With a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a doctorate in chemical engineering and a Juris Doctor between the two of them, Marguerite and Pat Sung are not your typical network marketers. The Potomac, Maryland couple spent many years pursuing high-level professional careers before entering the networking space and joined the profession only to supplement the incomes from their “real” jobs. Nineteen years later, however, what began as a side project has become a real career, taking the Sungs around the world many times and bringing them more income than they ever dared to dream they would earn.

In 1988, Marguerite was a computer programmer for a major airline while Pat enjoyed a career with a multinational oil company. The couple divided their time between their careers and their two sons, fully expecting to follow the traditional corporate career path. They had only a vague idea of what network marketing was, and certainly never considered it as a career option.

When their children’s karate instructor approached Marguerite about becoming a distributor at a health and skin care company, she says she turned him down three times because she couldn’t comprehend what he was talking about.

“I didn’t understand what he wanted,” she recalls. “I thought he was asking me to help sell uniforms at school! I kept turning him down, and eventually agreed to let him show me his products only because I felt bad turning him down a fourth time!”

Marguerite fully expected the meeting to be brief. “I thought I would buy something and then be rid of him,” she says. “But I was really impressed with the products. When he told me he was earning $2,400 a month after being in the business for just three months, he had my interest.”

Getting Started

The Sungs had recently purchased a new home and were looking for extra income to help them furnish it. Despite her lack of selling experience and demanding career as a programmer, Marguerite agreed to sign on as a distributor, enthused by the prospect of making an additional $30,000 a year in her spare time. She thought, “I can buy all the best furniture I want by doing practically nothing!”

However, her excitement was soon quelled by the realities of direct sales. “It seemed so simple. I presented the opportunity to people everywhere, every day, but most of them turned me down. I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to hear ‘no’ so often.”

Since she encountered many more “yeses” just selling the product, Marguerite concentrated on building her customer base within her established network. “Most people are willing to try new products, so it is easy to sell,” she says. “Most people are not so willing to try the business, though, so I had to learn how to present the opportunity. It took some time.”

It took a year before Marguerite reached her modest goal of earning $2,400 a month, but she was satisfied. “I thought that was big money for working only part-time,” she laughs.

The Aha! Moment

Her second year into business, Marguerite was forced to reconsider her casual approach—because of the phenomenal success of a woman named Tamako Kishimoto, whom Marguerite had recruited shortly after she joined. Tamako immediately saw the potential of the opportunity and embraced it wholeheartedly.

“She worked very hard at it, and her business exploded,” Marguerite says. Tamako became one of the top earners at the company in less than three years, and through her success Marguerite’s income increased to $10,000 a month.

Once she started earning this much money, she realized her side project could actually turn into a career. “Up until then, I hadn’t realized that network marketing could be a serious business,” Marguerite recalls. “But then a light bulb went on in my head.”

She decided to devote herself to her business full-time, creating a five-year plan for success. “I thought, ‘If I don’t try, I’ll never know. And if it doesn’t work out, I can always go back to my computer job.’ ”

At that moment, Pat issued Marguerite a challenge that she says sealed their fates. “He told me that if I could earn in one month what he earned in a year, he would leave his career to carry my bags!”

Opportunity Leads the Way

Pat’s challenge ignited Marguerite’s competitive spirit and spurred her to work harder. She started actively mining her extended network for referrals and personal introductions. She didn’t limit herself in any way—not even geographically. She followed opportunity wherever it led, which was most often to Asia.

She traveled to Hong Kong and Taiwan, where she found a receptive audience, hungry for the financial freedom network marketing offered.

“It made my job so easy. All I had to do was show people the products, explain the company and the bonus plan, and they ran with it.”

Marguerite says that a major portion of her downline lives overseas. Yet despite the distance separating them, Marguerite and her downline are very close.

“I told them that if they would commit to the business, I would commit to their success,” she says. During her first year working her business full-time, every month and a half she would fly overseas for two weeks to hold trainings, demonstrate opportunity meetings and often shadow her downline to offer on-the-job training.

