The Value Lies in Who You Become

Margie Aliprandi:
Bonded to a Mission

By John David Mann

Margie Aliprandi was at a crossroads. In the past, she'd worked as a school teacher; for the last few years, wanting to stay home with her three young kids, she'd done some free-lance work--a little acting, some voiceover work in industrial films, commercials and so forth. Halfway through 1987, she found herself newly divorced, and not wanting to take on work that would disrupt her life with Shaun, Nicole, Todd (ages five, four and two)--but she had to earn a real, reliable income.

"I thought I'd probably have to go back to teaching school," recalls Margie, "so I began interviewing and signed a teaching contract to teach junior high school music and drama."

A few weeks before school started, a friend called with an interesting problem: he had an exceptional and innovative product (a nail-bonding system, based on a concept derived from dental bonding: a clear polymer gel hardened by ultra-violet light), but no channel for marketing it. Would Margie help him find a network marketing company that might be interested?

Margie was already familiar with the product through her work in the fashion and media community, and enthusiastic about its possibilities.

"And I lived in Utah," she adds with a laugh, "where there are approximately a billion network marketing companies. We looked around and talked to a number of companies." Before long, the two had found a fairly young company who wanted the product, and whom they felt good about. With just three weeks to go before the new school season, Margie cancelled her teaching contract, took a deep breath--and on a wing and a prayer, started working as a full-time network marketer.


Building a Foundation

"At first, I had absolutely no idea what to do," says Margie. "I had no experience, no capital and three small children. Although I'd been invited to join a number of companies (it's hard not to, living in Salt Lake City!), I had carefully avoided network marketing my whole life. The whole selling posture is not one that had ever particularly appealed to me."

She soon discovered the key distinction that completely changed her mind about "the whole selling posture" she had so carefully avoided.

"I was so passionate about this product that everybody I talked to became interested in it. I quickly came to realize what makes network marketing work: the people are just so excited about their product or opportunity or mission, they can't keep quiet about it--and that draws people to them like a magnet!"

She built her business through the time-honored method: trial and error.

"I think it worked mostly because I was doing it with such a tremendous amount of passion. And--while I don't recommend this--I had put myself in a position with my back against the wall: I had to make something happen quickly."

Margie soon realized that what her fledgling group needed was a system.

"I knew it needed to be simplicity itself, something where people could be successful if they were just given the right direction and a path to walk on. We needed an approach to building the business so everyone would be singing from the same page of the hymn book." Margie and her team set about creating just that.

She soon found that she not only loved what she calls "the initial creative phase" of the business, but she also had some skills there.

"The truth is, I easily get bogged down with the tedium--but I have an analytical mind and can take things apart, and see things from the big picture."

An effective system, says Margie, needs to be able to simply and duplicably lead somebody from an initial contact to involvement, then keep that cycle rotating.

"It's not easy to put that kind of thing together; it has to have the right feel. You're always looking for things that will be compelling to people, that will create urgency. It needs to be simple and tool-intensive, with really good conference calls, overview calls, audio tapes, video tapes and other quality media that can present the message simply. "

Her back-to-the-wall position notwithstanding, Margie's business growth curve started out slow. "Our first meeting had four or five people," she recalls; "the next meeting, no one came." But by the late summer of 1989, Margie had gatherings of 150 or 200 people in her home, talking about the product and opportunity.

"I talked to everyone, did trade shows, traveled wherever I had to in order to make it work. If a group in California said, 'We'll get together a meeting for you,' I would drive out there--and perhaps ten or 15 people would show up."

As the group grew to other cities, Margie needed to travel to work with them--but she couldn't afford air fare or hotels, so she cobbled together her own "economy fare" version of a training tour.

"I would hop in my car and drive from Salt Lake to, say, California; once I drove to Louisville, Kentucky. I would sleep in my car in parking lots, get dressed and comb my hair in gas station rest rooms, then go on to the meetings. It wasn't very glamorous...but it worked."

"When we first started," says Margie, "the entire company was doing about $28,000 a month in volume; there were three cars in the company parking lot." Fourteen months later, Margie's group alone was generating over a million dollars in monthly volume. As Margie puts it, "It was an amazing time. I had a laser focus: I wasn't thinking about millions of dollars, I just wanted to make my house payment. I didn't foresee that I would make my first million by the time I was 35 and then do that several times over. But that's where it went.


Finding the Mission

As Margie's business grew, her relationship with the company's core tenets began to go through an interesting transformation. When she first became acquainted with her company, she knew that they had a very powerful primary mission.

