Randy Gage is one of the most well-known names in the networking business. From his early training and generic prospecting materials (such as the famous “Escape the Rat Race” audiotape and “How to Earn $100,000 a Year in MLM” training series) to his books (How to Build a Multilevel Money Machine and Why You’re Dumb, Sick and Broke … and How to Become Smart, Healthy and Rich) and online “Randy’s Rants” newsletter, Gage has been a peripatetic presence in our profession for the past two decades.

On January first, at exactly sixty seconds into the new year, Randy launched into the online atmosphere a publication entitled
The MLM Revolution: A Manifesto. A few months later we sat down with Randy to find out what his manifesto has to say, what kind of impact it’s having, and what he sees for the future of the profession. — J.D.M.

Randy, what’s your history in network marketing? What qualifies you to take a stand as a commentator on the profession?

I’ve been involved in this business from every aspect and perspective. As a distributor, I’ve been a million-dollar-producer, so I bring that viewpoint to the table. But I’ve also worked inside companies, from the corporate side of the fence. I’ve consulted to many companies, produced some of the most widely used training and prospecting materials, and have worked with hundreds of top leaders. I’ve probably trained more MLM millionaires than anybody alive today.

But I believe the thing that most qualifies me to speak up is the five years of abject failure I experienced when I first started out in this business.

I spent those first five years investing in tapes and books and trainings, going to meetings, attending events, and not making a penny. I actually lost money for five straight years, and still remember vividly all the suffering, indignity and frustration that entails.

So I’ve seen it from all the different viewpoints and perspectives.

What did those five years of failing teach you?

With all our talk about making millions, we get jaded in this profession and start to think if someone isn’t making $50,000 a month, they’re a pathetic loser. We need to keep some perspective. The truth is, helping someone make $400 or $500 a month can be absolutely transformational for them. Particularly in these economic times we’re in.

In my business we have people all over the world, in Nigeria and Singapore, Russia and Kazakhstan, places where $500 a month is just huge. It makes all the difference in the world in their lives.

And for people right here, too.

That’s true. Even in the United States, the U.K., Australia, in our “developed” countries, that still makes a huge difference. We know that 80 or 90 percent of all these personal bankruptcies would be eliminated if those people were making an extra $500 a month. That kind of money would let them pay down their credit cards, or make their car payment, or help on their mortgage payments, and for a lot of people, would make the difference between going broke or keeping their heads above water.

So part of the issue is that we don’t sufficiently honor that $500 level of earnings.

That, and we also have a lot of people struggling to make it to that level because we haven’t done our job as well as we need to help them be successful.

At the same time, though, there are a lot of people who say they want to be successful in network marketing and make some real money—and then when Tuesday night rolls around and they have to choose between going to the opportunity meeting at the Marriott and watching American Idol on TV, they choose American Idol. And we can’t beat ourselves up over that.

The truth is, there are a lot of people who are going to come into our business and want to get rich and successful, but who are not going to be willing to do the personal growth required to make those goals happen.

And you know, that’s okay. This business can benefit people on a lot of different levels. We’re going to help some people purely with our products. We’re going to help some people by helping them learn how to make a few hundred or a few thousand dollars a month. And the ones who really get it and we are able to truly work with, those are the people we’ll be able to help create financial freedom for themselves.

And you’re saying that to some extent, we’ve created unrealistic expectations by too heavily touting the big-money benefits, as opposed to the more modest gains that many actually achieve?

Yes. One of the issues here is that we have a lot of people selling big-business benefits—the great cars, cruises and trips, huge bonus checks—but wedding those kinds of big-business promises with small-business strategies.

What are “small-business strategies”?

Things like going around town retailing products, putting bumper stickers and magnetic signs on your car or wearing lapel buttons. There’s nothing wrong with peddling your products, but working in that kind of retail mode is a small-business model. Working a small-business model is never going to yield big-business benefits. We need to be really clear on that.

We have far too many people in this business who don’t understand the distinction between the small-business model and the big-business model. And when they recruit with big-business benefits but then deliver small-business tactics, that creates a lot of people struggling.

In fact, in my manifesto [see p. 6 in this issue] I included what I call the “Five Myths about Network Marketing,” and “Selling Big-Business Results with Small-Business Tactics” is #5. I realize it’s often not an intentional lie, but it’s still a lie, and it still creates unnecessary struggle and suffering—and we need to fix it.

