With a crown of billowing, snowy hair, a face radiant with kindness and a warm soft shoulder that begs to be leaned upon, Vondell McKenzie of Los Banos, CA appears at first glance to be a kindly grandmother. And indeed she is: she proudly dotes upon seven grandchildren. However, underneath her matronly exterior lie a keen business sense and a will to win that have rendered her a network marketing legend at the global beauty company she represents. As the first representative to build a multi-million dollar business in the company’s network marketing program, Vondell literally wrote the book on success in this field. Along the road she paved the way for others to succeed and changed the course of history at one of the world’s oldest and best-known direct selling companies.

Coming out of Retirement

Vondell never planned to rewrite history. In fact, sixteen years ago, she was content in retirement, traveling the West Coast in a thirty-six-foot motor home with her husband. Until one of her former business associates con-tacted her about a new program he was developing at one of the world’s largest direct selling companies and asked her to join him in piloting the program.

She was reluctant, to say the least.

“I had absolutely no interest,” she remembers. “I was happy in my retirement and kept myself very busy. I thought I didn’t have time to start all over again—but then he asked me a question that really made me think: ‘Have you earned and saved all the money you want to earn and save?’ ”

That simple question was enough to persuade Vondell to sign on, though she didn’t yet fully realize the importance of what she was doing. Prior to this time, the company she was joining had used a direct selling program without a multilevel or “networking” dimension. The multilevel program she had agreed to build was a new and still maverick concept, and there was a lot of skepticism within the corporate ranks as to whether the program would work.

Priorities and Balance

Unaware of the internal rumblings, Vondell was determined to build her business without sacrificing the freedom she was enjoying in retirement. From her prior career in direct sales she knew the time and commitment required to succeed in building a network organization. Still, she was determined to maintain balance between career and family and set an example for all those she would recruit into her network marketing business.

Her commitment to making the business fit into her lifestyle and not the reverse was central to her idea of success.

“I was willing to put in the time to build the business,” she says, “but not at the expense of the things that are important to me. My priorities are my spiritual life, my family and then my business. Rather than sacrifice the things that matter, I incorporated the business into everything I did.”

Vondell wore professional attire every day, even if she was just running errands. She carried sales brochures and recruiting flyers wherever she went and talked about the business with everyone she encountered.

Sell and Recruit

Her approach worked well. She managed to establish an income from product sales sufficient to sustain her initial network-building efforts, and found many recruits while prospecting for customers.

“I knew I was in it for the long haul,” Vondell says, “and I needed to earn enough money to make it feasible to devote myself to my business. It didn’t take long to earn decent income through sales, and in the process, I learned to present the opportunity while showing the product. Doing both in the first meeting has proven to be extremely effective.”

When prospecting, Vondell likes to lead with the same question that persuaded her to join the program. “Have you earned and saved all the money you want to earn and save?” she asks potential recruits, and she is happy to report that it works as well on others today as it did on her fifteen years ago.

The methods she used to establish her business also remain a proven formula today. Vondell encourages new recruits to present the networking opportunity at the same time they sell the products.

“You’ve got to sell, share and show,” she says. “Sell the product, share the opportunity and show others how to do what you do, all at once and in the first meeting. There is no need to separate selling from recruiting. The two go hand in hand.”

Vondell advises recruits to focus on both from the start because that produces income quickly, easing the transition into a networking career.

“Most people have a hard time adjusting when they start working for themselves,” she says. “They are so used to getting paid a certain amount of money for the time put in for someone else that they become discouraged when the time they spend working on their own networking business doesn’t translate into an immediate income commensurate with what they earned at their jobs. Network marketing is not a job, it’s a career, and it takes time to develop.”

Setting Goals

Vondell equates establishing a networking business to going to college, and she encourages new recruits to commit to four or five years before giving up.

