Watching Jim Bartlett at the controls of a vintage World War II fighter plane, doing barrel rolls, aileron rolls and wingovers, you’d think he’d been doing it all his life. In a way, he has.

Watching Jim in business is like that too: he is one of those network marketers who signs an application form and a year and a half later, has a million-dollar organization.

But scratch the surface, and you find that Jim’s meteoric rise in his new company is a classic tale of “overnight success”—the kind that comes only after many long years of patiently learning the profession, forging long-term relationships, making mistakes and learning from them.

A 15-Year Education

Jim lives in northwestern Pennsylvania, about 50 miles east of Youngstown, Ohio, with his wife Tonja, their two daughters, Bethany (13) and Tiffany (17) and a son, Bradon (18).

“I was raised on a pig farm here in Pennsylvania…” Jim’s affable voice settles into the story you sense he’s told many times before. “Went to school through the 9th grade, and from there went to trade school for three years to become a machinist. I started working full-time as a machinist when I was 17, worked 20 years in that industry, from 17 to 37.”

Jim was introduced to network marketing at the tender age of 22, when he and his father-in-law ponied up $10,000 in cash to join a water filtration company.

“We actually did sell quite a few units,” he laughs, “but ended up failing miserably. Being so young and naïve, I didn’t realize this couldn’t last.”

Two years later, he joined a company that was just starting to hit its stride. The company would go on to become an industry giant, but Jim had only mild success.

“I was still young and inexperienced,” he recalls, “and just kind of muddled around.”

For the next few years, Jim tried his hand at different companies, but nothing gelled until 1996, when he joined a company that had just started, founded by a big name in the business. He gave it a serious run—until the company imploded.

“I didn’t succeed there either,” says Jim, “but I learned an awful lot.”

He continued to explore the profession. In the fall of ‘99, he began hearing about a new technology called VOIP (Voice-Over-Internet Protocol).

“I knew this was going to be a window of opportunity,” says Jim; “not a forever thing, but a window. I spent five months researching it, narrowed it down to five companies who looked like they might make it work, and joined all five.”

Within a few months Jim had made his choice, and cancelled his other memberships. He worked this business hard, and built his income up to a few thousand dollars a month.

Meet the Professionals

Then, something happened that changed everything.

In May of 2000, Jim was combing through his genealogy and noticed a fellow named Brad on his fifth level who had gone off the service.

“I like to say, ‘The fortune is in the follow-up,’ and this is a great case in point! To make two dollars, I picked up the phone and called this guy on my fifth level, on the other side of the country, to ask him why he went off the service!”

The man was quite pleasant. Jim explained that the service was working better now, and Brad decided to go back on it, netting Jim a whopping two dollars for his trouble. But instead of hanging up, the man asked Jim, “By the way…how are you doing in your business? What are you doing for leads and training?”

Jim laughs as he remembers the conversation.

“He had a wonderful style, didn’t try to sell me, just asked questions. I sensed that I was talking to a network marketing pro.” He was right: Brad Weinman was an experienced networker and a leader with a lead generation and training business.

“Brad introduced me to The Greatest Networker in the World, to Upline magazine, and to a whole slew of great material. With Brad’s mentoring and other people he introduced me to, I started really learning what network marketing was about.”

Two years later, in March of 2002, Brad told Jim about a new program he was excited about, and Jim made a decision.

“Because of my belief in Brad, I went into my job and said, ‘I’m quitting in September.’ I got a lot of ridicule and nobody took me seriously. But within six months I had replaced my $3600-per-month income as a machinist.”

Jim had never earned this kind of consistent money in networking before.

“I’d had spikes, where I’d get a few thousand a month, and it was nice part-time money, but this was the first time I had arrived at the point where I could actually walk away from my job.”

On the first of September Jim gave three weeks’ notice and started training his replacement. On September 23, 2002, he walked off the job for the last time.

Graduation

Although Jim had successfully “graduated” from his machinist’s career, his education in networking still had one major semester to go. Within a year after leaving his job, he could see that, despite his best hopes, he hadn’t yet found a permanent home for his new career. He was still making decent money, but it was clear that the program just wasn’t working.

“It was a good company, but not a great one: they had no long-term vision. It was like a good job that led eventually to a better one.”

That November, Jim’s crossline friend Glenn Sparks told him about a new product that was having some impressive health benefits.

“He wasn’t trying to recruit me; in fact, he wasn’t even a distributor! He thought the product might help a woman with leukemia in my downline. In fact, I’d been approached about this new company by a lot of people, but hadn’t paid much attention. But that’s the power of relationships: because it was Glenn, I listened.”

Jim began his careful investigation of the company, and his downline friend had great results with the product. Within a month, he and Glenn had joined this new company as partners, and went to work together on January 1, 2004.

