After a six-year stint as a high school French teacher, Charles Bennett went into the insurance business, where he built a career over the next 30 years. After only several years, Charles was joined—in the business as well as in matrimony—by his wife Diane. The two worked well together (in business as well as in matrimony), and by all accounts were destined to sail off into the sunset as insurance brokers…

Except that a decade ago, Diane had an experience that hinted at a different direction: she built a direct sales business.

“I actually did quite well with that company,” says Diane, “but I wasn’t happy with the pricing structure.” The products were expensive, and reps had to purchase a large quantity to get the best prices.” Diane backed out and rejoined Charles in the insurance business….

Until a few years later, 1999, when she started buying another company’s personal care products from a local rep and giving them to their two daughters, Robin and Tammy.

“They said, ‘Mom, why don’t you just go ahead and sell the stuff?’ ” She told her girls she was too busy to even think about it…but she eventually relented and took the plunge. Six months later she brought Charles to a convention—and that sealed it.

“Charles watched a guy walk across the stage doing $385,000 a year as his take-home pay, and he turned to me and said, ‘You know what—I could do this business with you!’ ” On the spot, Diane’s new venture became Charles and Diane’s new venture. Today, six years later, Charles still sells a little insurance now and then—but the Bennetts make networking their full-time business—a business that does more than a million dollars annually.

Division of Labor

Recognizing the huge potential, the couple quickly set up their strategic partnership.

Says Diane, “We’ve been working together for 27 years; we know our strengths and weaknesses; we know how to feed each other.”

“Diane is the inside person,” adds Charles, “and she organizes me: I’m the outside person who goes out to recruit and interview.”

“We run ads in the local papers,” Diane continues. “When someone answers, I’ll interview them on the phone, qualify them and set the appointment. Charles goes out to do the in-person interview, and after he brings them into the business, he does the training.”

These days, they follow this pattern on an almost exclusively local basis—but as Charles points out, that wasn’t always the case.

“When we were first starting out, we were willing to go anywhere and do anything it took. I’ve also driven four and five hours to make an appointment—only to be stood up. It’s part of the business; you learn to laugh and go on…and maybe recruit someone else you run into while you’re there to make up for it!”

Diane also attributes their success to having a strong upline—and to being teachable.

“We were very fortunate to be under someone who helped us when we first got started. We got connected to our upline and let them mentor us through what to do and what not to do. We made sure we were teachable. That’s the most important thing in this business: you have to be teachable.”

A Teaching Business

“This is really not so different from the insurance business,” Charles observes. “You talk to people about their needs. Whether you’re selling an insurance policy across the table or telling someone about the merits of networking, it’s pretty much the same thing: you’re teaching people.”

And as the years have unfolded, it’s that teaching part of the business that has especially intrigued the Bennetts—and they have aggressively continued to learn themselves.

Says Diane, “To a certain extent, motivation exists within the person; you’re born with it—but people need leadership and guidance to access it. And everyone is so different.”

To accommodate these individual differences, Charles and Diane have recently incorporated into their business a systematic program for assessing people’s unique strengths and weaknesses and understanding what it takes to motivate them individually and specifically.

“Charles and I are both very self-motivated; sales comes easy to us. But other people are very different, and may be motivated or excited or rewarded by different things. People have different ambitions, goals, motivations and styles.”

Based on information they derive from the initial interview, they now tailor the in-person interview and training toward people’s particular, individual strengths and weaknesses.

“This gives us the ability to hone our approach and use our time even more effectively,” explains Diane.

The Rewards

What Charles loves most is the opportunity to give people a chance to dream again.

“They hear your story and get inspired; they want to become a part of your story, so they go out and grow a business themselves. And in the process, they start to create their own story. It’s a progression.

“I especially get a kick out of it when the spouse sees it as a viable business and then throws himself into it a hundred percent,” he adds (with a clear dash of autobiography) “—especially if he was skeptical at first!”

Charles observes that nine times out of ten, if the husband is behind the wife, she’ll be a success—but if the wife has to buck against the husband’s skepticism, it makes the business a lot tougher.

“Wives generally seem to support their husbands—but it doesn’t always happen the other way around. I get a particular joy when the husband sees the viability of the business and joins in himself.

“That’s what we love most about this business,” concludes Diane. “Networking people are people with fulfilled lives.”