Building the Team
Kevin Robbins: Second-Generation Success

By John David Mann

Kevin Robbins

What do you do when your father is a network marketing legend? Do you follow in his footsteps, turning a career into a legacy? Do you rebel, and go your own way? Or do you investigate the path cautiously, looking for ways to make it your own? For Kevin Robbins, a highly successful second-generation networker, the answer is, "Yes--all of the above."

"I respected my dad's success," says Kevin, "but I wanted to do my own thing; I wanted to get out there in the big bad world and carve out my own niche."

Straight out of college, Kevin dove into a successful real estate career, making his mark as Dallas Rookie of the Year. Within two years, he began longing for something more stable.

"I worried about money all the time: where was the next deal going to come from, what was in the pipeline?"

He decided to move into corporate sales, and took a nine-to-five job ("which was really more like eight to seven!") paying salary plus commission. Here again, he was successful: his branch (for which he was sole corporate salesperson) rocketed upward in national rank due to the business Kevin brought in.

So it isn't surprising that when Kevin's father, Ray Robbins--who's the top earner in a major nutritional network marketing company--first started talking to his son about network marketing, he wasn't even slightly interested.

"Health and nutrition? Are you kidding? Hey, I was already healthy and nutritious! When you're 27 years old, you're ten feet tall and bulletproof. I took my one-a-day vitamin and had no worries."

Ray started talking to Kevin about financial independence, having his own business and getting out of the corporate world.

"That all sounded great--but I didn't think it was necessarily for me. I was happy in my corporate job; it was secure, it was something I was comfortable doing, and I had success doing it."


In the Shadow of Success

But Kevin's biggest concern about the world of network marketing, ironically, had to do with his own dad's success.

"My dad has this incredibly charismatic personality. When I was a kid, we'd go into a restaurant and my dad would immediately start talking with people at all the other tables. It's just his personality; he's done this all his life."

Not surprisingly, Kevin assumed that people like his dad were the only ones cut out to be successful networkers--and in his eyes, that was not him.

"I'm a positive person, I've got a good attitude, and I've got good energy--but I was different from my dad."

Kevin eventually had some powerful experiences with the products, and became a believer. But what changed his view of the business was going to events, where he saw "regular folks" stand up and talk about the success they had in this business.

"I saw stay-at-home moms, people in real estate, auto mechanics, corporate people--people across the spectrum were having success. I learned that the number one trait you need is a passion for the product and for helping others. I had that. I realized, I could do this."

As Kevin joined the network, yet another concern surfaced, again one having to do with his dad.

"I had the misconception that I was going to work 'for my dad.' I didn't want to do that! He was very understanding; he told me, 'You're not going to work for me, you're going to work for yourself.'"

Ray encouraged his son to find his own mentors in the business, people he could relate to and work with closely--and that is exactly what he did.

"My dad helped me tremendously along the way, but he had the wisdom to let me carve out my own niche and build my own business, to make my own mistakes and have my own successes. The result was that I developed my own confidence and never felt like it was just Dad doing everything for me--and I so appreciate that."


Losing a Job, Gaining a Life

In addition to his corporate sales job, Kevin also worked on Saturdays selling cars. One day his manager sat him down and explained that some of the other guys were a little jealous: Kevin was coming in on Saturdays and earning almost as much as they were, working full time!

"He said, 'We'd like you to work here full time.' I said, 'No way!'--so I lost the job. I was earning nearly $800 working four days a month in car sales and only a couple hundred from my network business. The month I lost the job, my networking check jumped to nearly $800."

Kevin threw himself into the business; within a year, his network income had grown to equal his job income. In September of 1996, he quit the corporate job.

"At the time, it amounted to taking a 50 percent pay cut, but I had to do it. I had started to hate working for somebody else, building their dreams from early morning to late at night. I wanted to do something I loved--which was helping other people and building my dreams! As it turned out, it was the right decision."

The Sunday after he quit, he went on a company-sponsored cruise to Alaska.

"I wasn't that excited about it: I was young, and there weren't going to be many young people on this cruise. But as it happened, the cruise's social director was the most wonderful woman--today, she's my wife! Today, we have two kids--and because of network marketing, we both have the privilege of being stay-at-home parents."


Trust and the Larger Team

About two years ago, Kevin decided to run for the company's Associate Council, the company's nine-member, elected field-corporate liaison group, as a way of giving back to the company and the associates. His first Council position was as chairman of the compensation committee.

"We were in the process of changing over our plan so that we could take it world-wide. For two years, we modeled, tweaked and examined the plan, to make sure we could roll it out successfully."

It was a fascinating learning experience, and Kevin gained a tremendous appreciation for the kind of teamwork it takes to work with both field and corporate members. Last year, Kevin was elected chairman of the Council.

