Dana Collins, National Vice President at a global beauty products company, manages a business worth $6,000,000 a month in sales. In the pursuit of building her empire, she has mentored thousands of others. Under her leadership, her team has doubled its sales volume every year for the last several years. And yet, she describes herself as “unemployable.”

That’s because Dana, like thousands of other networking entrepreneurs, discovered long ago that the constraints that come with careers in traditional business bound her too tightly to thrive. After making her mark as a small business owner and within corporate America, she learned to soar only when she broke free of her bonds and joined the networking space.

Making a Choice

Dana says it was fate that brought her to networking eleven years ago. After spending years sacrificing her personal life for work, she received a lucrative corporate job offer. But the stress of searching for the next step along the corporate path had taken its toll.

“I was supposed to go out to dinner with a girlfriend on the night I got the offer,” Dana recalls. “When she picked me up and saw how ragged I looked, she offered to first treat me to a facial at a Women’s Expo in town.”

At the Expo, Dana met representatives from her current company and felt an instant spark with them.

“I immediately felt like I was among old friends,” she explains. “They shared the opportunity with me while demonstrating the product, but their focus was really on helping me look better so I could go out and celebrate with my friend. I fell in love with the people. They were part of my tribe.”

As Dana considered the job offer, the women she had met and the opportunity they shared kept coming to mind.

“I had convinced myself I wanted the corporate job,” she remembers. “But I had reached the point where I didn’t want to sacrifice my life for business anymore.” While she deliberated, her mother asked the question that sealed her destiny.

“She asked me where I wanted to be in five years,” Dana says. “I was a newlywed hoping to have children. My mom pointed out that if I took this job, I would get too used to the money to be able to ever walk away. ‘Do you honestly think that once you start making so much, you’ll be able to give it up?’ She said, ‘You’re putting on golden handcuffs.’”

Getting Started

The vivid imagery of this conversation persuaded Dana to follow her instincts. The next day, she signed up with her company.

Dana admits it was daunting at first.

“The company was very new, with little structure or support for representatives,” she says. “At the time, there was no system in place to build the business and no one to point to as a success story.”

Determined nonetheless, Dana bought books on network marketing and salesmanship to educate and motivate her. Those she says helped her the most and that she recommends to her success line are Future Choice by Michael Clouse, Dare to Dream, Work to Win by Tom Barrett, and As a Man Thinketh by James Allen.

“Reading books helped me cement in my mind that I had made the right decision,” Dana says. “They helped me see that the networking space was much bigger than me, and helped me understand the need to focus on building people, not building volume. When you build leaders, volume follows.”

Dana continues to read three to five personal-development books per month and conscientiously applies what she learns to her daily activities.

“Lots of people read but don’t do,” she says. “You’ve got to open your mind to receiving instruction. In this business, success doesn’t come like you think it does, it comes like you think. If you want to change anything, you’ve got to change your thinking.”

Building a System

Dana quickly went to work laying the foundation for a systematic approach to building a business, pioneering the program her company would come to call “Six to Success.” She designed Six as a way to better separate the “interested” from the “serious and committed.”

“The interested people do the business only when they feel like it. The serious, committed people do it no matter what. They’re the ones you should embrace.”

Like all effective networking methods, Six is as simple as it sounds.

“Six for Success means that when you bring someone into the business, you work with them to schedule six group presentations in their first thirty days,” Dana says.

Dana encourages all recruits to schedule at least six but preferably ten presentations a month, no matter what, and makes replacing cancelled meetings a top priority. She also fills in her calendar with one-on-ones around the group presentations.

“Your calendar reflects your commitment,” Dana explains. “What does your commitment look like? This is an appointment business, so if you don’t have a full calendar, you’re not in business.”

Dana saw immediate results with the Six for Success system, financially and strategically. Her numbers doubled right away, and within a year she was earning enough to support her family in the style to which they were accustomed.

Best of all, the system immediately separates the Interested from the Committed.

