Donna Sims first encountered direct sales when she was only nineteen years old. A corporate district manager had recruited her while she was in college studying computer sciences.
“I did door-to-door sales whenever I wanted to make some extra money,” says Donna. “This was back when there were still plenty of people at home during the day.”
When Donna got married, she continued knocking on doors as a hobby and enjoyed it, but her husband was not supportive of her business.
In 1989 they moved to Illinois and Donna became a school cook. She loved her job and enjoyed it for more than a decade but in the week of September 11, 2001, she was hit with a triple personal crisis: her eldest son was sent to the Mideast on a dangerous military mission; she found out her mom was dying of cancer; and her new boss informed her she no longer had a job.
Donna’s whole world came crashing down and she became acutely depressed. A few days later, she received a call from her district manager, Linda.
Donna answered the call, and her life has never been the same. She recognized the opportunity of building a networking business and jumped in with both feet. Today she is well on her way to living the life of her dreams and she delights in showing others the rewards of owning a home-based business.
“It was a rainy, miserable day,” Donna recalls. “I was lying in bed with the covers pulled up over my head when I got the phone call from Linda. I told her what had happened and at the end of my story, she said, ‘What are you going to do for your business?’ I thought she was joking.”
“No, Donna, I’m not kidding,” Linda said. “You’re a people person, you’re passionate about our company, you know the products. I’m not asking you to do anything you haven’t already been doing throughout the years. All I’m asking now is to take the business seriously. This is your chance to go for it, because you need the income. I’m asking you for six months.”
After a lot more talking back and forth, Linda said, “I really think you can do this.” Donna knew she was right and decided to make a commitment. Linda gave her some supplies and the next day, Donna went out and started knocking on doors in her neighborhood.
“I visited a few homes and got a few no’s,” says Donna. “I was getting a little frustrated, but when I got to the tenth door, I met a wonderful lady, Mrs. Webb. I had exactly ten catalogs, so she was my last door for the day. She was a part-time teacher, and she said, ‘I was just thinking about getting a part-time job. My husband passed away and I need some extra money.’ She became my first recruit.”
Donna was so happy she almost skipped home and couldn’t wait to tell Linda. The next morning when she shared the news, Linda said, “Great! What are you going to do for your business today?”
Linda called Donna every day for several weeks to encourage and support her. Donna continued going door-to-door, but in order to vary her daily routine, she also started visiting small businesses in the local strip malls. She would pop into a store and say, “Can I leave you a free brochure?” Later she would call to see if anyone wanted to retail her products or refer candidates for the business. Store owners often were interested because they already had a clientele and it was easy to showcase the product.
Donna also found doctors’ and dentists’ offices great places to leave brochures. Many women who worked there were either interested in the products or looking for ways to create additional income.
“I also teamed up with a guy who owned an appliance repair company.” Donna says. “We would give each other leads and referrals, and it turned into a great little exchange program.”
Soon Donna started focusing on duplication and teaching others what she was doing. She would tell new recruits, “You know, it would be fun to have a team member working with you, so that you and she can grow your business together, and you could build a residual income.”
“I got very lucky,” says Donna. “I ended up meeting Margaret, who eventually became my first Executive. She lived in a 500-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment with her husband and two children. She started going out with me and watched what I was doing—talking to strangers and making connections everywhere I went—so she could eventually do it herself.
“For example,” Donna explains, “at McDonald’s, the cashier gives you back your change, and you say, ‘Hey, thanks, here’s a brochure. Can I please get your number and give you a call later to see if there is anything you want? If you’re ever interested in earning some extra money, I’d love to have you on my team.”
Donna shared her knack for meeting people and opening a window for them, and Margaret learned how to duplicate her.
Donna also signed up Darlene, who right away saw the benefits of recruiting people and became her second Executive.
“That’s how it carried on,” says Donna. “My Executives now have their own groups, seven or eight levels deep, but we still have meetings together. We only get paid on three levels, but we help anybody—downline or crossline. I learned this from Lisa Wilber, who is the top earner in our company. She says God is the perfect score-keeper, and when He closes one door, He opens another. We’ve learned a tremendous amount from many different people.”
Donna invites people on her front line to weekly training sessions where she covers one or two subjects, such as how to use the brochures, where to find people (at the gas station, the cleaners or the hairdresser) or how wearing the company pin can often do the talking for you.
Donna says the business has changed a lot since her first days, and it’ s been challenging to help people shift their image of a lady ringing the doorbell and showing some product to seeing this as a business with a web site and online commerce, and with people building a substantial income from home. When asked about the secret to her success, Donna says you have to treat your opportunity as a business.
“For the longest time, I would work a little and go do the dishes, work a little more and get a laundry started. Now, I spend some time in the morning with my husband and then, after working out—this may sound really corny—I ring my own doorbell, and as I enter the door, I say, ‘Okay, it’s business time and you’re in the office.’ From that point till three in the afternoon, I am 100 percent focused on my business. I call new people and do follow-up. I make myself available for my group. I tell my leaders to make sure their new people always know how to reach them or, if they are not available, how to reach me.
“Most companies will refer their associates to an 800 number if they have questions, but we don’t work that way. We are in a relationship business and we work together.
“Recently, I heard someone from another company say that the problem with this business is that you have to babysit people. I disagree. You need to teach them and be there for them, and if they are not successful at the end of the day, you have to be able to look in the mirror and say that you’ve done everything possible to help them be successful. And if they’re not, next!”
Donna currently participates in a pilot program that allows all retailing and recruiting to take place online. She doesn’t get into any sophisticated Internet marketing strategies, but uses her enhanced email signature to share the business with whomever she comes in contact with.
“I love it when someone forwards me a cartoon and leaves all the addresses visible. I hit ‘reply to all’ and say, ‘Wow, that was really cute,’ and everyone on that list gets to see my tagline and web site. When I pay my bills, I put a business card in the envelope with my web address. The other day I dialed a wrong number and I told the lady, ‘I’m so sorry, I was in a hurry. I’m with company X and we’re so excited about Christmas and all the money you can make. ‘Well, how do you make money?’ she said and just opened the door wide for me.”
A Dream Come True
Donna has come a long way since the day she was lying in bed, crying over her misfortunes. What shifted her energy and posture was thinking about the power her boss had over her life.
“In three or four minutes,” she says, “he took away a career I had spent thirteen years to build, and I had nothing left.” Linda told her, “I know you have many skills and you can get another job tomorrow, but why would you ever let this happen again?”
Donna remembers going to a lawyer to help her get her job back, but he discouraged her. He told her that in Europe, people don’t see themselves as having a job that they have to go to. They don’t consider what they do for a living a job. Instead, it’s their life and it’s what they want to do.
“Why not me,” Donna thought, and she became the first in her territory to reach the Advanced rank in her company. Nine months later she made Executive, and in a little over three years she got to Senior, a rank only seventy-eight people in the U.S. have achieved.
Donna divorced her unsupportive husband in 2000 and was able to spend time with her mom before her passing in 2002. Her son came home safe and left the Marines after ten years of service to be with his family.
Today Donna has remarried and she travels to the Bahamas four times a year to go scuba diving. She was able to buy a beautiful home and for the first time in her life she feels truly happy and fulfilled.
Her new husband is very supportive of her business. She hopes he will soon be able to quit his job and they will both live on the proceeds from her networking business.
“I believe within the next five years our residual income will be more than enough to allow both of us a comfortable lifestyle,” says Donna. “And if I want to get there faster, I know I can give myself a raise: all I have to do is work a little harder or teach a little better. In the mean time, I am free to come and go as I please. It’s my life! When you model this to other people, nothing gets them more excited.”