn State college student doing twenty-one credits at the time. He attended the meetings and did the three-way calls. He plugged into the system. Today he’s still an electromechanical engineering student with a full course load, but while his fellow students are worried about the job market, he already has a dream income that’s secure because it’s based on a bill everybody has to pay every month.
Kevin: Bob Junior was instrumental in helping us get started. He even took a semester off to help us handle the technology side of the business, which probably will end up being one of the most brilliant things he’s done in his career.
Bob: The old man took some major flack from his Italian wife on that one. She thought he would never go back to school. “I promise he’ll go back to finish his degree,” I said. Today he is in a couple of company videos, because he is a real inspiration: if a kid can do it while in college with twenty-one credits, anyone can!