At age 30, Brent Bryson owned nine Subway sandwich franchises, and he was getting tired of the grind.

“I was running a day care center,” is how Bryson describes it. “That’s really what fast food franchises are. I was managing 100 teenage employees every day—and they could really wreak havoc. I constantly had to stay on top of things to keep my people from stealing from me.

Every day, he’d get up before the crack of dawn, kiss his sleeping wife on the forehead, and come back long after dark. And he’d been doing it week in and week out for six years. He was making decent money (his biggest year with Subway, he cleared about $190,000)—but he was ready for something else.

Recognizing Opportunity

If luck is defined as “preparedness meeting opportunity,” Brent was prepared—and the opportunity soon showed up. A contractor friend who was also a former boss of Brent’s invited him to his home for an opportunity meeting.

Brent attended purely out of respect for the man, and it turned out that the person leading the meeting, Craig Bryson, was the company’s lead distributor—and Brent’s cousin! Brent was intrigued.

“I knew Craig made really good money but I didn’t know exactly what it was he did. I listened carefully to the presentation.”

Brent was not especially interested in the company’s product line (“It was personal care, and I was a shampoo and soap guy!”), but he immediately saw the potential.

“I felt there was no money in manufacturing any more, and that the future was in distribution. This made sense.”

Still, Brent had a lot of questions for his cousin. The two sat down together the next day at the company’s headquarters to talk. Craig told him about the virtues of working from home and of working with independent contractors rather than with employees—that independent distributors are self-directed and each set their own goals and their own pace.

“But I had some negative network marketing connotations from people trying to pitch deals at me before,” recalls Brent. “Most of my questions for Craig were about the stability of the business and how he felt about the guys who ran the company. I wanted to know why he was willing to take such a risk. I could see that when you’re in network marketing, there are a lot of things you don’t control—and the biggest one is the corporate management.”

Brent liked what he heard, and decided on the spot to get involved. As he was about to leave, he saw something that validated his decision.

“This happened to be the 20th of the month, and Craig had just picked up his check. I took a peek—it was for more money than I had made during my entire best year in Subway.”

In fact, this being the end of the year, Brent assumed this was Craig’s annual bonus. It wasn’t until a few months later that he realized what he’d seen was a monthly commission check!

Being the Messenger

At Craig’s urging, Brent wasted no time. Indeed, he had little to waste.

“In addition to the nine Subway shops, I had three convenience stores, 27 rental properties, two kids under the age of five, and a pretty intense schedule of ecclesiastical responsibilities. It wasn’t like I had a bunch of free time!”

Brent told Craig he could invest no more than ten hours a week into the business, and Craig told him to go right out and start talking to people.

“I had some rough edges,” says Brent. “I’d never done public speaking, I didn’t have a lot of communication skills. But Craig taught me right away that I was the messenger—not the message.”

This was at the end of 1989; the VCR was the nation’s #1 Christmas gift that year, and video tapes were still quite a novelty. Rather than go tell the story, Brent started showing up at people’s houses with a VCR and some tapes, and let the tape tell the story.

“All I had to do,” he says, “was take their temperature, on a scale of one to ten. If it didn’t interest them more than a 6 or a 7, I was done—there was no way I was going to try and convince them.”

He brought in a few people, taught them how to do the exact same thing, and pretty soon his team was moving at a good clip.

“I was bold enough to go out there and show people the story,” says Brent. “Good fortune smiles on the bold.”

Within a year, the income from Brent’s new networking business had nearly equaled what he’d been making with Subway.

The Single-Decision Decision

Then came the summer of ‘91, and disaster.

“I’d barely been in the business two years when our company suddenly ran into some major trouble in the media. People started to panic and bolt. I plunged from Diamond to Ruby, and our income dropped to about 40 percent of what it had been.”

The timing couldn’t have been worse. When Brent’s income had reached the point where it equaled Subway, he put his shops up for sale. The very month he sold his last Subway store was the month his networking company got slammed with negative press.

“I was working out of the basement of our home; it was a somewhat dark, dreary place. I remember sitting there with a pile of bills way bigger than what I had in the account. But there was no turning back—I had crossed my Rubicon.”

What seemed like a catastrophic stroke of bad luck proved to be the defining moment for Brent’s career—and for the fortune that would follow.

“Sitting there in my basement office, faced with that mountain of unpaid bills, that was the moment when I truly decided to do network marketing. Up until that moment, I hadn’t really decided to do it—but I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t really decided!”