"The reason they started the company, their whole raison d'etre, had to do with product purity: they were driven by a mission of providing healthful alternatives to the dangers of the chemical-laden personal care products in the marketplace. And the truth is, I was not really in tune with this mission, initially."

Margie would hear the founders speak about the frightening proliferation of harmful chemicals and about the carcinogenic ingredients in store-brand products, "and I just didn't key into it at all. It all just sounded to me like so much negativity." Instead, Margie focused on the nail system product she'd first helped bring to the company. Over the years, she shifted that focus to another flagship product, then another, and another, always basing the business primarily around the benefits and value of one focal product or product line.

Over time, though, she too found herself beginning to talk about the problem of harmful ingredients in personal care products. "I started talking about how they build up in your system and compromise your immune system, and that became part of my approach."

The breakthrough came for Margie at a company convention in 1998, when renowned toxicologist Samuel Epstein appeared as a special guest and spoke from the dais of his admiration for Margie's company. Author of the landmark book The Politics of Cancer, Dr. Epstein has had unparalleled impact worldwide on political and regulatory issues surrounding chemicals in households products. From the podium, Epstein expressed his admiration for the company's efforts and congratulated them on their results.

"He said that his 25 years in cancer prevention paled in comparison to what our company was doing," recalls Margie. "I was so moved. My company's primary mission was being acknowledged by the world's leading authority."

From that point on, Margie wholeheartedly embraced the mission, making it her own.

"I'm in my community now in ways that I would have never imagined when I started selling a nail bonding system. It has turned into a life mission."

Today, Margie sits on Dr. Epstein's board of directors, helping to oversee the various affiliated local, national and international offices of volunteers who share information about simple preventative measures people can take to safeguard their families' health.

Margie recognizes that while the mission is what drives her today, everyone has his or her own unique pathway into the business.

"As compelled as I am by my mission, I've realized that most people are not as concerned about whether or not they're going to end up with cancer ten years from now because of the products they're using, as they are about how they're going to make their car payment at the end of the month! You really have to talk about the money, about residual income and empowering people financially. In the long run, the mission will be there; that's what will sustain longevity. The mission creates what lasts."


Dreams I Didn't Know I Had

What started out as an effort to make ends meet for her kids by giving home meetings to a half dozen people has turned into a business that covers 40 counties--and Margie's dedication to network marketing has grown proportionately.

"The depth and the texture this whole experience has added to my life is just amazing; sometimes it leaves me speechless.

"I think a great deal about the real value of network marketing. The reality is, only a handful are going to make really big money. But thousands and thousands of people will create a comfortable lifestyle, with far greater freedom, better family life, tremendous personal growth and a genuine sense of mission. You can't put a dollar value on all that. Strip everything else away, and where the value really lies is in who you become in the process.

"I've had dreams come true I didn't even know I had," Margie adds. Most of those dreams have to do with Shaun, Nicole, Todd, and Ashley. (The older three are now ages 21, 20 and 18; Ashley is eleven.)

Back in the early days, when she was on the road a lot, Margie says she knew it would take sacrifices to get the business off the ground.

"I always tell people, 'You have to sit down with your significant other and engender their support, or you're really going to be fighting an uphill battle.' Well, I was single: my kids were my 'significant others!' I sat down and had that talk with them, and they agreed they would be supportive and we would carry on."

She also had a great support system in her own mother and father, who helped out; "but it still wasn't easy on the kids. Sometimes we'd have two or three meetings in a single night! I was gone a lot."

Margie remembers one night, when she had just said goodbye to the kids and was pulling out of the driveway, Todd (three years old at the time) came running out in his pajamas, crying for her not to go.

"I went to him, picked him up and held him; I was crying, too. I was exhausted, and here I was, traipsing off to some meeting that would probably have two or three people there...and I said, 'Go back in with the others, be a big boy--and some day, I'll take you everywhere I go.' And I did."

Within a few years, once she had the means, Margie began taking one child with her every time she traveled. Soon all her distributors had gotten to know the children--and their dedication to pulling together started to pay off.

"Their lives have been so enriched," says Margie. "We've been swimming with the dolphins in Cancun and gone fishing in Alaska. A few years ago, I took them on a round-the-world trip; we went to Japan, throughout Malaysia, and Thailand; I have pictures of them riding elephants. For Christmas this year, we're going to Milan, then on to Athens and Cairo. I remember Ashley, four or five years ago, being so enchanted with her studies on Egypt and Tutankhamen--and now we're going to go see these things! And we've done it all together."