What led to your writing this manifesto?

It started when I read Seth Godin’s book Tribes last fall. Tribes doesn’t mention network marketing, and has nothing to do ostensibly with

network marketing—but if you were to hire Seth and say, “Seth, I’ll pay you a million dollars to write the perfect book for network marketing,” this is the book he would have written.

I loved the book. And there’s a point midway through the book where he says something like, “You know what? Go out and write a manifesto!”

That spoke to my soul. I thought, You know, we need a manifesto in this business. We need somebody to call everybody out and urge us to do some critical thinking, to step back from the day-to-day running our next opportunity meeting or handing out our next info packet, and take the time to say, “Okay, where are we at in the profession? Where do we want to go? What do we need to do to get there?”

The MLM Revolution was the result.

And it went out into the world…?

At one minute after midnight on January 1st, 2009. Since then it has been downloaded tens of thousands of times, and been translated into Spanish, Russian, French, Romanian and a few other languages. Because I speak bluntly and use some pretty rough language in a few places, it’s even come out in English in a PG version.

All told, it has reached at least a few hundred thousand people at this point [we spoke in early April], and it’s still spreading, which is very encouraging both for me and for our profession.

What is the core message you wanted to get across with the Manifesto?

Actually, I think it’s very congruent with where you guys are going with this issue of the magazine: the whole idea that it’s time we elevate the profession. We have to step into being the professionals we are: it’s time to dial this thing up. We’ve got to move away from the rah-rah hype, the undisclosed sweetheart deals, the “If you’re not rich in sixty days it’s time to quit and go join another program” MLM junkie mentality.

We’ve got to start telling it like it is. Hey, this is a two- to four-year plan. Think of your first year as a training. Yes, you’ll earn as you learn, but it really is training. It’s very much in accord with what Malcolm Gladwell says in his recent book Outliers: you need to put in a good 10,000 hours in this profession before you’re a professional.

So, let’s become students of the profession. Let’s lock arms and work the business with integrity.

At one point you talk about some of the challenges that have faced network marketing and then you add, “The biggest threat, however, comes from within the business itself.”

That’s absolutely true. Maybe the biggest underlying message in the manifesto—and this was a big step forward for me, too, because I’ve been as guilty of some of these things as anybody—was, “Let’s stop fighting with each other and tearing down all the other companies but our own.”

Let’s stop fighting over this piece of the pie, and instead, lock arms as a profession and create a bigger pie. Instead of fighting over the few million people who are already in network marketing, why don’t we go after the 5.9 billion people who are not in network marketing yet?

What do you think has held us back from taking that bigger-thinking position?

On the whole, we haven’t had the kind of journalism we need in the profession. That’s why I’m very excited about where you guys are going with this magazine and this issue. But we’ve had a lot of industry trade rags that will print pretty much anything someone will pay for. “Catch the next big wave! Call your downline before they call you!” If you’re willing to buy one of those ads, they’ll write pretty much anything.

We haven’t had enough real journalists in the profession. We’ve had a lot of advertorials and paid sponsorship tripe.

Another reason we haven’t risen up together before is that a lot of us have been busy in the field, doing our thing. There are a lot of us who are busy building our own businesses and working with their own people. I don’t know all the new companies out there. I don’t check out everybody’s compensation plan. I don’t care: I’m already in a program and I’m happy with it. I’m not sponsorable. I don’t need to look at what everyone else is doing.

I think there are a lot of people like that: people who’ve been with their company for ten or fifteen years, they’re making money, taking care of business, working with their group, and they’re not out there flitting around and looking for the next hot deal. They’re just minding their own business—and they are pretty much invisible to the public.

Who the public sees are the MLM junkies and people who are running around placing these ridiculous ads and making a lot of noise, touting a new deal every six months and screaming “We’ll build your downline for you!” So that becomes the public face of the business.

It’s time that all of us who have been minding our own business take some time out to give back to the profession. We all need to police our profession. We need to contact the publications that are printing all this crap and let them know we’re not going to support them if they don’t do better, if they don’t reach higher.

