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Anthony Washington:
We Need to Treat Our Business Like a Business

By John David Mann

Anthony Washington is a born entrepreneur. A young man with a singular focus, calm determination and rich speaking voice, he conveys an impression of genial assurance that one would expect from an established master of business and personal development...a Bob Proctor, Denis Waitley, or Nido Qubein. It comes as a bit of a shock to realize he's only 35 years old.

Washington's education in the entrepreneurial life began while still in college: working as an electronics buyer in the heart of Silicon Valley, he quickly saw that the path of the employee was never going to take him where he wanted to go.

His sister was working with a friend on a publishing project for Santa Clara University; the friend brought him on to consult, then invited him to join as a partner. Their small college publication project turned a good profit; they soon launched a national publication.

"It was a tremendous success," says Anthony, "but we were under-capitalized. After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, lots of income and lots of rubbing credit cards together, I was left with an amazing amount of debt."

The year was 1989; Anthony was 20 years old and, as he puts it, "emotionally unemployable."

"After you've run your own company, it's really difficult to become an employee."

On the lookout for an opportunity, Anthony was handed a video tape by his sister. On the tape, Anthony saw ordinary people making extraordinary incomes, and immediately thought, "I could do this--I could be successful at this."


A Crash Course in Everything

Anthony's experience even surpassed his expectations. Just at the time he joined this company, it was attracting some of the most dynamic people in network marketing.

"I had the good fortune of having mentors who were true stars of the business. It was the very first time I had the opportunity to align myself with people who were accustomed to earning such large sums of money every month. These were people who weren't talking about it or wishing for it, but had already done it."

During his three and a half years with that company, Anthony took over 6000 pages of notes.

"I learned how to present on stage, how to lead your group, how to dress successfully, how to retail professionally... It was a crash course in everything!"

Then subtle changes started happening in the company; the wind shifted, and some of Anthony's mentors left.

"Some people were shocked; they couldn't believe anyone would leave when they were doing so well. But from their vantage point, these leaders could see the direction the company was going when others couldn't.

"I come from Silicon Valley, where people change jobs like they change shirts. If you put in your two weeks notice at IBM because you've decided to go work in a new division at Hewlett Packard, people celebrate; they say, 'Hey, good luck,' and wish you all the best. Not in our business!"

He realized that network marketers are much more emotionally affected when people leave a company, looking at it almost as a betrayal. Perhaps this stemmed from the family-style camaraderie people experience in networking; in any case, Anthony saw it as one way (among many, as he would come to learn), that network marketing had yet to mature. He kept taking notes.


A Continuing Education

Over the next few years, as he explored different sides of the profession, Anthony's "crash course in everything" became a sort of post-graduate study.

At first, he went along with some people in his group who'd gone to another company; but his heart wasn't in it.

"We were growing, it was successful--but for me, it was almost like a rebound relationship. I have to love what I do, it's very important to me."

He returned for a while to his Silicon Valley roots, forming a new technology company, then re-entered networking a year later to join a promising new nutritional company. He soon realized there were serious flaws in the company's leadership (which he succinctly describes as "nepotism gone wild"). He migrated to yet another company within a year, again with high hopes of a long-term home.

"I got very involved with this company and worked very hard. They had a very interesting and unique concept, taking very well respected products to market. Unfortunately, the leadership made some very bad decisions."

While on an all-expense-paid trip in the Bahamas, Anthony and a group of his colleagues suddenly learned that the company was bankrupt.

"I laugh about it now--but then, our first question was, 'Can we get home?! Is our plane trip paid for?'"


Home At Last...Almost

Anthony and a group of other leaders decided to use some of the products they'd been marketing successfully to form a new company. In 1999, he became one of the founding field partners for that new venture; the education continued.

"The most volatile term in our business is 'pre-launch.' When you're launching a new network marketing company, your biggest job is to manage expectations. Everyone has a vision of what they see, what they hope the company will look like; you have to keep everyone grounded. You have to choose your leadership, then trust them and support their decisions."

There's a crucial distinction between administration and the field, observes Anthony. Too often, field leaders want to participate in the administration of a company.

"That's a formula for disaster. The field needs to do what they do, and let the administration do what they do. It's almost like church and state: they have to be kept separate for everyone's needs to be met."

