As Jimmy Smith approached the end of high school, his mother told him she hoped he would go to college; his father wanted him to work in the family business. His own father had been a butcher, and he wanted all his seven kids to be butchers—even the girls. He loved the meat business, and his passion was persuasive.

“Son,” he said to the 16-year-old Jimmy, “the last thing people are going to do on this Earth is stop eating. If you come down and let me teach you how to cut meat and be a butcher, you will always have a job. I worked through the last depression. When college graduates were out of work, I worked.”

Jimmy admired his dad and figured he knew what he was talking about. Besides, he wasn’t that interested in school anyway. “My interests were girls and basketball; school bored me. Now I had a good reason not to study too hard: I already knew I was going to be a butcher anyway.”

At 18 Jimmy became an apprentice butcher in his father’s shop in Philadelphia. After a few years, he got a job at a large supermarket chain, where he worked in the meat business for the next 30 years.

 

Catastrophe and Epiphany

At the age of 56, nearly four decades of lifting heavy carcasses finally took a toll on Jimmy’s back and knees. The surgeons wanted to operate, but Jimmy wouldn’t let them; a friend of his had had an operation that didn’t work out, and Jimmy wasn’t risking it. He lay in a hospital bed for half a month; then he was released to go home and live on disability.

“As a butcher, I never made more than $400 a week in my best year. I’d been making $20,000 a year, with six kids and a mortgage, so I knew what broke was. I was broke most of my life. My father told me I’d have a job, and he was right. What he didn’t tell me was how hard I’d be working or how little I’d be making. Or that it would break my back.”

Jimmy started looking around for a new career. At first, prospects were dim.

“I had no education; I’d cut meat my whole life, that’s the only thing I knew. My wife Bridget said, ‘Why don’t you get a job as a crossing guard?’ I said, ‘I don’t think so!’ ”

In 1989, after six years of looking, Jimmy stumbled onto network marketing when a friend took him to an opportunity meeting. He was fascinated.

“I didn’t particularly like the company, the products or the fast-talking guys in the front of the room. But I understood one thing: network marketing is people helping people. Everyone looks at things with different eyes. I didn’t see dollar signs; I saw a concept: you sponsor people, you help them, they make money, you make money. It was the first time I’d seen something I thought I could really sink my teeth into with a passion. I fell in love with the idea the moment I laid eyes on it.”

Jimmy grasped the mathematics of it—the duplication concept and the exponential progression of numbers—but he knew he didn’t really understand network marketing. He decided he would do whatever it took to learn the business and go to the top.

His first step was to go hear Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy speak.

“Zig Ziglar walked out on stage and said, ‘I used to be a butcher.’ I almost jumped out of my seat! Then he said, ‘I worked my way up to meat manager.’ I thought, Geez, I worked my way up to meat supervisor. I did better than him! I made up my mind that day, if Zig Ziglar could do that, Jimmy Smith could do that. On the way out I bought $350 worth of tapes I couldn’t afford—and they changed my life. I’ve never been the same since.”

Jimmy started joining different companies, using their products and studying their compensation plans. If he found something that didn’t meet his values and principles, he moved on. If he liked what he saw, he stayed.

“It was a research project: can Jimmy the butcher, with no education, become a success in network marketing, then teach it to his kids and then pass the torch on to his grandkids and help them be successful too? That was my mission.”

 

“Crazy Jimmy”

His wife was not so sure.

“She didn’t know what had gotten over me. I would sit in the dark every night, listening to my recording of Think and Grow Rich, and she’d tell the kids, ‘Your father’s lost it. He’s become obsessed with becoming rich.’ But I wasn’t, really; I just wanted to grow and be successful.”

When Jimmy bought $15,000 worth of water filters on credit, the company abruptly went out of business, sticking him with the inventory and forcing him into bankruptcy. He wasn’t deterred for a moment. They met with the attorney handling his case—and Jimmy prospected him.

“As we left the office my wife said, ‘I don’t believe what you just did!’ But I believed I was doing the right thing.”

At one point, Jimmy agreed to see a psychologist with Bridget. The man said, “Mr. Smith, if by a certain date you’re not making X amount of dollars, will you make an agreement with Mrs. Smith that you’ll give up this thing you’re doing, whatever you call it?”

Jimmy replied, “Wait a minute—I’m paying you $95 an hour for you to tell me to be a quitter? Maybe you should be paying me $95 an hour. Because I’ll tell you something: I’ll sell my house to stay in this business.”

Jimmy recalls the scene with a grin. “My wife was so funny, she slid down in her seat, like, ‘Oh no….’ And I told the guy, ‘Listen, I’ll stake my very life on this business. You know when I’ll stop, Doctor? When they plant me—not a minute sooner.’ That’s where my belief level was. And still is.”

