Of his fifty-nine years of life, Mike Duvall spent only six as an employee. He quickly realized that it was far better to be the employer. At twenty-seven, he bought an industrial equipment company, grew it substantially and later sold it, completing a successful business cycle. He then partnered with an attorney to build an oil and gas exploration company in northern Michigan where he lived. When the oil cartels created financial pressure for small independent companies like his, he moved on.

He applied his business acuity to real estate investing, becoming a licensed Realtor® in order to more easily acquire and manage his own investment properties. While capable of achieving his sizeable goals, Mike’s position in the business world was taking its toll. At one time, he was responsible for sixty employees, five departments and three physical locations.

“My stress totally overshadowed any and all joy, satisfaction and fulfillment from my work,” says Mike. “I was aging five years for every year that I was a successful business owner. I reached a point in my life where it was no longer important to me. I had to leave, I was giving up too much.”

Mike had learned early on that being an employee wasn’t for him. Now he was certain that being an employer was not the answer either. So what was?

Recruiting Strategies

“The only thing I knew for sure was that I would never be in network marketing,” he says. “Over the course of ten years, I had been approached hundreds of times by people from the same company, with the same pitch.

“Each time, people asked me to give them my opinion on a business they were ‘considering getting involved with,’ when in fact they were already in and their only interest was to recruit me,” he says. “Rather than giving me a straightforward ‘I’d like you to evaluate my business for your potential participation,’ they would lead me down a path of deception.”

Not surprisingly, when Mike’s ex-partner, Gardy, stopped by his office to introduce him to a networking company, Mike was not interested. Actually, he was stunned because he hadn’t seen Gardy for years—ever since they went their separate ways after Mike had lost a million dollars in a buy-out deal because of him. Gardy stopped in only long enough to toss Mike a manila envelope and say, “Take a look at this video,” before walking out the door.

A week later, Mike said to his wife, Kathy, “Honey, I think Gardy is going to call tomorrow. I can feel it in my bones. I need to look at just enough of that video so I can say something intelligent when I tell him ‘no thanks.’ ”

To their surprise, when Mike and Kathy started watching the black and white camcorder recording of an opportunity meeting, something caught their attention. Mike rewound the tape to the beginning, and they watched the whole thing.

Road Trip to Networking

What had piqued Mike and Kathy’s interest were the money and lifestyle the people in the video enjoyed. The couple decided to drive from their Michigan home to the company’s regional training event in Cleveland, Ohio, in order to find out more.

“The event was filled with high-caliber people, each with a lift in their step, a firm handshake, and a look square in the eye,” recalls Mike. The company’s CEO invited them to visit headquarters in Memphis, TN, so they continued traveling south. After a private tour of the facility and three hours with the CEO, they accepted his offer to be their guests at the company’s first international conference in Orlando—that week. Prepared only for their original short trip to Cleveland, they shopped for extra clothes and toiletries and headed south again.

Mike and Kathy devised a strategy to thoroughly check out the company while at the Orlando event. For three days, they separately approached all the people they could find with diamonds in their pins and asked them specific questions they had prepared.

“When we compared notes, we found that the answers to our questions were satisfactory—and the same for both of us,” says Mike. “That was the changing point in my professional life. We wrote a business plan while driving home from Orlando, not knowing a thing about the networking profession other than the training we got at that conference. Then we got to work. That was fifteen years ago.”

Lessons Learned

Mike and Kathy eventually built a worldwide organization, achieved the company’s top rank and were invited to sit on the President’s Advisory Council, which they did for seven years. Yet at first they thought they were failing miserably—in fact, after they’d been doing the business for nearly a year, they came within inches of quitting.

“I knew nothing about network marketing,” says Mike. “I made every mistake a person could possibly make—and some mistakes I made two or three times!

“First, I didn’t like the company’s literature, so what did I do? I redid it!” Mike’s prior business acumen gave him the false notion that he could do things better than his networking company.

“I was wrong. It totally flies in the face of duplication and self-replication. To be successful in network marketing, it is imperative to trust your company, focus your energies on building and developing a business and support others to do the same—not to develop new materials or strategies.