It exploded. In less than three months, they had generated a monthly volume of $100,000—and today, 19 months later, they’ve broken a million dollars in monthly volume.

As Jim puts it, “It’s been a rocket-sled ride.”

And Jim’s volume was not the only thing that had taken off. The week before we spoke with Jim, his networking career had fulfilled his ultimate dream—by putting him high above the Florida turf in the cockpit of a vintage 1944 fighter plane called Crazy Horse.

The Dream

Jim has been passionate for vintage aircraft all his life.

“Actually,” he puts in, “passionate is too mild a word—it’s more like obsessed! I picked up a book about WWII fighter planes in fifth grade, and I’ve wanted to fly ever since.”

For Jim, though, it was always a dream… and only that.

“Here was the reality: I got married, raised three kids, developed a career and worked for wages. There was never any realistic way I could even think of affording the time or money to get my pilot’s license.”

He began going to air shows with his wife Tonja. About ten years ago, they were at a show when a P-51 Mustang shot past. It was Jim’s first encounter with Crazy Horse.

“It just sliced through the air like a jet, doing nearly 500 miles per hour—and this is a prop plane! It was love at first sight. I turned to Tonja and said, ‘Man, I would just love to fly one of those one day!’”

Two years ago, Jim was talking with a fellow on his front line, Jason Haks. Jason’s nickname is “the Dream Master.”

“He said, ‘Jimmy, what’s your dream?’ I told him I wanted to fly a WWII fighter plane. He said, ‘That’s cool…which one? Can you send me a picture?’ “

Jim found a photo of Crazy Horse and sent it to Jason. When he opened his e-mail the next day, Jason had sent it back, altered with Photoshop to place Jim in the cockpit!

“I made that photo my computer desktop ‘wallpaper.’ For the last two years, seven days a week, I’ve looked at my computer and seen a picture of me flying Crazy Horse. And on August 24 of this year, that picture became reality.

It cost $2850 for one hour of flying. With transportation to Florida, car rental and hotel, I ended up spending about $4000 to fly this plane!

We don’t even bother to ask, was it worth it? Besides, we wouldn’t be able to get in a word: Jim’s still talking.

“Except for takeoff and landing, I did everything totally unassisted: taxied on the runway, turns on the ground, steep turns in the air. I did a power-off stall, where you pull the nose up, cut the throttle until you’re no longer going fast enough to plane air. The plane shudders, you let go of the controls, and it starts falling out of the sky—and as it’s falling, it picks up enough speed so to start planing air again and takes off level. I did wingovers, aileron rolls, barrel rolls, Cuban eights, loops, Immelmans, split-S…you know, all the major aerobatics you see at air shows? I did ‘em all!”

Before that day, Jim had never stepped into a cockpit.

“It was the first time I’d ever put my hand on a stick. The pilot with me said I was an absolute natural. He would go through the maneuver, then give me the controls—and when you look at the video tape, in all but one of them, you can’t tell mine from his.”

Jim already has his next dream lined up: it’s a B-25 bomber called Heavenly Body.

“A lady in my downline is on the crew of that ship. As soon as I’m checked out on instruments and twin engines, she’s got me arranged to fly second seat on that. From there, I want to fly a B-17 Flying Fortress. That will take a few years, because I have to qualify on four engines first.”

Jim finally pauses in his aria on the joys of flying classic airplanes and looks back over his story.

“You know, there’s no way I could ever have done any of this without network marketing.”

It’s clear that he’s talking about the planes—and a great deal more.

 

Advice for the New Network Marketer

For years, I led with the opportunity, and I’ve known plenty of people who say, “It doesn’t really matter what’s in the bottle.” What I’ve come to realize is that it totally matters what’s in the bottle!

I believe you absolutely have to be in love with your product. The CEO of Proctor and Gamble probably doesn’t care whether he loves the smell of his soap—but that’s not duplicable. You have to be passionate about the product.

It also really matters who’s at the helm, and not only the corporate leadership, but the field leadership too. It’s important to me to know what major names the program has attracted and what their history is. When you look at a company, ask, Who’s there, what have they done before, and why are they there?

After that, it’s just a matter of going through the numbers.

There are only three business-building activities: showing the plan, following up, and sharing the product. That’s it. There are a lot of other things we do, and there’s value to those things—activities like reading and educating yourself about the business, learning all about the company and product, studying how the comp plan works, getting coaching from your upline. These are good—but they don’t create volume. They are not building the business.

I tell people coming into this business today, If you will genuinely work it two to three hours a day, showing the plan or the product to just three people a day and investing maybe $500 a month, you can make a six-figure income in 18 to 24 months. — J.B.