It seemed that Anthony had finally found his home in the business, when an unexpected communication caused the ground under his feet to shift once more.


Goodbye and Hello

An old friend called to tell him about a brand new company that was launching.

"I'm an entrepreneur first. If you can show me something eminently better than what I'm currently involved with, I would have to pay attention. I've never jumped from deal to deal; I've never worked two businesses simultaneously. You can't chase two rabbits, you'll just go hungry. But you have to be aware of what's going on around you."

The friend sent him a package to look at, and the moment he plugged in the video, he knew that he was facing a difficult decision.

"It was very sad, in a way. I loved the company and the people I was associated with. But I knew that something with far more potential had come along, and I simply could not ignore it."

He sat down with his company's top money-earner, privately, and shared what was happening.

"I explained what I'd found and said I needed him to share with me why I shouldn't do it. We talked for three hours; and at the end of the evening, we were hugging each other good bye."

Anthony resigned and moved forward with this new company--and soon realized he had indeed found a home.

"My association with this company has been fantastic. I sat on their advisory board for two years, and have had an opportunity to help shape the foundation for a long-term future. It's been wonderful, and I get to do what I love most--which is to work within and support this great industry."


The Future of Network Marketing

As much as he loves his company, it's clear that Anthony sees his allegiance to the network marketing profession first, and himself as an advocate and representative.

"Our profession consists of all the individual companies and individual distributors. As each individual goes, so goes network marketing. If there's one person who's suffering or having a bad experience, the entire profession suffers."

Asked about our future, Anthony doesn't hesitate: it's clear he's given the topic much thought.

"This way of doing business will become every bit as prevalent and popular as franchising, something accepted and completely mainstream. I also think we'll see our profession sort itself out with that same kind of diversity, and enjoying the same kind of respect, as franchising.

"When people decide to look into a franchise today, some people look for a little house-cleaning distributorship; others want to spend a million dollars or more on a McDonald's; and there's every level and scope in between.

"And yes, there will be people who fail, but that will no longer carry the stigma that it has carried in the past. People open u nchises, including some of the largest and some of the smallest, and fail, and nobody looks at that as an indictment of franchising per se. They just look at it as 'operator error.'

"As network marketing matures and the ideology around our profession and the way it's perceived matures, people will start looking at us the same way they look at the franchise industry: a great way to seek and achieve financial independence."


We Need To Treat This As a Business

We need to mature and look at the world of business; we need to look at the fact that we are something like an isolated island within the larger world of business--and the reason is that we've chosen to be that way. We need to realize that if we treat this like a true business, the way the rest of the world treats a business, things would be much better for us.

Granted, most people in traditional business do not understand network marketing, which is why they don't believe in it, which is why they have problems with it. But the truth is, we haven't really done anything to foster greater understanding. We haven't reached out to the traditional business, except when we want to align ourselves with them to make money. We haven't reached out to them to educate them about who we are and what we do, and until we do that, our industry will always be that island.

The Catholic church creates all sorts of events you don't have to be Catholic to attend; they use these things to let you know, "Hey, we're okay, we're nice people; you don't have to be Catholic and we'll still talk to you. We want you to get to know who we are, and the way we show you is by the works that we do in the community."

On an individual level, we need to stop looking at other people as money signs. Sometimes it seems whenever distributors talk about what they do, there's always an ulterior motive: to sell another product or enroll another distributor. We need to become advocates of our profession, without any ulterior motive, just happily sharing with people what it is we do.

This is natural; if you're a computer programmer, eventually people are going to know that. But it stops there; you don't start talking about DOS language to everyone you meet! People will look at you like you're nuts.

We need to keep our relationships intact. I can call anybody I have ever recruited into any business over the past 14 years and talk about anything, because I've never ever polluted the water behind me. This is about building relationships with people; even if that relationship changes, because we're no longer working the same company together, the relationship still stands.

I have friends in other companies throughout the industry. I've done trainings for people in other companies. The people will say, "Wait, let me get this straight: you're not a part of our company, you're involved in another network marketing company--and you're training us for our business. Why would you do that?!" I tell them, "It's simple: I'm an advocate of network marketing. As we are successful, the industry is successful, and it behooves all of us." -- A.W.