“The system puts the onus for success on the recruit. I tell them, ‘For the next thirty days you are my priority, so schedule as much as you possibly can. Next month, I will move on to someone else, but for now, I am all yours.’ I know right away if someone is committed if they take me up on my offer.”

Taking Responsibility

Most recruits catch on before the end of their thirty days with Dana and are eager to strike out on their own, but occasionally she encounters someone afraid to take the leap. In such cases, Dana says she sets the bar high for recruits and insists they let go.

“As Dr. Barrett says, ‘Never do for others what has become easy for you, but would challenge them and help them grow.’ That changed my life. You don’t serve others by doing things for them that would help them grow if they did them for themselves. By insisting they challenge themselves, you take them closer to the success they seek in this business.

“Help recruits face their greatest fears blocking their way to success,” Dana advises. “Success is a journey and it begins with you. The personal development process can be scary. In this business, there is only one variable, and that is you.

“Every time I have been stuck in this business, I have discovered that the problem has been me. Me, me, me! You have to be brave enough to recognize where you are going wrong. It’s easy to say, ‘It is the company, it is the industry, it is whatever it can be other than me.’ At the end of the day, it is you.”

Nourishing Relationships

Embracing the myriad of personal development resources available has made all the difference in her business, Dana says, and has enhanced her career in ways beyond the material.

“Some of the reasons for this business are not financial,” Dana observes. “This is a relationship business. You stretch your wings in ways you could never imagine. You make friends; you are recognized for your efforts. Networking delivers on the promise of work-life balance.”

Plugging in locally is key for equilibrium, says Dana.

“Building relationships is the fuel that refills your tank after pouring your heart out daily. And company events are gas stations for networkers,” Dana says, “especially the big annual conference. That’s where you see the big picture, straight from the mouth of the CEO and other executives. You meet the company superstars and get to learn from and share with your fellow representatives. Go to the annual convention, no matter what.”

Dana has missed only one company event in her entire career, and that was only because it took place on the day she gave birth to her daughter.

“That annual convention is where the business moves from your head to your heart,” she says. “Once it is in your heart, it enlightens you. You represent the company with true passion. That passion ignites your business and creates success.”

Knowing Your Why

Maintaining your passion is a matter of managing your priorities, according to Dana. In every presentation she strives to uncover the Why of potential recruits.

“People come to this business with many different goals, but for the same reason: to make their dreams come true,” she says. “Mustering the discipline required to get out there can be hard if you don’t have a firm idea of why you are here.

“Always have a list or a photo with you that represents your Why. Put it in front of you when you’re on the phone following up on leads or scheduling appointments. When you feel daunted, imagine telling your Why, ‘I cannot pick up that phone. You’re not worth it.’ That really helps keep things in perspective.”

At this point in her career, Dana has realized her greatest dreams. She became a mother and stayed at home with her children while building a successful business. Best of all, she says, she was able to give the same opportunity to her husband. Within one year of implementing the Six for Success program, her earnings grew so much he was able to quit his corporate job too.

Throughout the years, her family has not only been Dana’s Why but also her How. Most of her best recruits have come through contacts she made through her children.

“By the time my son was five years old, he understood the business so well he recruited for me,” she recalls. “He would tell his friends’ mothers to talk to me about how they could do what I do so they could be home more with their children.”

The flexibility of a networking career is perhaps its greatest boon, but can also lead a business to bust, Dana warns.

“The biggest error I see people make is enjoyingthe flexibility without the accountability. Not having to work regular business hours does not mean you don’t have to work. You have to work harder, smarter and more passionately than in any other career.”

Dana believes the future is bright for networkers willing to spend the time building strong foundations for success.

“When a building is under construction, it takes a long time to lay the foundation. After the foundation is in place, the building seems to go up overnight. Success is the same way. You have to follow the process; you cannot skip to the end. But thankfully, you grow in wonderful ways along the way.”