By the age of 18, Keith McEachern had learned enough about network marketing to know he didn’t want anything to do with it. In 1965, he and his dad had gone into partnership to sell a product door-to-door that simply wouldn’t sell. In hindsight, he realized that the company was long on hype and promise—but light on delivery.

“We were left with a bad taste in our mouths, along with a significant amount of inventory,” says Keith. “I stayed clear of network marketing for the next 20 years.”

A Business on Fire!

However, he didn’t stay clear of earning residual income. Keith built a large, successful electronic security company, starting out by hitting on an unusually creative way to sell fire extinguishers: he would stand on street corners and literally set himself on fire to demonstrate the effectiveness of his product!

“When I would come out of it alive, I’d sell those extinguishers like a carnival barker,” he laughs.

His ingenuity and hard work turned his fire extinguisher sales into a successful independent burglar and fire alarm company. He learned that after selling an alarm system once, your subscribers pay you monthly for the monitoring service. At about $30 per month per household, sizeable residual income flowed from his 6,000 customers.

Despite the success, Keith recoils when he thinks of those stressful days.

“My ability to make money in traditional business was in direct proportion to my ability to absorb other people’s headaches,” he says. “I sometimes felt less like a businessman, and more like a psychiatrist or counselor with my employees, and an attorney with my customers. When I was with my vendors and suppliers, I felt like I was in a make-believe world of constant stress.

“There was an increasing barrage of bureaucratic interference by government and insurance companies… everything was a constant negotiation. I had to work an incredible number of hours. The business owned me!”

The Promise of Residual Income

Fifteen years later, Keith’s business became the target of acquisition-hungry corporate giants, and in the course of their negotiations he again saw the value of residual income.

“The buyers who coveted our company had little respect for anything but our contracted monthly service—and they were willing to pay a dear price for that. They didn’t care how pretty my building was, how much inventory I had, how pretty my trucks were…they only cared about contracted residual income. That’s what they sought and that’s what they bought.”

Buying something once and then getting paid for it for the rest of his life became Keith’s business commitment. After taking off some time to travel around the world, Keith began researching his next entrepreneurial venture. At a business franchise expo, he came across booths offering network marketing opportunities, and one caught his attention.

Network Marketing Lessons Learned

Keith soon found himself reentering the world of network marketing—and not entirely successfully, at first.

“I built three large networks, only to watch each company fail,” he says. “Each used discounts to attract their customers. The moment I’d secured my prospect,” he says, “I virtually doomed my future. Naively, I had opened their minds to a continuing search for a discount, rather than creating loyalty—and the nature of competition is such that there are always going to be bigger and better discounts.”

Keith’s checklist for what to look for in a solid business grew with each experience. In addition to his commitment to create residual income, Keith added that the consumable products must offer benefits that create passionate enthusiasm and loyalty, not simply discounts; he decided that focusing on wellness would meet all his criteria.

In his first wellness program in 1990, Keith recruited a young man who would later figure significantly in his networking career. The son of immigrants, Ray Faltinsky watched his parents work hard at three manual labor jobs. When Keith approached him, his eyes were wide open to the promise of residual income, and Ray quickly became the leader of Keith’s fastest growing line.

“Ray got so turned on to network marketing that he swore to me he was going to make it his life.” Regrettably, the company they represented proved to be less than they’d hoped for, and the partnership soon lost its vehicle.

What Goes Around Comes Around

As their company fell apart, Keith and Ray went their separate ways. Ray accepted a scholarship to Yale Law School, where he got a special-interest law degree in MLM Law. Five years later, he called his old friend and former upline to tell him that he had put together a business plan and secured funding to create his own network marketing company. He invited Keith to join him.

“Here was a kid fresh out of school starting his own company and asking me to work with him in formative stages,” says Keith. “So I did! The only thing I asked for in exchange was the privilege of signing on front level to the company—something I had always wanted to do. Ray had been in my downline and now I was in his. The student became the mentor.”

Ten years later, Keith is still enjoying his career with Ray’s company. His organization now spans 16 countries, and Keith has been to them all. His wife worked with him to set up his first networking business, and now his 15-year-old son plays a role.

