At age nine, Ana wanted to go to a YMCA summer camp, but her family had no extra money to send her. The local Y sponsored a candy drive that rewarded top sellers with two, four or six weeks of camp. When Ana told her dad she really wanted six weeks at camp, he said, “Let’s go sell some candy!’” Despite his long days of working two jobs end-to-end, he insisted on going with her, and he began taking her out every evening to visit twenty or twenty-five houses in the neighborhood.
“He would park his car in the street and wait, watching, while I went door-to-door. I would tell each person who answered the door that the YMCA was sponsoring this candy drive to help children win free weeks at camp, and then I would ask, ‘Do you think your family would like some thin mints?’ ”
Ana learned to be a persuasive story-teller, to dream and share her dreams—and she also learned about the critical value of a personal support system.
“My dad was always there,” she recalls, “building my faith.”
Sometimes, when she would start to doubt that she could sell enough to win those weeks, her dad would tell her, “There are a lot of people who love candy. You just need to keep your feet in motion, my dear, and know this: you can do it!” And he would add, “We’ll go out together again tomorrow evening.”
“Everything I know about networking, I learned from my father,” says Ana. “He was the ultimate upline. He was right there with me, encouraging and protecting me every step of the way. And that’s exactly what a sponsor does.”
Ana achieved her goal and more. The local newspaper shot a photo of her sitting on the large pile of candy boxes she had sold — 117 in all.
“I earned those six weeks at camp,” she says. “I felt like I was on the moon! It had all the components of recognition that my network marketing company now offers, except instead of going to summer camp, now I help my people earn trips to Thailand.”
The Path of Education
Another thing Ana learned from her dad was the value of education. Growing up in a New England farming community, Ana watched her father make the decision to leave farming and pursue a better life. Working two jobs by day and attending college at night, he became the first generation in their family to earn a college degree, graduating just one year after Ana’s brother.
Ana applied that passion for learning and went on to acquire two masters degrees, in Education and Psychology. She took her degrees into the world of social services, becoming the director of a county-wide program for families dealing with Alzheimer’s and teaching in a graduate program at a local university.
Ana then cofounded and taught at New England’s first college of Chinese medicine with her husband. A few months into it she got pregnant, and as much as she loved her work, she really wanted the freedom to stay home and raise her daughter.
About this time a friend introduced Ana to the concept of network marketing. She liked the idea of building a part-time home-based business and earning some extra money until she was ready to return to her career in education. That was fourteen years ago, and today Ana’s devotion to education as a career path remains stronger than ever, although that path has turned out different from what she had planned.
Ana approached networking in the same way as every goal in her life. “My father taught me that education is power,” she says. “So I read everything I could get my hands on. I learned the compensation plan forwards and backwards, read the industry journal cover to cover, listened to many industry trainers and studied everything I could find about network marketing.”
It took Ana years of studying systems and taking seminars, and she didn’t find success right away. “The person I learned the most from is John David Mann [author of The Zen of MLM and coauthor of The Go-Giver]. He taught me to build my business on the law of authenticity and the spirit of generosity. I also learned that the true art of networking is about teaching the power of leverage and the skills to attain it.”
Creating an Organizational Culture
Ana also discovered that everything you do in networking duplicates. “I soon realized that as a sponsor, you are the role model and blueprint for how you want your team to move forward,” she says. “You create the culture of your organization, and that culture is more powerful than anything else. Our business is not a sales business, it’s a people business, a social culture that changes lives.
“Culture is formed by the values of the leaders, and those values are communicated with every word and action, creating a culture that spreads like a fire throughout the organization. People want to follow leaders who practice and embody the values of leadership and integrity. Those who resonate with the values of the top leadership will create the prevailing culture—and if that happens to be a culture of trust, it can generate a team that empowers others, retains its members, and creates lasting residual income for everyone involved.”
After six years with her first network marketing company, Ana’s residual income enabled her to spend her time serving the larger network marketing community. She accepted a position as Senior Editor of Network Marketing Lifestyles, where her duties included writing a regular editorial column.
In time, start-up network marketing companies began hiring Ana to consult with them on designing programs based on sound marketing and ethical compensation plans that would create high retention.
