Ministering Service-Leadership
Rusty Peterman:
A Different Kind of
Social Security

By Uma Outka

All of us who work get them now and again--those Social Security Administration reports in the mail telling us how much (read: how little) Social Security income we can expect each month when we turn 65. For some, the message stirs a low panic, maybe some anger, a bit of despair. For Rusty Peterman, it confirms his decision to start a
networking business. For Rusty and his wife
Sallye, networking translates into retirement security.

"We've looked at this like a 401K--something that's going to grow over time," Rusty says. "We never considered it as something we were going to do in six months: we were thinking closer to ten years."

Rusty has been a minister for nearly 25 years, and with the same church in Dallas/Fort Worth for the last 15. In effect, he says, he has been self-employed, and like most self-employed people, has never had a formal retirement fund. When he and Sallye saw their retirement inching closer on the distant horizon, they realized they had to do something. They knew about network marketing and found the business model appealing, but none of the companies they'd heard about resonated with them.

"With anything I get involved in, what's important to me is that it's got to be cause-oriented, almost like a mission. If it's something that will impact a lot of people for good, then I can get jazzed about going out there and putting my time into it. I just never saw a product or service that represented a cause I could get behind."

Still, they kept their minds open; eventually they found a company that excited them. They devoted part-time hours to it for a few years, had some success and built a good group. When they decided to leave that company, they didn't join another for some time. Then, in the past year, they found a new fit; they jumped back into work mode, and their new group is already bigger than their first.

"I attribute that to the fact that I know a little bit more about working with people and motivating a team that's spread out everywhere in this digital age," says Rusty. "I have become more and more strongly convinced that the biggest challenge for network marketers, especially in the early days, is just to take some action--any action. So we try to give people little baby steps that will lead them in the direction they want to go."

This approach supports Rusty's 401K-style of networking. "Take a $500-per-month residual income from network marketing: that may not sound like all that much income--but you look at it on a month-after-month basis, and you realize you've created a substantial asset!"

Helping others to see and take advantage of that truth is something Rusty has embraced. Much as with his ministry work, Rusty finds he is helping people to improve their lives by "meeting them where they are." He believes this is the trend in leadership in the broadest sense. He says, "There's a real shift toward service-minded leadership, where people begin to see each other as a team, and everybody has an integral, important part to play. Network marketing is the expression of that."

Connection and Community

Some of you may know Rusty in his other networking leadership role as president of The Greatest Networker (TGN) online community. It was in writing a personal vision, and seeing connections between networking and his ministry, that Rusty found himself in a perfect position to do the same work in a way that bridges the two worlds.

Three and a half years ago, I picked up John Milton Fogg's book, The Greatest Networker in the World, and it clicked with me. It read like one of the parables: a story couched in real life designed to help us grasp some principles. Well, I've trafficked in that approach for years!

At the time, he was working on a book, Get Rich Slow, and he'd started an e-mail list called "talkabout" for people to discuss and share ideas. I really liked the discussion. Being with a particular network marketing company can be like being in a cocoon: you have little to no contact with anyone outside your own world. It was so refreshing for me to meet a group of network marketers from all around the world who were sharing the best of themselves, their ideas, their lives, their ups and downs.

I heard about the book Mach II With Your Hair on Fire! by Richard Brooke, and when I read it, it also really rang true with me. I decided to sit down and write out a "vision" for myself as he described it in his book. Later, I sent an email to John Fogg and Richard Brooke to thank them for inspiring me to write this vision. In my written vision, I shared how one day, I could see myself being involved in getting networkers from various companies together, in a social setting, to encourage one another and learn from one another.

Within a day, I got an e-mail back from John asking if he could include that vision in an article for publication. That was our first conversation--it was July of 2000. We met at an event in Dallas the next month and I spent a few days with him and the TGN team. On a cold, rainy November Friday afternoon, I was at the church office when John called and asked if I would consider being the president of TGN. Here I had written a vision just months earlier about having a positive influence in this profession and spreading this kind of spirit around the world--and in less than six months, I was given a position where I could help fulfill that vision! It's been mind-blowing--and a blessing.

-- R.P.