We need to call out some of these people who are doing all these stupid pay-per-click advertisements online, trashing our profession. And now we have a new generation of what I call MLM morons who are assaulting everybody on Facebook and Twitter and MySpace. They think that as soon as they “friend” or “follow” someone, that gives them permission to start plastering their links to their sales pages everywhere. We need to contact them and let them know that this is not what those sites are about.

With this massive shift happening in the economy, do you see us stepping into a new chapter in our profession?

Absolutely. Given what’s going on in the economy and the corporate world, if we do this right—and I believe we are going to do it right—we’re going to look back at 2009 and 2010 and say, “This was the golden era of network marketing.” Back in the day, I used to joke around and say, “Please don’t tell my mother I’m in network marketing. She thinks I’m a piano player in a bordello.” Now we have a tremendous amount of credibility and received a ton of publicity. We need to build on that.

Network marketing is the answer for millions of people—not just millions, but many millions. Many of these people were not candidates for this business six months ago or a year ago, but are candidates today. They’re saying, “I can’t count on my company or the government to protect my future. If I want to have prosperity, I need to take charge and do it myself.” And they’re realizing that it’s time to take a fresh look at this network marketing thing.

We can’t all write manifestos and most of us don’t have the kind of visibility you do. What can ordinary, everyday distributors do to help us move forward and elevate the profession?

It always goes back to modeling the behavior: each one of us can set the example of integrity and professionalism. We’ve got to stop using knockoff DVDs and CDs and use professional material. We need to do our events in professional locales.

And as simple as it sounds, we need to always do the right thing. We can’t allow people in our organizations or our companies to make outrageous product claims, outrageous income claims.

It all starts with sweeping our own doorstep. If we model the behavior and show our teams the correct way to do the business, that’s what’s going to be duplicated.

You mentioned in-fighting, and there is a lot of that in this business, both within companies and from company to company. How can we help to shift that?

Don’t get me wrong: I believe in competition, and I have no problem with competing on the compensation plan or competing on the product line. I think we all need to do that, but we need to do it by presenting our best information about what we have to offer, not by tearing down the other guy’s opportunity.

I am not a salesperson. I’m a horrible salesperson. I don’t make cold calls. I’m afraid of rejection. I don’t like to sell things to people. But what I am is a very good marketer.

In the new edition of my book [How to Build a Multilevel Money Machine], I devote a lot of attention to the difference between sales and marketing. And I don’t think network marketing is a sales business. I think it’s a marketing thing.

I define marketing as educating the prospect. In other words, giving them enough information so that they can make the right decision for them, whether that’s to join my business or not, or to use my products or not.

To do that, I don’t have to tear down other products or other companies. And I’ll be the first to admit that I have done this in the past. I used to think I had to tear down all those other deals and show the prospect why mine was better.

We’ve got to get away from that. We need to commit ourselves to talking exclusively about everything that’s great about our own programs, and let them stand on their own merits.

People don’t seem to realize that when they tear down other companies, it actually makes them look bad—and it also makes the prospect feel uneasy about the business in general.

That’s so true; people say, “Why would I want to be in that business if there’s nothing in it but charlatans and crooks?”

What’s your vision of our business and its impact on the world over the next five or ten years?

You are going to see people going much more towards results-based compensation.

I think you’ll see a weakening of unions and of the kind of corporate culture where people could just sit back, do as little as possible and not get fired.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-union. There’s a time and a place for unions. It just got out of hand, just as Wall Street did.

I love the phrase “results-based compensation.” That’s what our business has always been.

The world got away from that. I read the other day that 40 percent of the world’s wealth disappeared in the last year—but that’s not really true, because it wasn’t there to start with. What disappeared was 40 percent of the bubble, not of true wealth.

True prosperity comes from value-for-value exchange. If we provide value, the universe rewards us with prosperity. That’s why I like compensation that’s based on value provided.

At the same time, I believe you’ll see a much greater awareness among employees about where their own financial destinies lie. People are realizing that they can’t count on the company or their boss to create their prosperity for them.

More and more people are realizing that while they may still be working at their job and providing value to their company, they better be building their own business at the same time. That at the end of the day, if they want to build their future and take care of their children, they’ve got to be able to look in the mirror and know they’re talking to the boss.

We’re going to see an influx of many millions of people coming into network marketing. In fact, I think we’re going to create more millionaires in network marketing in the next two or three years than we did in the last sixty years combined. That’s the kind of growth I believe we’re going to have in this profession.