All the while, she nurtured friendships within her downline, paying special attention to those who showed the highest potential and the most interest.

“Never forget the 80/20 rule,” she says. “Twenty percent of the people earn 80 percent of the money. You need to devote yourself to that 20 percent—they are the legs that will carry your business to the next level.”

Working Together

After one year of full-time networking, Marguerite’s earnings had increased to $20,000 a month—still a long way from matching Pat’s annual income, but moving in the right direction. It would take six more years before she arrived at her goal.

Pat retired from law in 1996 and joined his wife in network marketing. “If you can’t beat them, join them!” he laughs. Transitioning from the sterile world of law to the warm and fuzzy world of network marketing took a mental adjustment, he says, but in terms of business, it was surprisingly easy.

“In law, everything is arguable. All you have to do is present your case. It was the same in network marketing. I took a business approach to recruiting, making a case for the opportunity and showing how you could earn up to $20,000 a month. Who can argue with that?”

Once Pat and Marguerite became partners, their business flourished. “Together, we have the complete package,” Marguerite says. “He has a keen business mind and I have the people skills. We’re a powerful team!”

They take their team spirit to their downlines, as well, emphasizing relationships over recruiting.

“I don’t tend to sign someone up at the first meeting,” Marguerite says. “I believe a recruit has to trust you. That takes time. Once the relationship is in place, recruiting can follow.”

Building Friendships—Patiently

In the U.S., the Sungs say most of their recruits originate with friends and usually become friends as well.

When asking for referrals, they always request in-person introductions so that they can invite potential recruits to their home. Their hospitality puts people at ease and allows them to spend time getting to know each other.

“Our company has so many divisions, there is something to appeal to everyone,” Pat explains. “Once we know what a person is interested in and what their particular circumstances are, we can present the business so they can see clearly what an excellent opportunity it would be for them.”

Demonstrating how good the opportunity has been for the Sungs also goes a long way in winning recruits. Marguerite says that hosting potential recruits in their home allows them to see for themselves how lucrative network marketing can be.

Even so, most people do not immediately take to the business, and according to Marguerite, that is just fine. “I am very patient,” she says. “If you are not ready right now, no problem. We’re still friends. One day you will be ready for a change, and when you are, I will be there for you.”

Marguerite is willing to wait as long as necessary for a potential recruit to embrace the business.

“It once took me thirteen years to recruit someone,” she recalls with a laugh. “I approached a customer with the opportunity, and then she disappeared. She called me back thirteen years later. Good thing I didn’t change my phone number!”

Preserve the Passion

Such patience and constancy has allowed the Sungs to avoid one of the most frustrating aspects of network marketing—turnover. Because they build relationships before recruiting and stay in constant touch with their team, the Sungs enjoy longevity within their downline.

“I have some people who have been with me since the beginning,” Marguerite says. “Some of them earn good money, and some don’t. They stick with it because we are friends, we enjoy working together and they like the products.”

“The products are often the least considered but most important ingredient in a successful business,” Pat says. “You have to use and believe in the products yourself if you hope to inspire others to buy or sell them. If you don’t love them, then that business isn’t for you. You can’t fake it—passion shines through. If you don’t have it, you won’t make it.

“A passion for the products can be the only thing that keeps a person in business in the beginning of a career,” says Pat. “You cannot give up too soon. As hard as it may be, remember why you chose this field and keep a vision of your success in your mind at all times. It can be frustrating when you’re laying the groundwork, but you can’t leave the business until you’ve had a chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor.”

The Sungs advise their downline to take action whenever they feel as if they are ready to quit.

“Do something,” Marguerite says. “Go visit the company headquarters; go recruiting with other members of your team; spend a day sampling all of the new products. When you feel down, do something to remind you why you chose this profession.”

With a monthly income far surpassing Pat’s original challenge and with friends in every corner of the globe, the Sungs need no reminders of why they gave up their “real” jobs for network marketing, and laugh at their earlier naïveté. “We surely have learned our lesson,” Marguerite says. “This is as real as it gets!”