In 1989, Australians Sharon and Bill Silvester had reached low points in their lives. The stock market had just crashed, wiping out most of their retirement savings. The fruit farm they had purchased the year before was draining away the rest of their savings to the tune of $25,000 a year, sapping most of Bill’s time, energy and self-esteem along with it. Sharon was working endless hours as a professional assistant to the CEO of the local hospital in an effort to slow the money drain, then returning home to take care of their four children with whatever energy she had left.

They were both exhausted, they were going broke, and their marriage was at its worst point in the nearly 20 years they had been together. Indeed, it had been a tumultuous two decades, with considerable success and some unexpected twists and turns, but the most surprising twist was yet ahead of them.

Stepping Out of the Rat Race

In the early 1970s, Sharon was an assistant to senior management for a major corporation; Bill was a successful executive in a textile company. They were young and in love—and making lots of money. Still, something was missing.

“We wanted a slower pace of life; we wanted to get out of the city. We wanted a better lifestyle,” says Sharon.

“And I wanted to see if I could make it on my own,” adds Bill.

Never the kind to merely dip their toes in the water to test the temperature before plunging in, Sharon and Bill quit their jobs in 1973, sold their house and moved to a little coastal town called Byron Bay with a dream of opening their own scuba diving and sports shop.

“This was before scuba diving was mainstream,” says Bill; “really, before scuba diving shops existed.”

“We didn’t have much capital to start with,” says Sharon, “but Bill was a great marketer, he knew and loved scuba diving from teaching it part-time, and we were willing to work as hard as necessary to make it a success.”

Hard work and relentless marketing would indeed be crucial to the shop’s success. Equally important was Sharon and Bill’s philosophy about how to treat customers—a philosophy that would serve them well years later in network marketing.

“We wouldn’t take anyone’s money without giving back 200 percent in service,” recalls Bill. “Scuba diving can be hazardous if people are not properly trained and prepared; we were determined to have all our customers know what they were doing. If they needed more training or more dives to get the expertise we felt they needed, we’d give it to them—without charging more.”

That kind of devotion earned them loyal customers—lots of them—and their scuba shop began to grow. So did their family, with first one baby, then another, and another, and another.

“All four of my babies were raised in that scuba shop,” Sharon says.

Soon customers were coming from all over Australia, then from all over the world. The two could barely keep up with demand. As the stress and work load rose, Bill’s health began to decline. As Sharon succinctly puts it, “We ended up being victims of our own success.”

In 1986, Sharon and Bill sold the highly profitable company they had built for 13 years and started to look for their next opportunity.

Starting Over…Again

Although the scuba shop had been a big hit, and Sharon and Bill had built up considerable savings owning and selling it, they didn’t have enough net worth to retire. They considered starting another company on their own, but feared the toll it might take on Bill’s health.

Sharon returned to work as a professional assistant. Bill went to work as manager of a large sports store, then as a cosmetics salesman. After a year and a half as an employee, Bill quit and came to a life-altering decision:

“I decided that I would never allow someone in the corporate world to employ me again. Ever.”

Still needing to make a living, Sharon and Bill saw two options: they would either start or buy a new business. They chose the latter: throwing even more caution to the winds then when they opened the scuba shop, the couple purchased an idyllic, 23-acre tropical fruit farm in Alstonville, near Byron Bay.

The farm was stunningly scenic.

“It’s an amazing place,” says Bill, “as beautiful as any place you’ve ever seen. That’s what really drew us there.”

Unfortunately, beauty does not a fortune make.

“I remember the day we purchased the farm,” says Sharon, the tension still thick in her voice. “I sat on the porch thinking, ‘What have we done?’ It was pouring rain, we now owned 23 acres of fruit trees, and it occurred to me that we knew absolutely nothing about fruit trees!”

What they lacked in farmer’s knowledge they sought to make up in sheer grit and determination.

“We started taking classes at the local school on agriculture, just to learn the basics about fruit farms,” says Bill. “We worked nonstop, but we could never get caught up. We had debt and a mortgage for the first time in our lives.”

“I was lucky to get a job as a professional assistant at the local hospital,” Sharon remembers. “The hours were long and hard, but my salary ended up feeding our family and paying the mortgage.”

Still, this was not enough. Soon, exhausted, broke and with six mouths to feed, tension in their marriage began to mount.

A Critical Moment

With everything falling apart around and between them, the couple looked at all their options. They could sell the farm, move and start over. They could abandon their efforts to build the farm business and Bill could go get a regular corporate job in the area. They could invest what was left of their dwindling funds into debt and marriage counseling.