“I also over-presented. I’d invite someone to my office and then gum him for two hours before I let him breathe! I was all over people—it was terrible. I was so passionate, I wanted to tell them everything. I didn’t understand anything about the concept of listening, of tuning into their needs and desires, their dreams and hopes for the future.”

In the Duvall’s eleventh month of networking, Mike told Kathy, “Honey, this isn’t working. I need to write a résumé and get a job.” They had already purchased tickets to the company’s convention, so Kathy took their oldest daughter with her, while Mike stayed home to update his résumé.

“We all have defining moments in our lives,” says Mike, recalling the day his wife returned from the convention. “She walked in to the house with a piece of luggage in each hand and dropped them on the floor with a thud. She stared at me with piercing eyes and said, ‘We need to talk. We are not quitting. We’re doing it wrong, and we’re going to do it right.’ From that moment on, we were teachable.”

They found successful, high-integrity networkers to emulate and became their students. Thirteen months later, the Duvalls reached the company’s pinnacle position.

Lessons Taught

Mike became a sought-after trainer for his company. When first asked to train at a large national convention, he was shocked.

“No words can express the impact that invitation had on my life,” says Mike. “I had a horrific fear of public speaking. When teachers would ask a question, I would look down to avoid their eyes, hoping I wouldn’t get called on. Now I’ve not only overcome that fear, but I look forward to every opportunity to train, whether it’s fifty, five hundred or thousands of people.”

Mike teaches what he has learned over the years. He says, “Make sure the company you choose fits you and has everything you need to embrace its cause and move forward with vigor, zest, belief and passion.”

He strongly urges people to make a one- to three-year commitment and never look back.

“It takes time to build and develop any business,” he says. “I see so many people get sold a bill of goods, expecting to make a grand a month in the second, third or fourth month. It doesn’t happen often and creating this kind of expectation hurts the company and reputation of the profession. I tell people, if you can’t make a one- to three-year commitment, don’t commit now; wait until the time is right. And when you do make the commitment, don’t leave the door cracked with your toe sticking out. Close the door. There’s only one option, and that’s to make it work. When you make that kind of commitment to yourself, magic happens.

“It is important to get your belief, energy and passion in place early, especially belief in yourself and your future,” says Mike. “People will feel it—or the lack of it—and will respond accordingly.”

Having learned the hard way, Mike teaches others to do precisely what the parent company teaches. “Follow your company’s program consistently, because people will do what you do—and not what you don’t do.”

He encourages people to make mistakes, affirming that “the greatest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” To flip the paradigm of rejection, he suggests getting no’s as a goal. For example, “I will not go to bed on Saturday night until five people have said ‘no’ to my business opportunity.”

He explains that when they get their second no, instead of feeling bad, they say “Hey, that’s great! I’ve got two no’s already!”

“And guess what they get in the process of getting nos?” Mike asks. “Yeses!”

Last and Best Career

Having achieved success beyond their wildest dreams, the Duvalls sold their business and took a long sabbatical. After a few years, Mike says, something was missing in his life.

“I was healthy, enjoyed a wonderful marriage, children and grandchildren, was spiritually strong, and lived in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Everything in my life was perfect, but there was a void that nagged at me.”

Mike’s quest to discover what was missing resulted in reconnecting to the network marketing profession two years later, first as a corporate consultant to a start-up company. Then he was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to be a founding representative of a company led by a close Michigan friend.

“I spent four weeks soul-searching and evaluating the company. It became clear that I was where I was destined to be. No other profession exists that better matches my heart, my desires or my capabilities than network marketing.

“In these difficult, stressful and threatening times, corporate America is no longer the solution. Good men and women are losing hope for their future. They want and deserve independence and fulfillment based on their efforts. With network marketing, I can play a small role in helping people recover a bright hope for a terrific future based on their own desires and objectives. I cannot honestly think of another occupation where a person has the opportunity to create a lifestyle—not only income, but reward, acknowledgment and the satisfaction of helping others. I am passionate about this business!”