Jimmy kept plugging away, searching out solid opportunities and carefully nurturing his relationships. He joined one company in the mid-90s and earned nearly a million dollars over the course of the next seven and a half years…but he wasn’t satisfied.

“My goal was to make a million a year, and I wasn’t going to stop till I got there and brought my family with me.”

In 2002 Carole Taylor, Jimmy’s good friend and sponsor from a former company, told him about a new company she was working with. He enrolled that May and used the product for four or five weeks. By July he was convinced of the product’s merits and started working the business in earnest.

“My wife couldn’t believe I was willing to start from scratch, building a brand new organization all over again. She said to me, ‘Jimmy Smith, what is your problem?! You’re 74 years old, you’re making $3000 a week, why don’t you just retire and play golf like all your friends do?’” Jimmy smiles. “I laid some Thomas Edison on her. I said, ‘My dear, show me a satisfied man and I’ll show you a complete failure.’ ”

Within a year Jimmy was earning over $20,000 a week. Today he is the number-two-ranking income earner in the company.

 

All In the Family

Jimmy had reached the first part of his goal—to earn a million a year—but what about the second part of his mission? What about the family? This is a question Jimmy clearly loves to answer.

“My daughter Grace walked away from a good job making $50,000 a year, lost her benefits and pension, to do this with me working full-time. My daughter Kathy had seven kids, running a day care operation taking care of ten more; her husband Tom was going to work every day at the butcher shop….”

Another generation of butchers?!

“Yeah,” says Jimmy, “I got him the job, so I owed it to him to get him out of the job.”

And get him out he did: Kathy also joined Jimmy in the business. She and Grace are now both earning more in a month than they used to earn in a year, and Tom has since joined his wife in the business. (“And I pay more in one month’s income tax,” Jimmy comments, “than I used to earn in a year!”)

We ask Jimmy about his other kids and he starts rattling off names and generations like the book of Genesis.

“My daughter Teresa is a single mom with six daughters to raise, all under the age of 18; if it weren’t for our business she’d be on the street—thank God for our business! My daughter Mary has four children, she’s in the business and her daughter Lisa’s in the business. My son Jimmy, he has two children, just quit his job at the post office, he’s doing the business full-time with me now. My son Tony has three children; he has a good job with IBM, but his wife’s involved in the business. So I have all my six children in the business, and all my grandchildren who are 18 or older are involved the business. It’s my legacy for them.

And what does Bridget think about all that’s happened?

“She’s in awe. I just built us a beautiful million-dollar house with six bedrooms and six baths, Kathy and Tom and their five remaining children at home share the house with us. Out of our 28 grandchildren, 26 live within ten miles of us. We all meet here for Christmas and Thanksgiving, Easter, parties, birthdays, cookouts…it’s my dream come true.”

 

A Palace Full of Friends

Jimmy won the company’s top award at their convention in Las Vegas this year. Afterwards, he threw a party—for 1500.

“I rented a room at Caesar’s Palace. How about that? Jimmy the butcher rents a room at Caesar’s for 1500 of his associates. Not bad. If the supermarket manager could see me now.

“The biggest reward in network marketing for me is the thousands of friends I have throughout North America. I don’t want to be remembered for being a top income earner, or for the car I drove or the clothes I wore. When I leave this earth, I want to be remembered for the positive impact I had on the people I passed and who passed me on my journey to reach my goals and dreams.”

In March of 2005, as this issue hits the stands, Jimmy will turn 77. After 16 years in network marketing, he’s made it to the top—and brought his family with him.

 

The Jimmy Smith Essentials

THE ESSENTIALS. In network marketing, you have to have a product with emotional impact and a daily spin-off; a product people will buy whether they do the business or not; and a compensation plan that duplicates. Beyond that, it’s about relationships.

RELATIONSHIPS. I’ve never run an ad, never bought a lead. Everything I’ve done has been through warm markets, with relationships I formed over the years. I learned a long time ago, don’t burn any bridges. You’re only as good as the people in your downline; if you don’t get good people in your downline, nothing happens.

REFERRALS. I talk with people, and they lead me to other people. My doctor signed up when he saw that I’d lost 21 pounds; he tried the product and lost 35 pounds. He started sending me people; I got 28 of them on the product and in the business.

THREE-WAY CALLS. All the technology in the world can’t beat a good three-way phone call. Three-way calls are the most powerful tool in the business, because you’re growing the business and teaching the business at the same time. It amazes me when people don’t use them. I do them constantly—I was doing three-way calls up till 2:00 this morning with a guy in Vancouver who’s three hours behind us.

TRAINING. I believe in coaching; I believe in motivational books, audios and seminars. I loved Upline magazine—I have every issue in chronological order. In those early days when I was struggling, if I hadn’t had Upline, I don’t know how I would have learned what I did. And now we have Networking Times. People need what you do.