As Brent explains it, there are two ways to do network marketing.

“There is the way where you ‘try’ it. You get up every morning and say, ‘I’m going to give this a try.’ You’re making a multiple-decision decision, and you have to keep making it day after day. And that’s a really difficult way to accomplish anything. It’s a hard way to pay back a loan or go to college. It’s a really hard way to be married. And it’s a murderously hard way to do network marketing.”

The other way, says Brent, is to make a single-decision decision: you make it once, and it’s done. And that’s what he did at this moment.

“I vividly remember sitting there and saying to myself, ‘I will stay in this company until they bolt the door.’ And I’ve never looked back.”

Today Canada, Tomorrow the World

Although business was tough in the US, the company was just opening Canada—and Brent soon found that Canadians weren’t terribly impressed by American press one way or the other.

“I started investing time and money north of the border. The Canadian market also has a tremendous number of immigrated Asians, and that took our business into Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.”

Learning by trial and error, Brent eventually figured out how to begin penetrating foreign markets by working locally with people who have connections to those markets, and his business steadily grew around the globe. Today, of the 40 markets his company has entered, he reports he has significant market share in eight and significant income deriving from at least 18 others.

“I work my business in campaigns now, and look at each new frontier like a little window of opportunity. People in this profession sometimes jump from deal to deal, looking for a window where they can be at the ‘ground floor.’ What we do is to reinvent the ground floor over and over again within the same company.”

For example, last year Brent spent the bulk of his time working on opening Indonesia; this year, it’s Russia. He doesn’t spend as much time personally in each new market as he did in the past, since he now has a large team working in each new market, too.

“Still,” he adds, “when we opened Thailand in the late 1990s, I went there nine times that first year. The longest trip was six weeks, the shortest was two weeks. All told, I’ve gone there 45 times—and that’s no light-weight trip!

“If you’re going to do an international market, you’ve got to be there, period. You can’t just sponsor someone and ‘get lucky.’ That might happen a couple levels removed from you, but if you want to end up with a really substantial group there, you have to be present personally.”

Back in the USA

Brent also continues to vigorously build on his home turf, and insists that there will always be plenty of room for growth in the US—especially among the young.

“There will always be people graduating from college and realizing that they’re looking at jobs that hardly pay them anything. It typically takes until they’re getting into their 30s: you graduate from college around the age of 22, then maybe get an advanced degree till you’re 25, then go to work for five years until you realize that the deck is stacked against you—and you’re ready to quit.”

Like Brent Bryson in 1989, after six years of managing his nine Subway shops?

“Exactly!”

Brent teaches his people to look for what he calls SWANs: Smart, Work-ethic, Ambitious, Networked people. And work ethic, he points out, is not the same thing as ambition.

“Ambition means someone who wants more. Some people work really hard, but they have no real ambition for a better life. Those people don’t do well here.

“I want to work with people who are willing to go out and hunt down what they want in life. When I look at someone new, I ask myself, ‘Are they going to go chase this down—or are they going to wait for the farmer to throw them some hay over the fence?’

“This business is not for everyone. I used to argue with my wife about that. I used to tell her it was for everybody—but over the years, I’ve matured to her way of thinking.”

Being Bold

Which brings us to the subject of personal effort versus timing and good luck—a topic to which Brent quickly warms.

“I get this all the time: ‘You were lucky, you had good timing.’ Oh, really? Sit in my basement with me in 1991 while we watch half your group evaporate, and tell me how good the timing is! Would you quit? Half my group did.

“I spent $75,000 on our opening in Malaysia —and then the government decided not to issue us a license. We opened there a few years later, but by then that $75,000 had long gone up in smoke. Yup, well timed! Lucky!”

Still, says Brent, the timing and opportunity today is better than it has ever been before.

“Today the road is clearer, the profession’s more mature, there are a lot more success stories. The very first real positive press about network marketing appeared in Success magazine in 1991. That was a very big deal. Today, all you have to do is look around you. You have Robert Kiyosaki, David Bach, Stephen Covey, Warren Buffet…the profession has transformed!

“If you’re young and ambitious, what are you going to do? Go to Silicon Valley and get stock options? That world is over! So how do you get rich in today’s world? You come here.

“Our business has traction right now. We offer some really appealing features for people looking to make their own way in the world.

“But you have to be bold enough to say, ‘Let’s do this thing! I’ll hold your hand for a little while—but you have to figure it out and go do it!’”