After taking his undergraduate degree from an Ivy League college, Doug Jones followed his childhood dream of becoming a Navy pilot. He flew planes in Vietnam, then went back to school for a Masters degree in business, meanwhile taking a job as controller for his dad’s company, which manufactured high-performance engines for speedboats. When his dad retired, he bought the company and became president, then sold it and became one of the larger mortgage brokers in Orange County, California.

“It all seems like three or four lifetimes ago!” says Doug. And it all served as a backdrop for his increasingly serious “network marketing hobby.”

In the early 80s, while he was still pursuing his MBA, Doug’s wife Nancy signed up in a network marketing company, partly because she liked the products and partly to get a friend to quit bugging her. Coming home from class one night, Doug found a big box on the kitchen table. Out of curiosity, he opened it and pulled out the distributor manual.

“I glanced through it and came to the part titled, ‘Marketing Plan,’ which is what they used to call the comp plan in those days.”

Doug glanced through the section and it instantly clicked for him.

“I already knew word of mouth was the most successful form of advertising. They’d drilled that into us in business school. When I saw that you could attach compensation to doing word of mouth on purpose, and avoid all of the middle-man costs associated with distribution, it made such good sense.”

Doug adds, “After reading that manual, I didn’t sleep for the next two nights!”

A New Set of Skills

The couple worked hard in that business for years—and it was slow going. If Doug grasped the value of the model in an instant, the actual experience of making it work was another thing entirely.

“I had never sold a thing to anyone in my life,” Doug explains, and then adds this thoughtful commentary: “In other words, I had never really listened to anybody. When I was a Naval officer, people said what I said. Then I was the boss’s son, and people did what I said. Then I became the boss, and people did what I said. Then I got into network marketing—and not one single person did what I said!”

Through trial and error, Doug found he had to learn a whole new set of skills.

“This business is not about telling. It’s a volunteer army, you can’t order anyone to do anything. You have to listen to them and find out what they want—and that’s a skill. Most of us listen for when it’s our turn to talk. Here, we need to listen, to hear what’s going on in someone else’s life.

“This business is about sharing products that can make a difference in people’s lives. But if we don’t know what difference they need made, then all we’re doing is blowing hot air! We’ve got to understand their situation—from both a product benefit and business point of view—before we can offer a solution. And when we offer a solution, they have to see it’s the answer for them; we can’t tell them that. And that requires further question-and-answer and listening on our part.”

It was slow work.

“We made no money at all, but it was a great experience because we learned so much about people and what really matters.”

External Catastrophes, Internal Blessings

The Joneses’ lives were unexpectedly turned upside down when skyrocketing gas prices dealt Doug’s business a lethal blow.

“When people can’t buy gas for their cars, they don’t want to buy boats that take huge amounts of gas.”

The business rapidly went down the tubes, and Doug was suddenly looking for something else to do. He learned that a friend he knew through his network marketing “hobby” had become a sales manager for a small S&L. Even though he knew nothing about the mortgage business, the friend’s people skills were so good that he had outsold all the company’s other salespeople.

“They fired everybody they had,” Doug recalls with a grin, “and made him the sales manager, then told him, ‘Bring us more people like you!’ So he brought over other people from the network who also didn’t know anything about mortgages—and we did pretty well!

“All of a sudden, those same skills that I’d taken years to learn in that first networking company started to really pay off.”

Doug’s people skills served him well indeed: within a few years he had become the number one producer in Orange County for a major S&L. And when that company deteriorated (along with most other S&Ls), Doug teamed up with another friend from his networking company to start what eventually became the third largest mortgage brokerage in Orange County.

Then, in 1994, external events intervened once again. With the end of the Cold War, aerospace-dependent Orange County went bankrupt and the area slid into steep recession.

“Nobody was buying any homes,” says Doug. “Interest rates plunged from 10 percent to 6 percent and we made a fortune refinancing everyone’s mortgages—but once that was over and rates went back up, nobody was buying anything. The mortgage industry went from full on to full off in one week. It was as if someone had thrown a wall switch.”

For Doug, it was financially catastrophic.

“Here I was, 48 years old, and suddenly I’d lost everything. Like most Baby Boomers, I had nothing in place for retirement, and we were accustomed to a pretty good lifestyle. What’s worse, I had stayed too long in the business after it started to slide, hoping it would turn around. We dug a pretty deep hole; I was in a much worse place financially than when we lost the speedboat company.”