But the “tried and true” path had never really been their style. Sharon and Bill had never pursued the obvious, and even at this low point, they weren’t about to do so now. Instead, they each chose a unique pathway to begin the process of putting their lives back together.

Says Sharon, “I started spending 45 minutes a day writing down my goals—in the present tense—then I’d lie down and meditate on them.” While Sharon visualized, Bill did something in a way even more radical.

“I drove to Brisbane and met the head of a large network marketing company I’d heard of.” Bill recalls, “I was so impressed with him, with his integrity and passion, that I joined the company on the spot.”

It would be another three years before Sharon and Bill would find out whether the paths they’d chosen would yield good fruit or drive them fully to ruin.

Different Paths, Same Destination

When Bill returned home from his meeting with the network marketing company head and informed Sharon that he had become a distributor, Sharon was less than thrilled.

“We had tried a network marketing business years earlier and it had failed,” says Sharon.

“I put time into the new business for two or three months and sponsored some people,” recalls Bill, “but Sharon was so opposed to it that for the sake of our marriage, I stopped.”

Over the next two years Bill took one more stab at building the fruit farm into a profitable business. He also continued using the network marketing company’s products, but ceased all marketing activities…until something unexpected began to happen.

>From the efforts of the few people Bill had sponsored in those early months, he began to receive bigger and bigger residual checks.

“I realized that if I didn’t get on board with this business, I’d miss the boat,” says Bill.

For the next five months, despite Sharon’s reluctance, Bill resumed building his downline.

“I felt I had no choice,” says Bill. “The farm was still losing money, and still taking my self-esteem and self-respect with it. I felt that this distributorship could give me those things back.”

Then two crucial things happened at about the same time that worked together to shift Sharon’s perspective.

First, Bill received a $2000 residual check; that got Sharon’s attention. Second, a friend of Sharon’s began urging her to try some products—the very same products Bill’s business represented!—because they were so good.

“It wasn’t that I hadn’t liked the products before,” Sharon says. “It’s just that I didn’t like my husband being in that business, so when he would encourage me to try them, I would shove them away. When my own friend approached me and said the products are great, that sparked my interest in a way Bill couldn’t.”

Sharon started using the products—and fell in love with them.

“That was critical,” says Sharon. “Before, when people came to our home and asked me about the products, I was honest and said I don’t know about them because I didn’t use them. Now I was suddenly able to say, ‘The products are great!’ I think that ended up being the key to building the business.”

The Climb to the Top

With the two working nonstop and calling upon the same marketing skills and devotion to their customers that had driven the success of their scuba business, things began to take off. Within a year (three years and nine months from when Bill signed up), the business was earning them $14,000 a month, enough so that Bill could quit working the farm and Sharon could quit her grueling job as a professional assistant.

Today, Sharon and Bill live the life they always wanted. They are out of debt and have built their dream home. They have helped hundreds of fellow Aussies reach their goals. They have provided great educations for their kids. They have traveled the world. And they have the time and money to give to society (specifically in the area of helping kids in underdeveloped countries), which is something they had always wanted to do.

And they have accomplished all this through stress-free careers they both enjoy.

“We love this business,” says Bill. “We love that in network marketing, everyone is equal, and that you get to build relationships all over the world.”

Looking back at that critical point in 1989 when their world seemed to be collapsing around them, it’s clear that Bill’s decision to pursue network marketing was crucial in moving the Silvesters forward again.

But what about Sharon’s strategy? What of her decision to fill pages with goals, written in the present tense, and then give herself the unencumbered time and energy to simply dream those dreams?

Sharon smiles.

“A few years ago,” she replies, “I found them all in a drawer and read through them. I realized that every single goal I had written, I had achieved.”



Eight Keys to Maximize Your Success in Network Marketing


1 Make a commitment. There is no free lunch; network marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. You have to be dedicated and consistent.

2 Find out people’s dreams. If you want to help someone, you have to know their dreams first.

3 Set out a plan: who you’re going to talk to, how you’re going to approach them and how much time you plan to commit. And stick to it.

4 Tap into the power that’s in every one of us. Why is it that some people from the other side of the tracks with no opportunity become successful? Because they recognize their own strengths and believe in themselves.


1 Listen and ask questions. Don’t come up with a solution until you really know what needs your organization can address.

2 Master the art of prospecting and communication. Wherever you go, you can talk to people and get people to talk about themselves. That’s how you earn their confidence, which leads to a long and trusting relationship.

3 The money is in the follow-up. Build relationships first; then and only then find out what customers want.

4 Keep in constant contact with people. Determine who can really help build your organization and put your time there.