“I know some companies offer quick roads to riches, but in order to build a steady and sustainable business that will last a lifetime, you need to give it time. Just as in education, the people you meet and the experiences you have compound over time, building a firm foundation on which success can grow.”

It took a year and a half for Vondell to reach her company’s highest title and by her sixth year, she was earning a six-figure income. In her sixteen-year tenure, she has built a downline of over 6,000 people from around the U.S.—an organization that is responsible for over $9 million in annual sales.

In order to maintain momentum, Vondell diligently manages her calendar, filling it with daily activities designed to advance her business. During the time it took to establish her success, her goals were the fuel that kept her fire alive and having a plan was the key to realizing them. She created a dream book filled with pictures of the things she hoped to acquire someday so that her vision for success would always be nearby.

“If you really want your dreams to come true, you have to have a crystal clear vision of what they are. It isn’t enough to think ‘I want a new car,’ you have to know exactly what kind of car you want: what model, what color, even what special features it will have. Having pictures of the things you want helps you through the tough times that inevitably occur in the process of building a networking business.”

Focus and Relax

Vondell’s dream book, like her business, has become grander over the years.

“The first entries in my dream book were business suits,” she recalls. “I had been retired and didn’t have anything to wear!” She quickly earned enough to outfit herself professionally. Soon she added vacations, cars and her dream house to her book, and eventually came to obtain them all.

“Success begets success,” Vondell says. “Even the smallest victory leads to more success. Once you have earned one dollar, it is only a matter of time before you are earning one million dollars. It all depends on how much you are willing to do to make your dreams come true.”

That advice, coupled with the personal attention Vondell gives to her downline, has helped more than one new recruit shoulder through tough times. Vondell works with her downline to map out short-term and long-term plans for success.

“You’ve got to work the business every day,” she says. “You can’t just go out there and talk to one or two people and think you’re going to get anywhere. You’ve got to be disciplined and focused, and know what it is you are trying to achieve.”

Even so, Vondell counsels the people on her team to mark time for themselves in their calendars. She is as protective of her free time as always and warns that personal time should be the last thing one sacrifices for work, and not the first, as so many people often do.

“If you are stressed out and tired, you won’t succeed,” Vondell says. “Your passion won’t shine through. Passion for what you are doing is what attracts people to the opportunity. It is what creates the belief in them that they can succeed at it. Without passion, you cannot succeed.”

Steering a New Course

Through her networking career, Vondell has made service to others the guiding principle of the multilevel program at her company. The many inspiring stories she has assisted in writing helped to rewrite the course of history there.

Prior to Vondell’s arrival, there had never been a representative to earn a six-figure income, nor a group of representatives to work in partnership toward their collective success like the one she established. The Nova Group, a group comprised of thousands of other representatives, entered the annals of company lore by becoming the first downline group to contain several multi-million dollar earners.

Vondell’s Nova Group opened the eyes of the corporation to the incredible potential of the networking business model. Since Vondell proved it could be done, the company has invested in many tools to help representatives become six-figure earners, seeking Vondell’s help along the way. She contributed to the development of many downline management tools and consulted with the company CEO and other members of the executive management team on issues that will determine the future of the company and its five million representatives around the world.

Today retirement is a distant memory for Vondell. Her eyes and energies are focused squarely on her future. Even with her long and illustrious track record of accomplishments, her dream book isn’t yet complete. She continues to add ambitious plans for the future.

She recently purchased a plot of land upon which to build an office building to house a new, state-of-the-art training center for her representatives. She also plans to open a coffee shop, a bookstore and other social gathering points within the business complex.

“I don’t see any reason to retire again,” she says. “I’ve been blessed with the best of both worlds. I have my three children, seven grandchildren and my Nova family. There is still so much we want to accomplish!”

With her track record of success, there is no doubt that Vondell will continue to fulfill her dreams while helping the dreams of others come true. Now that the networking opportunity at her company has launched globally, her story will travel around the world, ensuring that her legend lives on.