The relationship between field and corporate is in many ways the most challenging aspect of network marketing. We wondered, what kinds of challenges has Kevin seen in that context? The number one challenge, he says, is building trust.

"We had to learn to speak openly and honestly, but with integrity. In other words, we had to get to the place where we could speak openly, frankly and honestly about issues when we were in the room together, and when we were outside that room, support the group and not talk behind other people's backs and say, 'Well, I didn't vote that way, that's not what I wanted to do.'

"Establishing that trust is paramount to team-building. We need to know we can say whatever is on our minds when we're examining an issue. However, when it comes time to make a decision and finalize a strategy, whatever side of a particular issue you were on before, you now let that go and support whatever decision we came to as a group.

"Obviously, in the larger sense, we're all part of one big team. But in any organization, whether network marketing or not, you always have these two sides. In a network marketing context, you have the corporate side and their motivating factors--growing sales, profits, staying in business, regulatory issues and so forth; and then you've got the field, and the two sets of agendas don't necessarily match up. The field wants you to pay out more, charge less for the products, and simplify the systems; and whatever the field wants, they want it yesterday! They don't want to hear, 'Well, that's not a priority right now, let's wait a year.'"

Initially, says Kevin, the corporate people also had concerns with confidentiality.

"Their concern was understandable: if we talk about certain things in closed committee, is this group going to go out and tell the whole world about it? Again, it's trust-building. You have to demonstrate over time that you can work together."

In fact, adds Kevin, it is only through time that you can really build that level of trust.

"There was a time, in the years before I joined the Council, when this relationship was strained, even pretty adversarial. A few years ago there were situations the field was not happy about, and the council had a lot of issues to resolve.

"By the time I got there, everyone had already put in a huge effort and things were already in much better shape; the company was ready to heal the wounds and move from being adversarial to being more collaborative. Today we are in a truly collaborative, cooperative place. It has been a growing process for all of us."


Your Group--and THE Group

In networking fields, we observe, there also is often a strong tendency to split or factionalize--to identify with "this family" or "that family," this leader's organization or that one's. At times, that factionalizing can become a divisive force, even acrimoniously so. We asked Kevin, as a team-builder and team member, how does he deal with that tendency in the field and work toward the unity of it all?

"This hasn't been a huge problem for us, but internal strife or conflict does seem to be part of the human condition. We've worked to counter that tendency by carefully cultivating a sense of 'your group and THE group.'

"You spend 90 percent of your time building your group, your team. When you're starting out, you spend virtually all your time there. But as you start moving up in leadership, there is more of a responsibility to help build THE group as well. This can be through something as simple as hosting an open meeting or offering trainings open to anyone in the company.

"This isn't about going around the country building everybody else's group; it's just that if I take some time to help build THE group, everybody wins. Your group cannot be successful if THE group isn't successful. When THE group is growing and volume is building company-wide, that's when your group has the best chance to succeed."

In fact, says Kevin, that's exactly what he loves most about this business.

"When I was in corporate sales, it was all about me--my sales, my successes. It's not that I didn't care about other people; hey, if they had success, great, I was happy for them--but it didn't really impact me. And in some cases, somebody else's success could actually equal my failure."

People often enter this business bringing that sensibility with them, observes Kevin.

"Sometimes people don't really understand leverage: it's almost as if they think they're in competition with their own downline! That has the potential to create conflict; it's very difficult to grow your business in that context. It's critical that new distributors learn this right away: everyone's success contributes to my success.

"My dad taught me this early on: you don't have to be good at everything to be successful in this business. Some people are great at training, but maybe they aren't good at recruiting, or talking about the products. You find people with different talents, abilities and personalities, and together, you grow your team. That's the polar opposite from the corporate world, and it's why I'm so proud to be in this profession."


The Horizon

We asked Kevin about his goals, and he replied without a moment's hesitation.

"It always starts with my family. It's easy to spend too much time with the business, especially when you love it. My first priority is to maintain the right balance so I'm spending enough time with my family."

Beyond that, says Kevin, his focus is on THE business more than on his business.

"My ultimate goals are not so much about how much money I can make, how many cars I can have or vacations I can take. I love traveling, I love nice cars, I love living in a gorgeous neighborhood--but my ultimate passion is to see this company achieve a level of success where we can pass this business down to our son and daughter, and they can continue to pass it on to their children. I want to do whatever I can to help my company grow to a billion dollars in sales...and beyond!

"Having this business is a real gift, and my principle motivation is to cultivate and protect this gift--to build the business and have all the success in the world, but always with the thought of passing it on to the next generation."


JOHN DAVID MANN is Editor of Networking Times.