“If there was a cornerstone to my work as a consultant, it’s that I held very high standards for what network marketing can represent,” says Ana. “Fair compensation, ethical standards of operation, and the advent of the Internet have helped take the network marketing business model to the next level of growth. The best and the brightest of our profession is just now emerging. Network marketing is growing up, maturing into something that more and more people are seeing as a powerful, viable career choice.”
Back in the Field
Four years ago, Ana was attracted by the reputation, ethics and professionalism of the owners of a new network marketing company. After watching the company grow for two years, she decided to reengage in the process of building her own organization.
“I hadn’t planned to build another network,” recalls Ana, “but I was drawn to this company by the founders’ values and the culture I saw being created there.”
Building on that foundation, Ana’s group has developed its own culture that focuses on that long-held value Ana learned from her father: empowerment through education.
“It’s one thing to recruit someone,” she explains. “It’s something else entirely to truly get them started in the business. We have weekly Getting Started trainings, which we do live with a different brand new distributor each week. We put a tremendous emphasis on helping new people, through training and education, to launch their business and get to that $500 check as quickly as possible, so the business becomes real for them and gives them some genuine return.”
“This creates a strong sense of trust, says Ana, and when people feel safe, they become empowered to do their best.”
Ana also conducts a second weekly training call for several hundred members of her team, teaching the skills needed to recruit, train and empower people. “We all need training, education and guidance,” says Ana. “People joining us often ask, ‘What system do you use?’ But no system will act as a magic bullet. Success can only come with person-to-person training in the core skill sets. This is a people business, and the real product is relationships based on the core values of trust in partnership.”
A Winning Culture
Common values underlie all words and actions on Ana’s team [see sidebar]. “Values are the glue that holds communities together,” she says, “whether you’re talking about churches, families or networking teams. Our team members are eager to work together, sometimes even dozens of levels deep. I work deep down in my organization, to teach the skills that enable people to grow and become leaders to others.”
As long as values are leading the team, Ana says that the success of the team is guaranteed. “When you create a team where you put people first and give them a sense of connection, of belonging to something larger than themselves, they feel valued, because they are valued. They know they are making a unique contribution to the team, and that is just as motivating as financial reward, sometimes even more so.”
One of her team’s values is listening, rather than convincing or closing. Ana’s team doesn’t want people to join unless it’s the right match. “We don’t teach closing techniques. In fact, we’ll often tell a serious prospect, ‘Listen, we have no interest in closing you, and we’re not looking to simply make a product sale. We’re looking for a serious business partnership, where we will be investing in your training and working closely, day to day, to help you develop your business. We want to make sure you have all the information you need so you can decide if this is the right fit for you and your family.’
“What I love most about the networking profession is empowering people to win. In this business, the path of leadership isn’t about being up in front of the room—it’s about creating a safe context where people can achieve their dreams of time freedom, live their families’ values and be in charge of their lives.”
1) Integrity. Integrity means doing what you say. Lead by example: teach, train and expect others to do only what you do yourself.
2) Education. Education is power. Teach all the skills necessary to reach success. Hold training calls, Getting Started trainings, and any necessary skill sets. Help others access the skills to go to the top.
3) Trust. Trust is the cornerstone of effective teams. Be trustworthy; do what you say you’ll do. People who join your team need to be able to rely on you and the team. Lack of trust is a deal-breaker.
4) Generosity. Generosity is second nature to a true leader. Be a “go-giver” and give back to your team.
5) Teamwork. The single most misunderstood concept in networking is that your team is not there to serve your needs; you are there to serve the team. Learning to build a highly effective team that works effortlessly together with a strong sense of personal identity and mutual respect is a powerful skill set.
6) Patience. Leaders know that growing an organization takes patience and persistence. Growing a team and maturing as a leader is a process.
7) Responsibility. Vulnerability is a natural part of new endeavors, whether it’s going to kindergarten for the first time or starting a new business. The word sponsor implies personal responsibility to guide another. Teach and guide your new business partners on the pathway to success. You can’t control whether they will grab onto that training and support, but it is your responsibility to provide it.
8) Acknowledgement. Everyone deserves acknowledgment for a job well done. My father taught me my greatest lessons through praise. Praise generously. — A.M.