“My son is a natural networker,” says the proud dad. Together with their downline team, they’ve built an organization that does over $100 million per year in volume.

Give and You Shall Receive

In this business of “paying it forward,” says Keith, it’s the people you help along the way, who then help others, that makes it all work.

Take Sandy Moreland, for example. She had been in one of the networking businesses that had been a “lesson learned” for Keith. Her resources were depleted and she was struggling financially. Her mother died of cancer—and on the way out of the cemetery from burying her mom, Sandy’s only daughter was struck and killed by a car.

“She buried her mother and lost her only child in one day,” says Keith. “Needless to say, she fell into a depression. But the day came when I called her and told her, ‘Sandy, you need to get your head out of the pillow. I’m sending you and your husband plane tickets to come to my house.’ ”

While together at his Fairfield, Connecticut home, the Morelands asked Keith if he had any ideas about what could help Sandy’s depression. He suggested she support herself nutritionally during this difficult time and gave her some of his company’s products. She began feeling better and asked Keith to share more about his business. Ultimately, Sandy joined his organization and got herself back on her feet—and through her business, she has helped others do the same. Today she thrives on a spectacular ranch at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Colorado.

Evelyn Monroig was one of Sandy’s recipients of “paying it forward.” Evelyn had fallen on hard times while dealing with a challenging disease and a difficult divorce. Sandy introduced her to Keith.

On his first call with her, Evelyn told Keith, “I can’t afford an enrollment. I’m living in the back room of someone else’s apartment where the mattress I share with my child takes up my whole room. I don’t have enough money for the bare essentials: Will I buy my child diapers or formula today? I can’t afford both.”

Keith was moved by Evelyn’s plight, and invited her to his home to learn how his business could help her. When she reiterated that she didn’t have any money, Keith replied, “I said you needed to come here; I didn’t say you needed money.”

Once again, Keith paid for the travel, and Evelyn arrived with an open mind. She fell in love with the opportunity, but felt strongly that it wouldn’t work in the Puerto Rican market unless the company opened a warehouse there.

“The president of our company asked if I believed enough in Evelyn for them to open a warehouse in Puerto Rico,” recalls Keith. “I said, ‘Absolutely!’ The president said, ‘Are you willing to put your house up to guarantee it?!’”

Keith did put his house up—and the fact that the warehouse in Puerto Rico is still in operation is a testament to Evelyn’s and Keith’s conviction. Evelyn’s life turned around as she helped others through networking, and she now enjoys living in her own beautiful custom home with swimming pool.

Lessons Learned…and Taught

From the time of his first network marketing experience at 17 through today, 40 years later, Keith has learned a few things about business.

First, the only kind of business for him is one in which each one-time sale results in residual income. Second: no employees, no vendors, no overhead, no bureaucracy, none of the liabilities of traditional business.

Third, the company has to be mission-oriented so that—fourth—Keith can offer a product that truly adds value to people’s lives and, finally—and fifth—each person can pay it forward.

Keith supports his team by teaching them two presentations. The first is short and sweet, aimed at people they know. “There’s always someone you know who likes you and wants to support you,” explains Keith, “and who is likely to continue with you. The objective is to build confidence and momentum as quickly as possible.”

His other presentation starts as a question: “Have you found the opportunity that’s given you everything in life you’ve ever wanted, that’s made your life a dream—or are you open-minded?” He uses it with warm leads, cold leads, referrals…everyone. He says it’s the best question he’s developed to get someone’s attention in his 15 years of full-time networking.

“Only if someone is a multi-billionaire philanthropist would he say he’s found the opportunity that has given him everything in life he’s ever wanted,” says Keith.

“We aren’t looking for people who want to open a home business, who want to be involved in network marketing or who want to sell a particular service or product,” he explains. “We are looking for people who have a measure of dissatisfaction.”

He claims that 90 percent of the people who say they’re open-minded will give you an opportunity to educate them: 20 minutes on the phone with your upline; listening together to a conference call; reviewing the Web site; or meeting for 30 minutes at the local diner.

Once Keith has your attention, he’s captivating. As he says, “Networking is not what I do, it’s what I am.”