Yet ironically, says Doug, as bad as the financial blow was, he was in a much better position emotionally and spiritually than during their first career crisis.

“Losing the speedboat engine company was very draining emotionally. This time, it was actually uplifting! Suddenly I had all this free time. It was a blessing. I read the Bible cover to cover; I worked out a few hours every day; I spent a lot of time with my wife and kids. Except for money, it was a fabulous year, maybe even the best year of my life—and you can always make more money, so that’s not a big deal.”

A New Career

For the first time, Doug began to look more seriously at his “network marketing hobby” as a possible source of serious income.

“Up to that point, I didn’t think you could really make money in network marketing. My strategy had always been, build a company, sell it, retire with lots of money—and then do network marketing for fun! That was going to be my life.”

But now Doug began to study the profession in earnest. Another friend from his early networking days told him about an emerging opportunity that served the Baby Boomer wellness trend; he looked it over carefully and liked what he saw.

He worked with that opportunity full-time for three years until, in the late 90s, the company foundered on some poor corporate decisions, and Doug saw the writing on the wall. By this time, the mortgage business had begun to pick up again, and Doug once more shifted lanes on his career highway. Still, as he sold mortgages over the next few years, he stayed in touch with friends he’d made in the business and kept his eyes open.

In late 2003, he finally found a situation that looked like home.

“It was in wellness, which I was convinced was the place to be, and they had all the right pieces in place.

On one fine day in January of ‘04, Doug spent the entire day on the telephone telling people what he was up to. The new business was officially launched.

Still, it did now grow quickly.

“I was the first person in Southern California who really started talking about this company; I was the pioneer here. When there’s nothing going on to start with, it’s hard to get the energy and excitement going. Some people are so charismatic and dynamic, they create energy around them like Pig Pen creates dust—but I’m not that guy. I just kept telling the story, and eventually I attracted some fairly talented people.”

It took about a year to get a committed team going, and Doug’s efforts began to pay off. By mid-2005 the team has begun to hit stride, growing the Southern California group to about $30,000 in monthly volume. Based on current growth, he expects by this time next year that will have grown to a few hundred thousand.

“I never got to be what you’d call a ‘big dog’ with my previous company,” says Doug; “I’d say I was a medium dog. This time, though, we’re headed for some serious numbers.”

Nevertheless, Doug continues to sell mortgages, and says he’ll never fully leave that business.

“After a year and a half with this company, I don’t yet have the income that would replace my mortgage income—but even when I do, there’s no good reason to quit doing mortgages; I just enjoy it too much.”

Doug believes the company he’s with will in time become one of the giants—and he is passionate about helping to define its culture.

“Too many of these companies are run by guys who are all about the money and not about the people. I don’t want to see that happen. Right now, we have the right people on the bus—and I want to be part of making sure it stays that way.”

 

Words of Wisdom

For someone who’s spent over two decades learning the ins and outs of the business, we wondered aloud, did Doug have any advice for those just entering network marketing today?

Avoid extravagant expectations. One of the great failures of our industry is the failure to clearly define what it takes.

This is a lot harder than it looks on the surface, and it’s a lot more worthwhile than it looks on the surface. I think having unrealistic expectations early on is probably the biggest killer of dreams. People need to recognize that some people make money quickly, but for most of us it’s going to be two to five years before we’ve developed really significant income. We need to understand and be okay with that.

People experience an emotional roller coaster in this business: one day they think this is the greatest thing that ever happened, the next day they’re going to think, “What the hell have I done?!”

What tempers the down side of that emotional roller coaster is knowledge and skill. When you have knowledge that this is real, this is something that works for people, and you have the skills to begin to make it work for you, then those tough times become less significant then they would be if you had no knowledge and no skill.

This business is absolutely predictable, if you stay the course and work the numbers. I was pathetically bad when I started, but because I saw the vision of what it could be, I stayed the course long enough to become pretty good. That didn’t happen overnight, it happened through lots and lots of failure. But as long as you fail forward and then get up, you’re making progress.

This is a profession. Just as with any other profession, you have to become professional to be paid like a professional—and that just takes time.

— D.J.